Japan and the ‘Two Chinas’



If there is a culture in the world with which the Japanese feel an affinity, it is China; its civilisation has existed for at least twice as long as Japan’s, and much of ancient Japan’s systems of government, philosophy, religion, writing and high culture were borrowed from China. Yet the feelings of the Japanese towards China are mixed — a cultural affinity is combined with what is often a disdain not only for China’s political and economic system but for the Chinese people themselves. After serving as Japan’s foreign model for almost 1500 years, Japan’s elite abandoned what it perceived as a decadent and backward China for the West in the mid-nineteenth century. Conditioned to see the world as a mirror of Japan’s hierarchical society, the Japanese perceived their country’s rapid modernisation as having reversed their traditional position of inferiority towards China; it was now China that should look up to Japan. These feelings were reinforced by Japan’s easy victory in the first Sino-Japanese War (1894–5) and conquest of most of China in the 1930s. The Chinese have similar mixed feelings toward Japan — admiration for Japan’s rapid modernisation and great wealth are entwined with anger at Japan’s invasion in World War II which resulted in the death of an estimated 10 million Chinese and the devastation of much of the country, resentment at what is perceived as Japanese arrogance accompanying its economic success and fear of future Japanese aggression.


Prime Minister Chinese Communist Party Japanese Firm Foreign Minister Commercial Loan 
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Copyright information

© William R. Nester 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.St John’s UniversityNew YorkUSA

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