About half of Japanese and Chinese respondents said they believe a military conflict could occur in the Taiwan Strait in the future, an annual survey showed Wednesday, amid increased cross-strait tensions following a high-profile U.S. visit to the island in August.
Altogether, 44.5 percent of Japanese and 56.7 percent of Chinese people pointed to the possibility of the conflict either "within several years" or "in the future" generally, according to the poll by the Japanese nonprofit think tank Genron NPO and the China International Communications Group.
Tensions have grown over Taiwan since the August trip by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with China reacting to the visit by conducting large-scale military drills near the self-ruled democratic island.
China and Taiwan have been governed separately since they split in 1949 due to a civil war. China regards Taiwan as a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary.
Further deterioration of China-U.S. relations has overshadowed ties between Beijing and Tokyo, a security ally of Washington, while the relationship between the two Asian neighbors has been additionally strained by the fall of Chinese ballistic missiles into Japan's exclusive economic zone during the drills.
While 63.7 percent of Japanese respondents attributed the rise of cross-strait tensions to China, 52.5 percent of Chinese people said they believe the United States is to blame, followed by 25.8 percent citing both the United States and Japan and 11.7 percent pointing to Taiwan, the survey showed.
Japanese public perceptions of China remained largely "unfavorable," falling 3.6 percentage points from a year earlier to 87.3 percent. Among Chinese respondents, 62.6 percent had a negative impression of Japan, down 3.5 points from the previous year.
Yasushi Kudo, head of the Japanese think tank, said at a press conference Wednesday that public impressions toward each other slightly improved this year following negative media reports the previous year, but that the result does not show a full-fledged rebound amid a lack of bilateral exchanges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gao Anming, vice president of the CICG, said an increasing number of Chinese young people have favorable views toward Japan and are optimistic about the future of bilateral relations as they tend to be exposed compared with older generations to more information on Japan from multiple channels, including the internet.
Asked about reasons for having unfavorable impressions in a multiple-choice question, 58.9 percent of Japanese people cited intrusions into Japanese waters by Chinese vessels near the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China claims the islets and calls them Diaoyu.
Among Chinese people, 78.8 percent cited Japan's insufficient reflection on its past military aggression, with the number of respondents referring to factors related to Japan-U.S. relations sharply rising this year.
Those supporting the view that Japan and the United States work together in their bid to contain China rose 14.6 points from a year earlier to 37.6 percent, while respondents saying they cannot understand why Japan adopts a diplomatic stance to follow the United States increased 12.8 points to 21.1 percent.
"While regional tensions have flared up, more and more Chinese people are calling for peace," Kudo said, referring to a marked increase in respondents hoping for a peaceful settlement of the bilateral territorial row and stressing the need to strengthen cooperation between the two Asian countries.
On Russia's invasion of Ukraine, 73.2 percent of Japanese and 21.6 percent of Chinese people expressed opposition.
While 39.5 percent of Chinese respondents said the invasion is "not wrong" as the aggression is "self-defense" resulting from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's eastward expansion, 29.0 percent said it is "wrong but Russia's situation must be considered."
China has refrained from condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine and is not joining Western nations in imposing sanctions on Moscow.
The survey was conducted from July to September, collecting valid responses from 1,000 people in Japan and 1,528 in China aged 18 or older.