Businessmen eye warmer China, Japan trade ties

Beijing, October 8 :

Few people will greet today’s summit between China and Japan with more anticipation than the business communities, long worried about the negative fall-out of political friction, analysts said.

New Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Beijing for a one-day visit following years of simmering tension that has significantly hampered cooperation between Asia’s two largest economies.

“Businessmen in Japan and in China have been trying to reduce political tensions as they represent an unnecessary risk,” said Devin Stewart, an expert on Sino-Japanese ties at the Carnegie Council, a New York-based think tank.

China is Japan’s largest trading partner, with bilateral commerce reaching $188.4 billion in 2005, according to Japanese statistics. Japan was also China’s largest trading partner for 11 consecutive years until 2003. But ominously, since 2004 it has fallen to third place behind the EU and the US.

While no one attributes this trend to politics alone, many analysts agree the two nations’ economic relationship was not able to achieve its full potential due to the diplomatic storms of the past few years. “The business community in Japan is one of the biggest and most powerful groups advocating a warmer political relationship,” said Stewart.

Japanese businesspeople are likely to have been intimidated by the sight of angry mobs spilling into the streets of China in early 2005.

The anti-Japanese demonstrations, full of people shouting down Tokyo’s bid for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council, came after Japan’s education ministry approved a nationalist-written textbook.