June 1, 2007｜China
Executive Adviser, Kyushu Shanghai Office, Japan
Last May 28, I boarded a flight returning to Fukuoka from Shanghai. For some time now I have been in the habit of glancing through all the Chinese newspapers once I take my seat.
That day, when I spread out the Global Times—while taking care not to disturb my neighbors—I saw it contained a large article which made me want to jump to my feet with joy. The headline in Chinese read Ganchao Riben, bie guang zhuoyan wuzhi (“Catch up with and surpass Japan, not just with a view toward material matters”), and the content when summarized was as follows:
Today, in its spirit of catching up and overtaking the leading countries of the world, China, in GDP, has finally overtaken France and Britain—in two consecutive years. Next year China will overtake Germany, and is on track to then overtake the world’s second-ranking country, Japan, in the near future. When that day comes, the Chinese public will rejoice. The day the shame of a hundred years is wiped away …
Japan, with its extremely cruel invasion of East Asia, the repeated visits of Japanese government leaders to worship at Yasukuni Shrine, the distortion of history by right wingers, territorial disputes … this is probably the image of Japan among ordinary Chinese people …
Recently, however, the results of two questionnaire surveys have been published concerning the image of nations from around the world. In one, on the Internet, a British Internet company undertook a questionnaire survey of tens of thousands of guesthouse managers in Europe; Japan placed first in terms of receiving a favorable impression, with China last but two from a dozen or so countries. The other, carried out by the New York Times, surveyed 30,000 people from 27 countries on the image they had of 12 countries from around the world; Japan was placed first in this survey too, with China in fifth place.
Why is the view we Chinese have of Japan so greatly removed from that of the international community? Why does the international community regard Japan so highly? Or could it be that we need to rethink our view of Japan? . . .
I think that there are three points where we have a mistaken view of Japan. First, we have probably viewed Japan in a historical perspective, and overlooked the real Japan of today.
Second, we Chinese have probably focused on Japan’s superior technology, while overlooking the minds of the Japanese people who created it.
Third, we have probably viewed Japan with a concept unique to ourselves only, and had our back to the Japan within the global community . . .
After I finished reading the article, I felt as though a single shaft of light had come into view from within a long, dark tunnel. Today, for the peoples of Japan and China the most important thing is to get rid of their prejudices toward one another, accept one another and trust one another. This year is the 35th year of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, and also the Japan–China Year of Culture and Sports. Taking this opportunity, and greatly pressing forward with cultural and youth exchanges, I hope that a genuine relationship of trust will be built between the peoples of both countries. If they can surmount this barrier with mutual respect and mutual trust, then the first genuine friendship between Japan and China will be realized.