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A bridge of development links Japan and China

By Yohei Sasaawa | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-05 09:49
Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation, makes remarks at a ceremony to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund's establishment in China in Peking University, 2018. [Photo/]


The Nippon Foundation, of which I serve as chairman, and its affiliated organizations, began working with China in the early 1980s, initially on efforts to eliminate leprosy in the country. China had launched reform and opening-up a couple of years earlier and was embarking on a path of economic development. On the streets of major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, people wore monotone clothing of dark blue, gray or green, and walking down a street felt like being in a black-and-white television scene.

Since then, we have worked with many people in various fields both in Japan and China, primarily in the areas of personnel exchanges and human resource development. We have implemented more than 500 projects involving exchanges between Japan and China, directly involving about 50,000 people in the two countries.

The black-and-white scene gradually acquired color. And today, China outshines Japan as a country that produces some of the world's most colorful images. Our overarching goal has been that the people of both countries enjoy peace and prosperity, and as I have devoted myself to these exchange programs, I have been a witness to China's astounding growth and development, which are unparalleled in human history.

Southern Tour helped China meet challenges

When I visited China with my father, Ryoichi Sasakawa, in the 1980s, we met several times with Deng Xiaoping, the chief architect of China's economic reforms and socialist modernization. I clearly remember Deng saying: "Reform and opening-up are the only path China can take to survive." I also remember when this program faced a period of difficulty, Deng, despite his advanced age, made his famous Southern Tour of cities in South China to shore up support for reform and opening-up.

Yangmingism, a school of neo-Confucianism based on the teachings of Wang Yangming that had its origins in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), was brought to Japan by its followers who fled China after the fall of the dynasty, and had a major impact on Japanese society. Yangmingism espouses the doctrine of "unity of knowing and acting", meaning that knowledge and action are one and the same, and cannot be separated. Or, in other words, if one does not act, one does not have knowledge. I believe the Chinese are truly the world's greatest practitioners of the unity of knowing and acting.

Around the world, there are many national government projects that are presented as a distillation of the wisdom of the country's top leaders, but there are few examples that match the knowledge and strength of action seen in the Chinese people's determination to implement individual projects. The Pudong Development Plan is one such example.

From a mere plan to a real wonder

When I visited China in 1990, the year the plan was proposed, a Shanghai government official showed me around Pudong and explained the plan, using a model of the project and pointing to fields as far as the eye could see. The first briefing on the Pudong Development Plan in Japan was held the same year, when a delegation of city officials from China's coastal regions, led by Huang Ju (who became mayor of Shanghai in 1991 and was elected as a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee in 2002) were invited to Japan.

In 1991, when I accompanied Huang on a tour of the major construction project for the Kansai International Airport, he told me how impressed he was by the project. But the Pudong Development Plan went far beyond our imagination, and it was the Chinese who were able to follow through with that transformation. And 20 years later, that plan on paper became the wonder that is the Pudong New Area, which is admired around the world.

The Nippon Foundation and its affiliated organizations have implemented a variety of programs to meet China's needs at various stages of reform and opening-up, reorienting our direction as necessary along the way.

In the late 1980s, we first worked to initiate and expand reciprocal visits between Japan and China, and in the early 1990s we supported economic transformation, including sharing our experience with privatizing State-owned enterprises. We also conducted numerous programs that brought officials from the central government as well as specialists who would be carrying out regulatory reform in rural areas to Japan.

Having worked together with the Chinese during 40 years of reform and opening-up, we admire China's abundant, high-quality human resources. I am convinced that human resources are the most important driving force supporting peace and development in China, Asia and the world, and the Nippon Foundation and our affiliated organizations have engaged in many joint projects with China, with a focus on human resource development.

Nippon has trained many future leaders

The Sasakawa Medical Fellowship, in cooperation with China's National Health Commission, has awarded and trained more than 2,300 medical students in various fields, most of whom have gone on to become leaders in the field of healthcare and medicine, as academicians in the Chinese Academy of Sciences, or heads of hospitals or medical schools. A scholarship recipient also directed the emergency response to the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake.

Another good example is the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund, a program that five major universities in China joined in 1992, and an additional five in 1994. This program provides scholarships for graduate students pursuing degrees in the humanities at 69 universities in 44 countries, and has provided scholarships to more than 16,000 students around the world, of whom about 8,000 are from these 10 Chinese universities.

Many of these students are now heads of universities, senior corporate managers, key government officials and judges. In these positions, they have been active in supporting China's reform and opening-up, and will continue to contribute to the country's social development.

We have also been engaged in human resource development in China in countless other ways, which include a human resource training program in international relations at Peking University that has been going on for more than 20 years, Japanese language training across China, the training of technicians in the field of high-speed rail transport, and the donation of a total of 4 million books and publications to more than 70 universities in China.

Economic relationship highly complementary

Japan and China are geopolitically inseparable. Their economic relationship is already mutually complementary: the Japanese cannot go about their daily lives without food and other products from China, and the same is becoming true in China with regard to goods from Japan.

I am convinced that the two countries will maintain a healthy relationship for the next 40 years and beyond through continued efforts by the people of both countries to know each other better as tourism and other forms of exchanges become more popular.

Japan does have major problems, but this also means it has been dealing for some time with issues that China is now beginning to face, including environmental issues, a declining birthrate and aging population, and regional revitalization. As such, Japan's experience and expertise will help China address these issues.

The author is chairman of the Nippon Foundation. The foundation has been engaged in human resource development in China in countless ways including in training technicians and future academics.

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