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Ding Gang: Globalization’s role in China-Japan relations


By Ding Gang    Source: Global Times    Published: 2018-4-18

Since the middle of 2017, China-Japan relations have been improving, but fundamental problems still exist and relations between the two countries remain uncertain.

You can read this judgment in all the Chinese media, a view based on the status quo of the political and economic relations of the two countries.

Apart from the political and the economic, is there any change at the social or cultural level? Let me tell you something not included in the dialogue between officials and diplomats of both nations.

The number of player registrations for the Chinese mobile phone game Azur Lane in Japan exceeded 2 million at the end of last year.

The Japanese mobile game Tabi Kaeru, or Traveling Frog, was released in November. By the end of February, 9.5 million Chinese users had downloaded it. "Are you raising a frog?"and "Where is the frog you are raising?" are common vernacular in some Chinese WeChat groups.

The Chinese version of Haruki Murakami`s new novel Killing Commendatore was released in February this year with a first print run of 700,000 copies.

A Japanese novel based on the Chinese classic Outlaws of the Marsh sold 10 million copies last year in Japan.

More than 10 million Chinese and Japanese people traveled to each other`s country last year.

The political relationship may have hit a bumpy road, but thanks to globalization the scope and scale of Sino-Japanese exchanges are now very different from those of the past.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship. It is also the year of Haruki Murakami in China. Chinese readers and fans still remember his first novel Norwegian Wood published 30 years ago. The Chinese version of his new book Killing Commendatore is going to be one of the most widely circulated foreign novels in China.

The publication of this book in China attracted attention from Chinese media on the author`s attitude to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. Murakami`s novel has drawn criticism from rightists in Japan.

Murakami acknowledges the Nanjing massacre as an atrocity. It seems that he is thinking about human nature in war and the humanitarian disaster caused by war. Humanity and human nature are Murakami`s primary concerns. The book became popular in China by resonating especially with younger Chinese readers, as reflected in the online comments.

After World War II, Jewish scholars studied the crimes against humanity that took place at the concentration camps like Auschwitz, laying the foundation for Holocaust research.

Murakami is of course an anti-rightist. However, his book should be viewed beyond the anti-rightist perspective to help us understand changes in Japanese social ethos, especially the younger generation`s perception of the war and their predecessors in that war.

The mobile games I mentioned above also reflect this change.

The modern thinking of the younger generation in both countries has generated in-depth interactions never seen before. There are resonances, collisions and mutual support, misunderstanding and sometimes exchanges where it is difficult to distinguish between who is Chinese or who is Japanese.

Globalization is not just about political and economic relations. Mutual understanding and a common reflection on war are in step with the rapid growth of the younger generation`s direct contacts from travel, reading the same books and playing the same mobile games. This is the background for a gradual improvement of Sino-Japanese relations.

The author is a senior fellow with the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.

Key Words: China   Japan   globalization   Ding Gang  

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