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China-Japan Ties: Upswing in a Business-Only Marriage

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Lawmakers from Japan are visiting their country's bitter rival, China, this week to start building back relations.

A better relationship with China would help Japan, which is Asia's chief source of cars and electronics. The countries' relationship -- though on an upswing now -- is cyclical, and both sides know it will break down again.

The delegation from Japan reached Beijing Sunday for a three-day trip that is expected to herald more trips like it. Fresh face-to-face meetings would offer relief from what China's official Xinhua News Agency calls a record low in official contacts since September 2012.

The two old Asian rivals want to mend ties largely for business, which is so used to political spats that some Japanese companies have quit pressing their government to work out the problems.

"Japanese business has always wanted to improve relations with Beijing, but there has been a noticeable cooling of ardor in the last couple years," notes Gordon Chang, author of the 2001 book The Coming Collapse of China.

Relations broke down in 2012, spawning a diplomatic feud and mass demonstrations, because Japan nationalized a group of eight islets that China also claims and that lie near undersea fossil fuel reserves.

Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe's visit in December to a Tokyo shrine that honors 14 war criminals further angered China, which bore Japanese aggression from 1931 through 1945.

The visiting lawmakers led by legislator Masahiro Komura met former Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan. Both sides indicated they wanted better relations, Xinhua says.

"China has always welcomed people from all walks of life in Japan, including both the ruling and opposition parties, to make positive moves to improve China-Japan relations," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was quoted saying this week in the state-run China Daily newspaper.

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