Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

For a better Japan-China relationship
KATO Junpei / Former Japanese ambassador to Belgium

June 4, 2007
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Japan in April turned out to be "an ice-melting trip" just as the Chinese government intended. The highlight of the visit was his speech at the Japanese Diet. The speech showed that the Chinese government had done its homework and was well aware of the strong anti-Chinese sentiment in Japan today and where that was coming from.

Premier Wen Jiabao spoke of the long historical and cultural exchanges between China and Japan. He cited examples of heart-warming friendships between the Chinese people and the Japanese people that took place even during the unfortunate days in the bilateral relationship in modern times. He ended his speech by thanking Japan for the assistance it extended to China after the normalization of diplomatic ties. In particular, his words of thanks at the end made a favorable impression on the Japanese people. It has been widely believed in Japan that China takes Japanese aid for granted and the fact that Japan gives aid to China is never reported in that country.

Exchanges between leaders and other key persons will follow in the future, and efforts to improve China-Japan relations will continue to be made.

But that doesn't mean everything is well. The gulf that lies between China and Japan is deep, and we both have a long way to go towards mutual understanding. The Japanese people remain ignorant of China, yet assume they know China and dislike the country. The Chinese people do not know Japan and they are not much interested. Premier Wen Jiabao had done his homework and knew a lot about Japan, but we cannot expect most Chinese people to learn that much about Japan.

There is a fundamental twist in the relationship between mainland China and Japan, which will take time to straighten out and dissolve. Here is the twist: The Japanese who are ardent admirers of traditional Chinese culture and well versed in Chinese classics have been critical of mainland China, and the Japanese who are fond of China today have tended to harbor negative feelings toward Chinese classics and Confucianism. The Cultural Revolution in China further reinforced these tendencies.

In China today, however, the Cultural Revolution is disavowed, Confucianism is reevaluated, and the study of Chinese classics gaining importance. The sight of the Japanese who reject classical Chinese culture and Confucianism preaching Japan-China friendship must strike the Chinese today as incongruous. On the other hand, how does it strike the Chinese today that many Japanese who are enthusiastic devotees of Confucianism and Chinese classics are critical of modern China?

Opinion polls show that the Japanese people hold strong anti-Chinese or Sinophobic sentiments. Bookstores are full of books running down modern China. Reading one such book, I found that the author has been quite thorough in looking into regional Chinese newspapers and so on, and is therefore persuasive to some extent, but the author exaggerates the negative aspects and does not say anything positive. Some parts are written with a malicious intent. For example, the author quotes a Chinese newspaper article and says that armed robbery is commonplace on trains and buses in China. I have traveled extensively in China on trains and buses, so I know this is a clear exaggeration, but an ordinary Japanese reader will believe it. It is Japan's responsibility to correct such malicious reporting.

We hope China, too, will continue to make even more effort. It means not just interacting with those connected to the old Sino-Japanese friendship organizations who espouse the so-called "socialism," but placing more importance on the ordinary Japanese people with common sense, especially those Japanese who love Chinese culture including the classics. It is on that foundation that a strong Japan-China friendly relationship can be built again.

The writer is the former Japanese ambassador to Belgium and the former executive director of the Japan Foundation.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

加藤 淳平  / 元駐ベルギー大使

2007年 6月 4日



しかしだからと言って、これで一安心とはならない。日中両国の間にある溝は深く、相互理解への途は遠いからである。日本人は中国を知らないまま、知っていると思って中国を嫌う。中国人は日本を知らないし、日本への関心が少ない。温家宝首相は、日本のことをよく学習した。しかし多くの中国人に、ここまでの学習は期待 できまい。

大陸中国の日本との関係には、根本的なねじれがあり、ねじれを解消するには時間がかかる。それは古来の中国文化に心酔し、中国の古典に通暁した日本人が、むしろ大陸中国に批判的であり、現代の中国に好意を持つ日本人は、中国の古典や儒教に対して、否定的だったことである。中国の文化大革命は、この傾向を極端にまで 強めた。




一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

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