Abe impressed by tremendous changes in China in recent decades

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hailed the "tremendous changes" that have taken place in China over the past few decades in a recent interview with CGTN's parent company China Media Group. 

"Things have changed greatly in China, comparing what I saw last year and my first visit in 1980," Abe said. "I believe all the tremendous changes wouldn't have taken place without the efforts of the Chinese people." 

He said great progress has been made in economic cooperation between Japan and China since the formal establishment of diplomatic ties in 1972.

"China is now Japan's largest trading partner. More than 30,000 Japanese companies have set up branches in China. Economically, we have become closer, and more interdependent than ever," Abe said, calling on the two sides to diversify the fields of cooperation. 

Noting that Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, he said the two sides should take these opportunities to enhance cooperation in sports as well as other forms of people-to-people exchanges. 

With bilateral ties improving in recent years, high-level exchanges between China and Japan have increased. Abe paid an official visit to China in October 2018, five months after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's official visit to Japan.  

More recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Abe on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japan's Osaka in late June. The two leaders reached a 10-point consensus on promoting bilateral relations and Xi agreed in principle to pay a state visit to Japan next spring.

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Osaka, Japan, June 27, 2019. /Xinhua Photo

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Osaka, Japan, June 27, 2019. /Xinhua Photo

The Japanese prime minister is upbeat about Xi's visit. 

"The Japanese people sincerely welcome President Xi to our country," he said. "Japan has now entered the Reiwa Era (with the beginning of Emperor Naruhito's reign), and the People's Republic of China (PRC) has just celebrated its 70th anniversary. I hope President Xi's visit can be a new starting point in our relations." 

Last week Abe send a video message to the Chinese embassy to Japan, in which he congratulated the PRC on the 70th anniversary of its founding.