China media: Thaw in Japan ties?

Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Xi (R) met former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda (L) on Wednesday

Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting with a former Japanese prime minister has prompted further speculation in Chinese media that he may meet Japan's current leader, Shinzo Abe, in a possible first step towards easing tensions.

On Wednesday, Mr Xi shook hands with former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who was visiting Beijing as part of a delegation from a regional business forum.

Ties between the two countries have been strained by rival territorial claims in the East China Sea and disputes about Japan's World War II history.

Chinese state media papers say Japan needs to show "sincerity" if Mr Abe is to fulfil his hope of holding a dialogue with Mr Xi on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing next month.

"The ball is in Japan's court for the two Asian neighbours to thaw their icy relations," the official Xinhua news agency says in a commentary.

While blaming Mr Abe's "hard-line behaviour" on territorial disputes for the chill, the article suggests that a good first step towards breaking the ice would for Tokyo to adopt a "proper attitude" towards its history.

It also calls on Mr Abe to clarify his position on other contentious issues, including plans to lift Japan's constitutional ban on collective self-defence and allow arms exports.

But several Chinese commentators are sceptical about the encounter occurring without a more fundamental change in Japanese policy.

Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, tells the China Daily that a Xi-Abe summit is "unlikely so far", and urges Tokyo to make "restraint rather than more inflammatory remarks or actions" its top priority.

In the Beijing News, Wang Fan, vice president of China Foreign Affairs University, warns that even if Mr Xi agrees to meet Mr Abe, it will yield no positive results unless Japan takes "concrete action" to improve ties.

Others, though, voice mistrust of Japanese intentions and are fundamentally opposed to the meeting happening full stop.

According to Cheng Bifan, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Mr Abe's foray is a "calculated move" against China.

"If Beijing accepts the meeting, it will signal a softening of China's position, and [Mr Abe] will continue on his right-wing path without any restraint," Cheng writes in the Global Times' Chinese edition.

Cross-Straits strains

Still on diplomatic matters, Chinese papers report that Taiwan will bar senior security officials from pursuing advanced studies at universities on the mainland, citing "security concerns" amid a row over spying allegations.

Earlier in the week, Chinese media accused Taiwan's intelligence agencies of trying to recruit mainland students studying on the island for use as spies in China on their return home.

China expressed concerns about the reports and asked Taiwan to stop the alleged actions on Wednesday.

Hong Kong's South China Morning Post believes the spat reflects a "growing cacophony in cross-strait relations" after Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou voiced support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

And finally, a Chinese real estate developer has raised eyebrows in some quarters by donating $10m (£6m) to Yale University to fund scholarships for Chinese students to study at the elite US institution.

The endowment by SOHO China comes a few months after it gave $15m to Harvard University.

SOHO chairman Pan Shiyi tells the Beijing News that he hopes to help poor Chinese students to study in the world's best institutions, while rejecting accusations that he is trying to buy his way into a top US university for his son.

In response to heavy criticism for not giving the money to universities in his home country, Mr Pan insisted his company has made similar donations to Chinese institutions.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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