In any country, the media plays an important role in constructing the image of the ‘Other’. For a long time, encounters with the 'Other' in Japanese media remained largely limited to the West, while other Asian countries were paid scant attention. However, since the beginning of the 1990s, Japanese cinema has featured a growing number of Asian characters, among which Chinese characters (mainland Chinese as well as Taiwanese) constitute a majority. This has been dubbed the ‘Asia boom era’ of Japanese cinema by many critics. Television dramas followed this trend approximately a decade later with the so-called ‘Korea and China Wave’ in Japan. Thus, in terms of depicting the cultural, ethnic or national ‘Other’, Japanese media has undergone a dramatic paradigm change.
In my paper, I will focus on big and small screen encounters with China between 1989 and 2005, and analyze several common patterns of representation that emerge across genre boundaries. As a whole, the images of China in these two fictional genres appear manifold; yet two main patterns can be observed. On the one hand, China appears as a ‘threat to the inner order of Japan’ in terms of increases in crimes committed by the Chinese mafia. On the other hand, a number of films focus on the image of ‘China’s modernizing energy’, which is constructed as a source of salvation for seemingly ‘lethargic’ Japan and the Japanese. In both cases, the respective films and dramas repeatedly use common stereotypes prevalent in Japan. Moreover, the fictional Japanese-Chinese encounters rarely occur on a mutual base. ‘China’ is often appropriated for the sake of Japan; it is either staged as a source of salvation – or it becomes a vision of horror.
By analyzing several examples, I will exemplify which role the media can play in constructing or reconstructing, and upholding stereotypes as well as the possible political implications behind these images.
Griseldis Kirsch is a PhD candidate at the Department for Japanese Studies at Trier University, Germany. She currently holds a postgraduate research fellowship at the German Institute for Japanese Studies.