Chinese chat circle bridges distrust

The Japan Times


Tokyo's Sunday Language circle …

South China Moming Post


Weekly Chinese-language gathering in Tokyo …

The Japan Times




Good for the Soul

China's National English News Weekly


Love for anime in China

The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun



Amid strained ties, record number of Chinese students compete
in Japanese essay contest

The Asahi Simbun




Yoroku: Bridging the divide between Japan and China

Mainichi Japan


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)

Click here for the original Japanese story


People Speak Up Over Disputed Islands

Participants of Duan Yuezhong’s Chinese language class conducted in a local park.

Credit:Suvendrini Kakuchi/IPS



TOKYO, Sep 29 2012 (IPS) - While the 40th anniversary of the normalisation of Japan-China relations passed under a dark shadow of rising tensions and bitter territorial disputes in East Asia, a strand of citizen-based diplomacy at the grassroots level is emerging in Japan as a path towards regional reconciliation.

Sabre rattling between Japan and its neighbours ? namely its primary economic competitors, China and South Korea ? reached new heights at the United Nations General Assembly currently underway in New York when Chinese president Hu Jintao dismissed Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiko Noda’s claims to a disputed chain of islands as “illegal and invalid”.

The uninhabited archipelago in the East China Sea, which may shelter large deposits of natural gas, are known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan, Diayou in China and the Tiaoyutai Islands in Taiwan.

The possibly resource-rich cluster that lies below Japan’s southernmost island of Okinawa has long been a major bone of contention between China and Japan, with Taiwan, too, laying claim to the territory.

The Japanese government’s proposal to buy the islands from a private owner sparked a wave of protest across 50 cities in China earlier this month.

The violence, which included the destruction of several Japanese establishments, forced a number of staff members to relocate back to Japan, while hundreds of Japanese tourists cancelled their visits to China.

The Senkaku Islands were not the only source of conflict at the U.N. this week. On Thursday, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak rejected Noda’s vow to protect Japan’s sea and land space ? an obvious reference by the latter to the dispute with South Korea over ownership of Takeshima, a pair of rocky islets known in Korean as Dokto.

A street poll conducted by the Tokyo-based Nippon Broadcasting Corporation this month indicated the Japanese public wants the government to take a stronger stance in these territorial disputes, particular where South Korea is concerned.

East Asia political experts here view these tensions as a further threat to the rocky bilateral relations that have existed since diplomatic ties were established with China in 1972 and with South Korea in 1965.

But a growing number of concerned citizens are convinced that grassroots efforts and local diplomacy can help defuse tensions between the agitated neighbours.

These concerned voices are calling for a cooling down of the situation in an attempt to prevent mutual economic losses, trade boycotts or suffocation of the free flow of students, professionals, artists and information between the various countries.

A citizens’ movement for change?

Duan Yuezhong, a Chinese national living in Tokyo, is very dedicated to this movement. Undeterred by political hot-headedness, he is conducting a discussion group for the Japanese public.

“Nothing can stop my efforts in Japan towards a citizen-based approach to nurture closer ties between China and Japan. To withdraw now is to give up on the future,” he told IPS.

Yuezhong, a former journalist in China, has spent almost two decades in Japan. He owns a publishing company that prints books specialising in Japan-China relations and also conducts popular Chinese-language classes at a local park.

Yuezhong has great faith in the fledging citizen’s movement that highlights the need for political restraint and the importance of objective negotiations between countries.

Akiko Ozaki, a Japanese businesswoman who set up a travel agency in China two years ago, echoed these sentiments. She appealed to participants of her annual tour to Dalian, a major port city in the northeast of China, to go ahead with their visit scheduled for next month.

“My tour may survive. For ordinary people like us who have developed close business ties with China it is very difficult to throw away (our) hard work because of political (stubbornness),” she told IPS.

While economic ties have cemented East Asia as a formidable bloc ? China has now overtaken the United States to become Japan’s top trading partner ? mistrust is deep-rooted due to Japan’s history of colonisation in the region.

“There is a huge perception gap when it comes to understanding Japanese colonisation in all the three countries,” according to professor Masao Okonogi, an expert on Japan-Korea relations at Kyushu University.

“Against the growing international clout of China and South Korea, Japan must seek to put the past behind it,” he explained.

In an effort to do just this, Okonogi participated in several joint study programmes on history that took place on an annual basis between Japan and South Korea until the project was disbanded two years ago.

“Political interference on both sides dealt a severe blow to crucial attempts to foster a deeper sense of mutual understanding of the historical past but we must persevere,” he explained.

