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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #272: December 24, 2004

China and Japan Miss the Boat to Better Ties

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

China and Japan Miss the Boat to Better Ties
(By John Ruwitch) Reuters


The year 2004 seems to end with the worst Japan-China relations since the formal diplomatic ties was established some 30 years ago.

It is interesting in a way, although perhaps obvious, to see so many people, including those neither Japanese nor Chinese, expressing anxieties about Japan-China relations these days. The article introduced above seems to be one of them. But there are some parts in the article that needs to be straightened out.

The article introduces a comment by a professor about Japan and China saying, "There is little positive sentiment between the two governments." But the fact is, at least for Japan it is not necessarily the "government" who is losing positive sentiment, but it is the people of Japan. (The situation is uncertain for China as some say that the people there act the way what the government tells them to.)

As referred to in the previous 'News Review' article ("Poll Shows Japanese Frosty Toward Chinese" of December 20, 2004), Japanese people's sentiment toward China had, in October, fallen to the worst levels since the governmental survey began. In fact, ever since the ratio of the Japanese people feeling friendliness toward China peaked in 1980 at 78.6%, kept on a deteriorating track, albeit some fluctuations on the way, until it hit the record-low 37.8% mark in October 2004.

There is even a further concern. The poll was conducted before the Chinese nuclear submarine intruded the Japanese waters, followed by successive "scolding" by the Chinese officials of Mr Koizumi personally for his visiting a Shinto shrine. Accordingly, there is a good reason to suspect that the negative feelings toward China have even intensified among the Japanese people since the survey in October.

The article introduced above states "In November, Japan got upset when a Chinese nuclear submarine cruised unannounced through Japanese waters." Whereas this was a simple bleach of international law even China could not deny, the article gets a bit too eager in continuing to say, "China was similarly offended when Japan described China as a cause for concern in a review of its defense policy this month." Whatever China may claim to have felt, what was really noted in the proposed defense policy guideline was that "China, which has significant influence on the region's security, is pushing forward its nuclear and missile capabilities and the modernization of its navy and air force," and "it is also trying to expand its scope of naval activities, and attention must be paid to these developments." Now, this is hardly an alarmist remark. It seems the article above was affected by loud accusations by China who has been making false claims of Japan becoming a militaristic state, while attempting to downplay the act of illegal intrusion by the nuclear sub into Japan's waters as a part of their military power demonstration.

Also, the article seems to accuse Japan's recent decision to give former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui a visitor's visa. The fact here is that there are almost one million tourists from Taiwan annually visiting Japan, and, except for the real alarmists which is a small minority, the Japanese people know better than adding one more person to the list would have any significance for Japan's policies or its people's attitudes. In fact, there have been comments that the government has issued the visa in fear of Japanese people denouncing the government for its weak attitude, if the visa application were turned down to accommodate the attempted threat by the Chinese government against Japan.

As such, it seems the people's negative feelings toward China are well ahead of what the government has conceived, or perhaps desired. There are even comments appearing that the Foreign Ministry has misguided the people all these years by proposing that "smiling diplomacy" toward China would lead to peace and mutual prosperity.

The year of 2004 could be remembered either as when the Japan-China relations soured temporary from which to recover, or as when unrepairable conflicts surfaced leading to serious confrontations. The choice lies with the governments and the peoples of both countries now.

Copyright © Japanese Institute of Global Communications