Issues Surrounding Fukushima Water Release Worsen Views of China in JapanPolitics
A joint survey of people in Japan and China found that 92.2% of Japanese people had a bad impression of China in 2023. This was up 4.9 percentage points year on year and the second highest since the survey was first held in 2005.
The percentage of Chinese who held a bad impression of Japan was 62.9% (a 0.3-point increase), remaining almost the same as the previous year’s survey. The timing of this most recent survey coincided with the release of treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and China’s subsequent suspension of Japanese marine product imports. Ongoing coverage of that issue is believed to have had a major impact, worsening Japanese sentiment toward China.
The joint survey, conducted from August through September 2022 by The Genron NPO and China International Publishing Group, received valid responses from 1,000 Japanese and 1,500 Chinese people, all aged 18 and over.
The total percentage of Chinese respondents who expressed that they were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about the release of treated water from the TEPCO Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant into the ocean was 47.6%. In contrast, at 26.7%, around a quarter of Chinese answered that they were either “not concerned at all” or “not very concerned.” Japanese opinion showed that 37.3% were “not concerned,” while 33.2% were “concerned.”
The survey revealed a sharp divide in public opinion between the two countries when it came to the question of whether the issue of releasing treated water into the ocean would impede future Japan-China relations. From a Japanese perspective, 36.7% answered that it would be an obstacle. This was the second most serious issue among Japanese respondents, the top being territorial disputes, such as over the Senkaku Islands, with 43.6%. Meanwhile, only 5.8% of Chinese mentioned the release of treated water as an issue. The Genron NPO interpreted this as indicating that while opposition to releasing the treated water has abated in China, the situation has aggravated anti-Chinese sentiment in Japan.
Responding to the question, “What country is most important to your own country’s future?” 53.5% of Japanese people said the United States, followed by China at just 5.7%. Chinese respondents picked Russia (27.0%), ahead of the United States (23.0%), and Japan (15.0%). Although still first, the percentage for Russia dropped considerably from 48.4% last year, while Japan rose noticeably from 5.8%.
(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Children dancing in panda costumes at a cultural event celebrating 45 years since the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China, held in Itabashi, Tokyo, on September 19, 2023. © Kyōdō.)