TV & Radio
China, Japan youth key to conflict or conciliation
By Linda Sieg
Saturday, July 29, 2006; 9:32 PM
BEIJING (Reuters) - When Jia Xiaopeng was born, the Sino-Japanese war had been over for nearly 40 years.
Still, the Chinese youth thinks it's too soon for painful memories of Japan's 1937-1945 invasion and occupation of parts of his homeland to fade.
"We cannot easily resolve issues relating to the war," said Jia, 23, a recent graduate of Tsinghua University in Beijing who is an avid fan of Japanese "manga" comics and has studied the Japanese language for four years.
"History is something that we cannot forget."
Japanese student Akimitsu Shioya sees things differently.
"Japan gave aid to China after the war, so the problem ought to be settled," said the 20-year-old freshman, who has just begun studying Chinese at Hosei University near Tokyo.
Such differing views -- and the mutual antipathy that often accompanies them -- are fueling concerns that the current chill in relations between China and Japan will worsen as the younger generations in the two neighboring Asian nations grow up.
"Among Japanese youth, many don't have good feelings toward China. And it's the same in China," said Akihiro Oshima, an ethnic Chinese who has taken the unusual step of acquiring Japanese citizenship and who does business in both countries.
"The question for the future is, how can the younger generation get along?" Oshima said in an interview at his computer graphics company's office in Beijing.
Ties between the two countries, never easy, grew frigid after Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi took office in 2001 and began visiting Toyko's Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese World War Two leaders convicted as war criminals are honored along with war dead.
The tensions erupted in April 2005, when tens of thousands of Chinese protested against Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and approval of a Japanese school history text that critics say whitewashes Tokyo's wartime atrocities.
Those sometimes violent protests, like Chinese fans' harsh booing and violence after Japan beat host China to win the Asian Cup soccer tournament in 2004, shocked many Japanese.
"At that time, I really didn't like the Chinese," Shioya said of his feelings after the soccer tournament.
"It wasn't sportsmanlike and I had a very bad image."
Like many of his fellow Japanese, Shioya blames China for fostering anti-Japanese sentiment through its "patriotic education" to help legitimize the Communist Party's rule.
"I think anti-Japanese education has a big impact," he said.
Wei Yue, another Chinese fan of manga and anime, says that's not the whole story.
"It's not just because of education," said Wei, 24, who is pursuing a master's degree in astronomy at Peking University.
"My grandma and grandpa experienced this history and so we have a direct feeling about the Japanese people," she added.
Jia, who majored in dynamic mechanical engineering, says his fascination with manga and anime have created something of a bond with the Japanese people, but not with their government.
"We can't deny that when we watch Japanese anime and read manga, we feel closer to the Japanese. But politics is politics and people are people," said Jia, whose manga, anime and game club boasts some 1,500 members -- many at the elite Tsinghua and Peking University -- as well a library of 3,000 volumes.
"Sometimes we hate the policies of the Japanese government," he added, switching from Chinese to Japanese. "The people have some responsibility for their government's decisions, but maybe individual Japanese don't have so much responsibility."
Not all his fellow youth, he admits, would agree.
"Chinese kids say, 'I like manga, but not the Japanese'," he said. "And some fear they are being invaded by Japanese culture."
These Chinese and Japanese young people have never met, but they know their futures are inextricably intertwined, given the deep economic ties between their countries.
Jia now works for a Japanese game firm, Wei has visited an observatory in central Japan as part of her studies and Shioya took up Chinese language study to improve his job prospects.
And while they differ over history, they also see why their counterparts might see things through a different prism.
"Japan apologizes and China says the apology is not sincere. Then Japan says, 'What do you want from us?"' Jia said, chatting over coffee one sultry summer evening in the Chinese capital.
Japanese leaders have offered numerous apologies for the suffering caused to Chinese and other Asians by Tokyo's wartime aggression, but many in Asia feel the words ring hollow.
Shioya in Tokyo said he saw no reason why Koizumi or future prime ministers ought not to pay their respects at Yasukuni.
"He goes as an individual, so it shouldn't be a problem. I don't like it when foreigners butt in," he said.
But he added: "If I were Chinese, I guess I'd really be angry."
(Additional reporting by Guo Shipeng)