Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Japan, China can share the same boat

By Cai Hong (China Daily) Updated: 2014-10-21 08:06
Kanji - the characters derived from Chinese and adapted into written Japanese - are so visible in Japan that visitors from China may have an occasional illusion that they are still in their own country.

The use of kanji for place names is particularly helpful. Chinese people can make educated guesses about meaning and navigate successfully even though they don't know how to pronounce the words.

But be careful: while a lot of kanji words look like Chinese, they can differ in meaning.

"犠牲"means laying down one's life for a heroic purpose in China, while in Japan it can refer to the death of 56 people when Mount Ontake, the volcano in Otaki, Nagano prefecture, burst suddenly to life on Sept 27.

"娘"means "mother" in China and "daughter" in Japan. Couples in China like to introduce their spouses as“愛人”, which denotes "lovers" in Japan.

The differences between kanji and Chinese, as these three examples show, are not necessarily fatal, but they can be misleading.

There are some meanings that are lethally different, however.

At a panel discussion at the Beijing-Tokyo Forum, which convened in Tokyo in late September, some Japanese delegates asked their Chinese counterparts to explain the rise of China. They believed that a now prosperous China is building a stronger army with which to expand.

Both countries use“富国强兵” to express an idea of strength.

But it's a mistake to understand the term the same way in the two countries. In China, it simply refers to prosperity with a strong military. In Japan, it suggests expansion.

Beginning with the Meiji Restoration of 1868, which ushered in a new, centralized regime, Japan set out to gather wisdom from all over the world and embarked on an ambitious program of military, social, political and economic reforms that transformed it within a generation into a modern nation-state and a major world power.

After the Meiji Restoration, Japan pushed for a national "rise through military means", and the continent of Asia was directly targeted for invasion.

Japan's overseas expansion was a monstrous disaster for other Asian countries both before and during World War II, and it moved Japan to the brink of national annihilation. Thus,“富国强兵”is loaded with historical context and has become a pejorative term in Japan.

Previous Page 1 2 Next Page

Most Viewed Today's Top News