China-Japan views worst in 'almost a decade': Poll

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese and Japanese people hold the least favourable views of each others' countries for almost a decade, a survey found on Thursday as military and diplomatic tensions mount between the Asian giants.

A total of 92.8 per cent of Japanese people have a bad or relatively bad impression of China, while 90.1 per cent of Chinese have similar feelings towards Japan, according to the poll by the state-run China Daily and Japanese thinktank Genron NPO.

Relations between Beijing and Tokyo have plunged in the last year, largely because of a territorial row over islets in the East China Sea.

It was the ninth time the annual survey has been carried out, and the China Daily said the results were "the worst in almost a decade".

"They are even worse than in 2005, when Japan's then prime minister Junichiro Koizumi repeatedly visited the Yasukuni Shrine honouring Japan's war dead, including war criminals from World War II," it added.

The two countries' relationship remains soured by Japan's brutal occupation of China before and during the Second World War.

Beijing regularly accuses Tokyo of failing to atone for its imperialist past, while Japan says its neighbours use history as a diplomatic stick to beat it with.

The current biggest flashpoint is a group of islands in the East China Sea controlled by Japan, which calls them Senkaku, but claimed by Beijing, which knows them as Diaoyu.

Tokyo nationalised some of them last year, sparking protests across China.

On Thursday, Tokyo summoned Beijing's envoy after Chinese government ships entered Japanese territorial waters near the islands, the longest incursion since the long-simmering dispute erupted again in 2012.

"The biggest reason for the negative attitude is the Diaoyu Islands, with 53.2 per cent of ordinary Japanese choosing it in the multiple-choice question," the China Daily said.

"The number of Chinese dissatisfied over the issue has nearly doubled, from 39.8 per cent last year to 77.6 per cent this year."

More than a third of Chinese said "there will be military conflict in the future", the paper said, but nearly half of the Japanese surveyed did not expect a maritime conflict.

The survey covered more than 4,000 people in the two countries, in "all sections of society", the China Daily said.