BEIJING, Aug. 5 -- They came with clear views about the problems hampering diplomatic relations between their two countries.
But while Chinese and Japanese officials and intellectuals acknowledged the big differences between the two countries, they were committed to keeping divergence at bay and continuing discussions on how to move bilateral relations forward.
A declaration issued by the Second Beijing-Tokyo Forum, which ended on Friday, admitted that the China-Japan relationship had been sliding since China and Japan normalized their diplomatic relations in 1972.
Political obstacles and emotional stiffness between the two peoples have long been a cause for concern, the declaration said.
Active support for the forum from the two countries' influential figures in the political arena, the media, and in business and culture, has heralded a good beginning for second-track diplomacy between China and Japan, said Kudo Yasushi of Japan's Genron NPO, a forum sponsor along with China Daily and Peking University.
The forum, which is in its second year, has emerged as a new venue for discussion to help turn the fragile China-Japan relationship into one in which the two countries respect each other and are ready for frank and open dialogue.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which houses Japanese war dead including 14 Class-A war criminals, have challenged the principles enshrined by the three political documents signed by the two countries, souring bilateral relations.
"China-Japan relations will remain in limbo if the historical issue is left unsettled," Jin Xide, deputy director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said at the forum, which convened at a sensitive time before the presidential election for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan on September 20.
Jin suggested that the two countries come up with plans to manage the historical issue and launch joint historical studies.
A "second-track venue," as it was labelled, the Beijing-Tokyo Forum brought together dozens of influential political figures from the two countries including Chinese Ambassador to Japan Wang Yi, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, Japanese Vice-Foreign Minister Shiozaki Yasuhisa and Japanese Environment Minister Koike Yuriko.
The presence and remarks of Chief Cabinet Secretary Abe at the forum on Thursday delivered a positive message, said Takashi Shiraishi, vice-president of the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies of Japan.
Abe, the favourite to succeed Koizumi, who will step down in September, claimed that the China-Japan relationship is one of the most important bilateral relations in the world.
The forum was established last year to tackle the China-Japan political stalemate.
"The political stalemate of the China-Japan relationship is so grave that we cannot let it worsen," said Zhu Feng, a professor at the School of International Relations at Peking University.
While acknowledging the bilateral relationship is problematic, officials and intellectuals from the two countries discussed the possibility of expanding non-governmental exchanges as a solution.
As two major countries in East Asia, China and Japan must resolve the politically sour dimension of their relationship as it is of great significance to the region and the world at large, said Shi Guangsheng, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China.
(Source: China Daily)