Despite frosty bilateral ties between China and Japan, there are a number of areas where the two countries actually get along pretty well (tourism and trade being good examples).
Ever since 1972’s normalization of Sino-Japanese relations, the grassroots level of cultural exchanges, especially among younger generations, has consistently been increasing. Youth regularly travel back and forth on exchanges and for education.
On Tuesday August 25, the 34th Japan-China Student Conference closed in Tokyo after its 60 participants from both China and Japan’s higher educational institutions had two weeks of intense dialogue on various topics. As one of the first of this type of academic and student exchange between the countries, this annual conference has served as a platform for younger generations to analyze bilateral ties.
In the same manner, the 京論壇 (Kyorondan/ Jing Forum) was set up 10 years ago as a student-based international organization, and is composed of students from Tokyo University and Peking University, the most prestigious universities of each nation. This year’s participants will be discussing broad topics like bilateral peace, historical recognition and post-war reconciliation in both Beijing and Tokyo from early September.
Such first-hand experiences are expected to give students an opportunity to reconsider the relationship between the two countries based on more than just the common media narratives, which are overwhelmingly negative.
When the Hong Kong Youth Students Japan Visiting Group visited the Chinese embassy in Japan on August 3, Cheng Yonghua (程永华), the Chinese ambassador to Japan, welcomed the students and stated the significance of those student exchanges:
“This year marks the 70th anniversary of anti-Japanese and anti-fascist war victory. If students visiting Japan, through their own eyes, ears, and body, feel and understand how each Japanese truly thinks of the past history, it will be very useful for them to learn the history better.”
In fact, as one of the first Chinese students in Japan sent by the government, Cheng Yonghua himself developed a keen understanding of both nations through his study abroad experience in 1975 at Soka University, the first Japanese university officially accepted Chinese students.
Since then, the acceptance of exchange students between the countries has become widespread, and many students are willing to be the bridge between nations by studying each other’s culture and language. As of May 1, 2014, the total number of Chinese students in Japan stood at 94,399, which is more than half of all the foreign students studying in Japan. And, according to 2012’s stats, China is also the most common place for Japanese students studying abroad, and its number stands at more than 20,000, which is one-third of the whole.
This shows how far one can dedicate oneself to another country