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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #271: December 20, 2004

Poll Shows Japanese Frosty Toward Chinese

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

Poll Shows Japanese Frosty Toward Chinese


The Cabinet Office's annual public opinion survey on diplomatic affairs has a history since 1978 and is comprised by interviewing 3,000 people with a valid response of normally around 70%. The report incorporates a section asking people about certain countries in two ways. One is whether the respondent feels friendliness toward the country or not, and the other is whether the relationship between Japan and the country seems good or not.

As reported in the article, this year's survey conducted in October showed the percentage of people who feel friendliness toward China dropping to 37.6% from last year's 47.9%, while those who do not feel so rose to 58.2% from last year's 48.0%.

The peak of people's good feelings toward China was marked in 1980 when the figure reached 78.6%. It hovered around 70% for a decade until a severe drop in 1989 to 51.6% due to the Tiananmen Square incident. The figure never recovered since and stayed more or less at 50%, only to see a sharp drop this year.

The change of the people's impression on the Japan-China relationship has followed a similar trend. In 1989, the ratio of people who felt the relationship was good dropped to 50.1% from 66.3% the year before. It fluctuated somewhat since then but stayed in the 50% range for the past decade until this year, which plunged to a mere 28.1% from 46.9% the year before.

In comparison, the people's fondness toward the U.S. has been fairly constant all through the past quarter of a century. Those who feel friendly are at 70-75%, while those who do not at 20-25%. The relationship of the two countries, as people see it, has been at the same levels of 70-75% good against 20-25% bad. Considering all the events occurred between Japan and the U.S. during the while, it is almost astonishing that the people's perception has only fluctuated so little for so long with the trend line in perfect horizontal.

Japanese people's sense of friendliness toward Russia has always been low, with the favorable people merely in the teens until it rose dramatically during perestroika, to 38% in 1990-91. But this was only to fall back to 13.7% in 1992 when it became clear that the new regime has no intention to return the Northern Islands to Japan. The level has since recovered gradually to around 30% for the past few years.

Good feelings toward South Korea hit the bottom in 1996 at 35.8%, and since then the figure has shown strong growth, to 55.0% lasts year and 56.7% this year. It has constantly been on the uptrend path. This is certainly a good sign, despite of, or because of, all the political hurdles present between the two countries.

The deterioration of the people's feeling toward China is certainly alarming. It has been reported elsewhere that a Cabinet Office official commented the reason to be, "In addition to the disputes over gas fields and the Yasukuni issue, the replies could have been affected by the Chinese people's excessively hostile attitude toward the Japanese national team during the Asia Cup soccer finals."

It must be noted also that the poll was conducted in October. That was before the Chinese nuclear submarine intruded the Japanese waters, followed by expressing only "regret" at a press conference, without formal apology to Japan, its government, or its people. It was also before our Prime Minister Koizumi was "scolded" by Chinese officials, once in Santiago at the occasion of APEC and then in Vientiane where ASEAN and related meetings were held. It is true that there are many Japanese people who question Mr Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine, but the Prime Minister being criticized publicly by the officials of another country, for whatever the cause, is not an impressing sight for the people who, collectively, and in accordance with the rules of democracy, chose him to lead the country.

Thus, Japanese people's sentiment against China could only be assumed as worsened now than when the survey was carried out.

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