Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda arrived on Thursday afternoon for the start of an official visit, which runs until December 30.
On Friday, Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Wu Bangguo will meet with him, and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will hold talks with him, a key part of his four-day visit, which has been widely portrayed as a trip to warm up ties.
Before heading to China, Fukuda told Xinhua and other Chinese media in his Tokyo office that he was "glad" to visit China and would discuss with Chinese leaders the building of strategic, mutually beneficial relations.
"I expect to further promote the development of Japan-China ties so that next year, bilateral ties can develop even faster and move to a new stage," he said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang described Fukuda's visit as "important", saying that it would have great significance in improving China-Japan relations.
China hoped that his visit would promote mutual trust in politics and boost bilateral cooperation in various fields, and thus help maintain and develop warming ties, Qin told a regular press conference on Thursday.
A report by Kyodo News said that Fukuda would also raise the topics of resources development in the East China Sea and possible cooperation in environmental issues, referring to a proposal to set up a Japan-China fund aimed at helping China's efforts to tackle environmental problems.
Addressing the East China Sea issue, Qin said that China and Japan did have differences but "China was willing to resolve the issue appropriately as soon as possible, based on the consensus reached by leaders of the two countries and the principle of putting aside disputes and seeking joint exploration."
China hoped that the two sides would take a "substantive" step forward in joint resources development in the East China Sea, Qin said.