Japan-China relations rest on the young learning modern history: Hu

by Reiji Yoshida

Visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao and Kanagawa Gov. Shigefumi Matsuzawa agreed that the future of relations between the two countries lies in teaching modern history to young people, the governor told reporters Friday.

However, there was no discussion of Japan’s wartime past with China during the luncheon at a Yokohama hotel that was also attended by Yokohama Mayor Hiroshi Nakada, Matsuzawa said after the meeting.

During the luncheon, Matsuzawa said the prefecture plans to make it mandatory for all local high school students to study Japanese history.

Matsuzawa said that when he commented that young Japanese in general do not know much about the country’s modern history, compared with Chinese students, Hu also lamented that many young Chinese know little about China’s modern history.

“Only by learning history will you be able to understand international situations and understand what you should do and what you should teach the following generations,” Matsuzawa quoted Hu as saying.

Since Hu arrived Tuesday in Japan for a five-day stay, he has in meetings with Japanese leaders played up improved bilateral relations, which had soured during Junichiro Koizumi’s 2001-2006 stint as prime minister in part because of his repeated visits to Tokyo’s war-linked Yasukuni Shrine.

Hu has avoided discussing sensitive issues pertaining to Japan’s wartime aggression in China in an apparent effort to soothe a public still prone to nationalism and an often hostile sense of rivalry.

During a speech Thursday at Tokyo’s Waseda University, hundreds of students and activists protested outside the hall to call for Tibetan freedom. For his part, Hu said he doesn’t believe the protesters represented the sentiment of the majority of Japanese toward him, according to Matsuzawa.

During the luncheon, Hu also showed particular interest in Kanagawa’s efforts to promote the use of electric automobiles to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the governor said.

Matsuzawa said Hu asked him to detail the prefecture’s endeavor, noting the importance of cutting gas emissions in the transportation sector in China’s overall effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

After visiting Yokohama, home to Japan’s largest Chinatown, Hu later in the day flew to Osaka to meet local political and business leaders.

Hu is scheduled to visit Nara’s Horyuji Temple and Toshodaiji Temple on Saturday, then pay a visit to the headquarters of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. in Osaka before returning to Beijing the same day.