[CAFIU and Japan-China Association jointly held the first essay contest in 2016 among Japanese people from all walks of life. According to the selection and awarding of 8 review panelists from China and Japan, 5 participants were given the Award of Excellence and 29 were given the Award of Participation. Selected essays are published in two issues of this magazine. ]
Support the Education of Poverty-Stricken Areas to Pass on the Baton
of Japan-China Friendship to the Next Generation
In 1999, I joined the volunteer team under the Beijing Office of UNESCO, starting to provide assistance to dropout students in China¡¯s poor areas. Back then, the Central Commission of the Communist Youth League established China Youth Development Foundation, calling for common people to support its ¡°Hope Project¡± and raising money from overseas companies, governments and schools. My work in the project was to build the bridge between the assistance providers in Japan and the recipients in China. At first, I was involved in the education assistance program provided by Tagawa, Fukuoka to Fengning County, Hebei Province.
Located in the north of Hebei Province, Fengning is just one-hour drive from Inner Mongolia. The boundless grassland there presents beautiful landscape with low rainfall. Tagawa is 70 kilometers south of Fukuoka. It used to be a prosperous coal-mining area. Now it is like a rural village surrounded by mountains.
I became aware of the seriousness of poverty in the rural areas from the outset. With low rainfall, poor economy and ecological frailty caused by overgrazing, it was too late to develop modern agriculture by relying on animal husbandry. A former principal of Tagawa came to the barren land. When the sixty-some old man saw these innocent kids in the shabby schoolhouses, he was reminiscent of his childhood. So he immediately made a decision to help these kids. After returning to his hometown, he discussed with another retired principal. Upon learning the story, some graduates volunteered to help, and then their families also joined in. As time passed by, the education assistance program developed into an activity participated broadly by Tagawa people. Every summer, Tagawa people visited Fengning. They taught fine arts and music, introduced Japan¡¯s bamboo dragonfly and windmill game, treated kids with Japanese curry rice at the cafeteria. Many primary school students of Tagawa were also taken by their parents to Fengning, taking part in the exchanges of ¡°Children¡¯s Home¡±. Since they met every year, Tagawa people managed to remember the faces of Fengning children and villagers, and they felt they were trusted by the Fengning people, who had high expectations on them. The assistance program included building schools, digging wells, planting fruit trees, and donating books, dormitory bedclothes and computers. Tagawa people helped over 200 local children in Fengning pay tuition fees. Thanks to these efforts, there is no dropout kid there now. As the only interpreter, I helped local people understand Japanese¡¯ kindness and was also trusted by them. I was also willing to visit Fengning with Tagawa people. I thought our purpose of participating in such events were beyond merely offering assistance to the education cause there.
However, something unpleasant happened one day. A recipient¡¯s father told us: ¡°My kid is identified as a dropout student but we haven¡¯t received any allowance. You are liars!¡± In fact, the tuition money was put under direct management by schools out of worries that the money might be miscued by parents if handed to them by cash. This should have been explained beforehand, but we were unfortunately not understood by them due to their misunderstanding and grudge. Although the education environment was improved, poverty was not fundamentally addressed there. The incident spawned moments of deep thoughts for us. What¡¯s more, Tagawa was also tired and sometimes complained about the assistance requests, high travel costs and difficulty in raising money every year. I also found it difficult to manage the assistance money due to the growing number of schools and students.
Tagawa decided to invite some Fengning kids to Japan at the 10th anniversary of the assistance program.
However, the devastating earthquake hit the east part of Japan in March 2011, when the selected kids were just about to make the journey. The nuclear power plant damage also generated unexpected terror in China so that Fengning people thought ¡°we can¡¯t allow our cute kids to go to such a dangerous country¡±. (Actually Tagawa is over 1,000 kilometers away from the northeast of Japan. Ultimately the journey was not made. We¡¯re also sorry to learn that the old principal, who was in charge of the program, passed away last year.
The Chinese government will put an end to its poverty alleviation strategy, with China entering the era of green development. Now the expressway between Beijing and Fengning is up and running, and a new source of revenue pour in with the development of tourism resources in the grassland. Those recipients finished their study and started to pursue their dreams. They are gradually getting rid of poverty. Dear children, please don¡¯t forget that Fengning is what it is now because of the helping hand lent by Tagawa. Countless adults are working hard to create a better world for you. They transcend the barrier between our two countries, bringing joy and trust to all the people concerned. You are a generation growing up in midst of Japan-China friendship. You will jointly usher in the more promising future of Japan-China relations!
Promote China-Japan Friendship through People-to-people Bonds
China and Japan are neighbors unable to be removed, old friends sharing Chinese characters and similar cultures, as well as big economies ranking respectively second and third in the world. Therefore, promoting bilateral friendship not only benefits both countries, but also would be conducive to the peace, tranquility, stability and sustainable development of the world as a whole.
Even two countries of this kind can not always manage to maintain sound relations. Sometimes leaders of the two countries do not communicate with each other well, giving rise to some subtle misunderstanding. The bilateral relations are quite complicated. Therefore the two countries have the responsibility to step up and promote mutual friendship.
State-to-state ties are, in essence, built upon exchanges at personal level. However, as one gets old and assumes more senior positions, he may find it more difficult to act due to all kinds of constrains. Younger generation free from such problems should help build a mechanism and system facilitating frank exchanges so that life-long friendship can be built. Good interpersonal relations developed at one¡¯s early years will play its due role in his later years. We are Asians living in the same era, though we¡¯re from different countries speaking different languages. If young people can reach out to each other and build profound interpersonal relations, they will become friends who can speak their minds to each other.
