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Proposal for the Normalization of Sino-Japanese Relations (September 8, 1968)

(This proposal calling for the normalization of Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations was presented by Daisaku Ikeda on September 8, 1968, at a gathering of over 10,000 university students in Tokyo. See "Sino-Japanese Relations.")

I would like to turn my attention here to the question of China. It has been said for some time that when the conflict in Vietnam comes to an end, the focus of events will next shift to China. Some will no doubt say that in light of the present situations in Vietnam and Czechoslovakia, this is not the time to be discussing China. However, in terms of the position in which Japan finds itself, and from the perspective of the ideal of "global transnationalism" put forward by the Soka Gakkai, the China question is one that is both fundamental and unavoidable.

It is for this reason that I urge you to consider this issue with me today, as citizens of Japan aware of the realities of Japan's situation and as young people with hopes for a peaceful future.

It goes without saying that the issues involving China today constitute a stumbling block of major proportions on the path to realizing peace in the world. A glance at the history of the twenty years or so since the end of World War II reveals that Asia is the region in which most of the direct military confrontations between the two great blocs of East and West have taken place, resulting in the tragedy of war. One of these, as you are aware, was the Korean War, and the current war in Vietnam is another example.

On the side of the Western bloc the country most directly involved is the United States, and on the side of the communist bloc is China, more so even than the Soviet Union.

At present, China is excluded from the United Nations, and has only the most tenuous diplomatic links with other nations. Seemingly hidden behind a "Bamboo Curtain," there is at best only a limited mutual understanding between the Chinese and other nations of each other's circumstances.

Therefore, without the provision of a venue where China, presently treated as a pariah within international society, can engage in discussions with other states on a fair and equal basis, there is little hope for the realization of peace in Asia and the world. This is something that troubles me deeply, and furthermore I am certain that resolving this situation, more than anything else, is the absolute condition for political stability and economic prosperity for Asian nations such as Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.

What, then, are the concrete measures the international community should take to realize this? First, officially recognize the People's Republic of China. Second, prepare an appropriate seat for Beijing at the United Nations to encourage them to join the international arena. Third, promote economic and cultural exchanges with China.

It should first be noted that Japan is uniquely positioned to make a decisive contribution to helping to ease China's isolation, which is at present so tightly closed to the world. The factors in this are the proximity of China and Japan both in terms of historical tradition and ethnic origins, as well of course as geography.

Despite this, Japan's present stance is one of seeking security under the nuclear umbrella of the United States, China's most hated adversary, while refusing to recognize China or to restore diplomatic ties. Exacerbating the situation, the small amount of trade Japan does conduct with China is being choked off year by year.

President Toda once wrote a poem which included the line "I vow to send the light of the sun to the people of Asia...." Our vision for Japan is based on the philosophy of the Middle Way, which is neither politically right nor left. As an Asian country, it is only natural that Japanese policy should place highest importance on enhancing the lives and welfare of the people of Asia. It is Japan's duty to do so.

The scars left by the war between China and Japan are still with us. But twenty-three years have passed since the end of the war, and most of you here today are of the generation that had no direct involvement in that conflict. Neither, for that matter, did today's youth in China. It is unacceptable that the young people on whom the future of both countries depends should be forced to bear the heavy burden of wounds from a past war.

When the younger generations in both China and Japan come to take a leading role in the affairs of their respective societies, the people of both countries will certainly be able to join together in the cooperative work of constructing a brighter, happier world. It is only when all the peoples of Asia, with China and Japan playing a pivotal role, aid and support each other, that the brutality of war and the dark clouds of poverty enveloping Asia will be dispelled, replaced by rays of hope and happiness.

I am by no means an unalloyed admirer of Communism, and I believe myself to be fully conscious of the concern and caution which the good citizens of Japan feel as they try to anticipate what move China will make next. I simply believe that in terms of trends in global society, for the sake of peace in Asia and in the rest of the world, it is essential that Japan be on friendly terms with all nations.

Further, in a nuclear age, it is no exaggeration to say that our success in saving humankind from annihilation hinges on our ability to develop friendships across national boundaries. This is at the heart of my reasons for discussing the problem of China with you here today.

Some may say my views are naïve, or that I haven't looked into the issues adequately. But until the issues concerning China are resolved, we cannot be said to have truly moved on from the post-War period.

