Monday, September 06, 2010

On the Third Japan-China High Level Economic Dialogue

It is sometimes useful to compare how two trading partners exploit news of and the results of symbolically important meetings. To that end, the insights from Akira Kurosawa's film Rashomon (羅生門) might prove useful. 
 The film depicts the rape of a woman and the murder of her samurai husband, through the widely differing accounts of four witnesses, including the bandit/rapist, the wife, the dead man speaking through a medium (Fumiko Honma), and lastly the narrator, the one witness that seems the most objective and least biased. While the stories are mutually contradictory only the final version is unmotivated by other factors. Accepting the final version as the truth (the now common technique of film and TV of only explaining the truth last was not a universal approach at that time) explains why in each other version "the truth" was worse than admitting to the killing, and it is precisely this assessment which gives the film its power, and this theme which is echoed in other works.  Rashomon (1950).

To that end it is interesting to see how the Chinese and Japanese sides reconstructed the substance and focus of the meetings and agreements that were managed as part of the Third Japan-China High Level Economic Dialog. While the description by each side is useful, both sides acquire an added dimension when considered side by side. Each reveals more about the storyteller than they might about the event. But if this is true, who will play the role of the "narrator/witness"?

I start with the story of the event as told by Chinese media.  I then reproduce the Japanese version of events.


 Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan (R) shakes hands with Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 28, 2010. Wang Qishan and Katsuya Okada co-chaired the third China-Japan high-level economic dialogue here Saturday. (Xinhua/Rao Aimin)

BEIJING, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan said here Saturday that bilateral trade between China and Japan has recovered and exceeded the level before the financial crisis.
Wang made the remarks at the opening of the third China-Japan high-level economic dialogue, which he chaired with Japanese Foreign Minister Okada Katsuya.
At the dialogue, the two sides will hold discussions on promoting the economic recovery and bilateral cooperation as well as cooperation at the regional and global level.
The two economies are highly interdependent, said Wang, adding mutual benefit and win-win cooperation were at the core of Sino-Japanese economic relations.
The two countries had maintained sound cooperation in energy-saving, environment protection, food safety, product quality and the construction of China-Japan-ROK Free Trade Area, he said.
It was the first economic dialogue held between Japan and China since the Democratic Party of Japan took office, said Katsuya.
After 30 years of development, China has become Japan's largest export market and the preferred overseas investment destination for Japanese manufacturing for 21 consecutive years.
China is undergoing rapid industrialization and urbanization and has huge market potential, said Wang.
He said China would firmly stick to the policy of opening up and create a good environment for foreign-owned enterprises.
Increasing mutual understanding and trust are the preconditions of bilateral cooperation, Wang said, adding the dialogue showed the increasing maturity of the Sino-Japanese economic relations.
The dialogue, jointly launched by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, was first convened in 2007 in Beijing and the second meeting was held in 2009 in Tokyo.  Third China-Japan economic dialogue kicks off in Beijing, English, Aug. 28, 2010.


If the Chinese version was breezy and designed to emphasize the connection between the meeting and the "Go Global" policies of the Chinese State,  the Japanese version presents a very different tone and perspective.  Here the approach is technocratic and detail oriented.  It suggests not the larger picture but a number of small victories that the Japanese negotiators raised during the course of the engagement.  But that approach also suggests a very great difference in perspective--big picture overall goal oriented on the Chinese side, technocratic and detail structure oriented on the Japanese side.  that imbalance is bound to produce "victories" for both sides, but of such different scope and effect that they distort the overall direction and effect of the emerging relationship structure between these two wary partners, former enemies and objects of mutual demonization among their respective masses.  


Overview of the Third Japan-China High-Level Economic Dialogue
August 28, 2010

The Third Japan-China High-Level Economic Dialogue was held in Beijing on August 28.

Participants from the Japanese side include nine ministers/vice ministers: Mr. Katsuya Okada, Minister for Foreign Affairs (Chair); Mr. Yoshihiko Noda, Minister of Finance; Mr. Masahiko Yamada, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Mr. Masayuki Naoshima, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry; Mr. Sakihito Ozawa, Minister of the Environment; Dr. Shozaburo Jimi, Minister of State for Financial Services; Mr. Hideo Hiraoka, Senior Vice Minister for Economic and Fiscal Policy; Mr. Masamitsu Naito, Senior Vice Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications; and Mr. Taizo Mikatsuki, Senior Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

