Q&A: How do Ordinary Japanese View China?

With historically tense relations between China and Japan on high display in recent years amid China’s increased assertion of disputed territorial rights in the South and East China Seas, 25-year-old writer Dai Zhengyang decided to organize man-on-the-ground interviews with ordinary Japanese citizens. Dai, who works for a legal office in Beijing and is the author of several published books, wrote up the responses with his signature humor and honesty, and shared the results on Weibo:

Choufengshoudailaoshi (@抽风手戴老湿): Question and answer—This is an edited Q&A. I asked the questions. The translator is my friend from Keio University in , who recorded answers from Japanese people they interviewed. The questions were asked blind—whatever we wanted to ask, we just asked. As for the answers, they are not entirely representative. If I thought they were interesting, I included them here. [Chinese]

CDT has translated in full the questions and answers as posted on Weibo by Dai Zhengyang:

Question 1: Would you like to go to China?

A (36-year-old housewife): ╮(╯∀╰)╭ Nah, I’d like to go to Paris

B (22-year-old student): I guess so, not particularly. If it was free, I’d go.

C (23-year-old student): I hear that they’re still not very friendly to Japanese people. I’m not sure, if it wasn’t too much trouble, of course I’d like to go have a look. What? Why do you ask?  I’m a diehard Three Kingdoms fan. I’d really like to go to Changbanpo.

Question 2: What is your impression of China?

A (32-year-old salaryman): It’s a big country, its government has a lot of influence, it’s a threat to Japan. But at the same time it would be better if we can properly handle the bilateral relationship. Oh, sorry, I’ve avoided the question. My deepest impression of China is that their food is very tasty, but it isn’t safe. I only trust Chinese cuisine from Japan. Imported food makes me nervous. After all, there was the poisoned dumplings incident!

B (29-year-old worker): I have no impression of China. Why on Earth should I have an impression?

C (22-year-old student): Chinese imperialism. My father says that a lot.

Question 3: Do you like any Chinese celebrities?

A (47-year-old business owner): Bruce Lee.

B (32-year-old business owner): Jackie Chan. I also like Zhang Ziyi, ah, and Gong Li. If a bunch of Chinese were here to hear me, would I seem like a yokel?

Question 4: Do you ever check out Chinese websites?

A (24-year-old student): Bilibili and ACfun.

B (22-year-old student): I’ve been to Chinese porn sites.

C (22-year-old student): B-kun and I have logged on together.

Question 5: Could you imagine marrying a Chinese men?

A (22-year-old student): Sure, as long as they have money and are handsome.

B (36-year-old housewife): I’d never thought of it before, but if there was chemistry, we could give it a try.

C (28-year-old female bar singer): I like girls.

Question 6: What Chinese food do you like?

A (38-year-old unemployed man): Dumplings, ramen… Er, ramen is Chinese, right?

B (29-year-old otaku): I like Yanzhou fried rice. I get it for takeout a lot.

Question 7: Would you be willing to marry a Chinese woman?

A (28-year-old worker): Ah, if language wasn’t an obstacle, definitely. If she were beautiful, even better.

B (29-year-old factory worker): If she were willing. But I hear that Chinese women are very picky these days.

Question 8: Many Chinese youth like manga. What do you think about that?

A (22-year-old student): Well, that shows that Japanese cartoons are pretty good. China has the talent but they don’t put it to use. Isn’t that a waste?

B (22-year-old student): A-kun, you don’t know shit! China has censorship! And China simply hasn’t yet found its own way. Just wait, I think they will someday. What, you ask why I know so much? I’m a Chinese student studying in Japan. Stupid cunt!

Question 9: Do you like Chinese literature?

A (36-year-old executive): I really like classical Chinese literature. For modern literature, I know Mo Yan.

B (26-year-old worker) : Generally, but I don’t really pay much attention to modern Chinese authors. I know Jin Yong. I like martial arts books.

Question 10: If a Chinese person came to Japan, would you bully them?

A (32-year-old city resident): How can you ask that? Chinese gangs do damn well in Japan.

B (29-year-old city resident): No way. Even though Japanese are a bit cold and detached, there’s no way they’d do something so unfriendly.

C (32-year-old city resident): If it were some special circumstance, like a sporting event, or the lowest rung of society. I hear there are a lot of prostitutes coming from China. That doesn’t turn out so well. And there are, like, illegal immigrants. Sigh…

Question 11: Do you like Chinese films? Can you name a few?

A (30-year-old cultural researcher) : “Farewell My Concubine,” and also “Devils on the Doorstep” (proud), very moving, especially the latter. Although the political view I didn’t like very much, it did make me think a lot. I especially liked Teruyuki Kagawa, he acted well.

