China and the World

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National Day ad enrages netizens but Sino-Japanese ties look brighter

Tanks for the memories

China’s internet community is particularly peeved by last week’s ‘Toshiba’ incident.

The problem was that the Japanese firm’s billboard was clearly visible during last Thursday’s live broadcast of the National Day Parade. It even got a 10 second background showing as President Hu Jintao reviewed the troops from his open-topped Red Flag limo.

China’s netizens are rather thin-skinned when it comes to Japan, so the reaction has been a sharp one. There has even been muttering about collusion, with claims that CCTV executives must have pocketed colossal amounts for such unpatriotic advertising.

Still, the sight of 151 military planes, 500 army vehicles, 8,000 soldiers and 55 new weapons systems all rolling down Chang’An Avenue did not go unnoticed in Tokyo either.

In the wake of the parade, the Nikkei newspaper noted that China “is on track to be acknowledged as a great power”, but cautioned that, at the same time, “other nations are beginning to feel threatened.”

In a separate article, the same newspaper threw a few brickbats at the Chinese celebrations.

“The all-out propaganda blitz is no assurance that the Communist Party can continue its single-party rule for another 60 years, and in fact there is a growing sense that the party could soon be over for the party.”

Nikkei’s reasoning? “Bureaucratic corruption, riots by farmers and revolts by ethnic minorities are not problems unique to the current rulers of China, but repeating themes in Chinese history and factors in the decline of dynasties. Why did the so-called Self-Strengthening Movement of reforms during the late Qing Dynasty fail? One theory making the rounds on the internet attributes the failure to corruption and revolt by the masses and warns that this is a lesson for the current ruling Communist Party.”

But if the Nikkei’s tone is a little spiky, the irony is that relations between Japan and China’s “ruling party” have probably never been better. Japan’s new prime minister Hatoyama Yukio is also proposing an East Asian Community, similar to the EU. South Korea would get an invite too, and Chinese foreign minister Yang Jiechi is said to back the idea in principle.

Relations do seem to be improving. “I think it’s going to get better. It’s already gotten better in the last few years, but it will get better,” Columbia University’s Japan expert, Gerald Curtis told the China Beat blog. One reason seems to be Hatoyama’s view on the so-called “history issue” of Japan’s behaviour during the Second World War and the years leading up to it. Curtis says Hatoyama is regarded as more “heartfelt” in accepting there is a record to answer for, and that the Chinese appreciate that this stance makes him different to many previous leaders.

There is no question that both nations have much to gain if they can bury the bad blood of the past.

Japanese companies in particular are excited by the China market and its growth opportunities, which contrast to those in Japan’s own moribund domestic market.

Komatsu, for example, recently released results showing that revenues from China had eclipsed home sales for the first time. The construction firm is unlikely to be the last company to make such an announcement


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