Shinzo Abe Says Japan Is China’s ‘Partner,’ and No Longer Its Aid Donor

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“Japan played a large part in that, but Japan has been given very little credit for it,” she said.Japan never officially declared that the aid, most of which came in the form of loans that were discontinued 10 years ago, represented any kind of war reparations. But analysts in Japan say that did play a role, at least at the start of the program, and that many people saw it that way.“The Japanese politicians who began the overseas development assistance in the first place had that in mind,” Mr. Takahara said. He added that given political sensibilities in Japan about formal war apologies, it was difficult for any official to declare openly that the aid was anything other than economic assistance for a developing neighbor.Some historians dispute the idea that the aid represented a form of atonement.“You could think of other reasons why Japan might have an incentive to be particularly generous with their aid that have absolutely nothing to do with any historical sense of guilt,” said Jennifer Lind, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College and a specialist in Japanese war memory.Japan “provided a lot of money to help China with the environment,” Ms. Lind said. “But it’s because Japan worried about the weather blowing pollution from China toward Japan. So they had a big incentive to help China figure out how to clean up its air.”In 2007, Japan ended its yen loan program, which represented about three-quarters of its aid to China. What remained were small-scale grants made to local communities for individual projects.Now, Japan is proposing that it cooperate with China on such projects in Southeast Asia. The advantage for Japan is that it can move away from direct competition with China on such projects and toward a program of cooperation that lets Japan dictate some of the environmental and labor standards.“I think it’s a smart framing on the part of Japan to try and use this as an opportunity to start things off on a different foot with China,” said Kristi Govella, an assistant professor of Asian studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “Of course, they can’t just say that they’re ending aid, because it would be a negative thing on the 40th anniversary of the Sino-Japanese friendship.”

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