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ASIANPERSPECTIVE, Vol. 31, No. 3, 2007, pp. 183-193. Commentary JAPANESE ASSESSMENTS OF CHINA'S MILITARY DEVELOPMENT* Yasuhiro Matsuda Introduction It is a fact that China has increasingly modernized its mili­ tary power. This, in conjunction with China's rising economic power, is new to history. It is hence natural that Japan, both as a regional great power and as an ally of the United States, heeds close attention to this new reality. The objective here is to review from various perspectives how Japan assesses the modernization of the Chinese military. The commentary takes account of public opinion polls, official inter­ pretation by the government, and experts' opinions. It should be noted that in Japan, it is something of a social taboo openly to dis­ cuss military- or security-related issues. When it comes to evaluat­ ing how China might react in certain circumstances, the Japanese government has had reservations about taking an official position on China's military might. Even scholarly research in Japan on the Chinese military is not welcome. Most experts on the China mili­ tary are in fact historians. No community of specialists exists in * An earlier version of this commentary was presented at the CAPS-RANDCEIP International Conference on PLA Affairs 2006, "The PLA in the Asia-Pacific Region: Implications for the Evolving Regional Security Order," at Shangri-La Far Eastern Plaza Hotel, Taipei, Taiwan, December 8-10, 2006. The views expressed in this commentary are those solely of the author and do not represent those of the National Institute for Defense Studies, the Ministry of Defense, or the government of Japan. 184 Yasuhiro Matsuda Japan where government intelligence officers and scholars get involved and build ties. This commentary thus is among the first steps toward bringing together Japanese assessments of and reac­ tions to China's military development. Public Opinion on China The reality is that no public opinion polls have been conduct­ ed specifically with respect to China's military. Instead, the Cabi­ net Office under the prime minister takes polls on diplomacy, which include citizens' affinity toward major countries. Histori­ cally, the Japanese tend to feel "close" to China, as polls typically showed more than 60 percent expressing that view. But the figure plummeted with the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident, and took a further descending path after 2003. At the end of 2005, the rating of those having a favorable view toward China dropped to only 32.4 percent, while those not having a favorable view reached 63.4 percent (see Figure 1). Although tension over bilateral relations has relaxed since the resignation of Prime Minister Koizumi Source: Opinion polls on diplomacy, by the Cabinet Office, available at www8. cao.go.jp/survey/index-gai.html (accessed July 30, 2007). Japanese Assessments ofChina's Military Development 185 Junichiro in 2006, it is clear that the overall impression of China among average Japanese has sunk dramatically. One poll did specifically ask about a threat from China. According to the joint opinion polls conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun and Gallop in November 2005, 73 percent of the respon­ dents said that their government's relationship with China is "bad," another 72 percent said they "do not trust China," and still another 76 percent indicated that they "feel threatened by China." By contrast, 62 percent of the respondents said they think of the Japan-U.S. alliance as "useful."1 Even more revealing was a 2006 Yomiuri Shimbun opinion poll (see Table 2) in which 44 percent of those polled saw China as a security threat to Japan. Only North Korea was rated as a greater threat. People were also asked to "name the country that, economically and politically, you think will become the most influential in Asia." An overwhelming 56.7 percent of the Japanese respondents chose China. The United States ranked next. Table 1. Countries that the Japanese Feel "Threatened" By DPRK (North Korea) PRC USA Russia ROK Middle East No countries in particular No answer India T7Y 44.0 17.6 12.7 10.9 7.8 4.3 3.3 2.9 Source: "Tai-Chu ishiki 'Bouchou Chuugoku' ni fuankan, Yomiuri Shimbun seronchousa " (Feel Unsafe on "Expanding China" in Opinion Polls...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2288-2871
Print ISSN
0258-9184
Pages
pp. 183-193
Launched on MUSE
2021-03-23
Open Access
No
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