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Relations between the two Asian giants – Japan and the People’s Republic of China – are undergoing a moment of evolution, one of the most significant since the normalisation of 1972. Though the leaders of both countries deserve praise for the diplomatic energy, creativity and resources they have invested this ‘new starting point’, it cannot be denied that they now find themselves up against opposition forces that they themselves have, in part, helped to create. Now that the regional politics of northeast Asia are being radicalised by transformations of the area’s political elites – while the US leadership crisis makes the arrangement of the broader global system uncertain – the future scenario can only be described as problematic, with the foundations of the ‘new starting point’ in relations between China and Japan appearing more fragile than ever.