New Japanese Ambassador Yuji Miyamoto, 59, began his appointment in Beijing yesterday.
Miyamoto said at a reception last week in Tokyo that the two countries have no choice but to maintain stable and friendly relations.
Japanese foreign ministry press secretary Tomohiko Taniguchi said one of the initial steps Miyamoto has to take is to encourage more young people to visit and spend considerable time in each other's nation.
Taniguchi told reporters in an earlier press briefing that Miyamoto is one of the most experienced in terms of Japan's China policy and overall diplomatic policies, one of the best-qualified people that his ministry can send to China.
Miyamoto headed the China division of Japan's foreign ministry 14 years ago and had stints in the United Kingdom and the United States before serving as a minister in the embassy in Beijing.
He was then appointed to be the ambassador of Myanmar and later became the ambassador in charge of Okinawa affairs about one and a half years ago.
Another reason for the attention on Miyamoto is his background as a member of the so-called China School, a group of Japanese foreign ministry officials who underwent Chinese language training.
China's former top press minister Zhao Qizheng reportedly spoke highly of Miyamoto's spoken Chinese as "standard Mandarin with almost no accent."
Zhao said he used to have quite a lot of business contacts with Miyamoto and described him as a good liaison as he knows about Chinese culture as well as its national condition.
Zhao said Sino-Japanese relations are facing difficulties at the moment and Miyamoto should pay attention to the dissatisfaction China expressed when some Japanese leaders failed to adopt a correct attitude towards matters of history.
Researchers say that although Miyamoto's appointment partly reflects the Japanese Government's expectations for the improvement of the Sino-Japanese relations, he cannot be expected to make any breakthroughs as long as Japanese leaders persist in visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, where Class-A war criminals are worshipped.
Jin Xide, an expert on Japan at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that although Miyamoto is knowledgeable about China, he is a policy carrier rather than a decision maker and his influence is limited.
Being a small cog in the Japanese Government's huge equipment, he can only do his best to develop bilateral relations within his authority, Jin said.
"His duty is to report the actual facts of Sino-Japanese relations to the Japanese Government and put forward reasonable suggestions," he said.
The Japanese Government announced that Miyamoto would succeed Koreshige Anami, who has served as ambassador to China for five years, in February after a cabinet meeting.
Miyamoto has maintained a low profile since the announcement as Japanese media have reported that Miyamoto feared to be classified as too close to the Chinese side.
It has been reported that conservatives in Japan can easily regard those "China experts" as weak in dealing with China issues.
(China Daily April 11, 2006)