Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday sent Japan's new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida a congratulatory letter saying he would like to boost mutual trust and cooperation with him through dialogue and communication, state-run media reported.
China is expected to try to maintain stable relations with Japan's administration under Kishida, elected as prime minister by parliament earlier in the day, ahead of major events such as the Beijing Olympics and the Communist Party's twice-a-decade congress.
Foreign affairs experts said Chinese senior officials are closely watching whether Kishida's ruling Liberal Democratic Party will win in the upcoming House of Representatives election and ensure the longevity of his Cabinet.
Beijing has so far hoped that Kishida, a former foreign minister, will pursue a well-balanced diplomatic strategy toward China.
"The new Japanese Cabinet will not fundamentally change Japan's foreign policy, especially when it comes to China," the Global Times, a tabloid of the ruling Communist Party, said last Thursday after Kishida won the LDP presidential election.
"China-Japan ties cannot be allowed to deteriorate further, otherwise, the next Japanese leader will encounter tremendous difficulty when they attempt to mend ties," the newspaper added.
As the year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, Kishida, known as a moderate with a steady hand, has affirmed the importance of holding summit talks with Xi.
During the presidential election campaign, however, Kishida promised to set up a new post of special adviser to the prime minister on human rights, in an apparent bid to tackle China's alleged repression in Xinjiang and its crackdown on Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement.
His pledge prompted the Chinese Foreign Ministry to say, "China's internal affairs brook no foreign interference. Japanese politicians should stop making an issue out of China."
Xi's leadership has also been frustrated by Kishida, who has welcomed Taiwan's filing of a formal application to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, diplomatic sources said.
The Communist-led government, meanwhile, is focusing on what kind of role a new Japanese ministerial post centering on economic security will play, given that the position is believed to have been newly created to counter alleged technology theft by China, one of the sources said.
Relatively young ruling party lawmaker Takayuki Kobayashi, a former Finance Ministry bureaucrat, was appointed as minister in charge of economic security.
"If Kobayashi takes a hard-line stance on China, Sino-Japanese relations may worsen," the source in Beijing said.
Japan and China have been at odds over technology transfer, intellectual property protection, market openness and transparency as well as other trade and economic issues.
China is scheduled to host the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics next February and March and the Communist Party is set to hold its congress in autumn 2022.