Devils, Ministers, and Miniskirts: Japan and its Foreign Minister in the Chinese Media, Sept/Oct 2009

It appears that the Chinese government is eager to move forward into a somewhat mutually supportive relationship with the Democratic Party of Japan and the new Hatoyama government in Tokyo.  And therefore, along with the CCP’s desire to project a proud and confident ethos among the masses in the leadup to the big “patrio-gasm” of October 1, negative coverage of Japanese right wing or strange aspects of Japan have been downplayed in the Chinese press.  The CCP hasn’t been putting Japan on page one, but the Chinese seem glad to see the accession to power of a new ruling party after the LDP, party of the CCP’s existential foe Kishi Nobusuke, was finally banished from the executive branch of Japan’s government.

Thus we get an extensive interview in the Huanqiu Shibao (via Phoenix) with the Japanese Foreign Minister on September 30.  Phoenix news is not really affiliated with the CCP, although, in the interests of doing business with the biggest population chunk of “Greater China,” the company is now headquartered in Shenzhen.

To my knowledge, this interview isn’t available elsewhere in English (Phoenix, regrettably, has no English-language service).

A few excerpts from the interview follow:

日本新外长接受中国媒体访问 称会正视过去 — “Japan’s New Foreign Minister Gives Interview to Chinese Media; Says [It is] Possible [for Japan] to Face History”*

*The operative verb in this title is zhengshi 正视, which is a key heavily-loaded and somewhat untranslatable concept in Chinese political discourse toward Japan.  It means something like “truly see,” or “see correctly,” with a kind of implication or homophone of “set straight.”  Somewhat better is the German version of the term: “etwas fest ins Auge sehen” which means “to look at something directly in the eyes” or the French “regarder quelque chose en face” (“to look and face something”).  Really the clearest equivilent would be the German concept of Vergangensheitbewältigung, or “overcoming of the past [through facing it].”

Xinhua’s prelude: 中广网北京9月30日消息 日本外交大臣冈田克也在上海接受了凤凰卫视专访,这是日本外长上台之后首次接受中国媒体的专访。冈田克也表示,新政府非常看重与中国的关系,将扎实地推进 两国发展。 冈田克也在过去的15年内,曾经到中国20次左右,他被看作是中日两国关系发展的一个关键的人物。在专访中,他首次发表了今後的对华外交政策。

On Sept. 30, Japanese Foreign Minister Okada gave an interview in Shanghai to Phoenix TV, his first interview to Chinese media since taking the stage as Foreign Minister.  Okada stated that his government highly regarded relations with China, [hoping for] the steady advancement of both countries’ development. In the last 15 years, Okada has been to China about 20 times, and is thus has been a key personage in the development of Sino-Japanese relations.  This is the first publication in which he puts forth [Japan's] foreign policy toward China.

Okada surveying election results, August 2009 -- via Straits Times
Okada surveying election results in Tokyo, 2009; via Straits Times

[Reporter] 记者:当年你反对小泉参拜靖国神社大家记忆犹新,所以民众期待这次新政府上台,中日关系会朝积极方向发展。请您 谈一下新政府对华的具体外交政策是什么? We all remember how last year you opposed [then-Japanese Prime Minister] Koizumi’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine, and now, because the people have welcomed your new government to the stage, Sino-Japanese relations can look toward developing in a proactive direction.  Can I ask you a bit about the new government’s total policy toward China?

[Okada] 冈田:鸠山首相经常说,要面向过去,面向未来。所以我们的想法是,建立一种新型关系,我们就是抱着这样一种看法看待中日关系的。我们觉得中日关系要在这种 信赖的关系上,进一步向前推进。Hatoyama frequently says, we have to look to the past, [have to] look to the future.  So we think that, in order to establish a new form of relations, that we need to incorporate this thought into Sino-Japanese relations.  We feel that Sino-Japanese relations will be relations of trust, and can take a step forward.

[Reporter] 记者:您可否着重谈下跟以前的政府会有什么区别?Can you or can you not talk a bit about your differences with the previous government?

[Okada] 冈田:二战后,民主党首次通过选举取代了自民党旧政权,我们不会受到过去的束缚,会采取一些新政 策。</strong>当然,自民党里也有各种各样的想法,但民主党的想法是,我们有勇气面对过去,然后就是面 向未来。我知道中日两国关系很重要,两国之间可能有很多很多的事情需要考虑,比如经济问题,人员交流问题,环境问题,这些 我们都需要积极面对。在亚洲地区,我们联起手来,发挥主导作用推动地区发展。 After the Second World War, the Democratic Party was originally the first [name] of the old Liberal Democratic Party, but we are not bound by this past, and can take a few new policies.  Naturally, in the Liberal Democratic Party there were a few ideas, but these were not Democratic Party ideas; we have courageously faced history, and afterwords faced the future.  I know that Sino-Japanese relations are very important, that the two countries can have many many things that we need to consider, such as economic issues, people-to-people exchange issues, environmental issues; these are the things we all need to actively face.  In the area of Asia, we need to join hands to bring our leadership to bear in order to move regional development forward.

[Reporter] 记者:在刚刚结束的20国峰会,鸠山首相首次与胡锦涛会面,并提出构建东亚共同体的构想。然而要实现这些构想,中日需克服一些分歧,比如东海问题等。请问 日方是如何看待这些分歧? At the recently completed G-20 summit, Hatoyama met Hu Jintao for the first time, and spoke about his thoughts for a more unified East Asian system.  Obviously in order to make this dream a reality, China and Japan need to overcome a few differences of opinion, such as the East Sea issue and others.  May I ask you how Japan views these difficulties?

