Japanese Emperor's Visit to China Sends Important Signals to the United States

By Morrison, Charles E.; Oksenberg, Michel | Asia - Pacific Issues, October 1992 | Go to article overview

Japanese Emperor's Visit to China Sends Important Signals to the United States


Morrison, Charles E., Oksenberg, Michel, Asia - Pacific Issues


The evolving Sino-Japanese relationship requires closer attention in the United States. The Beijing-Tokyo rapport emphasizes the increasingly multilateral nature of regional diplomacy and the need for the United States to assess its overall role in Asia. Differences between Tokyo and Washington on China policy could also increase, indicating a need for more dialogue on their respective approaches to China. Finally, a major effort is needed in the United States to build understanding about Asia. This will assist in developing new thinking about the region and contribute to the formulation of successful policies.

THE EASTWEST CENTER

The U.S. Congress established the East-West Center in 1960 to promote cultural and technological exchanges among the governments and peoples of the Asia-Päcific region, including the United States. The Center promotes responsible development, longterm stability and the human dignity of all people in the region and prepares the United States for constructive involvement in Asia and the Pacific through research, education and dialogue. It provides a neutral meeting ground for exchange of views on significant contemporary topics.

The Center is a public, nonprofit institution with an international board of governors. Some 2,000 scholars, government and business leaders, educators, journalists, and other professionals annually work with the Center's staff on major Asia-Päcific issues. Programs focus on environmental issues, energy, the Pacific islands, population, international economics and politics, culture and journalism. The Center provides scholarships for about 250 students from Asia, the Päcific and the United States to study at the University of Hawaii. Since 1960, more than 28,000 men and women from the region have participated in the Center's cooperative programs. The Center receives its principal funding from the government of the United States. Support also comes from more than 20 Asian and Pacific governments, private agencies and corporations, and the East-West Center Foundation.

The president of the East-West Center is Michel Oksenberg.

Triangular Alliance in Transition

Japanese Emperor Akihito's October 23-28 trip to China is a truly historical mission, the first ever visit to China by a Japanese monarch. Because the trip occurs during the final weeks of the U.S. presidential election, it is attracting little attention in the United States. But as a symbol of the state of relations between East Asia's two giant and sometimes hostile powers, the visit carries tremendous significance for the future international relations of the most populous and economically dynamic region of the world. SinoJapanese conflict in the past was an antecedent to the Pearl Harbor attack and the "Pacific War," as the Pacific theater of World War II is referred to in Asia. In the postCold War era, a harmonious SinoJapanese relationship is essential for a peaceful East Asia, and this in turn gives the United States a strong interest in a constructive Sino-Japanese relationship. In the 1970s and 1980s, reinforcing positive linkages in the Tokyo-BeijingWashington triangle was the basis of political stability and economic growth in East Asia. The Imperial visit, coming at a time of frictions in U.S. relations with both China and Japan, raises important questions about the role that Washington will play. In the absence of simultaneous improvements in U.S. relations with the two Asian giants, improved relations between Tokyo and Beijing could have the longer-term effect of marginalizing U.S. economic or political access in the region.

The Historical Legacy

The past is an ambiguous guide to the future of Sino-Japanese relations. During much of the early history of the relationship, Japan, like Korea and Vietnam, borrowed freely from Chinese culture but, unlike these other Chinese neighbors, never experienced Chinese political domination. Since the beginning of the seventh century, when Japan undertook major political and social reforms based on Chinese models, Chinese civilization has enjoyed immense prestige in Japan. …

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