September 21, 2006

Publics of Asian Powers Hold Negative Views of One Another

China’s Neighbors Worry About Its Growing Military Strength

Summary of Findings

There is a good deal of dislike, if not outright hostility, in how the publics of major Asian countries view their neighbors. The deepest divides exist between traditional rivals – roughly seven-in-ten Japanese express an unfavorable view of China and an equal number of Chinese dislike Japan. Similarly, most Indians have an unfavorable view of Pakistan and most Pakistanis hold negative views about India. But there are other divisions as well. Both the Chinese and Japanese express generally unfavorable views of Pakistan, while the Chinese tend to feel negatively toward India as well.

Anxiety about the growing strength of China’s military is nearly universal in Japan. That concern is shared with others among China’s neighbors – large majorities in both Russia and India see this as a threatening trend. The Chinese, however, have a very different view: 95% say their rising military might is a good thing.

In China, much of the antipathy toward Japan is rooted in history – overwhelmingly, the Chinese believe Japan has yet to atone for its militaristic past. Eight-in-ten Chinese (81%) believe Japan has not apologized sufficiently for its military actions during the 1930s and 1940s.

And departing Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, a controversial Shinto shrine that memorializes Japan’s war dead, including Class A World War II war criminals, are viewed very negatively in China.

The latest survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project – conducted in China, India, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States, from March 31-May 14, 20061 – finds that the Japanese and Chinese tend to associate a number of negative characteristics with one another, and tend not to see certain positive traits in one another. Both publics consider the other competitive, as well as greedy and arrogant; neither sees the other as honest or generous.

The Chinese and Japanese publics also hold very different views of their common neighbor, North Korea. Nearly all Japanese have a negative opinion of Kim Jong Il’s country, while in China attitudes toward North Korea tend to be favorable. Majorities in both countries have a positive opinion of South Korea, although a significant minority of Japanese sees the country in a negative light.

Other Major Findings

– A solid majority of the Indian public believes China will replace the U.S. as the world’s dominant superpower at some point in the next 50 years. However, only minorities among the Chinese, Japanese, and Russians agree, as do 43% of Americans,

– As Koizumi prepares to step down, he remains quite popular at home; however he is decidedly unpopular in China.

– The Chinese have very positive feelings about hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics, and they overwhelmingly believe the Games will help improve China’s international reputation.

– In China, a strong majority believes most people are better off now, even if some are rich and some are still poor.

About This Report

The report’s detailed findings are presented below. A description of the Pew Global Attitudes Project can be found at the end of the report, along with a summary of the survey’s methodology and complete topline results.

The Rise of China

China’s economy generates much less concern in the region than does its military. Still, half of Indians (50%) consider China’s growing economy a bad thing for their country, up significantly from 36% in 2005. Roughly four-in-ten Russians (39%) have a negative view of China’s economic strength, a figure basically unchanged from last year. Just over a quarter of Japanese (28%) take a negative view – a perhaps surprisingly low percentage, given the overall negativity of Japanese views toward China. Unsurprisingly, the Chinese themselves see their economic growth in a very positive light.

There is no consensus about the future balance of power between the U.S. and China. Asked when, if ever, China will replace the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower, relatively few respondents think such a transition will take place in the next ten years, although a third (32%) of Indians do believe this. If the time frame is extended to the next 20 or next 50 years, however, many more people see China ascending to this role. Indeed, 43% of Americans and 37% of Chinese join 65% of Indians in saying China will replace the U.S. as the world’s dominant power either in the next 10, 20, or 50 years. Japan is the only country in which a majority (59%) says China will never supplant the U.S.

Antipathy Between China and Japan

Few Chinese and Japanese have a positive impression of the other country. Only one-in-five Chinese (21%) have a favorable view of Japan. Meanwhile, 28% of Japanese have a positive opinion of China, down considerably from 2002 when over half (55%) viewed China favorably.

Moreover, the Chinese and Japanese tend to associate negative characteristics with the people of the other country. In particular, both countries consider the other competitive, greedy, and arrogant. The Japanese are especially likely to say the Chinese are nationalistic and selfish, while the Chinese tend to see the Japanese as male-dominated.

On the positive side, majorities in both countries see the other’s citizens as hardworking. And most Chinese see the Japanese as inventive and modern, although far fewer Japanese see the Chinese this way. In both China and Japan, relatively few characterize people from the other country as sophisticated, tolerant, honest, or generous.

Despite the negative views the Chinese and Japanese have about one another, in neither country does a majority see the other as an adversary – about a third of both the Chinese (33%) and Japanese (31%) think of the other country in this way. However, in Japan, 53% consider China a serious problem, and 34% of Chinese say the same about Japan. In both countries, relatively few say the other is not much of a problem (16% in China, 15% in Japan).

When asked which country in the world poses the greatest danger to their country, most Chinese (58%) say the U.S., while 22% name Japan. The Japanese are roughly divided between those who consider China the biggest threat (39%) and those who feel that North Korea (35%) presents the greatest danger to their country. Nearly one-in-five (18%) Japanese think the U.S. poses the greatest threat to Japan.

Rating Koizumi and Hu

Outgoing Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi remains relatively popular at home, as 61% of Japanese have a lot or some confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs. In China, however, Koizumi receives low marks – 58% say they have either not too much or no confidence in the Japanese leader. The Japanese reciprocate by giving China’s leader an even more negative rating – 71% say they have either not too much or no confidence in Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Elsewhere, 48% of Indonesians have a lot or some confidence in Koizumi, compared with only 26% who have not too much or no confidence in the Japanese leader. They are more divided over Hu: 37% say they have at least some confidence, while 33% have not too much or none.

