Yoroku: Bridging the divide between Japan and China
In August 1991, Duan Yuezhong, then a reporter for the China Youth Daily, arrived in Japan to be with his wife who was studying here. Two years had passed since the Tiananmen Incident, and his wife suggested that he take a look at Japan through the lens of journalism.
Everything surprised him at first. When he remembered that he'd left his passport and wallet at a phone booth and rushed back, he was shocked to find that they were still there, unstolen. He was taken aback by Japanese media openly criticizing and satirizing the country's politicians. At the same time, he was troubled by the negative emphasis placed on crimes committed by foreign nationals.
In the 22 years that Duan has been in Japan, he has single-mindedly dedicated himself to strengthening Japan-China ties. He puts out a publication introducing the various activities undertaken by Chinese nationals in Japan, and has written some 240 books on the relationship between the two countries. He's held an annual Japanese essay contest for Chinese students since 2005, and has run 300 Japan-China exchange events.
Even to Duan, the state of Japan-China relations is looking grim today, and it's not just the political stalemate that he finds striking. Criticism of Japan is increasing on Chinese-language microblogging sites and Chinese students hoping to study in Japan are fighting parents who don't want them to, while the number of students in Japan learning Chinese has dropped and anti-Chinese sentiment is on the rise.
Still, Duan is not out of ideas for overcoming the current state of affairs, which he recently presented at the Japan National Press Club: step up support for the approximately 600,000 Chinese nationals in Japan, and use them as civilian ambassadors. Invite influential Chinese bloggers to Japan so that they can spread the word about Japan's positive qualities.
There's plenty more we can do, apparently.
Let us follow Duan's lead and bring together ideas toward a breakthrough in bilateral tensions. Here's an idea: how about a Japan-China "bridging" contest? ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)
June 03, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
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