Anti-Japanese sentiment in China

Anti-Japanese banner in Lijiang, Yunnan 2013. The Chinese reads "Japanese people not allowed to enter, disobey at your own risk."

Anti-Japanese sentiment in China is among the strongest in the world. It is an issue with modern roots (post-1868). Modern anti-Japanese sentiment in China is often rooted in nationalist or historical conflict, particularly in Japan's Japanese history textbook controversies.

Modern Japan seized concessions in areas of China towards the end of the Qing Dynasty. Dissatisfaction with the settlement and the Twenty-One Demands by the Japanese government led to a severe boycott of Japanese products in China. Bitterness in China persists over the Second Sino-Japanese War and Japan's post-war actions. This sentiment may also be at least to some extent influenced by issues related to Chinese people in Japan. According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, Chinese people alike hold the largest anti-Japanese sentiment in the world, with 90% of Chinese people viewing Japan's influence negatively, and only 5% expressing a positive view. Anti-Japanese sentiment in China was at its highest in 2014 since the poll was first conducted in 2006 and was up 16 percent over the previous year.

Effects of World War II

Most reasons for anti-Japanese sentiment in China can be directly traced to the Second Sino-Japanese War, which was one theatre of World War II. As a consequence of the war, China suffered 7 million to 16 million civilian deaths and 3 million military casualties.[1][2] In addition, the war caused an estimated $383.3 billion USD in damage and created 95 million refugees. Manchuria came under Japanese control in 1931 as a state named Manchukuo. Many major cities thereafter, including Nanjing, Shanghai, and Beijing were occupied in 1937 by the Japanese. Notable incidents included the Nanking Massacre. In Manchuria, Unit 731, a medical unit of the Japanese army, researched biological warfare using Chinese civilians as test subjects, who were referred to as human 'logs' in the medical journals. Women from many Asian countries, including China, were made to serve as prostitutes in military brothels (and were often referred to as "comfort women") under Japanese occupation.

Postwar issues

There is deep resentment over the veneration of Japanese war veterans in the Yasukuni Shrine, where a number of war criminals are enshrined, treated as kami or important spirits, and the fact that the shrine openly states that the purpose of Japanese military involvement in Asia was to bring prosperity and liberation to Asians. This is further exacerbated by attempts to whitewash Japan's role in the war in certain school history textbooks, such as by softening some statements and removing others. That some popular media such as comics,[3] books, movies, or documentaries depicting Japanese wartime involvement in atrocities are withdrawn due to nationalist or popular sentiment further contributes to this image. As examples, critics point to the withdrawal of Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking from planned publication and the censorship of scenes of the Nanking Massacre from the Japanese theatrical release of The Last Emperor.[4]

China refused war reparations from Japan[5] in the 1972 Joint Communiqué. Japan gave official development assistance (ODA), amounting to 3 trillion yen ($30 billion USD). According to estimates, Japan accounts for more than 60 percent of China's ODA received. About 25 percent of the funding for all of China's infrastructure projects between 1994 and 1998 — including roads, railways, telecom systems and harbours — came from Japan.[6]

Japanese aid to China was rarely formally publicized to the Chinese people by the Chinese government, until Japan announced that aid was to be phased out. It was finally publicly acknowledged by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao during his April 2007 trip to Japan.[7]

There is a perception among some Chinese that the United States, Japan, and Taiwan are attempting to contain China. Japan's more recent debate to revise Article 9, the "No War" clause, is viewed with suspicion of possible re-militarization. Anti-Japanese sentiment in China is also highlighted by the branding of several prominent Taiwanese politicians (especially those who advocate Taiwan independence) as "Japanese running dogs" by the state-run media.

Contemporary issues

A sign in a Guangzhou restaurant reads "Japanese and dogs are forbidden here." The phrase alludes to a sign in the Shanghai International Settlement which allegedly said "Chinese and dogs are forbidden here."[8] However the sign in Huangpu Park actually listed 10 regulations in English, the first being: "The Gardens are reserved for the Foreign Community", and the fourth being "Dogs and bicycles are not admitted".[9]

Issues from the Second World War continue to generate ill-feeling in China. One issue is Japanese disposal of chemical weapons left in China by Japanese troops at the end of the war. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which came into effect in April 1997, and the Memorandum on the Destruction of Japanese Discarded Chemical Weapons in China, signed on 30 July 1999, required Japan to dispose of an estimated 700,000 abandoned chemical weapons (Japanese estimate). Japan was unable to complete the work on time and requested a five-year extension.[10][11][12]

Chinese plaintiffs suing the Japanese government over accidents caused by the unearthing of poison gas have had difficulty gaining satisfaction from Japanese courts. Forty-three people who were injured in a 2003 accident and five relatives of one who died have been unsuccessful in their claim for 1.43 billion yen (US$11.8 million; €9.1 million), as well as for medical costs and loss of income due to health problems.[13][14] Such issues continue to cause ill-will.

