Japan conjures up different images in the minds of different Chinese in different contexts. Magic Sony gadgetry, sleek Honda cars, Imperial Army soldiers killing and raping their way across Asia, atomic-bomb victims burnt beyond recognition, torpedo planes sinking US warships at Pearl Harbor, nasty-looking sword-brandishing Japanese army officers in Chinese movies, cultured Japanese bowing politely, elegant tea ceremonies, the casual beauty and refinement of Japanese ceramic wares...
Liking or hating Japan is nothing but normal in specific situations. Suppose you are talking with your friends about Nanjing Massacre in which more than 300,000 Chinese perished. All Chinese will clench their teeth and mutter some angry words at the atrocities committed by the Japanese troops, unless you are extremely apathetic or possess not one iota of patriotism.
It is also normal that you grow angry at the Japanese Prime Minister's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where memorial tablets of some World War II war criminals are housed.
But when that anger is carried to extremes by "angry youths," things begin to make a turn towards the undesirable.
Some indiscriminately fly into a rage at the mere mention of the word "Japan" no matter what the context. They might be comparing the performance of German and Japanese cars, or weighing advantages and disadvantages of Japanese stereo systems.
Some go to such extremes that they appeal for a boycott of everything made in Japan, alleging that people who buy Japanese-made things are Chinese traitors.
Now, let's shelve the "angry youths'" blind prejudices temporarily and get down to the matter of manufactured goods.
Common sense tells us that accelerating economic globalization leads to closer integration and penetration of world economies.
Japanese-brand products are very likely to be made in China and Chinese manufactured goods may have Japanese technology at their core.
Geely cars, a Chinese brand, for example, are equipped with Toyota engines and Changhong plasma television sets, another Chinese brand, are mounted with Matsushita screens.
Indiscriminate boycotts against anything that bears a Japanese name may sometimes hurt Chinese workers and factories, not to mention the fact that it is impossible for one in many cases to tell with certainty that this is "purely" Chinese or that is "purely" Japanese.
When an "angry youth" turns away from "Japan-made" goods and chooses Chinese-made ones, he may be still buying something that is heavily "Japanese," meaning his "patriotic sentiment" backfires.
The most important thing is that no-one, including "angry youths," can live in hate all the time at the expense of all other things that worth living for.
A basic aim in life is to do one's job well; take on challenging tasks courageously; be inventive and creative; pursue one's career single-mindedly; while away after-work hours agreeably; get along with colleagues and family; enjoy good food; take the opportunity to take a walk with your loved one on a balmy evening. This is the way life should be.
From a more utilitarian point of view, if everyone performs his or her tasks dutifully and creatively no matter what the task is, China will have no choice but to prosper.
China will have its own brand names that are a match for Sony, Panasonic, Toyota, Nikkon, Honda, Ford, GM, Volkswagen, Boeing, Airbus and others.
Hard work and creativity on the part of Post-War generations of Germans and Japanese enabled the two countries to rise from the rubble.
In the case of Germany, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen cars, which are on the streets worldwide, have won Germany the "Lebensraum," or living space, that was dreamt of by Adolf Hitler but never achieved with the powerful German war machines.
This shows that hard work pays but angry slogans will lead us nowhere.
Decades will pass while we, if given to excessive anger and extremist mentalities, will harvest nothing but the echo of high-sounding angry slogans.
The "angry youths" would find that others have again progressed by leaps and bounds while they may lag further behind.
This argument does not necessarily mean that the Chinese should not be angry no matter what others do.
We should be angry when top Japanese officials paid visits to the Yasukuni Shrine. We should be angry when Japanese rightists try to whitewash Japanese troops' war excesses.
But all this should be channelled into the realm of reason and not allowed to go overboard.
Confucian masters taught: Moderate your passion with reason. We have such an inexhaustible pool of wisdom to draw upon. History should be a mirror for everyone. And we should all look to the future for something better, something much, much better.
(China Daily November 17, 2005)