Volume 18 Number 4
China Woos a Japanese Heart
01 August 2005
Kato is now a second year student in International Relations at Beijing University. He is also a part-time Japanese teacher at a local high school and President of Beijing University’s Japanese Students Association (BUJSA).
AS A four-year-old boy in Japan, Yoshikazu Kato spent his free time gazing at a world map. By the age of five, he had memorized every country’s capital city. Over the last 16 years, this internationalism has continued to develop, even if the focus has shifted towards China.
Supported by a full scholarship from the Chinese government, Kato is now a second year student in International Relations at Beijing University. He is also a part-time Japanese teacher at a local high school and President of Beijing University’s Japanese Students Association (BUJSA).
Set up during the SARS epidemic in 2003, BUJSA’s original aim was to provide a link between the 250 Japanese students at the university and the Japanese Embassy in Beijing. Through social events and a Japanese cultural festival, Kato’s association has morphed into a crucial forum for promoting friendship with Chinese students.
‘I want to be a bridge between China and Japan. It is my responsibility,’ he states with almost evangelical zeal. ‘The most important thing to remember is that Japan is an Asian country. I am in China, I love China and I welcome China’s rise. It is not dangerous for Japan—we can do a lot together for Asia.’
While such enthusiasm may be hard to equate with the recent anti-Japan demonstrations in several Chinese cities, Kato remains sanguine. ‘The world is changing fast. China is now Japan’s number one trade partner. We need to build on these thriving economic links and boost trust between Chinese and Japanese citizens.’
How can this be achieved? Kato has a simple solution. ‘Too many people in both countries are too easily influenced by the mass media. The only cure is face-to-face communication. When we communicate, we must communicate from our hearts—sincerely and frankly. Then true friendships and real progress can be made.’
Kato admits that relations between the two governments are ‘not very good’, but doesn’t seem overly concerned. ‘Politicians and diplomats in any country can rarely speak from their hearts because of a number of complicated reasons. I cannot change that but I am free to communicate completely openly with all the Chinese people I meet.’
In his own way, Kato is also a diplomat—introducing his country to different strata of Chinese society. He relishes his job teaching Japanese to Chinese students, and sees the benefits spanning further than just the immediate language skills. ‘There are already 400 Chinese students learning Japanese at Beijing University in some capacity. Every year, there are more and more successful student exchanges. We have to take a long-term perspective. We will make a difference.’