Yoichi Tao, scientist and manager of Global Voices ? a website that hosts a myriad opinions including those of Chinese and Korean students in Japan ? says space for wider debate on differences between Japan and its East Asian neighbours is crucial.

“Pursuing economic development has pushed the vital importance of bridging (misunderstandings) to the back burner. The latest upheaval has (proven) that the economy alone does not bring stability in East Asia,” he told IPS.

Kao Hui Fen, a Taiwanese national in Tokyo, cannot agree more. Fen says after fifteen years in Japan she has become more outspoken about Japanese colonisation of her country, an approach that has not caused her problems.

“I tell my Japanese friends that colonisation is bad. They do not respond angrily and some are even willing to discuss the past objectively,” she said.

Tao believes that sharing honest opinions at the civilian level can weaken conservative and narrow political agendas that have long divided Japan and its closest Asian neighbours.

“People can lead the way forward in East Asia where emotional historical issues have bogged us down for too long,” he said.



Japan and China:/ Boosting the Bonds of Friendship

BY The Japan JournalVol.7



Neighbors' ties warming up like spring season
By Li Xiaokun
Updated: 2008-02-21 07:22

China-Japan relations are entering a warm season just as spring follows winter, experts say.

President Hu Jintao's visit to Japan during the "cherry blossom season" will be preceded by the publication of the Chinese edition of Wen Jiabao, Pitcher No 35 in Japan.

The book, to be published about one month before Hu's visit, has many interesting anecdotes from the Chinese premier's ice-thawing visit to Japan last spring.

The interaction Wen had with the Ritsumeikan University baseball team and his cultural exchanges with the Japanese public are among the highlights of the book, according to its Tokyo-based publisher, Duan Press.

Duan Press chief editor Duan Yuezhong told China Daily that the book shows the other side of Wen, who has the ability to mix with ordinary people in the most casual and mundane manners. And that is a genuine and touching aspect of his character.

"For example, Wen had his own sport suit for the baseball game, but when the university team's coach gathered enough courage to ask the premier if he would like to wear the one they had made for him, he accepted it," Duan said.

"The most interesting point is that the coach couldn't speak Chinese. We don't even know how they communicated."

The name of the book comes from the number on the jersey Wen wore, which initially sparked a hot debate among Japanese Foreign Ministry officials.

"Number 8, which is most favored by the Chinese, and numbers 6, 9 that symbolize good fortune had all been discussed. Finally, the two countries agreed on No 35 (because) that represented the 35th anniversary of the normalization of Sino-Japanese relations," the book says.

Wen brought back the outfit to Beijing, and wore it again during the baseball practice he had with visiting Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda in December.

Tokyo-based Koki International Company's chairman Li Xiaoyan, who initiated the idea for the book, said: "Premier Wen took part in the baseball game with Japanese college students with sincerity. This is a touching story beyond age, position, language and national boundaries."

After conducting interviews with a host people for six months, the Japanese edition of the 140-page reportage was published in December 2007, with its cover depicting a smiling Chinese premier in baseball suit.

The response of readers has been overwhelming, said Duan Yuezhong. Many people bought this book as a New Year gift for friends and some schools are even using it as a textbook to promote China-Japan cultural exchanges.

"The book has also been read widely by officials of both the countries' foreign ministries, and the response from them has been excellent," he said.




China, Japan in talks over Fukuda's visit
By Le Tian
Updated: 2007-12-19 07:11

China and Japan are actively making preparations for Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda's upcoming visit, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said yesterday without confirming media reports that the four-day trip is set to start on December 27.

"Prime Minister Fukuda expressed his hope of visiting China late this year or early next year. The two sides are actively discussing the issue. Once the date is fixed, we will release the information in due course," Qin told a regular news briefing.

Japanese media yesterday quoted government sources as saying Fukuda was to make his first visit to China as prime minister on December 27 - three months after taking office - to reaffirm with Chinese leaders the goal of strengthening collaboration in the economic, energy and environmental fields.

It will be the first visit by a Japanese prime minister since Fukuda's predecessor Shinzo Abe visited Beijing on his first prime ministerial foreign visit in October last year.

Fukuda is considering visiting Qufu, the hometown of Confucius, and other Chinese cities during his four-day visit, Japanese media reports said.

In foreign ministerial-level talks between the two sides in Beijing this month, Japanese officials expressed the hope that a resolution to long-lasting disputes over gas exploration in the East China Sea would form the centerpiece of Fukuda's visit.