On March 13, 2007, the Tokyo High Court upheld a lower court ruling and rejected compensation claims from four Chinese people who were injured and one whose relative died from being exposed to chemical weapons abandoned by Japan in China at the end of the war. Presiding Judge Hiromitsu Okita said the Japanese government was not liable for death or injury from the weapons, saying it could not have conducted a proper search for weapons in another country. The plaintiffs had sought a combined 80 million yen from the Japanese government. The court said the state was not obligated to conduct a search or to pay damages "because it cannot be said that the defendants could have prevented the outcome" of the death and injuries in the case, according to Japan Times.[15] There were at least 700,000 pieces of chemical weapons Japan buried in China with site information destroyed by Japanese military according to Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[16] Such lawsuits have been filed before,[17] but Japanese courts have rejected most claims filed by individual WWII war crime victims.[18]

In March 2007, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sparked a row over "comfort women." A group of about 120 lawmakers from Abe's governing party want the prime minister to revise the official apology. The lawmakers claim there is no evidence to suggest the Japanese military was directly involved in coercing the women. They said they would present the government with a petition next week demanding a rewrite of the apology, which they consider a stain on Japan's national honor. Abe told reporters in his Tokyo office that he shared the belief that there was no direct proof of the military's involvement. "The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion," he said according to LA Times.[19][20] Abe said the government would cooperate with a study to be conducted by a group of Liberal Democratic party MPs who are sceptical of claims that thousands of Asian women were forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during the Second World War according to Guardian.[21] After the condemnation around the world, Abe made a qualified apology, saying "I express my sympathy for the hardships they suffered and offer my apology for the situation they found themselves in." Abe told the legislature when pressed on what he would say to the aging survivors of the "comfort women" system: "As the prime minister, I am apologizing here" according to LA Times.[22]

Continued visits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine, and the recent approval of a textbook that downplays the Rape of Nanking and the role of sex slaves in the Imperial Japanese Army have further aroused Chinese sentiment. Japan's campaign to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council has met with stiff opposition among Chinese people. The Diaoyu Islands / Senkaku Islands, currently controlled and claimed by Japan, but claimed by both PRC and ROC, continue to be a sticking point and a symbolic focus of anti-Japanese sentiment in China.

The buildup of anti-Japanese sentiment, aided by websites, had been noted by Western media in early 2005. In spring 2005, anti-Japanese demonstrations were organized by anti-Japanese elements in several cities across China. The Internet, including instant messaging services, was used in organizing groups of demonstrators to take part in protests. Many were calling for a boycott of Japanese products. The result was an apology by the Japanese PM. Concern at anti-Japanese sentiment is believed to be behind the decision of Chinese censors to ban the film Memoirs of a Geisha on February 1, 2006. The fact that Chinese actresses played Japanese geisha, often wrongly perceived as prostitutes in China, had caused considerable controversy among some elements of the Chinese population.

There have been several reports that stores, restaurants, public institutions and hospitals in China refuse to serve Japanese customers because Japan has not apologized for the invasion of China.[23][24]

Anti-Japanism at sporting events

Asian Cup 2004

During the Asian Cup 2004, an association football championship held in China, Chinese fans booed the Japanese team during the playing of the Japanese national anthem at matches against several countries, including China. Except for the match against Bahrain, Japanese supporters were instructed by the local police not to use "banners, flags, musical instruments, or wear team uniforms" and were asked to refrain from cheering. The flight to Beijing, the venue of the final match against China, was delayed for two hours due to Chinese protesters at Beijing International Airport. After defending champion Japan defeated China in the final by 3-1, a Chinese protest broke out, and the Japanese ambassador's car was severely damaged.

