Japan’s participation in Belt and Road initiative

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Da Nang, Vietnam, Nov. 11, 2017. Xinhua/Lan Hongguang

BEIJING (Global Times) – An increasing number of Japanese companies are starting to convert their positive attitude toward the Belt and Road initiative into practical steps. Some high-level Japanese officials have also expressed Japan’s interest in participating in the initiative and exploring cooperation in a third country. Apparently, this will instill more momentum and expand Sino-Japanese economic cooperation. Promoting Chinese and Japanese enterprises to cooperate in third-party market will facilitate the development of all parties concerned.

Japan’s decision to participate in the Belt and Road initiative reflects the rule of history. While the country earlier attempted to “leave Asia and enter Europe”, it is now striving to play a more active role in Asia. Japan launched Meiji restoration 150 years ago, following in the footsteps of Europe’s industrial and technological reforms. As a result, the country has taken the opportunity to develop its technology, but has charted a wrong political path.

In the 21st century, Asia has risen to be a driving force of global economic development and is playing an increasingly significant role in globalisation. Japan’s participation in the Belt and Road initiative reflects the country’s intention to return to Asia and work jointly with China to promote regional prosperity and development.

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Under the Belt and Road initiative, a large number of container trains are shuttling between China and Europe, Russia and Central Asia. In 2015, over 100 freight trains traveled between China and Europe on average every month. More and more Japanese firms have participated in the process. Japan’s Nippon Express has started to use China-Europe rail transport, significantly reducing delivery time. The Belt and Road initiative has made Japan-Europe connections more convenient.

Both China’s and Japan’s development benefits from free trade, and the two countries also advocate the concept. Currently, the world is witnessing a trend against globalisation and free trade, Japan’s participation in the Belt and Road initiative is a concrete step to safeguard multilateral free trade system and oppose protectionism and unilateralism. The Belt and Road initiative will further help Japan explore its market in Asia and Europe.

Some Japanese scholars believe that despite technological success, Japan has failed to revitalise the market, which is the root of the country’s economic ills. In fact, Japan’s market will expand if it can share its technologies and experiences in energy, environment protection, disaster management and infrastructure with countries along the Belt and Road route. The initiative is an opportunity for Japan to develop its technology and expand the market.

Currently, countries along the Belt and Road initiative are in urgent need of infrastructure construction. Both Chinese and Japanese firms have abundant experience in this aspect, and cooperating with China on the Belt and Road initiative will bring Japan many more business opportunities. While offering financial support to countries along the route, China and Japan should also contribute to their talent training and technology upgrading.

Japanese politicians should abandon short-sighted geopolitical calculations and suspicions, and take the historic opportunity of the Belt and Road initiative to promote free trade and prosperous development of Eurasia.

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The author is an honorary academician at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and a consultant with the China Society of Sino-Japanese Relations History.

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