Poll: China viewed unfavorably by most in Japan

A bilateral survey has found most Japanese people hold China in poor regard – with many taking a negative view on the state of relations between the two countries.

Results of the poll, conducted during September and October, show that 54.1% of respondents in Japan feel that current bilateral ties are bad or relatively bad. Just 22.6% of their Chinese counterparts have the same opinion. The figure is up 9.3 percentage points in Japan from a year earlier, but down by 13 points in China.

Asked about their impression of the other country, 89.7% of Japanese respondents have an unfavorable or relatively unfavorable view of China, while 52.9% in China say the same of Japan. The figure is up 5 percentage points in Japan from a year earlier, but about the same in China.

As for the reasons behind those views, nearly 60% in Japan cite China's frequent violations of Japan's territorial waters and airspace around the Senkaku Islands. This year has seen a record-high 300 days that Chinese government ships have sailed just outside Japan's territorial waters around the islands.

Japan controls the islands. China and Taiwan claim them. The Japanese government maintains the islands are an inherent part of Japan's territory, in terms of history and international law. It says there's no issue of sovereignty to be resolved over them.

Responses to pandemic

Asked about how they evaluate their country's pandemic responses, almost all Chinese (97.7%) believe Beijing took appropriate action. Japanese people have a less favorable view of their government's strategy, with 60.7% support.

As for the reliability of their government before and after the pandemic, 70.5% of Chinese say that it improved while 59.1% of Japanese say it is unchanged.

US-China conflict

Under the administration of President Donald Trump, conflict between the United States and China has become so intense it is being called a "New Cold War." Asked who is responsible, 54.8% in Japan say both countries are to blame, while 86.2% in China point to the US.

To deal with the situation, 53.5% of Chinese suggest efforts to minimize the impact of the conflict, as well as promoting cooperation between Japan and China. A similar figure -- 58.4% -- of Japanese want their country to work for the development of global cooperation, rather than taking a side.

Reflecting on the US-China conflict, more than 80% of Chinese say they feel a military threat from the US, up by 10% from the previous year.

The situation in East Asia

The poll also asked about regional security, finding that around a third (35.6%) of Chinese believe the Taiwan Strait poses the strongest possibility of a military conflict. Nearly 30% of Japanese (29.3%) think the Korean Peninsula carries the greatest risk. Respondents from both countries are also concerned about military activity in the South China Sea (China 22.5%, Japan 9%).

Japanese respondents are largely pessimistic about the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. More than half say they don't think it will happen, with around 10% of Chinese sharing that opinion.

"Our latest survey indicates concern among Japanese people about China's moves, including asserting its presence in the East and South China seas," says Kudo Yasushi, president of Japanese non-profit group Genron NPO. "We want to monitor those issues closely and see how the relationship between the two nations is perceived by public opinion."

Genron and the China International Publishing Group conducted the poll of 2,600 people in the two countries.