Monday, September 24, 2007

If You Want to Know Who's Afraid of Japan, Take a Look at the Three Nations Survey

Yomiuri has released the results of this year's joint three-nation opinion poll (Japan: Yomiuri; China: 瞭望東方週刊 Liaowang Dongfeng Zhoukan? (Shinghwa Agency) ; South Korea: 韓国日報社 Hanguk Ilbo) taken between August 21 and September 9. Yomiuri on-line has articles centering on environmental concerns and mutual sentiment. The hard copy version has the full results with plenty of commentary in a two-page spread. I don't have the time to give it justice - in a nutshell, it's better all around than last year (July 2006), mainly due to Prime Minister Abe staying away (we think) from the Yasukuni Shrine and Chinese authorities engaging in heavy-duty public communications at home - but one data set not taken up in the articles that made it online struck me as singularly illuminating.

Question: The countries and regions that you think will be a military threat to your nation (multiple answers allowed)

Japan: 1. North Korea (73.6%); 2. China (46.1%); 3. Russia (24.3%)
China: 1. Japan (78.2%); 2. U.S. (75.2%); 3. Taiwan (36.6%)
South Korea: 1. North Korea (71.0%); 2. China (46.6%); 3. Japan (37.5%)

Should 1.3 billion Chinese fear us more than twice as much as 46 million South Koreans do? Amazing what purposeful education and other state propaganda can do over the decades, isn't it?


Tim Footman said...

What threat do the Chinese see coming from Taiwan? A pre-emptive attack of subtle hints about independence? It's as ludicrous as the US's constant paranoia about Cuba.

If China's going to worry about anything, look at the economy, and worry about India.

Jun Okumura said...


Always good to hear from you. I have no idea either. Perhaps some of it is sentimental holdover from the bad old days, when Taiwan and China used to threaten each other to come and take over militarily. A somewhat more plausible scenario for these days (still won't happen, I say, but I don't get to call the shots) is Taiwan declaring independence, the situation heats up, and the US comes to the rescue. That would be a military threat with Taiwan at its heart. Maybe that's what they worry about when they think of a "Taiwanese threat". Think Cuba, but with a still potent but increasingly reluctant USSR behind it.

The Chinese people seem content to let the government worry about the economy, and rightly so, if past performance is what you judge the quality of economic governance by. And the Chinese Communist Party does worry, and worry hard, since that is more and more the sole source of the legitimacy of the proletarian dictatorship. There are the side effects though, and, in the long-run, the likelihood grows that the music will stop and the Communist Party and the bureaucracy be held to task. As for India, what you refer to is, again, basically an economic "threat", as defined by politicians and trade negotiators.

7374e9 said...

Similar to what you said about Taiwan with the US as the guardian angel applies to Japan in my opinion. I agree, it would be irrational to fear a pacifict country but what they fear is the Japan - US military alliance. And to be fair we should view the Communist brainwashing in the context of the cold war with "Communists" vs. the USA.

Another point is the history of relations with Japan even prior to the cold war or WWII. Survey results in Russia ( show that fewer Russians than Chinese perceive Japan as a possible (34%) or definite 13%) military threat (with presumably similar Communist brainwashing in the past). However, the highest percentage of people perceiving Japan as a threat are in the neighboring regions of Khabarovsk and Sakhalin.

Jun Okumura said...

A qualified right-you-are to you, 7374e9. And a shoutout to your cousin, c3po. But shouldn't Japan then get Taiwan numbers, or less? Your point about the Cold War is well taken.

Russia has always feared, continues to fear, China, even though they lost a war mostly recently to Japan, in 1904-05. Collective memories, as well as geography and demographics, are at the source of this anxiety. (Am I preaching to Buddha here?) Still, I find the composite figure for perception of real or potential threat from Japan at 47% exceptionally high. I didn't realize that they even worried about us any more. It's been another three years since MOFA conducted the last survey. I suspect that Russians feel more confident now, given the enormous boost from oil money and President Putin throwing Russian weight around. I hope that MOFA does another one this year. Thank you for your comments, and for the link

7374e9 said...

That's a good one about C-3PO. Although I had to go to wikipedia to get the joke;-)

Going back to that survey once again note that only 1% of Russians have actually visited Japan yet almost 50% feel threatened. Talk about ignorance...

Jun Okumura said...

Remember, during the Cold War, we saw even less of each other.

On a more speculative note, it could be that the historically grounded fear of Asians – Yellow Peril – is being extended to Japan by way of the 94-95. (You never know when those bastards might try a repeat performance…)

And on a somewhat different tangent, I wonder how Russians would be responding to those questions if Yeltsin had been a world-class administrator-politician and used his initial authority to muster all of Russia's formidable resources to build a world-class industrial and financial base. At a minimum, Russia surely had the technological foundation to quickly join China on the global market if it had gotten its act together. Instead, it has become a once sulking, now hulking (if demographically challenged), oil-empowered outlier that increasingly sees itself engaged in a zero-sum struggle against the West. I'm not saying it's Zimbabwe, or even Turkmenistan, but it seems to be taking on some of the unpleasant features of the resource-rich authoritarian Third World state. All or most of its problems are with Europe and the US - the China question lies in the distant future – so we can sit out most of it. I only hope that they turn out to be growing pains.

Leadership really matters, unless you are a status quo nation.