About 70 percent of Japanese and 60 percent of Chinese have negative impressions of each others’ countries on food safety, historical differences and a bilateral dispute over resource development, according to the results of a poll released Saturday.
The annual survey found that while the ratio of Japanese who view China negatively was nearly unchanged from the previous year, the proportion of Chinese with negative feelings toward Japan fell by more than 10 points, apparently reflecting more positive coverage of Japan through the Chinese media.
The survey, jointly conducted by state-run newspaper The China Daily and Japanese think tank Genron NPO, polled 1,000 Japanese across Japan and 1,617 Chinese across five major cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, who were 18 or older in June and July.
A total of 72.0 percent of Japanese said they have an unfavorable image of China, compared with 73.2 percent in 2009, whereas 55.9 percent of Chinese expressed negative feelings about Japan, down from 65.2 percent the previous year.
The poll, which has been conducted every year since 2005, cited “doubts about the Chinese government’s response to food safety and other issues” and “apparently self-centered Chinese behavior to secure natural resources, energy and food” as the major factors contributing to China’s negative image.
Food-poisoning cases in Japan stemming pesticide-tainted Chinese frozen dumplings in late 2007 and early 2008 had a particularly strong effect on Japanese consumers, 10 of whom were sickened by the food.
The two countries are also stuck in a dispute over gas development in the East China Sea, where their self-claimed exclusive economic zones overlap.
Meanwhile, Chinese people attributed their negative feelings toward Japan to the fact that the two countries fought a war in the not-too-distant past and to their belief that Japanese “do not properly recognize their wartime aggression.”
In a Tokyo news conference to unveil the results of the survey ahead of its release, Wu Yi, vice president of Horizon Research Consultancy Group, which contributed to the poll, pointed out that the media play a major role in influencing public understanding in each of the two countries because direct exchanges between their peoples are still limited.
Specifically, the survey found that Japanese people depend mostly on domestic news media to get information on China, while the Chinese have more diversified sources of Japan-related information at their fingertips, including news, TV dramas, movies and books.
“Because positive reports on Japan by the Chinese media are on the rise, I believe Chinese increasingly have a favorable image of Japan,” Wu said. “For example, Japanese family dramas are broadcast at prime time in China, enabling the Chinese audience to understand the lives of ordinary Japanese families.
“On the other hand, Japanese media often report negatively about the increase of China’s military and economic power,” he said.
While 81.5 percent of Japanese and 92.5 percent of Chinese said they think the bilateral relationship is “important,” many people in both countries said the two governments’ disputes over territory and marine resources, as well as the “lack of confidence” between the Japanese and the Chinese, are hampering ties.
As for Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, 69.3 percent of Chinese said Japan “does not need to” become a member, while 10.8 percent of Japanese agreed.
In Japan, 42.2 percent said they think Japan should try to secure a permanent seat at the UNSC, down from 54.5 percent last year, while 46.4 percent said they “do not know,” up from 36.5 percent.
In response to a multiple-choice question, 47 percent of Japanese said they perceive a “military threat” from China, and 52.7 percent of Chinese felt a similar danger from Japan.
Japanese respondents cited China’s military buildup, its frequent intrusion into Japanese territorial waters and possession of nuclear weapons as reasons for their fear, while the Chinese respondents referred to the history of Japan’s invasions and the existence of “those who wish to revive Japan’s militarism.”
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