Considering the amount of effort invested into bilateral ties and the importance of trade relations between China and Japan, it is odd that the mutual antipathy between the countries simply will not go away.
The recently published Pew Center survey on public attitudes in various countries to foreign countries and their leaders showed the United States generally outscoring China.
The biggest gap of 73% was recorded in Pakistan in favor of China. Only 12% in Pakistan view the United States favorably, while 85% view China - Pakistan's "all weather" friend - positively. But in Japan, there is the 2nd largest favorability gap, 72% to 15%, in favor of the United States.
In 2008, China's favorability rating was still lower at 14% but in 2002, China had a 55% favorability rating in Japan. When it came to confidence in China's president Hu Jintao, the Chinese leader did slightly better and 20% of the Japanese had confidence in him, as compared to 75% who had little to no confidence in him.
Of all the countries surveyed, China was held in the least regards by the Japanese.
One could possibly ascribe the low ratings to jealousy. The Japanese economy has been largely stagnant, while China has displayed meteoric growth and is posing a competitive threat to Japan, with the Chinese challenge to the Japanese auto ministry just over the horizon.
A more plausible explanation is that the current leadership of China came to power in 2001 and the 2002 poll reflects the "Peaceful Rising" approach of China in foreign affairs, enunciated by the previous Chinese leader Jiang Ze Min.
Under the current leadership China's leadership has become increasingly assertive and many Japanese fear Chinese pretensions to regional hegemony.
A major irritant is China's role as the protector of North Korea. The Japanese believe that China is playing a double game. While promising to control Pyongyang, China simultaneously furnishes that bellicose regime with assistance.
A case in point was the recent export by China of vehicles capable of transporting and launching missiles that render the North Korean missile forces less vulnerable to an airstrike. The Chinese innocently protest that the vehicles were designed to carry lumber.
Japan will participate in a naval exercise next week, together with the South Korean and US navies.To avoid the impression that the US was intervening in the territorial disputes in the region, the Pentagon emphasized that the exercise would take place "beyond the territorial waters of any coastal nation." The exercise was officially designed to deter North Korea from its aggressive behavior.
The solidifying of the US Japanese alliance to balance China has seen support for the United States jump by 22% from the last year of the Bush presidency to the last year of Obama's first term, before it is known whether there will be a second term.