Sixty years after the end of World War II, historical resentments remain a persistent cloud over Japan-China relations.
Japan says it has paid its dues for the past - in the 1951 San Francisco peace treaty and the 1972 joint communique in which China agreed to renounce demands for war reparations.
The Yasukuni war shrine remains a controversial memorial
Tokyo has issued high-level apologies on 17 occasions to China since.
But China has complained that Japan has failed to repent sincerely for its wartime wrongs.
Between 2001 and 2006 Beijing suspended high-level contact with Tokyo in protest at incumbent Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni war shrine - a memorial many Chinese say glorifies Japan's military past.
In April 2005 Japan was accused of toning down its wartime atrocities in school textbooks - sparking mass anti-Japan protests in China.
The delicate nature of bilateral relations was made apparent once again early in 2008, when Chinese-made dumplings were blamed for an outbreak of food poisoning in Japan.
The incident sparked reports of thousands more unproven food-poisoning cases, and a diplomatic row escalated to the highest levels of government.
The row was eventually defused, and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda visited Beijing and Chinese President Hu Jintao paid a return visit to Tokyo.
The pair have also signed a bilateral agreement setting out a blueprint for closer diplomatic ties.
But countering the neighbours' deeply-entrenched suspicions of each other may be difficult.
There is little contact between Chinese and Japanese citizens - and particularly few Chinese tourists to Japan.
The media in both countries are often guilty of playing to popular national prejudices, analysts say.