Japanese businesses are helping China in its battle against pollution, hoping that technical cooperation may also help clear the air concerning bilateral relations.
Eleven business representatives from the Chinese city of Tianjin visited Japan in March at the invitation of “the cooperation network for abating China’s air pollution,” which was set up in March 2013 by the Japan-China Economic Association.
They met with Japanese industry officials in an office building in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district.
Delegation leader Wang Jiying said China and Japan have “complicated issues,” an apparent reference to their dispute over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and different perceptions of shared history.
Despite such difficulties, Jiying, secretary-general of the Tianjin Foundry Forging Industry Association, asked for Japanese cooperation in combating air pollution.
“In China, citizens are interested in air pollution” caused by PM 2.5, or airborne particulate matter 2.5 micrometers or less in size, Jiying said. “Your cooperation is greatly appreciated.”
Delegation members said they want to acquire the latest information on air pollution and emissions cuts, raise awareness about environmental protection, and buy equipment that can monitor PM 2.5 concentrations.
According to Jiying’s association, the Chinese government in September adopted a goal of reducing PM 2.5 concentration in Tianjin by 25 percent from 2012 levels by 2017 and imposed regulations on the casting industry.
Many companies represented in the delegation are considered technologically sophisticated, but they are still struggling to meet the new regulations.
“Faced with growing pressure, we could be forced out of business,” said Liu Gang, factory manager at a Tianjin-based company that casts pumps for warships and merchant vessels. “As fellow Asians, we want to learn Japan’s experiences and technologies.”
Also in March, officials in charge of environmental policies in Shandong province inspected a thermal power plant in Yokohama during a tour arranged by the cooperation network for abating China’s air pollution.
They also visited Kita-Kyushu, which has taken steps to deal with PM 2.5 ahead of other Japanese cities, and discussed measures to reduce air pollution and promote technical assistance.
The Japan-China Economic Association set up the cooperation network to use environmental technologies to bolster bilateral economic relations, which have been affected by tensions since Japan put the Senkaku Islands under state ownership in 2012.
The network consists of hundreds of companies, including oil refiner JX Holdings Inc. and Hitachi Ltd.
“How to curb fossil fuel consumption will hold the key to solving the problem of air pollution in China,” Fumiaki Watari, senior executive adviser at JX Holdings, said. “Japan has advanced technology. If we spare no effort in providing cooperation, I believe (Japan-China relations) will change.”
Japan’s business community was concerned that a prolonged deterioration in bilateral relations would hamper sales of automakers and retailers in China.
Last year, Hiromasa Yonekura, chairman of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation), and other business leaders visited Beijing but were denied a meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, apparently due to the strained relations.
The cooperation network compiled a list of 470 technologies that can address China’s environmental problems and offered cooperation to five cities and provinces suffering from serious air pollution, including Beijing, Tianjin and Shandong province.
The network said it has received a favorable response from the Chinese government and that a growing number of Chinese companies said they want to visit Japan at its invitation.
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