The relations between China and Japan constitute a key factor in the development of peace and stability in twenty-first century Asia. However, conflicts of the past put a severe strain on the dealings between the two nations and peoples of the present. The origins of these conflicts in modern history can be traced back to the struggle of both countries for influence in Korea since the early 1880s, and to the ensuing Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. The war and its immediate aftermath radically altered the balance of power in East Asia and presented Japan with new self-esteem and a heightened status vis-à-vis the Western powers. On the reverse side, we can observe a radically changed perception of China which subsequently influenced Japan’s policy toward China and, therefore, played a crucial role in defining the relations between the two countries.
My presentation will be divided in two parts. In the first part, I will shortly outline my research project which deals with the change of perception of China in Japan during the transitional years between the Sino-Japanese and the Russo-Japanese War. In the second part, I will talk in more detail about Orientalism and the notion of “Asia” in Meiji intellectual history, with special reference to Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835-1901) and Okakura Tenshin (1862-1913).