• Kyodo News

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Chinese entrepreneurs from some 30 countries will gather in Kobe and Osaka for a three-day business convention starting Saturday in a further sign that once testy relations between the two Asian neighbors have finally started to warm.

Some 3,600 participants will take part in the Ninth World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention, aimed at strengthening the global network of Chinese entrepreneurs, according to the convention’s organizing committee.

Japan for the first time will play host to the biennial convention, which was initially proposed in 1991 by then Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. The convention has previously been held in Thailand, Australia, China and South Korea.

The convention this year falls on the 35th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and China.

High-ranking Chinese official Jia Qinglin, scheduled to be in Japan for a weeklong visit from Wednesday, will attend the opening in Kobe. Jia is a standing committee member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Political Bureau and chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. He is considered the fourth most powerful man in China.

The organizing committee has also asked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to attend.

Japan’s hosting of the largely Chinese forum is a further boost for the bilateral relationship, which soured under Abe’s predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi.

Relations have visibly improved since Abe visited China last October immediately after taking office. China responded with a long-awaited visit by Premier Wen Jiabao to Japan in April.

“Prime Minister Abe created this friendly atmosphere and everybody welcomes it,” said Huang Yao-ting, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce in Japan and the convention’s chairman.

Huang said it would have been difficult for Japan to host the convention during Koizumi’s tenure.

“Chinese entrepreneurs from around the world have very high expectations that this is going to be held in Japan, both for Asian and world peace,” he said.

Huang also said another objective is to contribute to Japan’s further economic growth through economic ties between the business communities of the two countries.

Prominent business figures such as Toyota Motor Corp. Chairman Fujio Cho and Yoichi Morishita, corporate counselor at Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., are slated to attend.

On the Chinese side, Liu Chuanzhi, chairman of computer maker Lenovo Group Ltd., will give a presentation in Kobe on the second day.

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