Poll: Japanese want strong ties with China, US

Updated: 2010-12-28 06:57

By He Wei (China Daily)

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BEIJING - A survey released on Saturday shows that nearly two-thirds of Japanese believe the country should seek for deeper interdependence with China, despite rows and spats in the past year - a trend experts say reflects the realistic mindset of the Japanese people as well as the evolving geopolitical changes in East Asia.

The survey, conducted by the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, solicited Japanese people's views on some security issues. It included 3,000 randomly selected voters in Japan from Dec 4 to 5, and was based on 1,995 valid responses.

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According to the newspaper, respondents were required to choose one of two possible options: That Japan should strengthen its alliance with the US to counter China, or that Japan, the US and China should deepen mutual dependence in economic and other fields.

Statistics showed that 64 percent favored deeper interdependence among all three nations, leaving a mere of 31 percent choosing the former.

The poll also revealed that 51 percent of all respondents called for deeper ties with China, while 38 percent said Japan should keep a distance from the country.

Sino-Japanese relations hit a low point this year after a boat collision in September sparked a series of diplomatic crises, including Beijing's temporary halt of high-level exchanges and Tokyo's reorientation of its defense guidelines toward China.

China has since pledged to do more to protect its fishing grounds next year, with regular naval patrols near the Diaoyu Islands, according to AFP.

But the fact underlying the survey, experts say, shows Japan's awareness of a strong Chinese presence in the region.

Instead of confrontation, the Japanese people realize that Tokyo should avail itself of the irreversible trend of China's growth, said Zhou Yongsheng, a professor on Japan studies at China Foreign Affairs University.

"Coordination with the stronger has always been a cornerstone in Japan's foreign policy-making," Zhou told China Daily.

Noting that the proportion of the Japanese respondents polled supported China-Japan-US coordination, Lee Jong Won, a professor of international politics at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, said that the Japanese people are realistic, seeking to project a more cooperative pattern under the triangle of relations.

"I think it is a message from the public (which) thinks a cooperative system must be sought between Japan, the United States and China under a new paradigm - rather than under Cold War-era ideas," Lee told The Asahi Shimbun.

Government organs and academic think tanks in Japan have focused their research on Japan-US-China coordination since 2008, Zhou said.

Therefore "Japan is opting for a three-nation cooperation path to elevate its international status", he added.

But in a somewhat contradictory manner, the survey still reflected mounting concerns among the Japanese people toward China.

Amid these concerns, 48 percent supported the government's plan to deploy Ground Self-Defense Force troops to the Sakishima Islands, southwest of Okinawa's main island - which is close to China - while 36 percent said they were against the move.

Even among respondents who said Japan should deepen its relations with China, 45 percent backed the plan while 40 percent did not.

What's more, 78 percent of the respondents favored the Japan-US security treaty, marking the highest ratio of its kind in years.

The seemingly contradictory choice is also a realistic option in response to the anxiety of a recent shift in power, Lee said.

But in the long run, Zhou noted, cooperation among the big powers will set tones for the future configuration of East Asia.


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