On 7th May, 2009, the Open University of China (OUC) and the Open University of Japan (OUJ) signed an agreement on distance education. The process of the signing ceremony was transmitted to provincial open universities via two-way video conferencing systems. Professor Ge Daokai, President of OUC, and Professor Hiromitsu Ishi, President of OUJ signed the agreement on behalf of each side.

The agreement focuses on the future cooperation between the open universities system in China and OUJ in various aspects of distance education, including academic research, project development, personnel exchange, co-development and application of teaching resources, and exchange of educational information, teaching materials and educational research findings.

After the ceremony, Professor Hiromitsu Ishi gave a presentation on the Open University of Japan, introducing the history of the university, its curricula, teaching and learning conditions. Professor Hiromitsu Ishi described the current changes facing OUJ mainly concerning the demographics of the students in an aging society. The university has made adjustments in its teaching structure and has further developed curricula in order to meet the diversified learning needs of the aging society. In addition, the function and distribution of the study centers, particularly the university's effort in employing the local educational resources and public facilities were reported. Professor Hiromitsu Ishi also answered questions raised in the two-way conferencing by the provincial open universities in China concerning OUJ.

Professor Ge Daokai gave a summary following Professor Hiromitsu Ishi's report and commended it as "simple and brilliant". He also mentioned that he was deeply impressed when the delegation from OUC visited OUJ last December. Today better understanding has been developed through Professor Hiromitsu Ishi's introduction of the OUJ. He believes that the contact between the two universities will lay a solid foundation for the future exchange and cooperation.

Professor Ge Daokai introduced the Open University of Japan, that was established in the 1980s and experienced the rapid growth of Japan's economy. Today, Japan's industry and agriculture development has entered a new period, namely the post-industrial era. With the aging of its population, Japan is increasingly becoing an aging society. Therefore, it is of vital importance to study Japan's social changes and characteristics of its educational development. In order to promote Japan's economic development and social stability, OUJ has provided various educational and training projects for the aging population of Japan, making great contributions to lifelong education. The OUC was born at a time when "reconstruction was imperative and talent was in urgent need" after the Great Culture Revolution in China. In the past 30 years, the open universities in China have developed along with China's economic reform. It is predicted that China will also experience the aging of its society. Despite the different social backgrounds and developing stages, China and Japan can benefit from each other in developing distance education and lifelong learning to promote the joint development.

Professor Ge Daokai also emphasized that the open universities system in China should strengthen academic exchanges with OUJ in the field of distance education and should learn from each other through academic seminars and other activities. In the past decades, the open universities system in China has conducted various exchanges and activities with OUJ. However, under new situation, we can open up more fields for cooperation. Ge believes that this Sino-Japanese cooperative agreement will be a good beginning.

The signing of the Agreement with Japan is a new attempt for the open universities system in China. What we expect is to promote better mutual understanding and more substantive cooperation and collaboration between the open universities in China and OUJ.

By Li Yawan and Chen Haishan, the OUC