Therefore, I suggest establishing a system where young people from our two countries can study together in a third country. For example, young people selected from both countries can be sent to the US or Europe for an academic program. Young people thus form a study pair or group, living in the same dormitory. They can conduct research on the challenging courses offered by world top universities. They start to build friendship when there are no families or friends around, speaking a language not familiar to them. As young people shouldering their countries¡¯ future, they offer each other support and encouragement. Sometimes they are troubled by worries or disputes. They need to have in-depth communication instead of superficial exchanges to survive the program. It is worth expecting that how the mutual friendship will develop in an atmosphere.
I used to study in two graduate schools in the UK. The most valuable thing I obtained from my overseas study was neither the improvement in my academic attainment nor the enhancement of my English, but the lifelong friendship I developed with my Chinese friends. Back then, the Japanese government made the move of purchasing the Diaoyu Islands, leading to the deterioration of bilateral ties. I got to know several young Chinese students in the two programs. The graduate school I studied in arranged challenging exams and demanding homework. As a result, many students returned to their countries without diploma in disappointment. My Chinese friends and I were working really hard there. It was no easy academic task even for my classmates who spoke English as their mother tongue. My Chinese friends and I could only work harder and cooperated to finish homework. Sometimes disputes also broke out between us out of exhaust and pressure, as we were worried about being eliminated from the program. We couldn¡¯t have got through these days simply by taking it easy or telling jokes. However, when we successfully finished our study, we were in tears, hugging each other. My Chinese friends and I became lifelong friends just like brothers. They knew deep in their hearts that we could not survive the demanding program without each other. The moments when we shared joy, happened as if just yesterday. To date, we maintain still regular exchanges and pay visit to the families of one another.
Many organizations of the two countries arrange mutual visits and exchanges. However, most of these events are held in either China or Japan. Each participant can easily talk with each other without showing his own personality. It is like a football friendly game, during which the host would be cheered by the fans. Both of the two countries have plenty of young talents, who will face unlimited possibilities in the future. It is hoped that opportunities and enabling environment can be created for these young talents of the two countries to open their mind and conduct in-depth exchanges with one another. It would be greatly helpful.
If young people studying together in a third country shoulder the responsibilities of national development one day, the two countries will be more friendly towards each other. I firmly believe thay it is the important responsibility of the two countries¡¯ leaders to create such opportunities.
Towards Japan-China Friendship in the Real Sense
If asked ¡°Do you feel positively towards China¡±, I would say ¡°yes¡± without any hesitation. However, around 80% of the whole Japanese society would unfortunately reply ¡°no¡± or ¡°Not really¡± to this question, according to the data from Public Opinions Survey on Foreign Affairs provided by the Cabinet Office of Japan in March 2016 based on a poll conducted in October 2015. In recent years, many Chinese tourists flock into Japan on a shopping spree. However, the lack of affinity towards China indicates that the arrival of Chinese tourists is actually not welcomed by Japanese, who are well-known for their hospitality. I strongly wish that Japan and China could go beyond superficial ties and show each other mutual respect personally. I am a college student. My father is Japanese, and my mother Chinese. Having started to travel back and forth between Japan and China since I was a little girl, I could discover the respective strength and weakness of both countries. I wish for the prosperity and mutual friendship of both countries. I am now 19 years old, turning 20 very soon. I¡¯d like to take this opportunity to share my thoughts.
To be frank, Japan-China relations at the political level are not sound. We quite often hear news about the Diaoyu Islands, South China Sea, and record high number of scrambling by JASDF. Most expressions about the ties between Japan and China are negative. It is not difficult to understand that neither country is willing to make any compromise on territorial issues, the most complicated issue in bilateral relations. Territorial issues concern national interests and bear upon each country¡¯s economic development and daily lives. The two sides established a joint development zone in 2008 in the wake of China¡¯s exploration of oil and gas field in the East Sea. However, in 2010, Diaoyu Islands collision happened, sending bilateral relations to the bottom. What¡¯s more, South China Sea issue concerns the security of sea lanes of Japan, China and other countries, making it all the more complicated and sensitive. We can see that current problems in bilateral relations concern national security and interests. These are important issues which cannot be solved easily.
On the other hand, political disputes are not directly linked to us. Those who collided with our boat in the waters off Diaoyu Islands are not ordinary Chinese sitting next to us. Then why are we always trying to label Chinese and Japanese? Every Chinese is different in personality, just as not every Japanese is modest and polite. Therefore, we can¡¯t refuse to develop friendship or even contact someone simply because he/she is from a specific country. Only be treating someone as an individual person can we truly understand his/her views, life experience and cultural background. If we simply judge someone by his/her nationality, stereotype would occur.
I see many Chinese students in my university and Chinese tourists in the street. I play snooker every week with my Chinese classmates and our friendship grows. I often offer to help Chinese tourists who can¡¯t speak English. Therefore China is not a place far from me in my heart. I have every condition to get to know more about China even if I stay in Japan. Every one might be biased, but bias can be eliminated through face-to-face communication. When some of my friends who don¡¯t know I am a Chinese descent criticize some of China¡¯s not-so-nice behaviors, I¡¯d immediately tell them that these behaviors should be taken into specific context instead of being attacked without reason and I have both Japanese and Chinese descents. My response is as if my motherland were criticized. I also believe that I can change their attitudes through our communication. What we can do jointly is to make our efforts to enhance mutual understanding so that people would at least have the inclination to reach out to one another, which means that there space for accepting and respecting one another. Only by carrying out step-by-step exchanges personally can we gradually build an amicable social atmosphere immune to the ups and downs in political relations.
I am about to turn 20. I will always try to make my contribution to the friendship between our two countries in the coming days. I hope that one day 80% of Japanese can say ¡°yes¡± when asked ¡°Do you feel positively towards China¡±.