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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 17:35, April 10, 2007
How far and how close are China and Japan?
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How far and how close are China and Japan to each other? They are, of course, very close geographically; it takes just one hour to fly between the two countries. However, it is perhaps more meaningful to measure the psychological distance between the people of the two countries. For reasons that are well known, the relationship between China and Japan has experienced many trials and hardships throughout history.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao referred to his scheduled April visit to Japan as an "ice-melting trip", and made particular mention of his hope that his trip would promote exchange between the young people of the two countries.

A survey of approximately 1,000 Chinese and Japanese university students released on April 8 found that most of the participants do not think the current relationship between China and Japan is ideal. They agree though that the relationship is very important, and look forward to improvements in Sino-Japanese relations over the next few years.

The survey was conducted by the Chinese periodical "Oriental Outlook" and the Japanese newspaper "Yomiuri Shimbun" in March this year. All those surveyed were university students. The Japanese newspaper selected 1,020 college students from around the country. The Chinese publication distributed 987 questionnaires to students at 10 universities and colleges.

Understanding: Students are more familiar with foreign political figures

China and Japan have held frequent exchanges. The survey found that the most commonly known figures from the other country were political. In answer to the question, "Write the names of three well-know Chinese persons", Japanese students most commonly wrote, Mao Zedong, the first Emperor of Qin and Confucius. Sun Yat-sen was the fourth most commonly known person. For Chinese students, Hideki Tojo topped the list. Obviously, this war criminal has left a deep scar on the hearts and minds of young Chinese people. Junichiro Koizumi and Emperor Meiji were the second and third most-commonly listed names.

Many Japanese students also wrote down the names of historical Chinese figures, including people from the Three Kingdoms period like Kong Ming, Liu Bei and Cao Cao. In contrast, most people featured on Chinese students' lists were more contemporary figures.

When asked who their favourite Chinese/Japanese figure was, many Japanese students listed Zhang Ziyi. The famous Chinese actress ranked first, followed by Jackie Chan and Confucius. Some movie stars or popular singers such as Jet Li, Andy Lau and Faye Wong were also on the list. Similarly, most Chinese students gave the names of Japanese celebrities and big stars. The winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Yasunari Kawabata was ranked first. Takakura Ken, Haruki Murakami and Akira Kurosawa were also on the list.

Impressions: Need for increased understanding

The first question on the questionnaire is about what impression respondents have of the other country. Some 13% of Japanese students chose "very good" or "good" 40% answered "not good but not bad; 46% chose "bad" or "very bad". Among Chinese students, 7.8% answered "very good" or "good", 33.4% chose "not good but not bad", while 56.5% chose "bad" or "very bad".

When asked, "Do you think China/Japan is trustworthy", more than half of the respondents from both countries answered "not very trustworthy" or "not trustworthy". This demonstrates the need to improve China and Japan's understanding of each other.

Expectations: Premier Wen's visit to Japan will improve relations

In answer to the question, "What do you think about current Sino-Japanese relations", more than 80% of Chinese and Japanese students said "not very good" or "bad". Roughly a quarter of respondents chose "bad". This reflects the practical significance of Shinzo Abe's "ice-breaking" visit to China last year, and Wen Jiabao's "ice-melting" trip this year.

Students from both countries gave straight answers to the question, "Do you expect Sino-Japanese relations to improve after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visits Japan in April this year". There were five answer options for this question: "it's highly likely", "it's likely", "it's unlikely", "it's unlikely" and "don't know". Chinese students are more optimistic than Japanese students on this subject. Near half of Chinese students thought it was "highly likely" or "likely". Only 30 percent of Japanese students chose these options.

When asked "What direction do you expect Sino-Japanese relations to take over the next few years", more than 40% of students from both countries said that they expected the status quo to be maintained. Only 10% believed relations would worsen.

Concerns: Students are most interested in the other's economic situation

The survey revealed that half the students of both countries give top priority to the economic situation of the other country. Culture was of secondary interest.

Both Chinese and Japanese students agree that the other country is of great importance to their own country's economic development. More than half of Japanese respondents wrote "China" in answer to the question "Which country or region is, in your opinion, most important to your country's economic development". Japan was considered to be of secondary importance to the US by Chinese students.

Both countries agree that China will become the most influential country in the international community. Approximately 85% of Japanese respondents wrote "China". Most Chinese students voted for their motherland. The United States was the second most popular choice.

Aspirations: Beijing and Tokyo are the most popular cities

The 2008 Olympic Games will be held in Beijing. More than half of the Japanese respondents expressed interest in this international sporting event (57.8%).

When asked "Have you been to Japan/China", only 10% of Japanese respondents chose "yes", while less than 4% of the Chinese had been to Japan. This reflects limited opportunities for contact. Fortunately, more than half of the respondents expressed a willingness to visit the other country.

Beijing was the most popular city among Japanese students who have been to China, followed by Shanghai, Hong Kong and Xian. Most Chinese students who had been Japan chose Tokyo as their favourite city, followed by Osaka, Hokkaido and Kobe.

Hope: Over 80% of respondents would like there to be a stronger friendship between the two nations

Students from both nations have similar view on global issues; and on the subjects of global warming, their country's relationship with the United States and terrorism, they give nearly identical answers.

For example, most Chinese and Japanese students do not think global warming can be effectively slowed down or improved. As for terrorism, 41.5% of Japanese students and 50.4% of Chinese students believe that presents global efforts to combat terrorism are having little effect.

More than 80% of students from both countries believe that China, Japan and the United States should strengthen their friendship and contribute to peace and stability in Asia.

Confidence: Students of both nations have confidence in their own country

The survey also included questions about respondents' faith in their own country and personal development.

In response to the question, "Do you feel proud to be Chinese/Japanese), students from both countries demonstrated a high degree of national pride. About 96% of Chinese respondents were "proud" or "very proud" to be Chinese, while 80.3% of Japanese respondents were "proud" or "very proud" to be Chinese.

Students are also confident about their future. In answer to the question, "Do you think you will be richer in 10 years time?" approximately 90% of Chinese respondents chose "quite possibly" or "possibly". More than 60% of Japanese university students chose the same two answers. In answer to the question "What kind of job do you want", most students indicated that they wanted to be a white collar worker, with civil servant, entrepreneurs, business people and teachers the most popular occupations.

By People's Daily Online

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