B (24-year-old company employee): Ah, I haven’t seen any. Right, I watched “Red Cliff.” Lin Chi-ling. Was my pronunciation correct?

Question 12: How do you see the future of relations with China?

A (28-year-old, didn’t want to say his job): War.

B (25-year-old company employee) : There will be some friction, which could lead to war.

C (33-year-old company executive): I’m not sure, but they should be able to settle it.

Question 13: If one day Japan needed to go to war, would you join?

A (24-year-old company employee) : I don’t like war, what’s wrong with peace?

B (22-year-old student): No way, I’m my family’s only son. And what would I be fighting for? The government?

C (17-year-old high school student): I’m not sure. Maybe I would, but my parents would be heartbroken.

Question 14: Do you have any suggestions for China?

A (22-year-old student): Looking at the news, it seems that corruption is always serious. I don’t know if China can fix it.

B (22-year-old student): China should protect the environment. My sister went to Beijing, she said the smog was extraordinary. Anything further than five meters looked like Silent Hill.

C (32-year-old housewife): I don’t know what advice I could offer, but I always hope we can all just be happy.

Question 15: What is the most annoying thing about China?

A (24-year-old company employee): Definitely its attitude, its approach to its neighbors. Seems as though it treats everyone as an enemy.

B (19-year-old student): I don’t like how China steals everything, our cartoons, movies, TV series. If they don’t buy the rights, it goes to China. Also mobile games, etc., China doesn’t have any regulations.

C (30-year-old company employee): Everything’s annoying. Everything about Japan is also annoying. Ah, super annoying, why do you even ask this question? Don’t tell me it’s to solve a problem. Useless, everything is useless.

Question 16: How do you view the current special status of Taiwan and Hong Kong under China?

A (28-year-old researcher): This is the my topic of my research.In my opinion, at least, Taiwan and Hong Kong are perhaps signposts for China’s ongoing selective experiments, providing two models for the mainland to advance, and to a certain extent arriving at the function of these experiments. As soon as one model succeeds, it can be popularized on the mainland.

Note: My skills are limited. I don’t know if the translation is correct, but either way I wrote it. 

B (24-year-old cultural practitioner): I’ve never considered Taiwan and Hong Kong to be parts of China. They have a higher degree of freedom.

C (26-year-old employee): Japan also plays a role in the Taiwan question.

Question 17: Do you prefer the United States or China?

A (32-year-old housewife): U.S.

B (17-year-old high school student): U.S.

C (19-year-old female university student): U.S.

Question 18: Which country do you most dislike? Could it be China?

A (32-year-old worker): Arg, this question. Probably I most dislike North Korea. Their leaders seem pretty stupid.

B (22-year-old university student): I don’t like China. Don’t ask me why.

C (25-year-old cultural researcher): I don’t like Korea, I don’t like the U.S., and I also don’t like China. Without a doubt I most dislike Korea.

Question 19: Are there a lot of opportunities to understand China in Japan?

A (24-year-old factory worker): Yes, because there are always so many China-focused programs on TV, on its politics, culture, etc.

B (25-year-old cartoonist): Yes, I can read books on China, search for inspiration. Actually, Japanese media pays close attention to China.

C (33-year-old housewife): China. If they played more of their TV shows, wouldn’t it be a bit better?

Question 20: If you could turn into a Chinese person, who would you want to be?

A (32-year-old white collar): Fuck, I want to be Cao Cao!

B (19-year-old female university student): I don’t know, I’d become some Chinese movie star or something. Or maybe an imperial consort in the old days, that’d be cool!

C (22-year-old university student): Xi Jinping.

Question 21: Do you like Chinese music? Are there any Chinese singers that you especially like?

A (34-year-old white collar, male) : Tengger!

Note: When we continued to ask this how he knew Tengger, this Japanese man silently left, leaving behind only a view of his proud, aloof backend.

B (21-year-old university student): I like Chinese classical music, for example the kind with drums. I saw the opening ceremony of the Olympics, those drums were awesome.

C (61-year-old musician): I like Chinese traditional music, especially in the style of Peking opera. Very unique, I really like it.

Question 22: Do you know 56 Flowers? They’ve said they are influenced by girl group AKB48, appealing to feelings of nationalism, spreading positive energy

A (22-year-old university student): Hmmm? No way. You’re saying they and AKB48 are alike? My god, can they help your country have elections? You Chinese are really good at what you’re doing 66666.

B (30-year-old book store manager): But Japan’s AKB48 isn’t only 48 people. But for real, I think there’s no way this type of propaganda can attract young people.

