51% of youths want to have Japanese friends
More than half of China's young people say they want to make friends with their Japanese peers even though many of them do not have a positive opinion of Japan, and 80 per cent have never met anyone from the country, according to a survey published yesterday.
About 51 per cent of respondents, mostly university students, said they were willing to have Japanese friends, 21 per cent did not want friends from across the East China Sea, while the rest stood neutral.
The poll - conducted by 21st Century, China Daily's weekly youth English newspaper - surveyed 1,657 young people across China about their opinions of Japan starting from April.
Despite the goodwill on a personal level, only 2.8 per cent of those asked how they felt about Japan said they liked it. More than half said they hated or disliked the country.
"It's fairly understandable that the Chinese youth dislike Japan," said Jin Xide, a professor from the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "The Japanese right-wing forces have brazenly tampered with history and are always trying to whitewash the invasive war. We have to strongly oppose these people."
However, he added that Chinese youth also know that it is not the Japanese people who should be blamed.
Sino-Japanese relations have deteriorated in recent years, and took a particular nosedive after the Japanese Government approved a history textbook which brushed over Japanese atrocities, sparking demonstrations in China.
Protesters accused Japan of failing to own up to its wartime history. To show their anger, many vowed to boycott Japanese goods.
However, the poll found that about 73 per cent of the youths surveyed said business and technology are the areas in which the two countries should fully co-operate.
These judgments, however, were not made through personal contact with Japanese people. Nearly 80 per cent of those surveyed said they had never met anyone from Japan. More than 60 per cent said they formed their opinions about Japan through the press, TV and the Internet.
Other evidence of the media impact: The survey found that the three Japanese people most familiar to Chinese young people are Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and war criminals Hideki Tojo and Yamamoto Isoroku.