I am writing this from Guangzhou, my first such trip to mainland China in nearly seven years, visiting Beijing and regions along the Pearl River, including Shenzhen and Dongguan.

My biggest takeaway from this trip is that the "perception gap" between the peoples of Japan and China seems to have widened. And perhaps due to the three-year "zero-COVID" policy, the gap may have gotten bigger than ever.

On the political front, the Japanese view of China is worsening. A typical perception is that China is a scary country. There's a fear that even if one does nothing, they can be detained on suspicion of espionage, making travel there feel unsafe. Even I have long hesitated to visit China as many of my friends have joked that I would be detained if I went there.