C (29-year-old teacher) Ha ha ha ha ha, that’s insane. Their shows in China are the same as a Japanese group? Aren’t there a bunch of Party members backing them up? Are they going to have a handshake event? Ha ha ha ha, I want to see that.

Question 23: Antagonism between is in a lot of Chinese art, including TV series on the War of Resistance Against Japan, and some online novels (similar to Japanese light novels) depicting China annihilating Japan and so on. What do you think?

A (17-year-old high school student): That’s common. Do you know “The Irregular at Magic High School”? I’ve also seen stuff where Qin Shi Huang is resurrected and attacks China. It’s all just nonsense, hee hee.

B (32-year-old cultural researcher): I asked a friend to bring me some anti-Japanese TV shows for my research. I found that they really had no research value. It was a waste of time.

C (33-year-old fish shop manager): The Chinese Empire has never given up its desire to conquer us!

Question 24: If you were given the chance, what question would you raise with an inhabitant of China?

A (32-year-old bookseller): I heard a lot of people in China play League of Legends. What level are you all at?

B (21-year-old female university student): Are there a lot of nijikon in China? They can’t be the same as our otaku. Ugh, it seems like a tricky question, sorry.

C (45-year-old worker): Can your economy take a turn for the better?

Question 25: If you could get one thing from China, what would you wish for?

A (23-year-old webmaster, female): I’d want a mainland BL novel. I think one written in Chinese characters would be pretty cool.

B (22-year-old male university student): I’d want a pot for frying delicious Chinese food.

C (24-year-old white collar worker): A girl.

Question 26: Do you have much daily exposure to Chinese people?

A (19-year-old university student) A lot, a lot. On campus there’s this one friend, he teaches me all kinds of Chinese dirty words! Want me to demonstrate for you? No? OK, nevermind.

B (32-year-old white collar worker): My company has long cooperated with a firm in Shanghai, so for a long time I’ve been studying Chinese. But, when I got to Shanghai, I discovered that the locals don’t speak Chinese, they speak a type of strange local dialect. Chinese dialects are too difficult, some of them sound super complex.

C (45-year-old drummer): No contact, but my album collection has some Chinese discs.

Note: During the interview, this friend went to a bar run by a drummer. We saw his CD collection. He had one album by Deng Lijun and one by Cui Jian.

Question 27: What do you think of the differences in Chinese and Japanese interpretations of history?

A (16-year-old high school student): I definitely don’t believe everything I read in the textbooks. I only believe what I’ve actually gone through. In my opinion, a Japanese history textbook is not necessarily reality.

B (26-year-old novelist): There are so many problems between China and Japan. It can’t be explained simply. Regarding China and my country’s rhetoric, I don’t really believe either. Actually, I wish another, reliable country would comment!

C (33-year-old imported fruit store owner): My wife is Taiwanese. In her words, I seem to see a different Japan and China, but right now I don’t want to express those views because it’s not fair to her.

Question 28: What is your favorite Chinese dynasty?

A (55-year-old library manager): Tang.

B (22-year-old career counselor): Tang.

C (32-year-old media worker): Three Kingdoms. Ought to call it the Eastern Han.

Question 29: How do you view the current state of Sino-? Do you think that the viewpoints of the two countries conflict?

A (29-year-old mailman): On the surface relations are good, but underneath there are many problems. After all, we’re so close, but our people’s ways of thinking are so distant! I think it would be good if we focus on common ground, but overall the situation is a mess.

B (36-year-old history teacher): Not very good. Both government and human relations seem to have a lot of barriers. We should try to be friends, or at least have friendly relations. When we look at China, or when they look at Japan, there’s a lot of media, a lot of TV, that can affect our views. But it’s best to go out on your own and see what the other place is really like.

Question 30: This isn’t really a question, but I want to leave it here as a conclusion.

In the course of our interviews, there was a 42-year-old man from Tokyo engaged in cultural work who answered the questions like everyone else. But he had something else to say, and he wrote it in the blank space on the questionnaire.

There are 1.4 billion people living in China, and that number continues to increase. A large population limits the spread of affluence. China needs a lot of things: resources, culture, wealth, and so on. In order to better their own people’s lives, they are overbearing and unreasonable on the international stage. China is a complex country, and its rise can greatly undermine the balance of supply and demand. Whether it’s Japan or the U.S., people probably won’t like it.

Speaking frankly, I don’t really like China. But according to official figures, this country is trying to let over a billion people have a better life. No matter how political parties see it, or how the regime changes, this must be realized. Because the people of this country have the exact same wish.

This seems to be almost a parody, something that cannot be achieved. But, it is also an incomparably great goal. [Chinese]