China Sees Value in ‘Mutually Beneficial’ Ties With Japan; Retired Ambassador Tells Story of Recent Turning Point

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Former Ambassador to China Hideo Tarumi speaks with The Yomiuri Shimbun in Tokyo on Wednesday.

The reaffirmation of a “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests” agreed to at the Japan-China summit meeting in November was initiated by a signal that a senior Chinese diplomat sent to the Japanese side this spring, a former Japanese ambassador to China revealed in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun on Wednesday.

Former Ambassador Hideo Tarumi, who retired from the Foreign Ministry on Dec. 19, said the Chinese diplomat was Wang Yi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo, who currently also serves as China’s foreign minister.

Late in 2022, the Japanese government positioned China as “the greatest strategic challenge it has ever faced,” and it is believed that Wang intended to encourage the Japanese side not to emphasize the Chinese threat.

Tarumi originated the concept of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, which was agreed upon by the leaders of Japan and China in 2006.

Tarumi said that Wang “sent a message to Japan” this spring, aiming to reaffirm the concept. In August, during a meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, Tarumi proposed “the need to rebuild strategic relations” and received approval from Kishida.

In October in Beijing, at an event commemorating the 45th anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China, Tarumi delivered a speech emphasizing the need for strategic thinking between Japan and China. After hearing the speech at the venue, Wang stood up, walked over to Tarumi, and told him it was a wonderful speech. He also told Tarumi, “Let’s rebuild the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.”

Takeo Akiba, secretary general of the National Security Secretariat, made a hasty visit to China in early November to meet with Wang and finalize arrangements for a Japan-China summit meeting in the United States.

“The Chinese side was busy preparing for the U.S.-China summit, and I think, initially, they had no intention of holding a Japan-China summit meeting,” Tarumi said. “That was just in time.”

The mutually beneficial relationship concept refers to a relationship in which the two countries cooperate in expanding their common interests in both politics and economics. The concept was put in writing in the 2008 Joint Statement between Japan and China.