* * * * *

The first matter I would like to discuss is the normalization of relations between China and Japan. In 1952, Japan and the Nationalist government of Taiwan signed the Japan–ROC Treaty. The Japanese government has adopted the position that with this treaty, the issue of peace between China and Japan was resolved. This stance however represented an unrealistic view that in effect ignores the existence of the 710 million people living on the continent in mainland China.

The normalization of relations between nations will only be meaningful when the people of both come to understand each other and interact in ways that are mutually beneficial, contributing by extension to world peace. Therefore, the 710 million people of mainland China are the real subject of our relations with China. To ignore this reality and instead be satisfied with having followed the letter of the law in establishing this treaty is unrealistic and unproductive, no matter how convinced one might be of the justice of one's stance.

In point of fact, [Premier] Zhou Enlai and other Chinese leaders have consistently expressed their view that the state of war between China and Japan has not yet been ended. So long as this perception persists, no matter how much Japan insists that the war is over, harmonious relations between the two countries can never become a reality. What I believe the Japanese government needs to do, therefore, is to engage in dialogue with the government in Beijing, employing any means it can to realize such talks.

There are a number of issues that need to be resolved before full normalization of relations can take place. These include the question of compensation for the damage inflicted by Japan on China during World War II, as well foreign asset claims, mainly in Manchuria. These are all complex issues, fraught with difficulty. And they cannot be solved without mutual understanding and deep trust between the two nations and most importantly, a shared aspiration for peace.

It is thus vital that Japan and China first forge real trust and mutual understanding, confirming their desire for peace. Starting from this conclusion, a so-called deductive process should be followed. It should be noted that the kind of inductive process which has been followed until now, employing small-scale diplomatic maneuvers and seeking to resolve marginal issues first before ties between China and Japan are ultimately restored, has not worked. Indeed, the quickest path to normalization lies in a meeting of the most senior-level leaders of the two countries where they may confer and reconfirm their shared aspiration for peace. They will then be positioned to develop the fundamental direction for bilateral relations and the resolution of specific issues based on this broader perspective and understanding of each other.

I have no doubt that if the leaders of China and Japan persist in efforts at constructive dialogue, no matter how difficult the issues may seem, it will be possible to find the means to their resolution.

Japan has developed under the constant influence of Chinese civilization since around the time of the earliest unification [of Japan] under one power or even before then. It is also from China that Buddhism was introduced into our country, along with sutras written in Chinese characters.

Our political philosophy and moral values directly reflect Confucianism. Many of the manners and customs that have completely become part of Japanese culture can be traced back to China.

From the perspective of ethnicity, a significant number of Chinese people were naturalized as Japanese during the Nara period (8th century). The founder of the Tendai school of Buddhism in Japan, Saicho (767-822), is thought to have been of Chinese descent. The Uzumasa district of Kyoto, Japan's capital from 794, was then a community of clans of Chinese origin. In fact, there are numerous places throughout Japan whose names remind us of their Chinese origin.

It is only natural that two countries that share such long historic ties, ethnic proximity and similarities in customs and traditions as China and Japan should have friendly relations. I must say therefore that it is extremely unnatural and irrational for Japan to keep its back turned upon China and just look on as our fellow Asians suffer, as is the case today.

A French critic has argued to the effect that Japan, which can be instrumental in leading the United States to change its policy in the Far East, should pursue an independent policy of promptly normalizing its relations with China in order to help ease the tensions in the international community. I totally agree with his view.

I believe that the restoration of Sino-Japanese relations would not only benefit Japan but would also be a way for Japan to fulfill its proper role in the contemporary world.

* * * * *

I would like to move on now to the issue of Chinese participation in the United Nations system. Generally known as the representation question, the issue is one of whether the regime in Beijing or that in Taiwan should occupy the Chinese seat at the United Nations. There are those who hold that, as a matter of commonsense, this should be dealt with by creating new seats for both the mainland People's Republic of China and for the Republic of China in Taiwan. Neither party, however, will agree to this. Each side insists that they are the [sole legitimate] representative of all the Chinese people.

In any event, public opinion is likely to gravitate toward supporting the Beijing government. The developed countries are gradually starting to recognize the People's Republic of China. Experts in international affairs predict that China's permanent representation at the United Nations will probably belong to Beijing within four or five years from now.

* * * * *

Japan is an independent nation, and as such naturally possesses the right to its own ideas and the pursuit of an independent foreign policy. Further, if we give due consideration to Japan's 2,000-year history of interactions with China, clearly recognize Japan's current position within international society and focus on the ideal of future peace in Asia and the world, it becomes clear that there is nothing to be gained from allowing the current state of affairs to continue indefinitely.

