When a Guangzhou-based magazine put a right-wing Japanese politician and China hawk on its front cover on Monday, it shattered media taboos. After all, Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo since 1999, is reviled by official media as much as Taiwanese pro-independence politician Lee Teng-hui. Southern People Weekly's in-depth and objective feature about Ishihara came as an even bigger shock after the recent row between Japan and China over an incident in which a Chinese fishing boat collided with two Japanese coastguard vessels off the disputed Diaoyu Islands, and the captain was held for 17 days. The magazine published a 14-page package entitled 'What you don't know about Shintaro Ishihara' and featuring three articles: a question-and-answer piece, a profile and analysis of his political career. The magazine interviewed Ishihara in Tokyo. 'He is a politician, author, director, marine explorer. He is both anti-China and anti-America,' the blurb on the cover read. 'However, what he goes to great lengths to criticise is his own country - Japan.' Ishihara is a constant target of mainland media. The websites of the China Youth Daily and the People's Daily carry this quote attributed to him: 'I am earnestly hoping for the splitting of China for the sake of world peace. If Chinese leaders launch a war against Taiwan, they are the Chinese version of Hitler.' Official media also say he called for the removal of most of the contents about the invasion of China from Japanese history textbooks, and in a 1990 interview with Playboy magazine denied the 1937 Nanking Massacre took place. 'It is a story made up by the Chinese,' Playboy quoted him as saying. Born in Kobe, Ishihara, 78, won the 1955 Akutagawa Prize, Japan's most prestigious literary award, for his novel Season of the Sun and is generally described as one of Japan's most prominent far-right politicians. His outspoken answers to a few tricky questions reflect a character different from the Chinese stereotype, the article explained. 'I certainly oppose communism. I like Chinese culture, but dislike Chinese communism. I'm not against the country, but China is a threat to Japan as long as the Communist Party is in power.' He said he likes two Chinese figures: Deng Xiaoping, the paramount leader of the 1979 market reform, and Ximen Qing, a notorious playboy/pervert of Chinese literature. 'Although Deng is a communist, he was first to call for the pursuit of high efficiency, which I think is remarkable,' Ishihara said. 'I do respect him for his decisiveness at crucial moments.' He appears genuinely frustrated by his country's status in the world, calling Japan 'a neutered dog, harmless to anyone', and bemoans the fact that 'there has been no right wing in Japan since the second world war'. Among his criticisms of China is the lack of tolerance for dissent. 'Politicians like me must have long been purged in China,' he told the magazine. Ishihara, who the Australian Broadcasting Corporation once dubbed Japan's answer to French ultranationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen, is no stranger to controversy. He upsets people, especially the Chinese, with his annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where second world war heroes and, critics say, war criminals are buried. He is accused of racism, historical revisionism and sexism. He has sometimes implied he holds little affection for Chinese or Koreans, but supports Taiwan. When it comes to his principles, 'People's freedom is most crucial. So is respect for people's freedom and individuality,' he told the magazine. 'That's why I dislike totalitarian countries and Japan during the wars.' He sees China and the United States as bullies, saying they 'tend to treat others by using their superpower, which I dislike'. Given his affection for Chinese culture but his dislike of the central government, he said the use of Chinese nationalism must give the government a headache, as it had to balance igniting the sentiment with keeping it under control to avoid risks. His appearance on the cover of Southern People Weekly increased sales, but it also put the editors under fire. Many internet users found the story thought-provoking, but critics, including Sina microblog user Ran Xiang , accused the magazine of 'losing its dignity'. The online copy of the package on the website of Southern Media Group - the magazine's parent company - and some other major sites has been deleted, though the printed versions were not affected. The main debate is over whether the magazine should have countered the values upheld by mainstream media. Huang Guangming , editor and one of the writers of the package, said the editors had planned the interview long before the Diaoyu Islands incident increased tension between the two countries. 'What we planned to do was really simple, as it was a subject that had not yet been explored,' he said. 'We tried to do an objective, responsible and professional report and offer a sober voice no matter what type of values the interviewee holds.' The pervasive view of Ishihara on the mainland may have been best expressed when he was allowed to attend the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His visit sparked comments that China was more tolerant of Ishihara than the Dalai Lama. Song Shinan, a media analyst based in Sichuan , said the interview was a good, courageous attempt to publish Ishihara's opinions and help independent thinkers in China know another side of the politician and reflect upon themselves in light of his radical criticism. 'The hostility and hatred Chinese people harbour towards Ishihara is largely a result of smearing by official media,' Song said. 'He is anti-communist but not anti-China, judging from this story. On the other hand, the report might spice up anti-Japan sentiment among nationalists who would twist the meaning by picking on some radical sentences rather than reading them in context.'