If China and Japan let the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands (the Senkakusto Japanese) escalate into a war, it will be a colossal mistake and disaster for both nations. In general, I believe leaders in both countries, despite great pressure from nationalistic elements and domestic politics, have the wisdom not to let this happen.
I don’t worry about Japanese firms’ potential withdrawal from China due to occasional anti-Japanese protests. China’s fast-growing market of 1.3 billion people is something multinationals—Japanese, American and European alike—cannot afford to ignore.
I agree with Paula that the good things happening between China and Japan are not covered by the media. For example, Japanese comics, fashion, cars, home appliances and foods are popular in China.
However, misunderstanding abounds between the two nations. The low favorability expressed towards each other by citizens of both nations is especially disturbing, indicating that cultural and people-to-people exchanges are lacking.
The last Japanese movie and TV series I watched in China were in the 1980s when actor Ken Takakura, now 82-years-old, became an icon among Chinese. Many Japanese books were translated into Chinese in those days. Party chief Hu Yaobang invited 3,000 Japanese youth to visit China in 1984.
These helped many Chinese understand that modern Japan is different from the one shown in WWII movies about Japanese atrocities. Such an aggressive introduction of Japanese culture, sadly, has not been seen in the past two decades.
Hopefully the naming of Chinese director Chen Kaige as the jury president of the Tokyo International Film Festival in October will help bring back Japanese films and TV series back to Chinese screens.
While Japan learned a lot from China during its many dynasties, China also learned a lot from Japan in the areas of technology and management in the 1980s, something China should continue to advocate publicly in its next stage of development.
News organizations in both countries have also done a poor job, with some cashing in on the nationalistic sentiment and adding fuel to fire in the maritime territorial disputes. Unfortunately, that kind of coverage boosts ratings and readership.
I do feel that Japanese have to show more sincerity in their apology for what they did in WWII. Many Japanese politicians have used half-hearted words such as “regret” to express apology for war crimes.
Although more people-to-people exchange will be the most consequential, political leaders in both countries should take the lead in looking at the big picture and making China and Japan good neighbors.