China Seen Anew from Japan


Assigned in May 1996, I ended my posting after stays in first Beijing, then Shanghai, and once more in Beijing, and this spring my duties moved back to Japan. For the first time in years I’m living viewing China from Japan. I get teased by my seniors and colleagues as to whether I’m now half-Chinese, or can fit in with life in Japan because I stayed in China for a long time. I had never believed I would become partial toward China, but seeing Japan and the world from China’s position, it could be said that this view was nurtured all by itself. But in this same period, expansion of Japanese enterprises into China got into full swing and particularly around 2000 with joint venture operations, many Japanese came to see a stay of ten years as only natural, and the layers of interchange bulked out.

Incidentally, turning one’s gaze to Japan domestically, I realized that the phrase on everyone’s lips, even in China, of “economic disparity” had become a major societal issue. While the disparities between regions, and income disparity etc., might be said to be on a different scale to those of China, interest is profound into how to find a way out of the respective similar issues.

The presence of China, which is a major power in both economy and diplomacy, will only continue getting larger, but regarding the neighboring country of Japan in the future, personally speaking I have the following mental picture.

Japan will probably go on coexisting all the same as a “monozukuri” [artisanal manufacturing] nation. While in addition to continuing to pursue production high in added value in the future, China will probably continue to depend on foreign capital, and promote the fostering of domestic brands of which the people are proud, yet consumers with increased purchasing power will probably be discriminating about superior imported goods. On the other hand, Japanese firms, realizing that market acquisition domestically in China is no easy matter, will choose the path to try their luck offshore for the maximum possible maintenance of the companies’ own technology and brands. Sophisticated high-quality Japanese manufactured goods will surely be able to survive. In that sense Japanese workmanship must be treasured in the future also.

The theme of the 1970 Osaka Expo was as I recall “The Progress and Harmony of Humanity.” China is actually looking to the future with “Harmonious Society” as a principal slogan. The 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which was to become a milestone in the transition of power between generations, came to an end and a new leadership lineup came into view. Although how far the deep societal contradictions influence the political system is an unknown quantity, as long as the Communist Party doesn’t represent the interests of all the people it will probably expose the difficulty in maintaining power.

Although in Japan the tone regarding China, including the anti-Japanese perspective of history, the problem of food security, and swelling military expenditure, is strong in terms of negative images, I would like to observe China’s movements in the future with an eye not biased by information.

[Translated by ERINA]