Sino-Japanese ties improving: Survey

Animosity between the people has eased but dispute over islands seen as key obstacle

BEIJING • Sentiments between the peoples of China and Japan have improved, although the tussle for territory in the East China Sea continues to have a lingering negative impact on the former war foes, according to an annual survey.

Sino-Japanese ties have been mired in complexities due to military conflicts in the past. Even in modern-day China, anti-Japanese sentiment remains high.

However, a poll by the China Foreign Languages Publishing Administration and a Japanese non-profit think-tank, Genron NPO, revealed on Thursday that animosity between the Chinese and Japanese eased this year, the China Daily reported.

This year, 41.1 per cent of the Chinese surveyed think the bilateral relationship "will worsen", compared with 49.8 per cent last year, the 11th China-Japan Public Opinion Poll has shown. Similarly in Japan, the figure dropped from 36.8 per cent to 24.7 per cent .

Amid a travel boom to Japan among the Chinese in the past year, 35.7 per cent of the Chinese surveyed this year said they "want to visit Japan" - an uptick from the 22.5 per cent last year.

Statistics also show that an overwhelming majority on both sides believe that "public-level exchanges are an important step towards the improvement and development of the relationship".

Since an inter-governmental agreement on improving the Sino-Japanese relationship was released in November last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping has met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe twice, and senior officials have held high-level political dialogues in July and this month.

But topping the list of concerns, according to the poll, is the territorial dispute over a crop of islands, known as the Diaoyu islands in China and the Senkaku islands in Japan, which both countries claim to own.

A total of 66.4 per cent of Chinese and 56 per cent of Japanese felt that the territorial dispute was a key impediment to bilateral ties.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2015, with the headline 'Sino-Japanese ties improving: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe