SHANGHAI • Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged Japanese businesses to help improve two-way ties, and promised to broaden market access and provide a more open and fair investment environment for foreign companies, the foreign ministry said.
The attempt to attract Japanese firms comes at a tough time for the slowing Chinese economy, which appears to be losing ground to South-east Asia in drawing investment from the world's third-largest economy.
Mr Li made the comments in Beijing on Wednesday to a delegation of more than 200 business representatives from Japan who were invited to visit China, China's Foreign Ministry said late on Wednesday.
Mr Li's remarks follow a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Seoul on Sunday as the two sides try to ease tensions in a relationship haunted by the legacy of Japan's World War II aggression and conflicting claims over a group of East China Sea islets.
I hope the business community will continue to actively support the development of China-Japan relations and cooperation.
MR LI KEQIANG, Chinese Premier
"I hope the business community will continue to actively support the development of China-Japan relations and cooperation," Mr Li told the delegation, adding that Japanese businesses had already made a "long-term important contribution".
China was ready to work with Japan to "expand production-capacity cooperation" and work together to build infrastructure in developing countries, Mr Li said.
China would also try to hasten negotiations on the China-South Korea-Japan free trade pact and a comprehensive economic partnership in the region, he added.
China would also "broaden market access, improve supervision and better protect intellectual property rights to provide a more open, transparent and fair investment environment for foreign companies", the foreign ministry quoted Li as saying.
The delegation was invited by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade for a seven-day visit from Tuesday, and included representatives from the Japan Business Federation, the Japan-China Association on Economy and Trade and the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
After visiting Beijing, delegates will head to Sichuan province, where they will visit an economic development zone and a science and technology city.
Separately, China's defence minister, General Chang Wanquan, warned his Japanese counterpart at a meeting on Wednesday not to make matters worse in the South China Sea, where China is entangled in a web of competing territorial claims with South-east Asian countries.
"The South China Sea is not an issue between China and Japan, and we call on the Japanese side not to make any moves that could make the situation more complicated," Gen Chang told Japanese Defence Minister Gen Nakatani.