Nissan Motor has launched a new model of its high-end Teana [Maxima, Cefiro] sedan in China, a world premiere that underlines the increasing weight of the Chinese market for the Japanese automaker.

According to Nissan officials speaking to Kyodo News, this is the first time the company launched a new car model in China ahead of all other markets.

Sales of Nissan cars, as well as those of other Japanese automakers, took a big plunge in China after widespread anti-Japanese protests in September last year over a bilateral territorial dispute in the East China Sea.

The sharpest decline came in October when Nissan's new car sales in China shrank more than 40% year on year.

For the whole of 2012, Nissan's car sales in China fell 5.3% to 1,181,500.

This is the first time the automaker posted negative growth in car sales in China since 2003 when it set up a local joint venture and began earnestly to try to penetrate the Chinese market.