The relationship between the two largest economies in Asia has been marred throughout the 20th century due to territorial and political disputes including Taiwanese sovereignty; the invasion of China by Japan in the second world war and Japan’s subsequent refusal to acknowledge the extent of its war crimes; territorial disputes surrounding the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands and associated fishing rights and energy resources; and Japanese-American security co-operation.
Chinese state media attack Japan over wartime 'smears'
Japanese government accused of slandering China by comparing Tokyo's ties with Beijing to situation in Europe ahead of the first world war
State media launched a scathing attack against Japan yesterday as the two nations continued their bitter exchanges over territorial disputes and their memories of war.
A front-page commentary in the official People's Daily accused Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of attempting to sow confusion internationally by comparing Japan's relationship with China to that of Britain and Germany in the run-up to the first world war.
Abe was "trying to divert the attention of the international community and creating confusion over right and wrong", the editorial said.
People with basic knowledge of history would understand the conflict between Britain and Germany was triggered by an arms race that coincided with the spread of their colonial power and that Abe's comparison was "illogical" and was an attempt to "smear China", the editorial continued.
Already strained Sino-Japanese relations worsened after Abe visited the controversial Yasukuni war memorial in December. The two nations had already exchanged harsh rhetoric for more than a year over their territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, which Japan calls the Senkakus.
Liu Jiangyong , a professor of international relations at Tsinghua University, wrote in China Daily the Abe government was "strengthening its defence forces and trying to drag the US into its confrontation with China".
China's ambassador to Britain, Liu Xiaoming , said in an interview with state television Japan should apologise over the Marco Polo Bridge incident, which marked the start of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937.
The commentaries came as a city in Japan sought to list letters and documents left behind by kamikaze pilots as world heritage items with the United Nations cultural organisation, Unesco.
Some of the letters were written by young suicide pilots to their families before they flew their final missions. Japanese officials said the move was intended to convey the importance of peace to the world, but Beijing was dismayed, saying the attempt was intended to "glorify" Japan's wartime past.
Professor Lian Degui , of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said tensions between Japan and its neighbours would probably continue.
"The Japanese believe that it is normal to pay respect to their war dead and the international community does not understand them," he said.
"But Japan will be more isolated by its neighbours as it continues with such gestures."