The public is fixated on the Sino-Japanese relationship at present. The word "Japan" appears in Chinese media so frequently that exaggerates the country's actual international position and influence. As a journalist who has been studying Japan-related issues for a long time, I have often been asked such questions as "What exactly does Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe want?" "Will China and Japan get mired in a bitter war?" and "Will China beat Japan?"
Nevertheless, quite a few have also complained to me sub rosa, "Is China's policy toward Japan too tough?" "Is it of any significance for China to establish the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea?" "Why do we have to care where Abe goes?" "It is the general public who will suffer the most if a war is waged."
Therefore, although the Chinese people are vehemently opposed to the Japanese right wing, they are in fact divided in terms of China's policy toward Japan, with some criticizing it as too flabby while others think it unduly tough.
Those who deem China's policy toward Japan excessively soft are mostly composed of online patriots. They want to see harsher measures against Japanese products and even dispatch troops to the Diaoyu Islands. Such remarks and behaviors, however, are in no way patriotic and will lead to disastrous consequences.
Fortunately, in an increasingly mature society, most Chinese people have begun to show disdain toward such radical views and learnt how to deal with the bilateral relations in a rational way.
The views that China's Japan policy to deal with Japan is too strong are as pernicious as the opposite opinions. This group of view-holders are usually intellectuals who are conceited and critical of the government. Most of them are liberals with a strong sense of humanism, so they object to warfare, clash and strife. But we are not living in a fairy tale.
China would not have sent public service vessels into the territorial water surrounding the Diaoyu Islands if the Japanese government had not made the ridiculous decision to "nationalize" the islets in 2012. And there would have been no need to demarcate an ADIZ if the US military aircraft didn't patrol over the East and South China Seas from time to time.
Regarding Abe's pilgrimage to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine in December, some say that Abe is free to visit wherever he wants and therefore we should not interfere. There are also some who contend we should oppose the nationalist's war shrine trips, but scold him to his face instead of imposing pressure on the Japanese government by refusing to meet him.
People holding these views, however, have left behind history and neglected facts. The prime minister, of course, has freedom to act, but he must assume his responsibility. As WWII's instigator, the Japanese government has failed to show a proper attitude satisfactory to victims including China and South Korea.
Japan has always claimed the shrine visit was Abe's personal behavior which, however, is totally infeasible. You can resign from the post of prime minister if you regard the shrine visit as your personal conduct.
Trying to persuade Japanese prime ministers to take a proper attitude toward history often ends up in vain. Then Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi went to the shrine just after wrapping up his visit to China. And just after Chinese leaders reasoned Yoshihiko Noda out of "purchasing" the Diaoyu Islands, his cabinet announced the decision to "nationalize" them. Therefore, it is wise for Chinese top leaders not to arrange meetings with Abe until he makes explicit pledges.
Since Sino-Japanese ties involve a myriad of practical interests in addition to historical grudges, it is challenging to formulate policies toward Japan. We should hold fast to our principles while remaining sober-minded to stop the political feud from penetrating into bilateral economic, cultural and people-to-people exchanges. But we must also be resolute to fight against the right-wing regime led by Abe by making every preparation for any contingency. After all, diplomacy calls for strength coupled with gentleness. We can't reduce China's policy toward Japan to being "too tough" or "too soft."
The author is a former Tokyo bureau chief with the Guangming Daily and currently head of the newspaper's international desk. email@example.com