Kathrin Hille in Nanjing writes in the Financial Times that despite memories of the cruelty of invading Japanese troops and the current dispute about the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, a growing number of young Chinese appear to be increasingly open to normal or even friendly relations with their neighbour.
She observes: “Most of the visitors at the Nanjing massacre memorial are young people, often groups of university students or young families.
They are curious about history and shaken by testimony of atrocities, but also ready to embrace the message of peace and friendship the museum tries to convey. I don’t have any hard feelings towards Japan,” says Han Zhong, a 31-year-old man from the northern Chinese province of Shaanxi who was visiting the Nanjing massacre memorial with his wife and in-laws last week. “We are visiting because this is part of our history. Something like this will never happen again because China is rising now.”
The two countries’ governments are making efforts to build a more constructive relationship. China’s government has supported initiatives for cultural exchanges and visits. An account by H.E. Cheng Yonghua, Chinese Ambassador to Japan earlier this month, in the Friendship Year for Japan-China Exchanges, may be seen on the website of Min-On, a Japanese organisation promoting international cultural exchange and peace by introducing music and performing arts from every country around the world.
Zhou Weihong, a professor on Japanese studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University observes that young Chinese are adopting a more international perspective:
“Anti-Japanese sentiment is not very strong, especially among young people in China compared with 20 years ago when memories from the war were still pretty fresh,” says “The reason is that more people in China get higher education and they get in touch with foreign countries, thus they understand more of international affairs. People are more rational now.”
Japanese is now the second foreign language studied in China and – like English – has a degree course in most universities.
Kathrin Hille ends with the words of Kelly He, a student from Shanghai who visited Nanjing and fell silent at the sight of the memorial’s display of human bones taken from mass graves after the city’s fall:
“This is truly terrible. But the terrible thing about it is not that Japanese killed Chinese but that human beings killed human beings.”