Chinese view of Japan rosier but feeling's not mutual: Poll

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a military parade in Asaka yesterday. In the poll, citizens of Japan and China see security as a big bugbear in building trust.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a military parade in Asaka yesterday. In the poll, citizens of Japan and China see security as a big bugbear in building trust.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • The Chinese have come to view the Japanese more favourably, going by an annual joint opinion survey of citizens of both countries.

The survey found that 42.2 per cent of Chinese respondents reported a positive image of Japan this year - incidentally the 40th anniversary of a landmark peace and friendship treaty between the two neighbours. This was an 11-point jump from last year, and the highest figure since the annual poll began in 2005.

But this was not mutual.

Only 13.1 per cent of Japanese respondents said they held a good impression of China. While this was higher than the 11.5 per cent in last year's survey, it was way below the all-time high of 33.1 per cent in 2007.

Panellists at the 14th Tokyo-Beijing Forum yesterday said this showed the need for more people-to-people exchanges.

Some 1,000 Japanese and 1,548 Chinese were polled for the survey, jointly conducted by the Genron think-tank in Japan and the China International Publishing Group, which are also co-organisers of the annual forum.

Former defence chief Shigeru Ishiba, referring to the large-scale protests across China after Tokyo nationalised the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets in 2012, said: "At one point there was an anti-Japan movement in China. That is a fact.

 
 
 

"But now we still have strong anti-China sentiment and this does not benefit both of us. We have to learn our respective history, and respect each other's good points."

Mr Liu Hongcai, deputy head of the International Liaison Department of the Chinese Communist Party, noted that there has been a surge in the number of Chinese tourists to Japan, especially after Beijing "stopped running anti-Japan education".

Calling for greater citizen diplomacy between Asia's two largest economies, he said: "There has been a huge shift in the environment, and more effort must be made to change this perception and promote exchange and friendship."

The survey also showed that 70.6 per cent of Japanese do not wish to visit China, while 53.9 per cent of Chinese have no intention to go to Japan. These ratios are largely the same as those in last year's survey.

Citizens of both countries see security issues as one big bugbear towards establishing trust.

The Japanese see Beijing's military aggression in the East China Sea as a threat second only to that posed by North Korea.

The Chinese, meanwhile, named Japan as the top threat to their security, which they see as coming under siege by Japan's alliance with the United States.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2018, with the headline 'Chinese view of Japan rosier but feeling's not mutual: Poll'. Print Edition | Subscribe