Academic journal article Asian Perspective

Chinese and Japanese Public Opinion: Searching for Moral Security*

Academic journal article Asian Perspective

Chinese and Japanese Public Opinion: Searching for Moral Security*

Article excerpt

Japanese and Chinese hold strikingly similar opinions of each other-both are negative. Since the normalization of Japan's postwar relations with China in 1978, opinion surveys document a clear deterioration of goodwill after nearly two decades of relatively good relations. This trend has accelerated over the past ten years. Most noticeable is how much the decline of trust coincides with a rise of internal socio-economic anxieties in both countries. The central governments are faltering in their ability to provide social stability and cohesion-a sense of safety and material well-being-while establishing a sense of national identity. We argue that current Sino-Japanese tensions reflect more each country's domestic stresses than they do disagreements over history, any inherent geostrategic competition, or regional economic rivalry. Restoration, or the establishment of prosperity, social certainty, and "moral security" in both countries, is necessary before China and Japan can have any meaningful resolution of their historical and geopolitical issues.

Key words: China-Japan relations, East Asian security

Introduction

Japanese and Chinese hold strikingly similar opinions of each other-both are negative. Since the normalization of Japan's postwar relations with China in 1978, opinion surveys document a clear deterioration of goodwill after nearly two decades of relatively good relations. This trend has accelerated over the past ten years. Most noticeable is how much the decline of trust coincides with a rise of internal socioeconomic anxieties in both countries.

The two countries, at first, appear perfect opposites. One is a managed, mature capitalist democracy and the other a developing market economy overseen by a communist oligarchy. However, there are also many similarities. Both are ancient societies forged into nation-states by foreign ideologies. Both have citizens with weak national identities and leaderships that aspire to build stronger ones. Both are confronting inward-looking, individualist trends that distance their citizens from state authority. Both societies are struggling with expanding personal responsibilities after a period of rigid conformity. Both economies are grappling with the dislocations caused by free-market capitalism after years of state planning and guaranteed employment. In short, both China and Japan have witnessed a decade of social change brought about by rapidly transforming economies in an era of acultural globalization.

China and Japan now share a unique period in their nation building. The central governments are faltering in their ability to provide social stability and cohesion-a sense of safety and material well-being. Security is being defined by making Chineseness or Japaneseness a civil rather than an ethnic quality. It is the "national" in national security with which both societies are grappling.

Current Sino-Japanese tensions reflect more each country's domestic stresses than they do any inherent regional strategic competition. We conclude that restoration, or the establishment of prosperity and social certainty in both countries, is necessary before China and Japan can have any meaningful resolution of their historical and geopolitical issues. Our view is that their potential regional rivalry is less important than their internal social stability.

The Overall Relationship: Shared Disdain

Positive Chinese and Japanese attitudes toward the other have declined measurably since 1978, when the Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty was signed following the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972. Whereas over 60 percent of Japanese surveyed in the late 1970s felt positively toward China, an equally negative view was presented by 2006. This reversal of goodwill is the same for the Chinese toward Japan.

Japan

For Japan, three important public opinion surveys mark this decline over time. Japan's Cabinet Office, the quasi-governmental Japanese newswire Jiji Press, and the U. …

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