The anti-Japanese protests have been largely peaceful and controlled, compared to demonstrations of a similar scale in western countries. Angry protesters threw eggs, bottles, stones and bricks at the Japanese embassy and ambassador's residence, and smashed one or two Mitsubishi vehicles in Beijing, but no one was hurt or arrested. However, for mainland leaders - including Premier Wen Jiabao, who has openly talked about his family's hardship under Japanese occupation - it would be political suicide to forcefully crack down on such popular protests. The truth is they may share the protesters' sentiments, but do not agree with their approach. Sino-Japanese relations have deteriorated in recent years because of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honours Japan's war dead, including several convicted war criminals. Ties have taken a sharp turn for the worse in the past few months because of Tokyo's attempts to gloss over atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army during the second world war, the quest for energy resources in disputed territories, and Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. While it is true that these issues are cause for concern, they can be resolved through negotiations. Even the most explosive issue - Japan's military history - is nothing new and has been a strain on ties between the two countries for nearly 30 years. What is more worrying are the underlying issues which could inflict irreparable damage on relations and lead to what some analysts fear could be a new kind of cold war between the two countries. One of these issues is that officials and citizens of both China and Japan have failed to find ways to deal with the two countries' changing roles in a rational way. Japan is making a significant transition from a purely economic giant to a political heavyweight on the international arena - a role it rightly deserves. It has adopted aggressive tactics in the diplomatic, economic and military areas which reflect the rising influence of right-wingers. And many of them have begun to trumpet 'a China threat'. Meanwhile, China's growing economic might and rapid military build-up are causing serious concern in neighbouring countries. Easing those fears and showing China is a responsible country should be a priority of the mainland leadership. Another serious issue is Taiwan. Containing Taiwan's independence drive and reducing the so-called foreign interference has become the cornerstone of Beijing's foreign policy. Mainland leaders harbour a deep suspicion that Tokyo is moving towards working more closely with Washington to support Taipei. That suspicion was reinforced when a Japan-US security pact for the first time mentioned the Taiwan issue as a common security concern. Tokyo's close links with Taiwanese independence advocates were also highlighted when Taiwan Solidarity Union chairman Su Chin-chiang made a controversial visit to Yasukuni Shrine this month. Many Chinese analysts believe that in the event of a war in the Taiwan Strait, Japan would act as the 'Britain' of Asia, providing military and economic assistance to the United States and Taiwan. It could be argued that evolving relations between Beijing, Washington and Tokyo will be largely determined by the Taiwan issue. With so much at stake, let's hope leaders in both countries have the courage and wisdom to tackle those underlying issues and prevent bilateral relations from worsening further.