Participants from the Chinese side include: Mr. Wang Qishan, Vice Premier of the State Council (Chair); eight minister-level officials - Dr. Yang Jiechi, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Mr. Zhang Ping, Chairman of National Development and Reform Commission; Mr. Xie Xuren, Minister of Finance; Dr. Chen Deming, Minister of Commerce; Mr. Li Yizhong, Minister of Industry and Information Technology; Mr. Zhou Shengxian, Minister of Environmental Protection; Mr. Han Changfu, Minister of Agriculture; and Dr. Zhi Shuping, Minister of General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine; and four deputy minister-level officials - Mr. Bi Jingquan, Deputy Secretary-General of the State Council; Mr. Chen Jian, Vice Minister of Commerce; Dr. Yi Gang, Deputy Governor of the People's Bank of China; and Dr. Zhang Yongli, Deputy Director of the State Forestry Administration.

The following is an overview of the dialogue and its major outcomes:
1. Overview
(1) In light of the growing interdependence of Japanese and Chinese economic relations and their increasing importance in the regional and global economies, the economic ministers of both countries deepened their mutual understanding by engaging in candid discussions on addressing the recovery of the world economy, enhancing the mutually beneficial cooperation between Japan and China and its challenges, as well as strengthening global and regional cooperation and their challenges. The ministers agreed on many fronts pertaining to the specific ways and means of cooperation.
(2) The two sides welcomed the fact that this dialogue strengthened the economic dimensions of their "Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests." The two sides confirmed to continue advancing efforts to further enhance and materialize the mutually beneficial relationship. Furthermore, the two sides agreed to fulfill important responsibilities in the region and the international community.
2. Addressing the recovery of the world economy

The two countries, located in Asia--the "growth center" of the world and accounting for approximately 17% of the world's total GDP, shared the view to make a significant contribution to the recovery of the world economy by mutually achieving stable and sustainable economic growth. Japan will implement its New Growth Strategy and Fiscal Management Strategy under the strong political leadership. China confirmed to make steady progress in the implementation of policies with a focus on expanding domestic demand and reforming the economic structure. The two sides concurred to continue developing further mutually beneficial economic relations and advancing efforts towards regional and global economic development.
3. Mutually beneficial cooperation between Japan and China and its challenges

(1) Green economy

The two sides commended the advancement of their cooperation in the areas of energy conservation and environmental protection, and reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing their cooperation.
The two sides shared the view to make efforts on both ends towards the success of the Fifth Japan-China Comprehensive Energy Conservation and Environment Forum, which will be held in Tokyo in October. Furthermore, the two sides concurred to proactively promote cooperation on energy conservation and the environment, including cooperation on model projects in the areas of green economy and low carbon technology.
The two sides positively assessed the progress made in advancing their cooperation such as: cooperation on air, water, waste, and other environmental pollution countermeasures; so-called co-benefit approach simultaneously addressing greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution; measures to control the generation of yellow sand and ocean waste; and cooperation among cities regarding eco-towns. Furthermore, the two sides confirmed further promotion of these cooperative measures.
The Chinese side expressed high expectations for the Caofeidian Eco-Industrial Park in Tangshan City. The Japanese side decided to establish a Caofeidian Public-Private Study Group comprised of government bodies, the business community, and relevant organizations to facilitate the information sharing among relevant parties.

(2) Industry cooperation

The two sides shared the view to regularly hold a Japan-China Policy Dialogue on Distribution and Logistics , establish a Japan-China Distribution Dialogue, hold consultations at vice ministerial level among manufacturing and information industry-related agencies on a regular basis, and promote cooperation on information and communication. Furthermore, Japanese side requested to promote cooperation and the easing of regulations in the contents area.

(3) Financial cooperation

The two sides positively evaluated the strengthened partnership between the two countries' financial agencies on a bilateral and multilateral basis, and confirmed to engage in further cooperation for the stability and development of the financial market.
The two sides also commended the entry of their financial institutions in each others' markets and the progress made in expanding their scope of business. The Japanese side requested a flexible response towards Japanese banks regarding deposit-lending ratios, the listing of Japanese exchange-traded funds in the Shanghai Stock Exchange, the expansion of investment opportunities in China, the promotion of capital tie-ups through relaxing foreign equity limitation, and the opening of the third party liability auto insurance business to foreign companies.

