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Relations between China and its neighbors after COVID-19: Japan

Since the beginning of this year, the COVID-19 global pandemic has caused catastrophic losses to countries around the world, and it has also profoundly affected the development of the global political and economic structure. For China, the pandemic not only exerts influence on public safety, health and economic and social development, but also reshapes the surrounding environment to a large extent. To this end, the Institute of Area Studies, Peking University (PKUIAS) held a series of New Buds Salons on the “Relations between China and its Neighbors after COVID-19,” inviting young scholars in related fields at home and abroad to discuss this topic.

On July 15, an online seminar on “Relations between China and its Neighbors after COVID-19: Japan” came to a successful conclusion. This salon invited six young research fellows from several universities and scientific research institutes in China and Japan to make presentations. Lü Yaodong, a research fellow from the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and Prof. Chu Xiaobo of the School of International Studies at PKU made comments. Xu Chuanbo, a postdoctoral fellow of PKUIAS moderated the salon.

According to You Kaiyu, a postdoctoral fellow at the School of International Studies at PKU, in the context of the intensified strategic competition between China and the US and the spread of the pandemic, the Abe government introduced a subsidy system to encourage Japanese supply chain manufacturing to return to the country. This move is to reduce the dependence of Japan's industrial chain on China, and also to cooperate with the industrial chain “de-sinicization” of the Trump administration to counterbalance China. In this regard, China should vigorously promote the development of industrial robots, artificial intelligence, the digital economy and other industries to re-establish its advantages in production and service costs, and lead a new round of global industrial chain integration.

Ma Yimin, a doctoral student of the. Department of Economics, Nagoya University in Japan, analyzed recent trends in Japanese politics on the Hong Kong issue. He believed that the Japanese government maintains its consistent basic stance as an “American follower” and criticizes China while still pretending to be “neutral.” Japan strives to maintain moderation in criticism and avoid triggering Sino-Japanese conflicts. However, at the same time, due to the fierce domestic struggle among various political factions, right-wing forces took the opportunity to make trouble and made more noises on issues such as Hong Kong, which led to increased instability in Sino-Japanese relations. In this sense, China should also remain vigilant.

Xu Yiyao, a doctoral student of the Graduate Schools for Law and Politics at the University of Tokyo, Japan, analyzed the bilateral relations between Japan and Vietnam from the viewpoints of politics, economy, culture and security. He held that although Japan-Vietnam relations have entered into a new stage, there are dangers lurking. In the future, Japan's goal of wooing neighboring countries to counterbalance China will not be achieved. Promoting interdependence and mutual trust between countries rather than simply relying on a balance of power to seek security is the right way to develop relations between East Asian countries.

Kenichi Doi, a doctoral student of the Graduate School of Education at PKU, reviewed the history of Japan's multilateral health cooperation after World War II and its cooperation with China during the pandemic. He pointed out that in the future, the two countries can participate in many new areas such as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to strengthen ties and promote cooperation.

Momiji Natsuki, a graduate student of the School of International Relations at PKU, analyzed the pandemic prevention and control models of China and Japan. The two countries share similarities in prevention and control measures, and the two sides have cooperated to fight the pandemic. In terms of its attitude toward China, Japan has not followed the US and she expects in the future China and Japan will actively promote cooperation in public health with a rational attitude.

Niwa Keisuke, a postgraduate student at Schwarzman College, Tsinghua University, believed that the pandemic has caused the Japanese government to support Japanese companies in relocating their production in China to ASEAN countries. But in fact, due to the difficulty of relocation and inadequate conditions in ASEAN countries, most Japanese companies have no plans to change their supply chains. In the future, Japanese companies will reduce risk in industrial supply chains.

The research fellow Lü Yaodong and Prof. Chu Xiaobo said in their comments that the young researchers from China and Japan in this seminar focused on practical issues like industrial chain shifts and post-pandemic cooperation caused by COVID-19. It is commendable that they aim to serve policy-making and solve real problems. 

However, there are still deficiencies in their statements in terms of logical analysis, research methods, data selection, and knowledge. Academic research must be objective and rational, pay attention to logic, avoid fragmented knowledge systems and analyze specific issues from the perspective of broader regional and global development.

The participants had online interactions with more than 70 audience members from different universities and organizations. The series “Relations between China and its neighbors after COVID-19” will continue to hold online seminars on the development of relations between China and Southeast Asia, Russia, South Korea, Central Asia and other countries and regions.