Students wave Chinese and Japanese flags during the arrival of President Hu Jintao at the Tokyo International Airport yesterday. AFP
Chinese urbanites are changing their attitudes toward Japan and many of them are viewing their Asian neighbor more positively, a recent survey has shown.
The Beijing-based Horizon Research Consultancy Group last June polled 3,181 residents in the country's 10 largest cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
The perception of Japan by the city-dwellers improved dramatically last year, measuring 2.04 units out of a maximum 4 in the survey. The figure rose from scores of 1.84 in 2006 and 1.82 in 2005, the survey revealed on Sunday.
The research group considered the frequent exchange visits of high-level officials, particularly those after former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe's "ice-breaking" trip in the autumn of 2006, as the cause for the dramatic improvement in perception.
"Abe's 'ice-breaking' visit to China and Premier Wen Jiabao's 'ice-thawing' trip to Japan in the spring of 2007 warmed up Sino-Japanese ties frozen during Junichiro Koizumi's tenure as Japanese prime minister," the Horizon report stated.
Despite the sharp increase in the popularity of the Japanese among Chinese from 2006 to last year, it was "still relatively low in general", the report said.
The survey also found that Chinese urbanites who thought that historical issues between the two countries should be shelved outnumbered those who insisted the issues should be resolved as a top priority.
The reverse was true in surveys the research group conducted in 2005 and 2006.
"It means that urban Chinese are contributing to a breakthrough of bilateral ties," the group reported.
"History is a wall dividing China and Japan, but that is not the entire story, especially when the two countries are increasingly interconnected with each other," it added.
Still, the changing image of Japan among Chinese did not extend to Chinese urbanites' view that bilateral ties were seen in a "hot in economics, cold in politics" way.
More than 70 percent of those polled thought that Japan did not accord China enough respect, while 44.1 percent still considered the neighbor a threat to China's national interests.
At the same time, close to a quarter of those surveyed considered Japan as the most important country for the Chinese economy after the United States.
"Political frictions, such as those over the Taiwan and the Korean Peninsula issues, are inevitable between China and Japan, with both being East Asian powerhouses," the group reported.
"Friction from national interests and potential strategic conflicts make the pair often 'cold' in political relations," it said.
(China Daily May 7, 2008)