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Open hostility toward Japan prevalent among Chinese

BEIJING, China—Gao Hong, a Chinese scholar on Japan, said he was floored recently when confronted with a veritable outpouring of questions in an online forum about China's relations with its neighbor.

"Over 4,000 questions were posted for me in just two hours," he recalled.

Many of the questions in the December discussion were tendentious.

"One Internet user asked me why ... we don't just declare war on Japan," he said.

Open hostility among Chinese, especially the young, toward Japan is apparent in barbed newspaper and television coverage and conversations with citizens.

Some experts suggest that China's leaders permit the venting of nationalist anger at Japan to divert attention from festering problems at home, including a widening gap between rich and poor, environmental degradation and the repression of views critical of the Communist Party's 56-year monopoly on power.

Gao asserted, however, that authorities are actually worried by outbursts against Japan. He blamed jingoistic coverage in the news media—in China and Japan—for drumming up nationalist sentiments.

"The strong anti-Japanese feelings among young people are a headache for the government," said Gao, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. China's leaders "are trying their best to let people scale down their anger."

While authorities have shut down some Web sites, it's common in chat rooms to read posters referring to "little Japs" and smearing Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in derogatory language.

More than a dozen small-scale protests have taken place outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing in the past two years. Anti-Japan activists report little resistance.

One activist, Lu Yunfei, said he's mobilizing people for a new cause: a petition seeking to block Japan from obtaining a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council.

Asked to list his grievances with Japan, Lu went into high dudgeon, noting that Japanese lawmakers are pondering changing the pacifist constitution to permit broader use of the Self-Defense Forces.

"It wants to turn itself into a country that can launch attacks on other countries," Lu said. "It's trying to rearm itself. It poses a great danger to the world."

Fervent nationalist and right-wing forces are also part of the political landscape in Japan.

Scholars in Tokyo say anti-Japanese feeling in China may reflect pent-up frustration over other issues and could backfire on communist leaders.

"If they allowed it too much, the anti-Japanese sentiment could go wild and turn against the Chinese Communist Party," said Takashi Inoguchi, a political scientist at the University of Tokyo.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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