Biz group going to China to mend ties

Kyodo

The Japan-China Economic Association is making final arrangements to send a delegation to Beijing for a three-day visit from March 21 in a move that could contribute to mending fraught bilateral ties, association sources said Tuesday.

The delegation of Japanese corporate executives, led by Toyota Motor Corp. Chairman Fujio Cho, who serves as the association’s chairman, is seeking talks with Xi Jinping, who is set to become China’s president, on March 21 and 22, the sources said.

The association has also requested a meeting with Vice Premier Li Keqiang, who is set to become China’s premier, they said.

A decision by Beijing to meet the request would signal its new leadership’s desire to restore ties with Japan, political analysts said.

But it is still possible that the delegation’s schedule will be revised based on the stance China’s new leaders take toward Japan, which will be decided during the annual session of the National People’s Congress that opened Tuesday, the sources said.

An association mission was initially scheduled to visit China in September but the plan was called off abruptly due to escalating tensions after Japan nationalized the China-claimed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The sovereignty of the Japanese-controlled Senkakus has long been a source of friction between Tokyo and Beijing, which calls them Diaoyu.

Around 20 Japanese business leaders, including the association’s honorary chairman, Hiromasa Yonekura, who also heads Keidanren, and Akio Mimura, senior adviser for Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., are expected to be part of the delegation, the sources said.

The association has sent a delegation to China every year since 1975.

Private sector’s role

The nation’s biggest business lobby and the China-Japan Friendship Association, a Chinese organization, held a symposium Tuesday to discuss the role of the private sector in repairing bilateral relations frayed by the Senkakus dispute.

Wang Xiuyun, vice president of the Chinese association, stressed the importance of economic exchanges, saying, “Historically, economic organizations have served (to improve) political relations.”

Keidanren Chairman Hiromasa Yonekura said, “Now is the time for the private sector to take the initiative to deepen exchanges and propose ways to further the growth of both countries.”

At the symposium, Chinese researchers called for the two countries’ technical cooperation in areas such as the environment and disaster prevention, while a Japanese participant said every Japanese should acquire the ability to communicate their views to promote mutual understanding.