Shopping and tourism – the ties that bind China and Japan

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The Independent Online

It has been a landmark week for the relationship between China and Japan, two nations whose dealings with each other over the years have been pockmarked to say the least.

Hot on the heels of the announcement that the countries' consumers would soon have the option of a massive cross-border "online superstore,'' comes the decision by the Japanese government to slash the annual income requirement for individual visas - a move widely seen as a grab at luring mainland Chinese shoppers to Japan.

China's largest internet retail portal, Taobao, will from June 1 open a service linking up with those offered by Yahoo Japan. The Chinese language site TaoJapan will offer mainland Chinese shoppers around eight million Japanese products, while the Japanese language site China Mall will present about 50 million Chinese products the other way, according to a statement from Taobao's operators, the Alibaba Group.

Estimations are that, combined, they will see sales worth over around 300 billion yuan (34 billion euros) with the most popular items expected to be clothing, mobile phones, cosmetics, laptops and home electronics, in keeping with Taobao's rankings of its top five products.

And it is mainland China's collective love of a good spending spree that most believe is behind Japan's announcement Monday that the annual income requirements for visas for Chinese will from July 1 drop from 250,000 yuan (29,000 euros) a year to as low as 30,000 yuan (3,400 euros).

The Southern Metropolis Daily, based in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, estimated the change had the potential to attract to Japan 400 million tourists from China, who up until now either had to earn that 250,000 yuan (29,000 euros) to get an individual visa or had to travel as part of a tour group. The newspaper also claimed Japan was convinced to make the move after reports in international media that the spending power of China's middle class now held more clout than its European equivalent.

China at the moment annually sends around one million tourists to Japan, according to that country's tourism board, and trade between the two countries in the first quarter of 2010 reached US$88.66 billion (70 billion euros) - a rise of 37.5 percent.

MS

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