Relations between China and its East Asian neighbours, Japan and South Korea, have been put on a more positive footing following Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visits during which he held talks with counterparts and the nations’ leaders. Shared interests such as cooperating in the fight against Covid-19 and trade were the focus, the sides understanding that practical issues were the best starting point for building mutual trust. Through cooperation there can be a coordinated effort to curb the pandemic and from that and other joint endeavours will come the firm foundation necessary for solid bilateral ties. Points of contention remain and tensions between Beijing and Washington, which has long had a military alliance with both, is a complication, but the pragmatism and agreements give hope the governments can work together for the common good. Covid-19 is an especially pressing issue for South Korea and Japan, the former in particular battling to control fresh outbreaks. China has largely brought it under control, is in the forefront of efforts to roll out a vaccine and is the first major economy to recover, so its neighbours have every reason to coordinate and share information. China and Japan also agreed to resume business travel and cooperate on global warming and on Tokyo’s Summer Olympic Games next year and Beijing’s Winter Olympics in 2022. They also hope to establish a military hotline by the end of the year, an important goal given rising tensions over the disputed Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus by Japan. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s talks with Wang were his first with a senior Chinese official since replacing nationalist leader Shinzo Abe in September. Japan’s new ambassador to China also took up his post last Thursday. The importance of the Sino-Japanese relationship was affirmed in the talks and statements, a promising sign after years of nationalistic rhetoric. South Korean President Moon Jae-in was similarly practical, speaking of his desire for a long-term plan for cooperation ahead of the nations’ 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2022. China in last drive to court Japan and South Korea before Trump exits stage Wang’s trip was given positive momentum by a landmark deal China struck recently with the two countries, the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations, Australia and New Zealand that created the world’s biggest free-trade zone in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. The visits were given added impetus by Joe Biden winning the US presidential election; his taking office on January 20 will likely bring efforts to shore up regional alliances damaged by outgoing leader Donald Trump that will further pressure Beijing. But for China and its neighbours, mutual interests vastly outweigh constraints and differences. They have to push for greater cooperation and dialogue.