The mainland is not stealing Japan's rice bowl and Japanese officials should stop blaming the nation for its economic woes, a leading Chinese economist says. 'Japan is suffering an unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent, the highest in more than 30 years, and some people there are blaming China,' Chen Huai, a senior economist at the State Council, said in an article posted on Xinhua's Web site. 'This is clearly not right. Japanese companies have invested a lot in China, especially Japanese auto-makers, but these investments were made because of China's market needs. Yes, they created jobs for Chinese, but these jobs do not come at the expense of jobs in Japan.' Japanese officials have been putting pressure on the mainland recently, calling for authorities to de-link the yuan from the US dollar and arguing that the yuan is undervalued. Just last week, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Hiroshi Watanabe, head of the Japanese Finance Ministry's international department, called for the yuan's peg to be reviewed in the 'long run'. The yuan has been pegged at 8.3 to the US dollar since 1994. At the end of last year the mainland enjoyed a US$199 billion (HK$1.54 trillion) surplus with its trading partners. Though China enjoys a trade surplus with many countries, it has a fairly balanced trade relationship with Japan. From 1995 to 2001, exports to Japan rose from US$28.5 billion to US$45 billion, while imports from Japan rose from US$29 billion to US$43 billion. 'Looking at these figures, it's clear that China hasn't had a huge trade surplus with Japan,' said Mr Chen. 'Rather, we've imported a lot from Japan.' In fact, China offered Japan an opportunity to restructure its economy, said Mr Chen. 'In order to end its economic slide, Japan must upgrade its industries by moving the uncompetitive ones offshore, and China is a natural place for such labour-intensive manufacturing,' he said. Most mainland economists agree with Mr Chen. Wang Xiaodong, deputy editor of Chinese Industrial Economy News in Beijing, said he believes Japanese politicians are using China as a scapegoat. 'They're blaming China for their own domestic economic problems,' said Mr Wang.