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China-Japan relations

Chinese take rosier view of Japan, but feeling not reciprocated

Percentage of respondents in annual poll who see ties between China and Japan as poor falls to lowest since 2010

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 6:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 October, 2018, 6:47pm

Efforts by leaders to heal the historic rift between China and Japan are working, although improvement in how the countries’ citizens view each other is largely one-sided.

An opinion poll of Asia’s two largest economies published by Genron NPO on Thursday showed about 42 per cent of Chinese respondents had a positive image of Japan, up from 5.2 per cent in 2013. By contrast, 13 per cent of Japanese said they had a positive view of China, compared with a low of 6.8 per cent in 2014.

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he inherited a relationship with China in its worst state since the second world war when he took office in 2012, just months after Japan nationalised part of a chain of islets claimed by both countries. Since then, Abe has sought opportunities to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and appears set to be rewarded this month with his first one-on-one summit in Beijing.

In the annual poll, the percentage of respondents saying ties between China and Japan were poor fell below 50 per cent in both countries for the first time since 2010.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Wednesday told attendees at a bilateral gathering in Beijing that the countries should make efforts to improve ties, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Even as Abe emphasises the need for the countries to cooperate, Japan continues to show its concern about Chinese military expansion and activities in the South China Sea. Efforts at rapprochement have been overshadowed by growing tensions between China and Japan’s only treaty ally, the US.

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While Chinese respondents to the survey cited Japan’s high standard of living, its well-mannered culture and its beautiful environment among reasons for their positive impression, they said Japan remains the most serious military threat to China – ahead of the US.

Japanese respondents cited the dispute over the East China Sea islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China as the biggest reason for their negative impression of China, followed by Beijing’s “actions against international rules.” But when it comes to their nation’s biggest military threat, they said it was North Korea, by far.

Genron NPO surveyed 1,000 people in Japan and 1,548 people in China between August 27 and September 22.