ASAHI POLL: Bilateral ties are no good, say most Japanese and Chinese

September 24, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Ninety percent of Japanese people and 83 percent of Chinese say relations between the two countries are no good, according to an Asahi Shimbun survey of public sentiment as the 40th anniversary of normalized ties approaches.

The results, released Sept. 24, reflect a bitter standoff over sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

In Japan, The Asahi Shimbun mailed a questionnaire on Aug. 8 to 3,000 eligible voters chosen at random in 341 constituencies across the country. Of them, 2,178, or 72.6 percent, gave valid responses by Sept. 20.

In China, a Chinese research center working at the behest of The Asahi Shimbun interviewed 3,600 people aged 20 or older at random in 300 locations across the country from Aug. 10 to 18. Of them, 2,550 people, or 70.8 percent, gave valid responses.

On Aug. 15, a group of Hong Kong activists landed on Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu in China. On Sept. 11, the Japanese government decided to purchase three of the uninhabited islands from private ownership and make them state property. The decision ignited a wave of protests in dozens of cities in China.

The Asahi Shimbun's survey in China was carried out before Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced the decision to buy the islands.

Only 5 percent of respondents in Japan said Japan-China relations are good. Ninety percent thought otherwise.

In China, 14 percent of respondents said bilateral relations are good. Eighty-three percent did not think so.

A similar opinion poll was carried out in Japan and China in 2002 to mark the 30th anniversary of normalized ties.

In that survey, 41 percent of respondents in Japan said Japan-China relations are good. Forty-five percent disagreed.

In China, the corresponding figures were 22 percent and 50 percent.

Japan and China will mark the 40th anniversary of normalized diplomatic relations on Sept. 29.

As for future relations, 49 percent of respondents in Japan were eager for deeper ties with China. However, 40 percent thought it was preferable for Japan to keep a distance from China.

Among young people, more respondents championed deeper ties with China. This sentiment was voiced by 56 percent of respondents in their 20s. But in that same age bracket, 31 percent of respondents thought it was preferable for Japan to keep a distance from China.

In China, 42 percent of all respondents were eager for deeper relations with Japan. However, 53 percent thought otherwise.

The survey also asked respondents to pick the main obstacles to bilateral relations. They were given five categories to choose from.

"Problems concerning territory" and "problems on historical recognition" were high on the list for respondents in both countries.

In Japan, the two categories were picked by 38 percent and 30 percent of respondents, respectively. In China, the corresponding figures were 35 percent and 41 percent.

Respondents were also asked if they thought the Japanese government's decision to make the Senkaku Islands state property was helping to solve the issue over territory.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents in Japan viewed the decision in a positive light. Nine percent said it will "dramatically" promote a solution and 29 percent said it will do so "to some extent."

However, 53 percent replied that the decision hindered a solution.

In China, 15 percent said the Japanese government's decision will help to promote a solution while 79 percent said it will delay a solution.

The deterioration in bilateral relations was evident from the increase in the percentage of respondents who dislike the other country.

In the 2002 survey, 19 percent of respondents in Japan said they like China, while 17 percent replied that they dislike China. In the latest survey, only 3 percent said they like China, while 38 percent said they dislike China.

In China, 10 percent of respondents in 2002 said they like Japan, while 53 percent replied that they dislike the country. In this year's survey, the percentage of those who said they like Japan was unchanged at 10 percent, while those who dislike Japan increased to 63 percent. Among those in their 70s or older, 70 percent said they dislike Japan.

The survey also asked respondents to choose two of eight headings as impressions of the other country.

Thirty-nine percent of respondents in Japan said China has a long culture and history. Thirty-eight percent replied that China is an authoritarian country.

Those figures were followed by 30 percent who said China is a military power, 22 percent who replied that China is a developing country, and 21 percent who said it is an economic power.

As for impressions of Japan, 63 percent of respondents in China said Japan is advanced in science and technology. The figure was followed by 44 percent who replied that Japan is an economic power and 30 percent who said Japan is an authoritarian country.

The ratios of those who chose "science and technology" and "economic power" were smaller among Chinese respondents in the 20s, at 55 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

However, the ratio of those who chose "authoritarian country" was higher at 38 percent.

In terms of the respective weight of their economies, 78 percent of respondents in Japan said the Chinese economy exerts a major influence on Japan. Eighteen percent did not agree.

In China, 44 percent of respondents said the Japanese economy exerts a major influence on China. Fifty-one percent did not agree.

Asked which country's companies will wield a bigger influence in global affairs in the future, 40 percent of Japanese respondents cited Japan. However, 54 percent answered that Chinese firms will fulfill that role.

In China, the corresponding figures were 28 percent and 68 percent, respectively.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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