A thawing in China and Japan’s icy relations is evident these days as both countries battle the coronavirus outbreak hand in hand.

The dangerous rift between the two powerful Asian nations can be traced back to the 1930’s, when Japanese military aggression ravaged China during the war. Now, it looks like China and Japan are finally ready to mend their fences.

Earlier this month, a poem written by the grandson of a Japanese emperor some 1,300 years ago went viral on Weibo. “Even though we live in different places, we live under the same sky,” a line from the poem reads. Interestingly, the same line was printed on the sides of the boxes of face masks and thermometers sent by the Japan Youth Development Association (JYDA) to China, as the country continues to send aid to the disease’s epicenter.  

For many, the message was Japan’s way of communicating its vision of bridging the divide between their people and China’s amid the coronavirus outbreak. While both countries have cases of COVID-19, the situation in China is far worse than in Japan. So far, COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 and infected 80,000 in China alone, and Japan is one of the first countries to support the Chinese government’s efforts in containing the disease. Earlier this February, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang acknowledged the aid provided by Japan and thanked the country for being an ally in these trying times.

According to economic expert Jeff Kingston, the coronavirus outbreak may pave the way for the eventual peace between the two nations, though it may take a while. “For now, both sides see an advantage in dialing down tensions,” he said. “Some of the permafrost has thawed by there are still deep layers of frost—and that’s not just about territory, there are also historical differences,” he added.  

Kingston explained that the recent coronavirus outbreak has served as a stress-test for bilateral relations, so China and Japan’s move to turn the situation around was clever. “That poem is trying to get people to listen to the better part of themselves,” he said.

corona virus The novel coronavirus has already infected thousands in China. World Health Organization (WHO) / Facebook