Chinese-Japanese Attitudes Build In Negativity

By Edward Barbour-Lacey

Aug. 29 – Over the years, the perceptions and feelings of the Japanese and Chinese public towards each other have increasingly become more negative. However, both peoples see the relationship between the two countries as very important despite their differences.

China is Japan’s largest trading partner, with about 40 percent of Japan’s exports goinig to China while 24 percent of its imports come from China. Thus, there is a high level of interdependence between the countries, and either may be seriously affected if they were to lose control of the strong rhetoric emanating from both of their peoples.

Currently, 90.1 percent of the Chinese people have an unfavorable or relatively unfavorable view of Japan. In turn, 92.8 percent of the Japanese people have an unfavorable or relatively unfavorable view of China – troubling numbers for the preservation of their relationship.

But why do they think this way?

There are a number of factors that have contributed to this rise in unfavorable feelings between the Japanese and Chinese.  The most recent issue that has effected Chinese-Japanese attitudes has been their disagreement over the Senkaku Islands (known as the Diaoyu Islands to the Chinese) located in the East China Sea.  Both countries claim ownership over these islands due to the potential of large oil reserves in the surrounding area.

Unsurprisingly, large majorities from both countries feel as if this dispute has had a negative effect upon their respective economies.

A recent survey even found that 77.6 percent of China felt that Japan had created an unnecessary territorial dispute and had taken a hard line towards the Chinese. 53.2 percent of the Japanese felt the same about China on the same issue.

In addition, 63.8 percent of the surveyed Chinese also felt negatively about Japan’s invasion of China during World War II and its subsequent failure to apologize for its actions. Further inflaming these feelings are the repeated visits by Japanese leaders to the Yasukuni Shrine that commemorates Japanese that have died during WWII, which includes some who have been accused of war crimes against the Chinese.

Countering this, 48.9 percent of Japan feels that China has overly criticized them for these past historical actions.

Particularly damaging from a business perspective is how each country views the other’s national character traits. About half of the Japanese think that the Chinese – while diligent – are stubborn, selfish, uncooperative and not worthy of trust. On the other hand, close to 70 percent of the Chinese view the Japanese as militant, selfish and untrustworthy.

Unfortunately, the stereotyping of the respective countries’ peoples has led various Japanese and Chinese companies to avoid doing business in the other country.

Chinese consumers have even resorted to regularly boycotting Japanese products and companies, and some analysts now believe that it has become almost fashionable to be anti-Japanese. As a result, the current trade rates between the two countries are dramatically lower than in previous years. For example, sales of Japanese cars in China have declined quite dramatically from a 23 percent market share in 2011 to just 15 percent this year.

Yasuhide Mizuno, head of Honda’s venture in Wuhan, China, sums up the feeling of many of the Japanese in China, stating “[I have] never worked in a more hostile place.”

Likewise, in Japan, there have also been many accusations by the Chinese of racist behavior from the Japanese locals.

The effects of these negative feelings can even be seen playing out on the international stage. Recently, the Japanese have tried to arrange talks with their Chinese counterparts at the upcoming G20 summit, but Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Li Baodong instead criticized the Japanese delegation for “having a lack of sincerity in their proposal” to meet.

Mr Li was quoted as saying that “if Japan really wants to improve relations, it should take a step of substance, rather than use empty words or gestures.”

On a somewhat more positive note, around 60 percent of the Japanese and about 70 percent of the Chinese viewed private sector interchanges between the two countries as important.

While there are many negative feelings, there are some issues where both countries do take a more positive outlook towards each other. For example, 43.8 percent of the Japanese have positive feelings towards the culture and history of China, while 58.2 percent of the Chinese view Japan’s advanced technology positively.

The question, however, still remains as this: will Japan and China’s respective leaders remain pragmatic enough to maintain relations with each other and ensure that trade is not significantly disrupted? Given the interdependence of the two economies, the answer to this question is of paramount importance.

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