More Sympathy than Enmity

Mar 16, 2011
*Special to asia!
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The Chinese and the Japanese have a troubled history and a long trail of animosity. How did the Chinese react to Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami?

The Germans have a term for it : Schadenfraude - taking pleasure in the suffering of others.

Trawl through the forums and you catch find a handful of Chinese netizens expressing their glee about the disastrous earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The word ‘retribution’ is thrown around more than a few times, along with mention of the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, during which the Japanese army killed an estimated 200,000 Chinese.


497 Anti-Japanese posts on a Chinese forum gloating over the earthquake.


But there are far more Chinese whose posts show sympathy and humanity rather than enmity, and many chided the gloaters for their callous comments.

Sino-Japanese relations are undoubtedly complicated but, at a time like this, the past is kept in the past.

China’s offer of a rescue team was readily accepted. The team was received by an official from the Japanese foreign office, who bowed and thanked the Chinese for swiftly sending help, and said it was a sign of friendly bilateral ties.

A survey conducted by the Chinese Phoenix news network drew responses from an overwhelming 100,000 Chinese netizens. More than 90 percent said China should give assistance to others in need, including Japan.

Watch the video here.

According to one commentator, there is a growing sense among the Chinese that as a resurging race and emergent superpower, China should adopt both a more gracious attitude as well the responsibility that comes with power.

He pointed out that Taiwan's request to send a team had been declined, and political considerations may have been at play. China's state media Xinhua noted that the arrival of Chinese rescue team in Japan had been reported in the British paper Financial Times.

Japan has rendered assistance to China during its catastrophes. As the pro-China Hong Kong journal Takungpao said in an opinion piece:


"China will never forget how during the Wenchuan (Sichuan) earthquake three years ago, the Japanese government and people provided help and support to China.

It will always be remembered how a Japanese rescue team took off their caps and bowed respectfully before the bodies of the victims they dug out from the debris."

498 Image source:


Meanwhile, individual Chinese in Japan told of how they were assisted by the Japanese when the tremors hit.

At Tokyo Disneyland, the locals braved the pouring rain till midnight to help a Chinese guide locate the missing members of his tour group.

And the Chinese media has been buzzing with news about Chinese tycoon Chen Guang Biao, who, as soon as he heard about the disaster, went to Japan to hand out cash to the victims.

In a time of tragedy and need, despite their historical differences, many from the two sides have managed to find their common humanity.

dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi

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