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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: August 2010

3 - Initial Isolation: Pre-Normalization Sino-Japanese Relations


The Chinese and Japanese nations are intimately related, not only from the point of view of communications but in all other respects as well. There is a saying among the people of both countries that China and Japan are brother nations, whose people are of a similar race and culture; that, therefore, they should join hands in common effort.

– Sun Yat-sen, November 28, 1924

In parallel with the European case, I divide postwar Sino-Japanese relations into four periods. In the 1950s and 1960s, China and Japan were in a state of nonreconciliation, treating each other as enemies and preparing for an immediate violent conflict. In the second period, from 1972 through 1981, bilateral relations improved to the stage of shallow reconciliation–rapprochement, in which bilateral political and economic cooperation expanded smoothly but failed to reach a comprehensive level, and warm feelings developed between the two peoples as a product of political manipulation and romanticized imagination rather than true mutual understanding and trust. The third period began in the early 1980s, when the atmosphere of friendship was replaced by friction and alienation in both governmental and popular dimensions, marking a relationship downturn from rapprochement to friction within the stage of shallow reconciliation. Japan and China also began to bicker about war history in the 1980s, something that they rarely did in the previous two periods.