2007 FIFA Women's World Cup

At the last game of Group A of 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup held in Hangzhou, tens of thousands of Chinese spectators in attendance cheered for the German team and booed the Japanese team vehemently. Japan was defeated by Germany and knocked out of the tournament prematurely. The Japanese players later held up a banner to thank China ("Arigato 謝謝 (Xie Xie) China") at the end of the game while the audience applauded in response. The incident caused minor controversy in China over the Chinese nationalism and anti-Japanese sentiment displayed at the game.[25][26]

The game was originally planned to be held on September 18 when Mukden Incident occurred. Because of the sensitive nature of the date in China, it was held one day earlier.[27]

East Asian Cup 2008

During the East Asian Cup 2008, Chinese fans booed the Japanese team during the playing of the Japanese national anthem again, at the first match for the Japanese team with the North Korean national team in Chongqing on February 17. The attitude of Chinese fans had not improved despite police warnings before the game.[28][29] After the match between the Japanese team and the Chinese national team on February 20, a small group of Chinese fans burnt the Japanese national flag and booed the Japanese team with the derogatory term, xiǎo Rìběn (小日本, "puny Japanese").[30]

Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute

In response to China's claims to a small group of islands owned by Japan between Okinawa and Taiwan, thousands of Chinese citizens staged large anti-Japan protests in China in 2010; many times damaging Japanese brand cars and Japanese businesses. These increasing large demonstrations are organized on internet forums.

In 2012, the Japanese government decided to purchase the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands from a Japanese family. Riots broke out in most Chinese major cities, and Japanese-owned business were smashed. In Shenzhen, the rioting crowd tried to take over a government building, demanding the Chinese government to declare war with Japan. There were multiple reports where people who were using Japanese products were attacked in the public. There was a report that a man in Hainan Province was stabbed to death for saying that Japan may win if a war between China and Japan broke out.

Anti-Japanese education

From elementary school, children are taught anti-Japanese sentiment. For example, thousands of children are brought to the Anti-Japanese War Museum in Beijing by their elementary schools to view photos of war atrocities. After viewing the museum, the children's hatred of the Japanese people is reported to increase.[31]

Anti-Japanese film industry

Anti-Japanese sentiment can be seen in anti-Japanese war films produced and displayed in China. More than 200 anti-Japanese films are made in China each year.[32] In one situation involving a more moderate anti-Japanese war film, the government of China banned 2000's Devils at the Doorstep, because it depicted a Japanese soldier being friendly with Chinese villagers.[31]


Some believe that anti-Japanese sentiment in China is partially the result of political manipulation by the Communist Party of China.[33]

However, the Chinese government at times is also trying to cautiously cool down the anti-Japanese movement, because anti-Japanese riots and attacks have become increasingly common and there are signs showing it is going toward beyond the government's control. In 2012, during an anti-Japanese riot in Shenzhen, the crowd unsuccessfully attacked the city government's administrative building and demanded the government to declare war on Japan. According to this view, Mao Zedong and the Communist party claimed the victory against the Japanese invaders as part of their legacy. Initially, there was no need to resort to anti-Japanese sentiment because the principal enemies of the new country were the United States and later the Soviet Union.

After the failure of the Great Leap Forward and the disruption of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping and other leaders took the country on a path of economic development based on a market economy, without relinquishing the party's grip on political power. The government resorted to nationalism, including an appeal to the CCP's anti-Japanese credentials, to reassert its legitimacy to lead the country and defuse the inevitable tensions that would accompany rapid economic growth.

Today, surveys have shown that anti-Japanese sentiment in China is higher among the current generation than among the Chinese who lived through the occupation of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

Denials of Nanking massacre by public officials in Japan

Japan has constantly denied Nanking Massacre which has upset the Chinese.

In May 1994, Justice Minister Shigeto Nagano called the Nanjing Massacre a "fabrication".[34]

On June 19, 2007, a group of around 100 Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmakers again denounced the Nanjing Massacre as a fabrication, arguing that there was no evidence to prove the allegations of mass killings by Japanese soldiers. They accused Beijing of using the alleged incident as a "political advertisement".[35] [36]

On February 20, 2012, Takashi Kawamura, mayor of Nagoya, told a visiting delegation from Nanjing that the massacre "probably never happened". Two days later he defended his remarks, saying, "Even since I was a national Diet representative, I have said [repeatedly] there was no [Nanjing] massacre that resulted in murders of several hundred thousands of people."[37][38] On April 1, 2013, Kawamura said his position remained unchanged when the issue came up during an election debate.[39]

On February 24, 2012, Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara said that he also believes that the Nanjing massacre never happened. He reportedly claims it would have been impossible to kill so many people in such a short period of time.[40] He believes the actual death toll was 10,000.[41]

On February 3, 2014, Naoki Hyakuta, a member of the board of governors of Japan's public broadcasting company, NHK, was quoted as saying the massacre never occurred.[42] He said that there were isolated incidents of brutality but no widespread atrocity, and criticized the Tokyo Trials figure of 200,000.[43]

See also


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