“What you must understand is we Chinese all hate Japanese.”

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    Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan, writes about his experiences speaking about Japan at universities in China:

    What you must understand is we Chinese all hate Japanese.”

    So began the Q&A at Sichuan University in Chengdu following my talk there about Sino-Japanese relations and my new book, “Contemporary Japan” (Wiley, 2011). I heard close variations of this comment so frequently throughout my weeklong visit that I began to suspect it must be a typical practice sentence in English conversation classes — an edgy variation on “This is a pen.” A coed followed up by asking, “Aren’t Japanese aggressive and betraying by nature?” Next along came, “Why are Japanese so wasteful?”

    I was peppered with questions and comments in a similar vein, suggesting that this classroom of some 100 university students and a sprinkling of professors was not a promising target for marketing a book that was not about hammering Japan.

    When I pointed out that young Japanese have not wronged China, I was told “Yes, but we hate them anyway.”

    We also had a lively discussion about the Diaoyu/Senkaku island group and the “unjust” actions of the Japanese government. When I explained that the Japanese government claims that there is no territorial dispute because its sovereignty over the disputed islands is indisputable, I hit a raw nerve. Readers need to understand that the Chinese government also asserts that its claims to the islands are indisputable.

    It is not surprising that many Chinese are anti-Japanese because they are exposed to so much damning information on a daily basis. The sentiments expressed by university students are a testimony to the government’s powerful influence over how people view and act in the world through its control of education and the media.

    Channel-surfing in the evening, virtually every night I found a drama or movie depicting scenes of Japanese wartime brutality. Students told me that from middle school on they learn a great deal about the atrocities committed by Japanese in China. This focus on Japanese aggression overshadows all other narratives and there seems little appreciation of Japan’s contributions to China’s economic development since the 1980s.

    Young people buy into the “cool Japan” image and crave Japanese products for their quality and design, but the vilifying discourse has been so pervasively disseminated and reinforced that it does not take much to elicit a knee-jerk response.

    Read the rest of the article here.

    [hat tip to Ponta]

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