Aim for the Forming of Common Values


Takashi Hayasaka, who wrote “A World Anthology of Jokes about the Japanese”, a bestselling new book, has written a new book that has recently been published called “A Joke-Off between the Chinese and the Japanese”, and within it there is:

Chinese: For Japan, China is a friend, isn’t it?
Japanese: No, the relationship is one of siblings rather than of friends.
Chinese: Why?
Japanese: Because friends you can choose, but siblings you can’t.

There is also the recent gyoza [dumpling] problem, and it keenly feels as though Japan and China have come to have a relationship that must be lived with, similar to siblings who are unable to move away.

It is a story from quite some time ago, but when I asked an elderly couple who had reached their sixtieth wedding anniversary the secret to smoothly maintaining their long relationship as a couple, the following three answers came back:

  1. Not to relate the disparaging talk from each other’s parental homes
  2. Not to pursue too deeply past mistakes
  3. Repeatedly to say and to mutually affirm the common ground they had at the time the two met

With that content, I experienced thinking “Of course!”

Naturally, although there is a part that actually can’t easily be put into practice, even if everyone understands it in their head, looking at Japan–China relations today, aren’t they something close to this?

The holding of various commemorative events—last year marking the 35th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, and this year the 30th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China—is probably equivalent to the elderly couple’s third response, but regarding the first and second ones there is also the sense of distrust toward the Chinese system and the problems of the interpretation of history, and things are not yet clear-cut; added to this are things such as the recent gyoza problem, there are the media reports as well, and relations exist as before—at risk of plunging into a mutual anti–China, anti–Japan sentiment, with prejudice applied in one fell swoop.

Speaking of the matter of the revealing of the truth in the gyoza problem, when it is asked what is most different in the ways of thinking of Chinese and Japanese people, there is the phrase: “Although Japanese people have a naïve point of believing the truth to be singular, Chinese people think that the truth is plural and many.” Depending on the person, there are some people who say “they change the truth to suit themselves” and, I think, even if they have negotiated with the Chinese side, on this point there are many people who have often had that experience to date. Untangling the matter in well-intentioned fashion, it could be said that Chinese people have a pragmatic spot not overly-dependent on any one value.

Speaking of the diversity of values, once, when I was eating with Chinese people during the time I resided in China, I experienced people saying to me in bewilderment that “in Japan there are many instances of people, aren’t there, who lost their jobs or were reassigned in the merging of companies and large-scale restructurings, and abandoning hope, committed suicide by jumping in front of trains on the Chuo line?”

There are still also stories that people committing suicide overwhelmingly outnumber those who die in traffic accidents, at 100 people a day, and when I asked “how about in China?” that Chinese person wrote on a piece of paper “a good death is not equal to dragging on with life” (however clean your manner of death, it is no equal for going on living, however hard it is) and “people comparing themselves to others leads to infuriation” (if you always compare yourself to other people you end up killing yourself with jealousy). Chinese people have over a long period been experiencing the great changes of reform and opening since pre-war China, and yet again since the Cultural Revolution, and there comes the answer that there weren’t that many people who killed themselves, because one set of values has not persisted that much.

Of late, however, I hear talk in China too that suicides have been increasing.

As people committing suicide are becoming apparent—with a situation where even middle-aged cleaning women are buying shares, people are putting most of their cash in hand into shares, and alternating between hope and fear are in despair from the recent sluggish share prices—it is probably the case that there is the reality of China too being bound up in the one concept of value of “being money-grubbing” (money-driven).

Now, China—under the slogans of a “Scientific Outlook on Development” and “Hexie Shehui (Harmonious Society)”, and while increasingly showing its great presence within globalised international society—can be thought to be at the stage of searching for a new set of values, but isn’t what is important from now on that they move toward commonality with the world on the truth, including values?

In particular, these are days when I think that the two countries of Japan and China—which also have a similarity in their relationship to those between siblings or between a long-standing couple—have to continue breaking not only the ice, but taxing their ingenuity in the act of forming a commonality, mutually overcoming the past and candidly building up a set of values for both sides.

[Translated by ERINA]