Photo/IllutrationFormer foreign ministers Sunao Sonoda of Japan, second from right, and China's Huang Hua, third from left, jointly sign the ratification instruments of the Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1978. They are flanked by Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, far right, and Deng Xiaoping, who was China’s deputy premier. (Pool)

Japan and China are to sign an agreement to pursue joint film productions when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits in May, Japanese government sources said.

The policy aims to deepen ties between the two nations through improved cultural cooperation to mark the 40th anniversary of the Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship.

It will be Japan’s first agreement of its kind, the Foreign Ministry said.

The accord is intended to overcome problems like gaining permission from authorities to film at a certain location, hassles about visas and importing and exporting film equipment.

The Chinese government has introduced various regulations on foreign films, including a limit on the number of imported films that can be screened in the country.

Movies produced based on the accord will not be subject to such controls as they will be regarded as domestic works in China.

China’s film industry is growing rapidly, earning about 55.9 billion yuan (950 billion yen, or $8.9 billion) in box office revenue in 2017, which is over four times that of Japan.

Chinese interest in Japanese films grew recently with the runaway success of Makoto Shinkai’s animated feature film “Your Name.”

Japan, however, tends to hesitate to invest in collaborative business with China due to problems that arose out of political issues such as the sovereignty dispute over Senkaku Islands and the deployment of the advanced U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system in South Korea.

Film industry sources said that such risks could be reduced with support from the two nations’ governments.

Yukihiro Kashiwaguchi, president of Tokyo-based Access Bright Japan Inc. and a keen observer of Chinese culture, said, “We need to closely look at how much the accord will be effective when the political situation (with China) worsens.”