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this Commentary: Join hands to usher in new spring in China-Japan ties

After Sunday's winter solstice, days are getting longer and nights shorter, and spring is drawing nearer in the Northern Hemisphere. For China and Japan, a new spring in their bilateral ties is budding.

On Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Beijing. Abe will then attend the 8th China-Japan-South Korea leaders' meeting in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu on Tuesday.

At their Monday meeting, Xi and Abe reaffirmed a major consensus reached between the two leaders during their last meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in the Japanese city of Osaka in June to build China-Japan relations in accordance with the needs of the new era.

As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China and the start of the Era of Reiwa for Japan, the two countries face an opportunity to write a new chapter on bilateral ties at the doorstep of the third decade in this century.

The relationship between the two neighbors has seen many twists and turns in recent decades, and plunged to an all-time low in early 2010s due to disputes over historical matters and territorial waters.

In 2014, the then icy relationship saw a sign of a thaw when the two sides inked an agreement on resuming political, diplomatic and security dialogues, and building up political mutual trust.

Enhancing mutual trust is key to improving any nation-to-nation ties. Following positive signals from both sides on patching up bilateral ties since late 2017 and meetings between Xi and Abe at a number of multilateral gatherings, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to Japan and Abe's official China visit last year marked a breakthrough for rapprochement, with both sides agreeing to step up cooperation in service trade and third-party market.

As the world's second and third largest economies and close neighbors, China and Japan offer each other valuable opportunities to further develop and prosper.

The two countries are closely connected economically and culturally, as well as on many other fronts. Official data shows that bilateral trade exceeded $31 billion last year, and people-to-people exchanges hit a record high of more than 10 million back in 2017.

Improving China-Japan relations has become more significant than ever in a world threatened by the rising tide of unilateralism and protectionism. Both being major countries in Asia and beyond, China and Japan should maintain strategic stability and chart bilateral ties from a global perspective.

A stable and mature Beijing-Tokyo relationship is very much needed for regional prosperity and global development.

As the two countries are seeking to make new headway in bilateral ties, they should abide by the principles set forth in the four political documents and act in accordance with the consensuses they have reached since establishing diplomatic ties in 1972.

The two countries can further their trade and economic cooperation by closely coordinating their stances on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, so as to ensure the final signing of this mega regional trade agreement.

The Chinese and Japanese people also need to deepen mutual understanding. The two countries have launched the China-Japan high-level consultation mechanism on people-to-people and cultural exchanges. The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games also provide the two peoples with chances to know each other better.

Frequent high-level exchanges are also important for the development of the bilateral relationship. In Osaka, Xi accepted in principle an invitation from Abe for a state visit to Japan in the coming spring.

So long as Japan can join China to take more concrete steps to bolster their partnership by deepening practical cooperation and properly handling sensitive issues, a new spring in the bilateral ties will not be far away.