Poll shows strains in China-Japan-S korea ties

Updated: 2012-11-26 08:10

By Zhang Yunbi and Zhou Wa (China Daily)

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Survey: Japanese feelings toward China, South Korea at all-time low

A recent poll showed that the majority of the Japanese public are not looking favorably on their neighbors China and South Korea amid Japan's political turmoil and deadlocked diplomacy.

Experts warn there may be greater damage to people-to-people ties between the neighbors, as Japan's mid-December general election may further fan the flames of nationalism.

According to the Japanese Cabinet Office's annual survey, 80.6 percent of the surveyed said they feel no friendship for China, an increase of 9.2 percentage points compared with last year, Japan's Jiji Press News Agency said.

Tokyo Broadcasting System said the number marks a record high since the survey started in 1978, while those who said they feel friendship toward China constituted only 18 percent, a year-on-year drop of 8.3 percentage points.

And 59 percent of the Japanese public expressed no friendly feelings toward South Korea, a 23.7 percentage points year-on-year rise. Japan's territorial dispute with South Korea escalated after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's August visit to the disputed island, which Seoul calls Dokdo and Tokyo calls Takeshima.

This year's official poll, questioning 1,800 interviewees over 20 years old, started in September, when the Japanese government illegally "purchased" the Diaoyu Islands, a move that prompted a series of protests and countermeasures from China.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry blamed China and South Korea for the absence of friendly feelings, yet Japan has come to a diplomatic deadlock this year with its neighbors, including China and South Korea, over territorial disputes.

"Given the explanation of the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Tokyo is actually aiming at shifting the responsibility to others," said Zhou Yongsheng, a professor of Japanese studies at China Foreign Affairs University.

The survey results show that Japanese public opinion is highly susceptible to political influences, and the mutual trust between the countries remains fragile, Zhou said.

On Sunday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda criticized the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party's campaign pledge pertaining to the territorial dispute when he appeared on Japan's Asahi Television.

The LDP, led by its new hard-line president and former prime minister Shinzo Abe, vowed to base regular government staff on the Diaoyu Islands.

Noda warned that Abe's proposal "may lead to further escalations", and said his opponent has no awareness that the tough situation may "endanger Japan-China ties".

Damaged by the dispute over the East China Sea islands, which have belonged to China for centuries, bilateral ties are said to be witnessing their toughest time since the normalization of the two countries' diplomatic relations in 1972.

Politicians who favor nationalism is one reason for fewer Japanese feeling friendly about China, because nationalism plays a very important role in Japan, said Feng Wei, a professor of Japanese studies at Fudan University in Shanghai.

"There are not so many differences in campaign platforms among different parties in Japan, as they fear that they will lose certain supporters if they make the platforms too clear, but playing up nationalism is safe and effective," Feng said.

Since the islands dispute flared up in September, the Chinese government has sent maritime surveillance ships and fishery administration vessels to the waters off the Diaoyu Islands to assert sovereignty and provide services to Chinese fishermen operating in the area.

Japanese media continued to quote the Japanese Coast Guard's claim that Chinese ships were "entering territorial waters".

"Japanese media's frequent reporting sensationalized China's regular patrols in the waters was aimed at presenting them as victim to the international community," said Zhang Haiwen, deputy director of the China Institute for Marine Affairs.

Japan's media are also to blame for the Japanese public's feelings toward China, as they often overstate China's regular maritime patrols and drilling as "threats to Japan" so that they can attract more readers and get better sales, Feng Wei added.

Contact the writers at zhangyunbi@chinadaily.com.cn and zhouwa@chinadaily.com.cn