Bitter enmity or just propaganda? - relations between the youth of China and Japan

Japan is not a popular country in the Far East. The conduct of the Imperial Japanese Army in WWII is well-known to many and even now, she is regarded with a mixture of hatred and contempt by the region. Every year we see students chanting slogans and venting bile at Japan. This applies most of all to China. One might believe that her youth would gladly cross the sea to sow salt in Japan's paddy fields. Or would they?

China is one of those countries where you have to delve beneath the surface to really understand what makes people tick. Few Chinese would openly admit that they like the Japanese. But then again, few Chinese would vocally declare they opposed the Communist Party. Of the young Chinese I have talked to and made friends with, many interact quite normally with the Japanese students they meet.

Though the Xinhua news agency constantly fusses over Japanese behaviour, such as visits by Junichiro Koizumi to the Yasukuni shrine, most young Chinese are more interested in what their neighbours can offer them. Many Japanese pop singers have huge followings across China. Ayumi Hamasaki and Utada Hikaru are just a few that are well known. Even domestic singers are often influenced by their music, whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. Tokyo fashion is closely followed by many in Shanghai and Beijing. It is often difficult to tell the young people of Shanghai and Tokyo apart. I recently mistook a Chinese girl for a Japanese goth at the University of York. I honestly thought I was back in Shibuya for a moment.

It is sadly true that many Chinese buy into propaganda peddled by racists and morally corrupt individuals. But at the end of the day, China's youth are practical. They have their whole lives to lead and Japanese students are, well, young too. They have the same dreams, the same interests, the same feelings. Most of the hate towards the Japanese stems from older Chinese - their sons and granddaughters see no reason why they have to do the same. Some young people do feel bitterness towards Japan, but it is usually towards the government - rarely against the people as a whole.

China is surging ahead in terms of economic development, but there is so much she could learn from Japan. From the 7th century onwards, Japan significantly benefited from an influx of Chinese culture, helping develop her own wonderful legacy. There is no reason why Japanese know-how and ingenuity cannot benefit China in the 21st century. Working more closely together can only benefit both parties. Young Chinese know this - perhaps their government should recognise that.

I don't want to offend any Chinese noders here. Japan did a lot of wrong things in WWII but as far as I (and a lot of young Chinese I've met) feel, hating the next generation won't lead to rapprochement.

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