Wed, Jan 12, 2005 - Page 8 News List

China cannot ignore the Japanese

By Paul Lin 林保華

Recently, two opinion polls on Sino-Japanese relations were released.

According to the first survey released by Japan's Cabinet Office on Dec. 18, the percentage of respondents who said they felt friendly toward China fell 10.3 percentage points from a year ago to 37.6 percent, the lowest level since 1975, when such information began to be compiled.

The percentage of respondents who said they did not feel friendly toward China rose to 58.2 percent, while the number who thought that relations between Japan and China were satisfactory fell nearly 19 percentage points to 28 percent.

In the second survey, released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in the middle of last month, questions about Chinese attitudes toward Japan showed that more than 40.2 of respondents "disliked" or "quite disliked" Japan, a more than 10-percent fall compared with figures compiled a few years ago, and only 28.5 percent of respondents said they "liked" or "quite liked" the Japanese.

But in opinion polls, the Chinese still possess a certain level of apprehension about expressing their opinions.

The number of Chinese people who felt friendly toward Japan should therefore be more than what was reflected in the survey.

The first survey would have had a higher percentage of respondents who disliked China if it had been conducted after the November intrusion by a Chinese submarine into Japanese territorial waters.

The increase in the number of Japanese who said they did not feel friendly toward China and the decline in the number of Japanese who thought Sino-Japan ties were satisfactory are closely related to China's anti-Japanese propaganda.

In September 2003, for example, the orgies that a group of Japanese tourists allegedly participated in when visiting Zhuhai were seized upon by China as a "national disgrace" for Japan.

During last August's Asia Cup soccer tournament, China ignited a wave of anti-Japanese sentiment, causing disgruntled Chinese fans to act violently against Japanese fans attending the games.

Additionally, the two sides routinely bicker over the disputed Diaoyutai (Senkaku) islands, a supposedly oil-rich area.

Reflecting shifting public opinion over these incidents, Japan paints China as a hypothetical enemy in its latest national defense strategy.

It was at this juncture that Japan altered its China-leaning policy and issued a visitor's visa to former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝).

Although those who dislike Japan still outnumber those who like Japan, Chinese hostility toward Japan has in some ways diminished steadily despite incitement of anti-Japanese sentiment by the Chinese government and the media.

One interpretation of this is that some sections of the media have urged the public to calmly reflect on the Sino-Japanese relationship, and that both sides have recently made great strides in increasing non-political exchanges.

Over the past two years, some of China's mainstream publications have published reasoned articles analyzing Sino-Japanese relations and have given Japan much more extensive coverage than those who would prompt frenzied polemics on sensitive issues.

This means that China's media has moved through the initial, impetuous stage of a market-oriented economy and is beginning to be more responsible and liberal.

This may sound like something of an overstatement for China's media. The reason such "sensible" reporting has appeared is that Chinese Vice President Zeng Qinghong (曾慶紅) argued for a more pragmatic approach to Sino-Japanese relations.

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