Why have Sino–Japanese relations been on an increasingly deteriorating track since the mid-2000s? Why did trust fail to be built despite the high expectations from both nations to improve bilateral ties? Yun Zhang challenges the conventional intellectual wisdom for explaining the origin of the mutual mistrust, which has been commonly heavily dependent on the biased mentality of focusing on the uniqueness of Sino–Japanese relations. This is reflected in the following two aspects: overestimation of the influence of historical factors and confinement within a strict bilateral framework. Yun Zhang argues that mutual misperception deeply rooted in China–Japan–US trilateral structural dynamics is responsible for the puzzling Sino–Japan confrontational relations.
The turbulence and deterioration of Sino–Japanese relations in the twenty-first century has been mirrored by the less visible “intellectual deficit” of failing to provide the needed intellectual support for policy making to break the deadlock.