China-Japan relations

Japanese corporate leaders visit Beijing in effort to mend ties

Association of corporate chiefs with ties to mainland going back the 1970s visits leaders in Beijing to help get relations back on track

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 February, 2017, 4:55pm

A group of influential Japanese business leaders is due to meet Vice-President Li Yuanchao today in Beijing in an effort to improve soured relations between the two countries.

The 16-member mission from the Japan-China Economic Association, led by Toyota chairman Fujio Cho, was originally scheduled to visit in September, as the group has met top Chinese politicians frequently since 1972, but the trip was cancelled amid rising tensions over the sovereignty of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.

The delegation is also scheduled to meet officials today from the National Development and Reform Commission and the foreign ministry.

Japan's Kyodo news agency reported that the delegation had also requested to meet other senior leaders including Premier Li Keqiang during their three-day visit.

"The goal for our trip is to normalise trade between China and Japan, and hopefully it can improve in the future," Kenji Inaba, managing director of the association, said yesterday.

The goal for our trip is to normalise trade between China and Japan, and hopefully it can improve in the future

"We hope to make progress for future talks between the two nations' leaders," Inaba said.

He said the delegation had also proposed helping the Chinese government combat air pollution, by providing facilities and experts.

The delegation yesterday met Vice-Minister of Commerce Chen Jian and Tang Jiaxuan , who heads the China-Japan Friendship Association and is a former state councillor.

Tang told the delegation that economic and trade co-operation had been the cornerstone of Sino-Japanese relations for the past four decades, and that Beijing's policy direction of maintaining friendship and co-operation with Japan had not changed, Chinese state radio reported.

But Tang said Tokyo needed to face the history and reality of the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkakus. He called on Tokyo to consult Beijing on ways to manage and resolve the matter.

Some analysts said economic ties between the two neighbouring nations, worth almost US$345 billion in 2011, had already been damaged since last year by the territorial row.

Professor Liang Yunxiang , an international relations specialist at Peking University, said domestic politics prevented either sides from appearing to back down.

"They can't talk about the political issue, but they still want the economic connections to be maintained," Liang said.

Professor Yang Bojiang , from the University of International Relations in Beijing, said the visit could help warm ties, but a rapid fundamental change was unlikely.

"The two nations share no consensus over the dispute, and nothing will change if that cannot be solved," Yang said.