Cooperation is way forward: Survey

Updated: 2012-06-21 08:26

By Li Xiaokun and Cui Haipei (China Daily)

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Territorial concerns

The survey also showed that 84.3 percent of all Japanese respondents had "a negative impression" or "relatively negative impression" of China's "self-centered behavior on food safety and resources" and perceived "antagonism" in the territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo over the Diaoyu Islands. The figure, a substantial increase on last year's 78.3 percent, is the highest degree of dissatisfaction expressed in the history of the survey. Yasushi Kudo, head of Genron NPO, said Japanese society leans to the right, and has maintained a "strange silence" over Shintaro Ishihara's behavior over the Diaoyu Islands. Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo, has claimed that he plans to purchase the islands.

Kudo said Genron NPO specifically included the Diaoyu Islands issue and relevant military conflicts in the survey this year and would submit the results to the Japanese prime minister and it hopes he will comment on the matter.

"It will be the first time that Genron NPO has announced its opinions to the public," he said at a news briefing on the results of the survey."The Sino-Japanese relationship is not in a stable state. It is not normal and the two countries should have normal relations."

Commenting on the mutually negative opinions expressed in the survey, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Wednesday that China and Japan should safeguard the healthy and stable development of bilateral relations.

"We'll do everything possible to boost mutual trust between China and Japan, and will strongly oppose everything that would undermine such trust," he said at the ministry's daily news briefing.

The survey indicated that 58.4 percent of Chinese respondents believe territorial issues are a primary cause of the problems hampering the development of Sino-Japanese relations. A further 30 percent cited a lack of mutual trust, while disputes over marine resources came in at 26.3 percent.

More than 40 percent of the common Japanese people surveyed said that the two countries should solve their territorial disputes as quickly as possible, through peaceful negotiation. Moreover, about 20 percent of common Japanese respondents and 60 percent of intellectuals said the disputes should be put aside to avoid escalation.

Territorial issues are the major barriers to a healthy relationship between China and Japan, according to Pang from CASS. "If territorial and historical issues become intertwined, it will lead to a vicious cycle and make the Sino-Japanese relationship increasingly complex," he said.

Renmin University's Huang said that the negative perceptions of China in Japan should be viewed in the light of China's growing assurance, prompted by the country's rapid economic development, and that Japanese people are not emotionally ready for that role reversal.

"I agree that territorial issues have replaced the historical as the major problem between the two countries, because the territorial disputes in fact represent their core national interests," he said.

However, 80.3 percent of common Japanese people still view the bilateral relationship as "important", mainly because China's economic development has become "indispensably beneficial to the Japanese economy".

However, more than 60 percent of Chinese intellectuals and 45.3 percent of common respondents view Japan as a security threat to China. Those figures are unchanged from 2011.

Moreover, in addition to strengthening its security alliance with the US, Japan and India have agreed to carry out their first joint military exercise, in the South China Sea, said Ren Yuanzhe, a researcher at China Foreign Affairs University.

"This kind of bilateral military action will no doubt have an impact on China, and the emotions of its people, especially when the Chinese public repeatedly hears about historical and territorial disputes between the neighbors," he said.

However, he also noted that a Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force frigate visited the port of Qingdao - the headquarters of the North China Sea Fleet - in Shandong province in December, marking the resumption of mutual naval exchanges. They were suspended after a Chinese trawler collided with patrol boats from the Japanese Coast Guard in disputed waters near the Diaoyu Islands in the autumn of 2010. "It is a good start. Military exchanges of this kind are one of the necessary ways of further enhancing mutual trust and removing misgivings, even it is really long and slow work," he said.

Zhao Yiran and Wang Zijian in Beijing, and Cai Hong in Tokyo contributed to this story.

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