Indians are divided between those who generally have confidence in Koizumi (30%) and those who do not (30%). Their views about Hu are more negative, with 37% saying they have little or no confidence and 24% voicing at least some confidence in the Chinese leader.

The Legacy of World War II

The belief that Japan has not sufficiently apologized for its military actions in the 1930s and 1940s is widely held in China, but nearly half of the Japanese public also thinks their country has not atoned for World War II. The opinion that Japan’s apology has not been adequate is particularly common among Japanese women (47%) and less common among Japanese age 65 and over (33%).

An ongoing flashpoint for tensions between the two Asian powers has been Prime Minister Koizumi’s regular visits to the Yasukuni Shrine. Chinese opposition to these visits is overwhelming (78% oppose), while the Japanese are divided – 52% support the visits and 45% oppose them.

In Japan, opinions about the Prime Minister’s shrine visits are strongly correlated with how people feel about Koizumi in general: 66% of those who have a lot or some confidence in him support his trips to Yasukuni, compared with only 30% of those who have little or no confidence in him.

To many observers, the shrine visits call to mind Japan’s militaristic past, but the Japanese public shows no signs of abandoning the country’s post-WWII pacifism. Two-thirds (67%) oppose changing Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, written in 1947, which prevents the country from using warfare as an instrument of foreign policy, and at least in theory, prohibits the establishment of an official military.2

Culture and the Economy

Both the Japanese and Chinese are extremely proud of their distinctive cultures. Large and growing majorities in both countries agree with the statement “Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others.” In Japan, 83% agree with this sentiment, up from 73% in 2002. Three-in-four Chinese (75%) say they agree, up from 66% four years ago.3

There is also a strong sense in both countries that their cultures must be protected against outside influences. In Japan, 78% agree with the statement “Our way of life needs to be protected against foreign influence,” a significant increase from four years ago, when 63% felt this way. Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) Chinese agree with this statement, up slightly from 64% in 2002.4

While they may have reservations about the impact of globalization on their culture, the Chinese overwhelmingly embrace the free market reforms that have transformed their country in recent years, even if those reforms have created economic disparities. Fully 77% agree that “Most people have a better life now, even though some are rich and some are still poor.”

Differing Views About Korea

With near unanimity, the Japanese public takes a dim view of North Korea – 97% have a negative opinion of their communist neighbor across the Sea of Japan. In China, however, about half of the public (51%) has a positive view of North Korea and just 31% have an unfavorable view. The Japanese also feel much more threatened by Kim Jong Il’s regime than do the Chinese – 46% of Japanese consider the North Korean government a great danger to stability in Asia and world peace, compared with only 11% in China.5South Korea also receives more favorable marks in China than in Japan. Fully 64% of Chinese have a favorable view of South Korea, while only 18% have a negative view. Meanwhile, most (56%) Japanese also have a positive view of South Korea, but a significant minority (43%) sees the country negatively.

Japan and China also differ over the likelihood of Korean unification. The vast majority of Japanese (71%) say North and South Korea will not be unified in the near future, while 25% think they will. In China, a plurality (39%) say the two Koreas will be unified sometime soon, while 26% say this will not take place, and roughly one-in-three (35%) are unable to offer an opinion.

Olympic Fever in China

The Chinese public is enthusiastic about hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics. Almost unanimously, they believe the Olympics will be a good thing for China (97% good thing, 1% bad thing). And more than nine-in-ten (93%) say the Olympics will help China’s image around the world, while 1% believe the international spotlight will hurt their country’s image, and 3% say it will have no impact.

Of course, the Olympics are already receiving a great deal of attention in China, but a plurality (43%) of Chinese say that it is the right amount of attention. Another 21% say not enough attention is being devoted to the Olympics, while one-quarter (25%) think there is too much focus on the 2008 Games.

U.S.-India Relations

Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and India have grown closer over the last few years, as evidenced by President Bush’s trip to India earlier this year, as well as the recent nuclear agreement between the two countries.6 And these growing ties are reflected in Indian public opinion: 70% of Indians believe relations between their country and the U.S. have improved in recent years, and those who think relations have improved overwhelmingly consider this a good thing.

Meanwhile, four-in-ten (43%) Pakistanis say U.S.-India relations have gotten better, and they are divided over whether this is a positive development. Only 16% of Pakistanis think relations between the U.S. and neighboring India have not improved; 42% are unable to offer an opinion.

Most Indians (62%) have heard about the nuclear agreement between the U.S. and their country, while only 25% of Pakistanis are aware of this. In India, three-quarters (75%) of those who have heard of the nuclear deal approve of it, while in Pakistan the reverse is true – roughly three-quarters (73%) of those who are aware of the deal oppose it.

U.S.-Pakistani Relations

There is no consensus in Pakistan about the direction of U.S.-Pakistani relations – roughly half (49%) say relations have improved in recent years, while 20% believe they have not improved and 30% offer no opinion. The overwhelming majority of those who believe relations have grown stronger believe this is a positive development.

Indians are divided over whether U.S.-Pakistani relations have strengthened in recent years – 40% say they have, 41% believe they have not, and 19% are not sure. Those who think relations have improved tend to consider this a positive trend.