(4) Improving the business environment

The Japanese side, in light of the requests from the Japanese business community, raised to the Chinese side a number of issues, including ensuring the transparency of the legal system, regulations on the export of rare earth, the accreditation system for self-innovation products, automobile-related policies, and the protection of intellectual property, and requested the improvement of the business environment in China. Furthermore, the two sides agreed to carry out a dialogue on information security products. Additionally, the Japanese side conveyed their concerns regarding the recurring labor disputes in China.
The two sides shared the view to promote custom cooperation. Both sides concurred to advance efforts towards revising the Japan-China Taxation Agreement.
The Chinese side welcomed the intention expressed by Japanese travel agencies operating in China that they will begin handling the trips to Japan by Chinese people before the end of this year.

(5) Strengthening cooperation in agricultural, forestry and fisheries industries

The two sides shared the view to cooperate on the management of bonito and tuna resources, joint study on foot-and-mouth disease, and measures to combat illegal logging. The Japanese side expressed renewed interest in the promotion of exports of Japanese agriculture, forestry and fisheries goods to China.
4. Global and regional cooperation and their challenges

(1) Global cooperation

The two sides recognized the importance of international economic cooperation through the G20 and shared the view to actively take part in the efforts leading up to the Seoul Summit. Both sides confirmed the importance of deterring protectionist moves and the importance of the early conclusion of the WTO Doha Round negotiations. The Japanese side expressed high expectations for China's early accession to the WTO Government Procurement Agreement with broad coverage. The two sides reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate for the success of the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD-COP10), which will be held in Japan in October 2010. Regarding climate change, the two sides engaged in a constructive exchange of views towards the success of the COP16. With regards to assistance for a third country, the two sides confirmed to advance bilateral dialogue.

(2) Cooperation of the Asia-Pacific region

The Japanese side requested that the negotiations on the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Investment Agreement proceed in a constructive manner. Furthermore, the two sides shared the view to enhance the joint study by industry, government, and academic researchers for an FTA among Japan, China, and the ROK. Both countries confirmed their intention to actively promote regional financial cooperation. Additionally, they shared the view to actively work together toward the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in November 2010, which will be convened in Japan.
5. Other issues

(1) Creation and signing of memorandums between governments and government authorities

The two sides welcomed, on this opportunity of the Third Japan-China High-Level Economic Dialogue, the conclusion and signing of six memorandums between governments and agencies in the areas of the environment and energy conservation, logistics and distribution, manufacturing and information industries, among others, as well as the conclusion of a memorandum between the private entities as outlined in the attached document [PDF]. These memorandums reflect the expansion of Japan-China economic relations on multiple fronts and the growing interdependence of the two economies.

(2) Next meeting

The two sides concurred to hold the Fourth Japan-China High-Level Economic Dialogue next year at a mutually convenient time in Tokyo.  Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Overview of the Third Japan-China High-Level Economic Dialogue , Aug. 28, 2010.


 What do these two versions of the same event reveal?  First,of course,is the language issue--both of these versions were produced in English and set free to roam on the Internet--and that suggests a targetting beyond local audiences.  Like the stories of the Samurai, his wife and the bandit, these versions are meant not merely for public consumption, but specifically for public consumption by the English speaking foreigner.   The Japanese version suggests power within a relationship in which it tends to be viewed as the more needy of the partners.  The Chinese version tends to strengthen the well managed campaign to depict the Chinese state as triumphantly entering the first rank of global powers.  Ironically, the Japanese version evidences the way on which the Chinese remain adept at playing both sides of the development field--managing their world image to suggest their first rank status while negotiating specifics deploying the full range of the rhetorical devices of the developing state.  That it continues to work remains a mystery--perhaps best understood as a function of need, that is the needs of China's trading partners.  Most interesting, perhaps, was the suggestion, at least on the Japanese side, that China and Japan would combine their forces in the upcoming meeting of the G-20 and WTO negotiations.  China has consistently battled what it perceives as moves toward protectionism (hurtful to its internal domestic development) on multiple fronts--from participating in the construction of the Santiago Principles for Sovereign Wealth Funds, to checking what it might view as the consequences of Western state policies designed to play well to their own domestic audiences in efforts to regulate themselves out of the recession that began in 2007.  That Japan shares some of these concerns makes it a useful ally against Europe and the United States in upcoming negotiations. Even better since the close relationship between Japan and the United States permits China greater entry into the thinking of both allies running up to the meetings--and thus permitting China a greater indirect influence in managing that relationship.
In efforts to try to understand the thrust and meaning of actions by two of the more vital states in East Asia it is sometimes useful to consider their approaches to fairly ordinary events for clues about perspective, approaches and understandings of the use and effects of institutional relationships.

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