Village Loudspeakers to Virtual Chatrooms: Mass Media and Multigenerational Memory in Sino-Japanese Relations
Reviewed by Devika Kapadia
March 10, 2015
The Chinese media, since the Mao era, has been regulated by the ruling government to achieve various political ends—often relating to Sino-Japanese relations. Rothschild analyses the relation between changing media portrayals of Japan and changing attitudes towards Japan, especially between and within generations. She complicates a perception of general dislike towards Japan by examining empathetic responses to Japan after a natural disaster, hypothesizing that the younger generation of Chinese citizens are polarized in their opinions, rather than universally against Japan.
She analyses different political aims of the Mao and Deng governments. The Mao regime created discourses of hostility and aggressive nationalism toward Japan after the ‘100 years of humiliation’ China suffered at the hands of Japanese and Western imperialists, while the Deng regime, focused on improving the Chinese economy, allied economically with Japan at a time when Japan was a very successful and fast growing market—changing the discourse from nationalist antagonism to economic cooperation. This change in discourse, and the subsequent opening up of the media through the rapid dissemination of information and opinion through the internet, created a generation that is far less unified in its opinion on Japan than before. Though she succeeds in establishing this polarization, she offers little interpretation as to why it is significant—why the particular instances she chooses provoke positive responses, and what political implications are born out of this polarized national opinion.
We are presented here with a binary—favourable opinions of Japan or not—and though polarization establishes complexity, it doesn’t necessarily delve into the nature of the complexity within opinions towards Japan. This sets up room for further investigation—in what situations do opinions change? What relationship with history, city distribution, and wealth from the Deng era might impact these differing opinions?
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