- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2000

TOKYO China is placing unusual emphasis on the upcoming visit to Tokyo of Prime Minister Zhu Rongji, the No. 3 man in Beijing’s party hierarchy.

Analysts say the visit will have as much to do with leadership maneuvering in the world’s most populous nation as with Mr. Zhu’s ceremonial meetings during the Oct. 12-17 visit.

Emotion-charged recollections from World War II will provide an important part of the backdrop for the meetings.

So too will economic issues mainly loans and projects in China that are funded by Japanese foreign aid.

Some analysts, however, look behind bilateral issues to the 16th Chinese Communist Party Congress in 2002, viewing the visit as a showcase for Mr. Zhu in his efforts to advance in China’s party leadership.

The jockeying began at the Chinese leaders’ summer retreat at the Beidaihe resort outside of Beijing.

Mr. Zhu skipped the July summit in Okinawa of the world’s leading industrial economies to attend the meetings of Chinese leaders.

China’s No. 2 party leader, Li Peng, the National People’s Congress chairman, is expected to retire, and Mr. Zhu could move up one notch, analysts say.

Mr. Zhu is already second in command in the government pecking order, outranked only by President Jiang Zemin.

Insiders believe Mr. Zhu will be given a chance to exercise his economic prowess in relations with the United States, particularly with China’s joining the World Trade Organization, and with Japan.

Mr. Zhu’s other role, some analysts say, would be as lead man in contact with a Republican administration led by Texas Gov. George W. Bush, should he win.

President Jiang feels too closely identified with President Clinton and the Democrats, analysts say.

The Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee has decided to hold a key session on Oct. 9-11, just before Mr. Zhu’s trip to Tokyo.

The session will focus on examining China’s next Five-Year Plan for economic and social development.

In a gesture to Japan, Mr. Zhu recently told a group of visiting Japanese lawmakers he believes China should stop research activities and naval operations in what Japan considers its economic waters.

“We did not think that the activities would provoke such a backlash by the Japanese people,” Ichiro Aizawa, a lawmaker with Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, quoted Mr. Zhu as saying.

The comments marked the first time that a high-ranking Chinese official suggested a halt to the maritime operations by Chinese ships near Japan.

Analysis said Mr. Zhu wants to show his consideration for Japanese public opinion, which has recently been against China over the naval operations, especially in the mineral rich East China Sea.

According to a Japanese Foreign Ministry report released in early August, Japan recorded 17 instances of Chinese research activities this year and an increased number of warship incursions in the disputed waters.

Mr. Zhu has also assured Japan that it remains a candidate for a contract to build a high-speed railway between Shanghai and Beijing.

Mr. Zhu recently dismissed speculation that China had already decided to use German magnetic levitation (maglev) trains and said he intended to inspect Japan’s maglev trains during his trip.

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