On the Results of the 7th Japan-China Joint Opinion Survey

August 19, 2011

Genron NPO (Representative: Yasushi Kudo) and China Daily jointly released on Aug. 11 the results of the annual survey on Chinese and Japanese peoples' attitudes toward each other's countries and bilateral ties. The survey was jointly conducted by the Japanese non-profit think tank Genron NPO and the Chinese state-run English-language daily newspaper China Daily as the seventh poll of its kind.

About the Survey

The opinion survey has been carried out jointly by the two organizations every year since 2005, when Japan-China relations were at a critically low ebb, with the aim of continuously monitoring the status quo and new developments in mutual understanding and perceptions between Japan and China. The latest poll was conducted in June and July this year. Genron NPO and the China Daily had earlier agreed that the annual poll should be continuously conducted for 10 years from 2005 through 2014, and that the results of the survey should be discussed at the "Tokyo-Beijing Forum," an annual workshop jointly organized by Genron NPO and China Daily, in order to have the joint project contribute to dialogue for the rectification of differences in communications and perception, which exist between people of the two countries, and for the facilitation of mutual understanding.
The results of the latest poll are to be presented for discussions at this year's forum, due to be held on Aug. 21 and 22 in Beijing.

Executive Summary

This year's poll shows a marked downgrade in the general public's positive impression of each other's countries, with the bilateral territorial issue emerging as a new stumbling block to improving Japan-China relations.
According to the survey results, 78.3 percent of the Japanese general public had an unfavorable view of China, an increase of 6.3 percentage points from the previous year and the highest level since the annual poll was started in 2005. Only 20.8 percent of respondents said they had a favorable view of China, a marked decline from 27.3 percent in the previous poll.

The Japanese impression of China continuously improved in 2009 and 2010 after worsening for four consecutive years since 2005. But the trend came to a halt in 2011.
Meanwhile, the latest poll shows that the ratio of the Chinese general public who had a favorable opinion toward Japan plummeted 9.7 percentage points from 38.3 percent in the previous poll to 28.6 percent, marking the first drop since the annual poll was launched. Conversely, the ratio of those who had an unfavorable opinion of Japan surged a large 10 percentage points in the same comparison to 65.9 percent.

As reasons for their negative view, many Japanese cited the Chinese authorities' high-handed attitude over the collision of a Chinese fishing vessel and a Japanese patrol boat in waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands (or the Diaoyu Islands in China) in fall 2010, and over the growing territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Many Chinese respondents, meanwhile, pointed to the Japanese government's poor handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and the fishing vessel's collision with the patrol boat, in addition to the customary history issue, as reasons for the downgrade in the Chinese public's positive impression of Japan.

Asked to evaluate Japan-China relations, only 8.8 percent of Japanese replied they viewed bilateral relations positively (or 0.1 percent replying "very good" and 8.7 percent "rather good"), a steep decline from 22 percent (0.7 percent for "very good" and 21.3 percent for "rather good") in the previous year's poll.
Conversely, 51.7 percent of Japanese replied they regarded bilateral ties negatively (or 7.6 percent replying they were "very bad" and 44.1 percent "rather bad''), logging a steep drop of 23 percentage points from 28.7 percent in the previous poll (or 27.1 percent replying "rather bad" and 1.6 percent "very bad").
The figure compares to the worst readings of 74 percent in 2005, 69 percent in 2006 and 53.1 percent in 2007 when Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzo Abe of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) were prime minister.

In spite of the prevailing negative view of China by Japanese, the latest poll reveals a rather positive and optimistic attitude toward Japan by Chinese. For instance, 54.5 percent of Chinese respondents replied they thought bilateral ties are "rather good" (52.0 percent) and "very good" (2.5 percent). However, the combined figure of "positive" replies marks a steep decline of a large 20 percentage points from the corresponding figure of 74.5 percent (comprising 70.1 percent with "rather good" and 4.4 percent with "very good").

Asked to cite up to three elements that they think are major impediments to a further development of bilateral relations, the largest 63.2 percent of Japanese and the largest 58.4 percent of Chinese cite "the bilateral territorial disputes," indicating that the confrontation off the Senkaku Islands in fall last year had made the general public of both countries more concerned with the territorial issues. The Japanese figure was up a hefty 28.6 percentage points from 34.6 percent in the previous poll, whereas the corresponding Chinese figure surged more than 20 percentage points in the same comparison.

Other impediments cited by Japanese are the "bilateral dispute over maritime and other natural resources" (35.2 percent as compared to 24.6 percent in the previous poll), and the "lack of confidence between the Japanese and the Chinese (31.6 percent as compared to 32.8 percent). Similarly, Chinese cited the "lack of mutual confidence" (25.6 percent), and the "bilateral dispute over maritime and other natural resources" (22.6 percent) as other major impediments in that order.

Other noteworthy findings in the latest poll are:

-- Despite the deterioration of the prevailing Japanese perception of China, an overwhelming 77.6 percent of Japanese (a slight drop from 81.5 percent in the previous poll) said they think the bilateral relationship is "important," as compared to only 4.3 percent who think it is "not important." In China, the corresponding ratio is as high as 83.1 percent, also a slight decline from 92.5 percent in the same comparison, while 14.8 percent think bilateral ties are "not important."

-- In response to the question "Which do you think is more important for the future of your country ? Japan-China bilateral relations or relations with the United States,'' the largest 55.6 percent of Japanese (58.7 percent in 2010 and 59.9 percent in 2009) replied both relations are "equally important." In the latest poll, however, the ratio of those who said relations with the United States are more important than Japan-China relations surged to 33.8 percent from 24.7 percent in the 2010 poll. No conspicuous change in the Chinese public's attitude toward relations with Japan and with the United States has developed.

Survey Methods

The survey on the Japanese side was conducted between July 4 and July 24, covering randomly selected adults, aged 18 and over (excluding high school students, all over the country, and using the door-to-door home-visit method. A total of 1,000 valid replies in writing to the questionnaire were collected.

Aside from this poll, another survey by questionnaire was conducted in Japan during the same period, covering some 2,000 corporate executives, academics, media people, government officials and others, who have hitherto participated in Genron NPO's debate and research programs. A total of 500 valid replies were collected. Of the respondents, 70.2 percent have graduated from university and 22.6 percent have postgraduate degrees. On the assumption that the respondents to the separate poll represent the average opinion of Japan's intelligentsia, the findings of this poll were used to supplement those of the main survey for ordinary Japanese. Of the respondents to the main survey, 47.6 percent are high school graduates, 18.6 percent graduates from two-year colleges or vocational schools, 15.9 percent university graduates and 1.5 percent have postgraduate degrees.

Meanwhile, the survey by the Chinese side polled 1,540 Chinese adult men and women, aged 18 and over, living in China's five major cities ? Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Shenyang and Xian ? between June 25 and July 22. The poll used the interviewing method and the random sampling method. In addition to this main survey, another opinion poll by questionnaire was conducted between June 22 and July 6, covering 1,000 students and teaching staffers at China's five major universities ? Peking University, Tsinghua University, Renmin University of China, Peking University's School of International Studies and China Foreign Affairs University.

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