Japanese public impressions of China remain "unfavorable," an annual survey showed Thursday amid an lingering territorial dispute, a U.S.-China trade war and unrest in in Hong Kong.
The survey conducted by the Japanese nonprofit think tank Genron NPO and the China International Publishing Group found that Japanese respondents who have an "unfavorable" impression of China accounted for 84.7 percent, only down 1.6 percent from a year earlier.
The survey was conducted amid a recent thaw in Sino-Japanese ties that had previously grown frosty over wartime history and territory. The Asian neighbors now say bilateral relations have returned to a "normal track" as the two sides prepare for Chinese President Xi Jinping's first state visit to Japan next spring.
But the surveys reflected a reverse trend among the Japanese public, with a 5.8 percent increase to 44.8 percent in those who believe the current status of bilateral ties is "bad" or "relatively bad" and citing a "lack of trust between governments" as one of the primary reasons.
Yasushi Kudo, the head of the think tank, explained that "although the Japanese government has begun to strengthen relations with China and began exchanges with its leaders, the purpose and future vision of this has not been explained to the Japanese people."
Furthermore, Japanese news outlets, from where a grave majority of the respondents answered they receive information about China, "aired discussions of economic conflict between the United States and China and violent images of anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong on a daily basis" during the surveying month of September, Kudo wrote in an analysis.
Since June, there have been protests almost every weekend in Hong Kong, many turning violent, which were initially triggered by a now-withdrawn extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be sent to mainland China for trial.
Indeed, there was a noticeable rise in those who cited China's "one-party rule of the Communist Party" and "entrenched nationalism of the Chinese people" as a reason for their "unfavorable" impression of China, amounting to 43 percent and 8.3 percent of respondents respectively.
While "continuing territorial issues over the Senkaku Islands and Japanese water/airspace" remained the most cited reason, 12.2 percent named China's "incomprehensible response to the China-U.S. trade war" as a reason for an "unfavorable" impression.
Despite the two governments' pledges to make efforts to build a "new era" in Sino-Japanese ties, the survey results indicated that the Japanese public's impressions of China have been negatively influenced by the U.S.-China tariff war and Hong Kong protests.
In contrast, "favorable" Chinese public impression of Japan was the highest since the joint survey began in 2005. Chinese respondents of that view rose to 45.9 percent, nearly 40 percent higher than when impressions sharply declined in 2013 after the two government's came to heads over the Senkaku Islands, administered by Japan but claimed by China.
Kudo believes a rapid rise in the number of Chinese citizens traveling to Japan, as well as an increased use of SNS as one of the major factors for the welcoming trend.
The survey found that the majority of Chinese respondents with experience of traveling in Japan had a "favorable" impression of the country whereas the majority of those who had not been to Japan had an "unfavorable" impression.
The survey was conducted in September, collecting valid responses from 1,000 people in Japan and 1,597 in China aged 18 or older.