Neighbours – and foes

Sino-Japanese antipathy has increased and Indians and Pakistanis remain hostile towards one another.

NEGATIVE feelings towards China among the Japanese have shot up sharply over the last four years.

This was shown in a new poll that revealed the biggest divides in Asia existed between traditional rivals.

“There is a good deal of dislike, if not outright hostility, in how members of the public in major Asian countries view their neighbours,” the latest Pew Global Attitudes survey found.

The six-nation survey covering some 7,500 respondents in China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Russia and the United States was carried out between March 31 and May 14 this year.

The deep antipathy between China and Japan stood out in the survey. Only one in five, or 20 per cent, of the Chinese had a favourable view of Japan. On the other side, only 28 per cent of the Japanese had a positive opinion of China – down considerably from 2002 when the figure was 55 per cent.

Asked to choose from given adjectives to describe each other, both Chinese and Japanese chose competitive, greedy and arrogant. To the Japanese, Chinese were nationalistic and selfish; the Chinese saw Japanese society as male-dominated.

“Generous” was at the bottom of both lists.

Sino-Japanese tensions are rooted very much in history. Most Chinese believed that Japan had yet to atone for its militaristic past.

About 80 per cent of those interviewed felt that Japan had not apologised sufficiently for its military actions during the 1930s and 1940s. The repeated visits of Japan’s outgoing Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Yasukuni Shrine that honours Japanese war criminals were also viewed negatively in China.

Despite such unfavourable opinions, however, neither country had a big majority that saw the other as an adversary. In Japan, 53 per cent considered China a serious problem, and 34 per cent of Chinese said the same about Japan.

When asked which country in the world posed the greatest danger to their country, most Chinese said the US, while 22 per cent named Japan.

The Japanese were roughly divided between those who considered China the biggest threat and those who believed that North Korea presented the greatest danger to their country. And nearly one in five Japanese thought the US posed the greatest threat to Japan.

If the Chinese and Japanese held unfavourable views of each other, so did the respondents from India and Pakistan. Both countries had a bloody partition in 1947 into Hindu and Muslim states and have fought three wars since.

India was viewed unfavourably by two out of three Pakistanis, Pakistan was viewed negatively by half of the Indians.

There were other divisions as well. Both the Chinese and Japanese had negative views of Pakistan, while the Chinese tended to be less than positive towards India.

Of all the countries, China generated the most concern among its neighbours for its rapid military buildup. Most of the countries surveyed saw its exploding economy as much less of a threat.

India fought a border war with China in 1962, and more than three out of five Indians were against the Chinese rearming. Likewise, three out of four Russians, who remembered years of tension along the Amur River during the Soviet period, thought a more powerful China was a bad thing.

The Chinese, however, saw their country’s rise as a good thing.

A strong majority of Chinese thought that most people were better off now in the country, even if there was a gap between the rich and poor.

They also had very positive views about hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics. They felt that the Games would improve China’s international reputation.

Despite recognising the strides that China has made over the last decade, the survey found no consensus about the future balance of power.

A majority in India believed that China would replace the US as the world’s dominant power. One in three thought this would happen within 10 years. But 65 per cent said China would surpass the US in five decades.

Forty-three per cent of Americans and Russians predicted Chinese predominance over 50 years. But fewer than four in 10 Japanese and Chinese believed this would happen.

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