The times are changing even as we speak. Focusing on the future and taking action accordingly is the particular privilege of young people. And it is the responsibility of statesmen and leaders to enable and encourage them to do this.

In the autumn of 1968, the United Nations will hold its twenty-third General Assembly. This time, instead of lending its weight to the "important question" position of the United States, Japan should take active steps to advance Beijing's representation in the UN. There is no doubt that the present situation, in which a quarter of the world's population is effectively excluded from the United Nations, constitutes a serious impediment to the full functioning of that organization. It is my belief that resolving this issue would be a true demonstration of the central importance of the United Nations and a great contribution to world peace.

Next, I would like to offer some thoughts on the issue of Sino-Japanese trade.

Let us compare China's trade volume with socialist countries against that with capitalist countries. There was heavy dependence on the Soviet Union in the 1950s, with trade with the communist bloc being responsible for some 70 percent of China's total trade. In the 1960s, however, trade with capitalist countries has accounted for approximately 70 percent of the total.

French journalist Robert Guillain pointed out in his book (Dans trente ans, la Chine, 1965) that trade with China was probably more beneficial to Japan than to any other country.

I think it would be most valuable and prudent for Japan to build close relations with China with its rich resources and huge market in light of our geographic circumstances and long-term development. I would like to stress that such ties would not only bring about economic benefits, but also directly contribute to the prosperity of Asia and global peace.

* * * * *

As mentioned earlier, Asia is the region of greatest instability in the world. As such it contains the most grave threats to world peace. Clearly the fundamental causes of this instability are poverty and the gulf of mistrust and confrontation between capitalist and communist Asia. If poverty in Asia is to be fundamentally relieved, Japan must renew its approach, one that has involved turning its back on half of Asia, and instead actively work for the prosperity of all of Asia. I would like to emphasize that a successful Japanese initiative to establish friendly relationships with China has the potential to defuse—eventually in a decisive manner—East–West tensions and confrontation in Asia.

The present situation is undeniably fraught with uncertainty. If we concern ourselves only with immediate, short-term interests, pursuing rapid economic growth for Japan alone, then our current foreign policy stance would probably appear to be the safest option. But if the conditions I have discussed are allowed to continue as they are, the danger of war will only increase, easily threatening Japan's current economic prosperity. This possibility is of great concern to me.

With the second-largest GNP in the free world, Japan is now enjoying a period of unprecedented prosperity. But this prosperity is nothing more than a house of cards, resting on the backs of the great mass of its underpaid citizens, and on the poverty of the peoples of Asia. One French economist dubbed Japan's prosperity "prosperity without a soul," and another sociologist went so far as to judge the Japanese "a well-off, but emasculated nation."

Whether as a state or as a people, in international society today, engaging purely in the pursuit of one's own profit is no longer acceptable. It is surely by adopting a broad global perspective and by seeking to contribute to peace, prosperity and the advancement of culture, that we will prove our worth as a people in the coming century. I cannot emphasize this point enough. Now is the time for Japan to adopt a global perspective and, for the sake of prosperity in Asia and peace in the world, put maximum effort into the most important means of achieving these goals: normalization of relations with China, the realization of Chinese representation at the United Nations and the promotion of trade with China.

There will of course be those who dispute my view of China in various ways. In this regard, I leave it to the judgment of you wise young people. I took it upon myself today to put forward my beliefs on a problem which Japan and all of you young people here will have to deal with for the sake of the world's future. It would give me great satisfaction if you were to give some consideration to what you have heard today.

Any position of the type I have discussed today, advocating friendship between China and Japan, will inevitably be misinterpreted to imply that the speaker has leftist leanings. This is an entirely superficial way of thinking. It is only natural for us as Buddhists, out of a commitment to humanity and the ideal of global transnationalism, to desire peace and stability for Japan and the world.

Anyone who makes the effort to understand the true nature of this perspective will quickly realize that it is not constrained by the political categories of left and right. Making hasty judgments based on the superficial appearance about whether something is of the left or right is a serious error. Ultimately, the most important thing about a way of thinking is the worldview in which it is rooted. Any discussion that ignores this is meaningless. For us, the underlying idea is the Buddhist philosophy of the unity of the physical and spiritual, the material and mental aspects of life. Our approach, that of the Middle Way, is firmly grounded in this.

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