Why it is better for Japan to embrace the Chinese instead of to discriminate against them.
|For years and years, up until the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese suffered from an inferiority complex towards strong and dominant Imperial China, copying many aspects of Chinese culture in order to grow themselves. It was not until after winning both Sino-Japanese wars that Japan started to feel superior to China instead (Baofu, 2014). This newfound weakness of modern China helped fuel Japanese racism and discrimination against the Chinese that still prevails today, and it is getting worse. China’s steady position as second largest world economy (Gray, 2017), and third largest military power in the world (2017 Military Strength Ranking, n.d.), make the Japanese feel uneasy once again. However, instead of being averse to the Chinese, Japan should welcome them to their society.
Resentment towards the Chinese is also fueled by misinterpretations of the number of crimes committed by foreigners. Each year the National Police Agency sends out a report including statistics on the total number of crimes reported. This number topped in the early 2000s, with the number of crimes committed by non-Japanese also reaching their highest point during those years. Many news outlets picked up on the high crime rates among foreigners, calling it the foreign crime wave, instead of reporting about high crime rates altogether. Even though the number of crimes reported has decreased drastically every year since 2002 (Arudou, 2013), the Japanese still think of foreigners as people who commit many crimes today. This is especially the case when it comes to Chinese nationals, causing discrimination.
It I true that reported crimes in Japan in the early 2000s were committed by Chinese nationals. These crimes exclude visa related offenses that cannot be committed by Japanese nationals and all other offenses that are not harmful to others. Maciamo explains that 0.428% of Chinese people in Japan, visitor and residents, committed crimes, while only 0.291% of the Japanese themselves committed crimes that year (Maciamo, 2004). Just going by these numbers, one might think that Chinese are indeed more criminal than the Japanese, somewhat justifying the prejudice Japanese hold towards Chinese. However, when two sides can solve an issue between them, this issue will never be reported to the police. When one side does not speak Japanese sufficiently the police must be called, resulting in a higher number of crimes involving foreigners.
Chinese crimes committed in Japan center around the Ikebukuro district, Tokyo’s Chinatown. This district is the home of the renown Chinese Dragons gang (Ryall, 2017). Members of the Chinese Dragons include many Japanese orphans who were left behind in China after World War 2. Ryall argues that even though these Japanese children have been allowed to settle in Japan since the 1980s, many have found the transition to a new culture difficult to overcome. They were named the lost children and ended up living impoverished lives at the bottom of Japanese society. Some were penniless and had to steal to survive (Jie & Lijun, 2010). Zhang Zhikun, who leads a research group focusing around the orphans, says that many Japanese regard the lost children as Chinese and practice discrimination towards them (Japanese war orphans in China, 2005). These lost children should be treated better as they are Japanese by birth, they did not choose to grow up in China. Other groups of Chinese that experience discrimination are migrant workers and foreign students.
With the aging of the population, Japan has been dealing with a shrinking labor force. This is true especially when it comes to positions with job conditions that can be characterized using one of the “3Ks”. The 3Ks are a Japanese expression to describe dirty (kitanai), dangerous (kiken), and demanding (kitsui) jobs (McCornac & Zhang, 2016). Positions at manufacturing, agriculture, or construction sites often fall into at least one of these three categories. Since the Japanese generally do not want to carry out these professions themselves, they should embrace foreign workers. McCornac and Zhang suggest that because companies are unable to staff positions from the domestic labor force, they turn to the foreign labor market to fill the gaps. The majority of the migrant workers in Japan come from China. Previously migrant workers were mostly economically motivated, however, since China has passed Japan as the world’s second-largest economy, they have higher aspirations.
One problem Chinese laborers have to deal with is that they are not trusted by their Japanese employer and co-workers. There are often certain tasks they are not allowed to perform because employers believe that they cannot deliver the same quality of work as their Japanese colleagues (McCornac & Zhang, 2016). Because of this, Chinese migrant workers are often assigned low-level tasks. While this is not illegal in essence, it is when the migrant workers have come to Japan on the Technical Intern Training Program (TITP), which is often the case. In 2011 142,000 foreign trainees were enrolled in the program, with 107,000 from China alone (Ito, 2013). The TITP program allows Japanese companies to hire overseas workers to teach them about new technologies when they do not have the opportunity to learn about these technologies in their home countries, but in reality, the TITP program is mainly used for the exploitation of cheap labor. While Chinese workers are needed, they are actually discriminated against.
As explained in the previous paragraphs, life in Japan as a Chinese national is not exactly a dream come true. Migrant workers are being exploited and even Japanese orphans who grew up in China and have returned to Japan to find their families are being discriminated against. The government does nothing to correct the situation as the TITP program is still in place and crime rates are published without context, suggesting that foreigners, especially Chinese nationals are more criminal than Japanese nationals. Still, Chinese people keep coming to Japan. The reason behind this can be found when taking a closer look at the number of international students in Japan.
Out of the 239,287 international students in Japan in last year, 98,483 came from China (Japan Student Services Organization, 2017). While many Japanese believe that these Chinese students are in Japan to fill enrollment gaps at financially troubled universities with low admission standards (Clavel, 2015), they actually make up the largest body of international students at prestigious universities as well. Clavel observes that because Japan is close to China when it comes to culture and distance, and relatively cheap compared to other countries like the United States, Chinese students choose to study in Japan. Clavel believes that Chinese students will keep coming to Japan even if relations between the two countries are bad because, young people are not bothered by that. Since more and more Chinese students will come to Japan, and because the reasons for discrimination are unjust, the Japanese population should welcome Chinese students instead of discriminate against them.
Japan needs to come to terms with the Chinese, whether they are foreign students, migrant workers, or permanent residents, because more and more Chinese nationals are expected to come to Japan. Japan should embrace them whether they are low-skilled or educated at Japanese universities because with the aging population more foreign workers need to be brought in to fill any gaps in the workforce.
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