July 1, 2008｜China
Deputy Director, China Business Development Office, Mitsubishi Corporation
While there was the activity of a scarce number of people in Japan–China friendship in the China before its opening up to the outside world—the era when the country was closed—in the subsequent exchange with China also there was a recognition that, put cynically, “China-people” shouldered the task. The people involved with China were personnel limited to those of a particular type. Using an analogy to the regional specialists of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, those people have also been called the “China School.” Generally they understand the Chinese language (the more advanced in years call it the “language of Sina”), and have a network of personal contacts in China; the group of people engrossed in China are acknowledged to be like that, with a sense also of their being distant in some way.
Current Japan–China exchange, however, has already become something that is not of that “China School” period alone. Among those involved with China, there appears not to be such an awareness of any distinctions. In both universities and companies people studying Chinese have increased sharply, economic links have deepened, the to and fro of people has also increased, and there is a lot of information via the media and books. Whether one likes it or not, reciprocal involvement has become unavoidable.
Notwithstanding this, however, one feels that China is distant. In comparison with Europe and North America it is yet more distant. In comparison with the countries of Asia it is also distant. Why? Is this because there is a tendency to see China as non-transparent and as a closed society because of systemic problems, that it keeps its distance from a background of becoming estranged historically, and that there are people who are unhappy with its rise? To our shame, this may also be related to the fact that for the political and business leaders and people who are influential in modern society via their knowledge, etc., exchange with China has been a blank in their lives to date.
It could be said that it became distant amid the idea of “Datsu-A Nyu-O [Leave Asia and Join Europe]” and the post-war Cold-War architecture.
For looking at China, why must we rely on information from abroad as to how the actual situation of our neighbor is turning out? In the same way as aligning itself with the United States, is the strengthening of relations with China necessary in the area of Japan’s security, and how far can that development go? How does China view Japan? There is no small number of people with such a feeling becoming their motivation who became involved in China, and from those people the “China School” was born. In so thinking, it is mortifying that it is said that the “China School” is the same as “Sinophile,” “people who know only about China” and “special.”
Of course, what is now required of the “China School” is a worldview that tends to hold Chinese people in a superior light. By trying to report with a constricted view that knows China only we are in a period of trouble.
As many Japanese people sense, China’s globalization is proceeding at a fierce pace. In only stirring up the world emotionally, by saying “menace” and “friendship”, or in only demanding immediate gain, true feelings will not become mutually visible, and the requisite mission in Japan–China exchange also cannot be accomplished.
In order also to pursue and analyze the real situation objectively China School personnel will be necessary in the future as well.