August 11, 2011
BEIJING – There has been a sharp drop in the number of people in China and Japan harboring feelings of friendship toward the other country following a year of often turbulent relations, according to a poll conducted simultaneously in both countries.
The findings of the survey, sponsored by China Daily and the Japanese non-profit think tank Genron NPO, were released on Thursday and suggest that the number of Chinese people who like Japan dropped from 38.3 percent in 2010 to 28.6 percent this year.
The drop has reversed a six-year trend characterized by increasingly favorable opinions among Chinese people toward Japan. In 2006, when the survey was launched, just 11.6 percent of respondents had a favorable opinion of Japan but this figure had risen uninterrupted up to 2010.
The poll, however, revealed a far less severe decline in favorable attitudes toward Japan among Chinese college students and young teachers in universities, with the rate dropping slightly from 45.2 percent to 43.1 percent.
Wu Yin, vice-president of Horizon Research Consultancy Group, which implemented the poll, attributed these findings to the fact that well-educated Chinese people are more likely to consider the full spectrum of China-Japan relations rather than be swayed by individual incidents.
“So the evaluation of Chinese students and teachers of Japan did not change much.”
But in Japan the number of so-called elites who like China dropped 10.8 percentage points to 40.6 percent this year, while the number of ordinary people with favorable opinions dropped 6.5 percentage points to 20.8 percent.
The poll, carried out at the same time in the two countries, was conducted from late June until early July. It has a margin of error of 1.45 percent.
Among the Chinese people polled were 1,540 citizens in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Shenyang and Xi’an, as well as 1,000 university students, studying for either a master’s or a doctor’s degree, and young teachers at five top Beijing universities.
In Japan 1,000 adults and 500 “intellectuals” with experience of China or Chinese people were interviewed. Seventy percent of the “intellectuals” had a bachelor’s degree while 22 percent held a master’s.
The reason cited most among Chinese people for their enmity toward Japan was its aggression in China before and during World War II (74.2 percent). Japan’s failure to fully atone for its aggression was cited most among students and teachers (86.1 percent).
It was not just turbulent relations that helped form opinions, events in Japan also played a part.
A sizeable proportion of Chinese people, 40.9 percent, and 27.2 percent of “intellectuals” said Tokyo’s mishandling of the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis after the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami contributed to unfavorable feelings toward Japan.
The result is in line with views among Japanese people of their government’s performance in the nuclear crisis and quake aftermath, with 81.7 percent of ordinary people and 92.8 percent of the so-called elites critical of their government’s response.
But Chinese people were impressed by the courageous and stoic attitude of Japanese people in maintaining social order following the March quake.
This factor contributed to 49.1 percent of Chinese citizens and 29.5 percent of “intellectuals” having favorable feelings toward Japan.
Sun Shangwu, assistant editor-in-chief of China Daily, presided over the news conference issuing the survey results and said the drop in favorable opinions by Chinese people toward Japan is due to Tokyo’s undue handling of the vessel collision and nuclear crisis.
The positive attitude that many Chinese adopted toward Japan after the country was liberated when former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi stepped down in 2006 no longer exists. “Now the turning point appears,” Sun said.
Koizumi ruined Japan’s ties with China by repeatedly visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead including Class-A war criminals.
Among the factors that make ordinary Japanese dislike China, the Chinese government’s handling of the vessel collision incident in 2010 received the most votes, with 64.6 percent.
The most popular answer from Japanese elites, in contrast, was that “China is self-centered” on resources and energy issues (71.9 percent).
Yasushi Kudo, head of Genron NPO, a Japanese think tank similar to the Council on Foreign Relations in the US, said Japanese people used to dislike China for historical reasons, then for food safety and now for territorial issues. “Though there are more people holding a negative attitude, the reasons have changed.”
He also said it was a pity that – although the Chinese government sent massive disaster relief materials and donations to Japan soon after the quake hit – many Japanese did not learn much about the aid efforts because most ordinary Japanese have no direct contact with China and instead learn about it through the media.
According to the poll, 54.5 percent of ordinary Chinese hold a positive attitude of current relations between Beijing and Tokyo, while the corresponding figure for intellectuals is 22.6 percent.
Forty-two percent of students and teachers declined to comment or said there were unsure, showing that a large group of well-educated people have taken a wait-and-see attitude toward the key relations.
The Japanese are much more negative when evaluating the relationship, with only 8.8 percent of civilians and 18.8 percent of the elites saying that it is good or relatively good.
The territory issue is the most popular reason for damaged relations in every group on both sides.
However, the downturn did not stop people in every group from attaching high importance to each other, as they did in polls in the past several years.
Intellectuals put more importance on each other, with 88.6 percent of Chinese students and teachers and 98 percent of Japanese elites supporting the statement.
More than half of both the two Japanese groups and ordinary Chinese people say the relations are as important as those of their own country’s relations with the United States, while 45.5 percent of Chinese intellectuals believe China’s ties with the US are more important.
On the prospect of China-Japan relations, a larger amount of ordinary Chinese people are optimistic (44.7 percent), while one-third of the intellectuals are positive and another one-third say they have to wait to observe.
The mostly popular answer among ordinary Japanese people on the question is that the relationship will remain the same as it did in the past year (33.2 percent), while the elites are more positive with 36.4 percent saying it will improve.
Li Wei, chief of the Institute for Japanese Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the Naoto Kan administration should shoulder most of the responsibility for frayed China-Japan relations.
“The Japanese government has bet too much on the US and deliberately revealed information hampering its relations with China.”
The survey is affiliated with the Beijing-Tokyo Forum, which will be held from August 20 to 22 in China’s capital.
The forum, co-sponsored by China Daily and Genron NPO, has been held alternately in Beijing and Tokyo since 2005. The annual gathering is one of the most significant platforms for public diplomacy between the two countries.
It will see nearly 300 leaders from the political, business, academic and media fields, including a slew of former ministers from both sides, take part in discussions focusing on “the Future of Asia and China-Japan Cooperation in Economic Reshaping”.
Article link: http://english.people.com.cn/102774/7567481.html
“Japanese people’s performance in the earthquake aftermath won scores for their country, but did not stop the tendency,” he said.