Bitter wartime memories and decades of Cold War division stand between Asia's political and economic powerhouses. But a major force is helping to bring China and Japan together: the region's economic crisis.
Jiang's visit -- the first visit by a Chinese head of state since World War II -- was being trumpeted as the start of a new partnership between Tokyo and Beijing.
A cornerstone of that new relationship is the economy. Japan is the region's top source of aid and investment; China needs all the help it can get to fend off crisis and develop its vast economy.
For Japan, closer ties with Beijing -- and a stronger Chinese economy -- can anchor stability in a region where North Korea is still a wild card and Southeast Asia is caught in financial and political turmoil.
Hovering over the six-day visit are Chinese demands for an unequivocal apology from Japan for World War Two atrocities and a "no compromise" statement from Tokyo about Taiwan. China is also concerned about Japan's military links with the United States.
Security was tight for the visit, with Tokyo police reporting that they expected a number of demonstrations by both right- and left-wing groups during Jiang's stay.
"Konbanwa (good evening)," a smiling Jiang said to Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura who met him at Tokyo's Haneda Airport.
"This year marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of Japan-China peace and friendship treaty," Jiang said in an arrival statement.
"At this important period, we are looking to go forward from past Sino-Japanese relations and open the way for the future."
Japan, meanwhile is looking to china as a potential anchor for Asian stability and an engine for economic growth.
"With the international situation in flux following the ending of the Cold War, closer ties between the two Asian giants are vital not only to Japan's interests but also to stability in Asia and the rest of the world," the Japan Times said in an editorial on Wednesday.
The Asian economic malaise will figure prominently in discussions. Though China so far has avoided the meltdown that has wiped out South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia, its economy faces major problems. State-run industries are deep in trouble, and unemployment is rising.
This comes at a time when Japan's aid is expected to drop and Japanese investors are increasingly wary.
Meanwhile, officials from both nations have been making last-ditch efforts to word an apology from Japan on atrocities it committed in China in the 1930s and 1940s.
Japanese officials have said Tokyo's apology would not go beyond what then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said in August 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War To.
The only difference could be that Japan would apologize "directly" to the Chinese people and Obuchi would make the apology in words rather than in a written statement, they said.
In his ground-breaking apology for Japan's wartime rule, Murayama said: "I express once more my heartfelt feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology."
On the eve of Jiang's arrival China's official Xinhua News Agency said there are "still some problems existing between the two countries that cannot be ignored."
"The most sensitive and important problems are whether Japan can have a correct position on the (past) aggression launched by Japanese militarists," it said.
Another key part of the Jiang-Obuchi summit will be Chinese worries about expanded Japan-U.S. military ties, which they fear are designed to protect Taiwan in the event of Chinese military action against the island, which Beijing regards as a rebel province.
Jiang is expected to urge Japan to follow the path on Taiwan that President Clinton set during his visit to China in July.
Mr. Clinton clearly enunciated for the first time what Beijing has dubbed Washington's "three no's" policy on Taiwan.
Mr. Clinton told Jiang in their summit that "we don't support independence for Taiwan, or 'two Chinas' or 'one Taiwan, one China', and we don't believe Taiwan should be a member in any organization for which statehood is a requirement."
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