People-to-people exchange with Japan was one of the highlights of the work of external relations. In history, before the establishment of diplomatic relations, it was the productive people-to-people exchange which aided the entrenchment of the foundation for extensive friendship between the peoples of two countries, thus playing an important role in promoting the normalization of diplomatic relations as well as creating a peaceful development environment for China to promote its modernization drive. People-to-people contact between China and Japan was one of the successful models in the history of China¡¯s public diplomacy which boasted the largest scale and largest achievements.
The success of people-to-people exchange in that time was due to our rational and accurate judgment on China-Japan relations as well as the political and economic situation of Japan, as well as our appropriate working models like ¡°dichotomy¡± and flexible working strategies like ¡°unite the great majority¡±. Kang Dachuan, the then Editor-in-Chief of People¡¯s China-the journal I worked with-was just one of the predecessors who devoted themselves to the cause of people-to-people contact and made remarkable achievements in that time. Even some of the Japanese military officers who once received the correction of Kang Dachuan in Xifeng War prisoner camp afterwards became the hardcore readers of People¡¯s China.
However, since the 1990s, though the scale of people-to-people exchange with Japan remained the trend of boosting, some problems emerged in terms of working methods and practical effects. The reason lies in some profound changes undergone in Japanese society. At the end of 1980s, when the cold war was going to an end, Japan also stepped out of the Showa era. With the beginning of the Heisei era in 1988, Japan entered into the post-industrial era. The profound changes of world pattern around the year 1989 was a crucial structural change with great significance and far-reaching influence. For the Japanese society, the first year of the Heisei era was also an important pivoting point. In the aspect of politics, such transition was embodied in three points. The first point was the collapse of the left wing. The second point was the split of the conservative group into idea school and realistic school. The third point was the rise of ¡°the third force¡± such as populists, feminists and environmentalists. The development of Japanese society in the Heisei era appeared many comprehensive characteristics different from the past. From the perspective of society development, the extent of internationalization of Japan in the Heisei era gradually improved. Meanwhile, generation alteration also became the notable feature of Japanese society-the ¡°mass generation¡± which we were familiar with gradually faded out, and ¡°new human generation¡± and ¡°foam generation¡± were stepping onto the stage. The change in balance of power between China and Japan and the widening of gap inside the Japanese society also contributed to the alteration of recognition and affection of Japanese society to China. In addition, from the perspective of the evolution of social organizations, traditional social movements have long been replaced by the ascending civil movement and the friendly organization we were familiar with were being marginalized. Diversified non-governmental organizations were stepping onto stage and become the inescapable communication counterparts in our exchange with Japan.
Under such circumstance and due to some geopolitical reasons, frictions between two countries around territorial issues, issues of historical conception and national development strategies, interacted directly with Japanese society. As a result, the ratio of people in both countries who don¡¯t hold good impression on the other country surged and remained high in recent years, which greatly damaged the foundation of public opinion for people-to-people friendship which existed in the past.
Under such circumstance, is the traditional dichotomy still of significance? Which kind of general judgment should we have about the Japan society and Japanese people? How to sort out our new ideas of people-to-people exchange with Japan? All these topics call for our thorough consideration and implicit definition.
In May 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out in the China-Japan Friendship Exchange Conference that the foundation of China-Japan friendship lies in people and the future of China-Japan relationship was decided by the people of both countries. This should become our guiding ideology for developing people-to-people contact confidently.
Of course, we should make calm judgments on the forces of Japan society and their new characteristics according to the changed times and circumstances, thus optimizing our work effectively.
We should creatively inherit the working method of dichotomy. With the vanish of dividing line between traditional left and right wing camps, we should seek positive and healthy forces from civil movements and civic organizations, thus uniting positive energy for the steady and healthy development of China-Japan relations.
People¡¯s China is a time-honored media targeted at Japan and a traditional platform for people-to-people exchange with Japan. The scale of protest against bills giving Japanese military freer hand to fight among the public was one of the largest in the past 30 years. People¡¯s China seized this opportunity to organize a symposium attended by major members of ¡°Association for Supporting the Spirit of Murayama Talk¡± and made in-depth coverage on this symposium. Afterwards, taking the opportunity of visiting Japan, I made an exclusive interview with former Japanese Prime Minster Murayama in the name of Chief Editor of People¡¯s China. When the content of the interview was published, just like the former one, we received warm response from our readers. In addition, when books advocating anti-China and anti-South Korea sentiments flooded Japan, our Tokyo branch organized a forum on opposing discriminating or hatred inciting publications and invited the attendance of representatives from related civic organizations. The report on this forum also received favorable comment from our readers. Paying special attention to positive factors among the emerging civic organizations was a meaningful attempt of innovating dichotomy under new historical circumstances.
We not only promoted transform in terms of content such as increased positive opinion and improved the ratio of comments and views, but also made some effective attempts in our positioning of targeting readers. Though traditional readers were fond of contents such as history, culture and tourism, if we were still confined on these fields, we will diverge from the overall situation of China-Japan relations.
Therefore, we proposed the positioning of ¡°triple¡± readers and optimized the content of this comprehensive journal with modular framework, so as to influence our mainstream readers in the circles of politics, financing industry leaders and think tanks, maintain our traditional ordinary readers located all over Japan, and attract potential young readers with our new media. So far, this strategy has achieved initial success. With our advantage of taking root in Japan, we¡¯ve successfully attracted a number of former Japanese prime ministers who subscribed People¡¯s China at their own expense when they were in office, such as Toshiki Kaifu, Junichiro Koizumi, Shinzo Abe in his last term and Yoshihiko Nodanoda. At the same time, we strengthened our exchange with local readers¡¯ associations with the means of field investigations and lectures. We also diversified the expression forms of the journal by employing some young and fashionable factors, such as cartoons, buzzwords and pop songs. These contents were timely uploaded onto our new media and mobile terminals like twitter so as to attract the attention of young readers. With these efforts, the composing structure of our readers has undergone obvious changes.
Besides improving the quality of our content, we also organized a series of activities so as to expand the influence of our brand and promote people-to-people contact with Japan. In recent years, we¡¯ve organized the ¡°casting together¡± art interchange activity, ¡°panda cup¡± essay contest for describing China by Japanese young people and so on. We employed these activities to influence young students directly and share their feelings of visiting with more readers via our journal. In the process of exchange we got to know that Japanese young students were of their own thinking on some issues and they felt baffled with some of the China-related reports made by the Japanese media. By helping them visiting China on spot and listening to impersonal explanations, we can rectify their misconceptions on China with low cost in a short time.
So far, the largest public diplomacy event we¡¯ve participated in was the Beijing-Tokyo Forum. This forum was undertook by People¡¯s China since this year. By holding this forum, we recognized the significance of connecting the ¡°double-track¡± of government and people in promoting the steady development of Sino-Japanese relations. Our Japanese partner ¡°Genron-NPO¡± was not a traditional friendly organization and its so-called civil NPO nature was just the common feature of many emerging organizations in Japan. In the contact with such organizations, there are both cooperation and game. We should deal with this job with new mentality and more deliberate thought. The organization of the forum for the first time in this year was a success and we accumulated experience in terms of obtaining the initiative and setting the agenda.
People¡¯s China will finish its transition in terms of content during the process of participating in this long-term task. In the future, we will continue to employ dichotomy creatively, accurately grasp the overall situation of Japan society and Japanese people, strive to seek positive forces and expand positive factors with dialogue and exchange, so as to allow People¡¯s China, a traditional communication platform with Japan, to play a new and more important role.
(Wang Zhongyi, CAFIU Council Member, Chief Editor of People¡¯s China)