Fukuda held talks with Premier Wen Jiabao in Singapore last month on the sidelines of Southeast Asian summits; and Beijing and Tokyo also hope to schedule a visit by President Hu Jintao to Japan next spring.

(China Daily 12/19/2007 page2)




Bridging the Gap/ Speaking up for Chinese expats in Japan


This is part of a series of interviews in which people with wide cross-cultural experience in Japan and China discuss their work, problems and hopes for the future.

Duan Yue Zhong was working as a senior editor at one of China's most influential newspapers when he gave it up to join his wife in Japan.

That was 15 years ago, and now Duan runs a publishing business in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district. In the time he has lived here, he has seen the relationship between Japan and China become more tense than it has been in decades.

Duan, 48, puts out a newsletter covering activities by Chinese expatriates and has published more than 130 books. He has also become something of an unofficial spokesman for the Chinese community of Japan.

"There are so many accumulated exchanges between our two countries over the last 30 years, but the problem is that they have not directly translated into better mutual understanding," Duan said. "I want to help Japanese people know what's happening in the Chinese community.

"Take my neighborhood, the Ikebukuro district, for example. I have done some research on Chinese who graduated from [the area's] Rikkyo University, and I've found out some of them now hold senior government posts in China.

"Ikebukuro has good Chinese bookstores, many Chinese-language publications, Chinese-run Internet cafes and restaurants, so this should be promoted in an organized way."

Duan currently is preparing to set up a study group to promote the concept of an Ikebukuro Chinatown. He has gotten some officials of Rikkyo University on board along with local politicians, shop owners and community members, Duan said.

Duan, who worked for the state-run China Youth Daily before coming to Japan 15 years ago, made a name for himself here in the late 1990s when he published the "Data Book of Chinese." The publication, the first of its kind in Japan, listed about 10,000 Chinese in Japan, including business people, academics and journalists. It also has 50,000 entries about business here. The book was the product of six years collecting information from newspapers, magazines and other published material.

His small publishing house, Nihon Kyohosha (The Duan Press), specializes in books on Japan-China relations. Many of the books are by Chinese authors and have been translated into Japanese. Duan decided to set up the company in 1999 as an extension of a monthly magazine on Chinese expatriates he had started as a graduate student in Niigata Prefecture.

He also puts out a weekly e-mail magazine about Chinese expatriates in Japan, and updates his Web site duan.exblog.jp/> nearly every day. The blog covers a wide range of events related to bilateral affairs.

It is in Japan, the journalist and publisher says, that he enjoys the greatest freedom to publish.

"I would not be allowed to publish books freely on delicate subjects related to bilateral ties [in China] because there is not yet much freedom of speech in China," said the Hunan province native.

The business doesn't always pay enough to support his wife and two children, and Duan occasionally puts in stints teaching Chinese language at universities to supplement his income.

"Distribution is a major headache because major distributors do not deal with a small company like mine," Duan said. "The Internet is now a major sales tool."

Duan was 33 with no knowledge of Japanese when he first came here in 1991.

"Since my Chinese wife was studying at a Japanese university, she asked me to come to live in Japan for one year, which was my original plan," he said. His bosses at the China Youth Daily granted him a year's leave from work.

"Since I was a journalist, my interest naturally turned to the Chinese-language media in Japan, which then helped me get interested in activities by Chinese residents in Japan," Duan said.

In the end, he decided to stay in Japan to earn a doctorate at Niigata University, writing his thesis on the history of contemporary Chinese who studied in Japan.

As a key exchange project, he is promoting a Japanese-language essay contest for Chinese and a Chinese-language version for Japanese, both of which are now in their second year.

In March, he made a set of proposals to promote mutual understanding between the two countries.

One of them is to create a new discussion forum for politicians from both countries who have experience studying in each other's country. He is personally contacting individual politicians and organizations involved in Japan-China exchanges to seek support for the idea. "I am getting some positive feedback and I am hopeful we will be able to establish the forum next year."

But his personal campaign for better mutual understanding sometimes looks like a drop in the bucket. Hostilities between Japan and China have flared in recent years over issues such as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine, where war criminals are honored along with the rest of Japan's war dead, and over textbooks criticized by China as whitewashing Japan's militarist past.

"The worse the situation becomes, the more effort I should make," Duan said. "I am sure the more people understand the history of the relationship, the more we can understand each other."(IHT/Asahi: May 15,2006)





Publisher becomes expat expert for immigrant community

The Japan Journal



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