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China-Japan Dilemma

Posted April. 18, 2005 23:31,   


Japanese Media: “Fed up with the Koizumi, and even more fed up with Chinese protesters.”

According to a telephone survey conducted by Mainichi Newspaper on April 16 and 17, 76 percent of 1,019 respondents said that “Prime Minister Koizumi is not working sufficiently enough to better relations with Korea and China.”

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s approval rating dropped eight percent to 25 percent from last month, recording a record low since the inauguration of the Cabinet in April 2001. Negative public opinion on Prime Minister Koizumi’s visits to the Yasukuni war shrine increased four percent to 44 percent from last December. Katsuya Okada , leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), stated that “the situation has evolved the way it has because of the limitations of ‘Koizumi diplomacy,’ which only focuses on the superficial.”

While the Chinese government refuses to apologize for the damages to the Japanese embassy and restaurant and the anti-Japanese protests continue, anti-Chinese sentiment is rapidly spreading in Japan.

Japanese rightists, who have been quiet recently, have started criticizing China on megaphones while driving through downtown Tokyo. A Chinese school in Yokohama, which has been receiving threatening mail telling them to leave Japan, opens its main gate only three times a day at the beginning and end of school.

In the Mainichi public survey, 34 percent of the public cited “Chinese domestic problems” as a reason for the anti-Japanese protests, which shows that people believe China’s social clashes between the classes have developed into anti-Japanese protests.

Chinese Government Needs to Control Protests-

The main reasons for the Chinese protests are anti-Japanese sentiment brought on by the distortion of history textbooks, conflict over islands, and differences of opinion on Taiwan, but deep within lies patriotic, nationalistic sentiment which has been encouraged by the Chinese leadership.

The Chinese authorities have the difficult task of dividing the line between where they should and should not interfere in dealing with the protests. This is the reason for Chinese authorities stating “We oppose the atrocities committed by Japan, not Japan itself.”

The government’s position is that if they let the Japanese rightists be, the public’s resentment may turn them against the government, so they will allow the citizens to portray their anger. However, if the public crosses the line to challenge the government, they will take a hard line to restrain them.

Searching for a Diplomatic Settlement-

The Japanese government has been sending mixed messages to China in order to find out China’s opinion on the matter.

Prime Minister Koizumi stated, “These talks should be made to improve our relations for the future,” hinting that he may not try to force an apology.

Wang Jiarui, the head of the international relations department of the Chinese Communist Party, said, “The development of bilateral relations is our common task,” stating his position that he would like a quick resolution the problem.

Diplomatic experts state that the Chinese government and media have been emphasizing the need to restrain the protesters and to improve the bilateral relations, and that the Chinese government does not want further complications in this matter. Thus, the result of the China-Japan summit meeting will be crucial to the resolution of the problem.

Yoo-Seong Hwang Won-Jae Park yshwang@donga.com parkwj@donga.com