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Japan Democrat win could warm China ties
Updated: 2009-08-27 14:45


Japan Democrat win could warm China ties
Yukio Hatoyama, left, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, reacts to people during his campaign rally for Aug. 30 parliament's lower house elections in front of a train station in Tokyo, Japan, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2009. A series of public opinion polls indicate the Liberal Democratic Party, which has governed Japan for most of the last 54 years will lose in a landslide to the opposition Democratic Party of Japan in parliamentary elections. [Agencies] 

BEIJING - The expected victory for the opposition Democrats in Japan's election this weekend could open the way for a tentative improvement in ties with China, with both powers keen to avoid distractions from their economic priorities.

Opinion polls show that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is set to be ousted in Sunday's election after five decades of near-unbroken rule, forcing Beijing to adjust to an untested and potentially fractious administration in Tokyo.

Analysts believe this is not a big threat to relations between the world's second- and third-biggest economies.

Both are going to be focused on shoring up economic growth in the wake of the global slump, and the Democratic Party of Japan's (DPJ) willingness to confront the nation's wartime past and its determination to forge better ties across Asia both augur well.

"Problems and conflicts in China-Japan relations won't disappear if the Democratic Party comes to power, but overall its policies are quite positive for relations," said Liu Jiangyong, an expert on Japan at Tsinghua University in Beijing who has advised the government.

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Liu said he has met several Democratic Party leaders to discuss relations with China.

"There are certainly different voices within the (Democratic) Party, and initially that could create some uncertainty, but overall they want better relations, and so do we," he said.

Serious divisions between Tokyo and Beijing would throw a shadow over bilateral trade and investment growth.

With the United States' appetite for Japanese and Chinese exports unlikely to return to past levels even if the US economy begins reviving, neither Asian power wants to risk destabilizing relations, said Sun Cheng, an expert on Japanese politics at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing.

"The broader economic trends are what will shape the development of China-Japan relations," said Sun.

"Under a Democratic government, Japan would still have an ambivalent attitude (toward China), needing to strengthen economic interdependence but worried about the consequences."


Under the LDP, Japan's ties with China have veered between icy hostility and ambivalent reconciliation.

Relations reached their chilliest in decades under Junichiro Koizumi, who while prime minister from 2001 to 2006 repeatedly visited the Yasukuni Shrine for war dead in Tokyo.

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