[Okada] 冈田:在20过峰会前,鸠山就曾多次见过胡锦涛先生。这次纽约会面,我也在场,当时的气氛很好。在中日关系上,我们在朝着积极方向发展。我们是扎扎实 实地推进中日关系,这方面双方已经取得共识。我们需要通过关系网,加上我们的信赖关系,是两国关系朝好的方向发展。当然,两国之间存在这个别的分歧,如东 海问题,各国有各国的想法和见解,但只要我们超越各自的分歧,两国关系就会朝着好的方向发展。中日关系对中日两国都很重要,胡锦涛说过,我们要建立一种战 略互惠关系。所以我们两国是相互需要的。 Before the G-20 meeting, Hatoyama saw Hu Jintao many times.  The last time in New York, I was also there, and felt the atmosphere was really good.  As regards Sino-Japanese relations, we want to face in the direction of active development.  We are solidly [扎扎实实zhazhashishi] advancing Sino-Japanese relations, and both sides have reached a consensus.  We need to establish a network of relations, advance relations of trust, and our two countries’ relations can develop toward the positive side.  Of course, the two countries will have these few outside annoyances, such as the East Sea issue.  Every country has its own thoughts and views, but we know that we must overcome selfish annoyances [超越各自的分歧] in order to set our relations on the path of positive development.  Sino-Japanese relations are very important to both China and Japan.  As Hu Jintao said, we must establish a strategic relations of mutual support.

[Part II of the interview may or may not follow!]

Chinese netizens respond to the Okada interview

Showing how the Chinese patrio-sphere often works at cross-currents with the regime (or how the CCP allows anti-Japanese sentiment to simmer even during good times), we get BBS response to the interview on the Huanqiu Shibao site like this:

[Note: I will be "back-editing" this part of the post and adding translations to the comments below.]

1. 各位同胞,我不得不说一下。日本这个名族是非常复杂的。从明朝到现在一直是。二战战败之后,他们试图用篡改历史来歪曲过去,但明智群众识破其奸计;后打算 用其商品战术来迷惑民心,国内拒买日货虽然不多,但也有,随着国家发展,日本越发知道此计不成;于是开始向中国示好,特别是最近其国一些高官的表现。所以 各位千万警惕,保持谨慎之心,千万别被忽悠了,说不准哪天他又来咬一口,悔之莫及!!

2. 正视历史不是笑话吗。如果我国侵略过日,我们只会感到骄傲的,绝不会骂祖先的。谁会为成吉思汗的侵略而批判他呢?

3. 别再背信弃义就行!

4, 日本想要在东亚有所作为,必须正视历史。想要成为一个正常国家也必须正视历史。

5. 尊重别人,就是尊重自己,如果现在的中国想你们二战是的日本,恐怕日本早已消失了,恐怕日本的女人都是中国的小妾了

6. 但愿他们能真的说到做到,千万别再背信弃义,信口雌黄。
算了,时间是检验真理的唯一标准,那我们就看你们以后的实际行动了。
但愿你们能用实际行动证明你们所说的一切。

7. 真的会正视自己罪行?还有待观察

8. 中国如果相信日本,离毁灭就不远了

9.  日本人不可信,你要问为什么,那我就告诉你,一个骨子里看不起你的人,所作所为有可信度吗??

10. 利益才是永恒的,鬼才信什么鸠山是亲华派啊的糖衣炮弹。

11.  表里不一说的就是小日本

12.  [This one slipped through]: 我们的政府有没有勇气面对历史? Does our government have or not have the courage to face history?

13. 中国人最恨耍小心眼的小人与国家,同时也讨厌有奶便是娘的小人与国家

14.  很明智的选择啊 / 中国现在强大起来了 怕了吧?

15. 说实话,中国政府和人民都不要相信小日本。小日本阴着呢。它们这样做是阴谋有目的有计划的。

16. 相信小日本,迟早又得玩完。

17. 为什么记者称鸠山由纪夫为鸠山首相而直呼胡主席的名讳,什么狗屁记者,小兔崽子!!!!!!!!

But the overall postive trend continues.  For instance, comments by Japanese foreign minister Okada for his desire to push for a common currency in East Asia, even if it’s a decade down the road, have been noted by the Chinese press.

One aspect of media analysis frequently lost is the idea that many Chinese reporters now keep blogs.  One sort of cute and harmless portrayals of Japan in particular can benefit from such types.  Like this entry on otaku culture in Tokyo, and this one, below, on the trend of wearing mini-skirts in cold weather all over Japan.  I suppose at the end of the day, no matter how hard Okada works, Japan’s vaunted “soft power” may still be his trump card in relations with China.

日本女孩冬天也穿超短裙 -- Japanese Girls Wearing Miniskirts in Winter -- via normally nationalistic Huanqiu Shibao

日本女孩冬天也穿超短裙 -- Japanese Girls Wearing Miniskirts in Winter -- via normally nationalistic Huanqiu Shibao-- leading us to ask, "what is the impact of Japanese mini-skirts on diehard patriotic Chinese netizens?"

And, interestingly, the film City of Life and Death, a cinematic potrayal of the Rape of Nanking won a prize in a major intenrational film festival, but was downplayed in Chinese media in the leadup to October 1.  In a longer post I hope to analzye Chinese response to this film in such popular art magazine as Yishu, because it has garnered attention among segments of Chinese society that probably view Okada’s earnest declarations rather skeptically.