Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before a bilateral meeting in Russia during the 2018 Eastern Economic Forum. U.S. trade pressure on China and Japan is driving the two together to defend the liberal economic order from which they have immensely benefited.
"Red or white, China remains our next-door neighbor. Geography and economic laws will, I believe, prevail in the long run over any ideological differences or artificial trade barriers." Former Japanese Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida spoke those hopeful words while in office in January 1951, as the Cold War was beginning in earnest in the Pacific and China had already entered the Korean War. Japan-China relations were fizzling, as China adopted Communism alongside the Soviet Union while Japan was still aligned with the United States and the broader Western world. The two rival ideological blocs settled into their respective postures, leaving Japan with little space to form its own diplomatic relationships. The United States eventually compelled Japan to sign a peace treaty with fellow U.S. ally Taiwan, further complicating any Japanese outreach to the mainland until Washington itself began a rapprochement with Beijing in 1972....
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