At the end of a three-month stay in Japan as a visiting fellow at the University of Tokyo, Michael Anti, the Chinese journalist, researcher, media activist and blogger, talked to GV Japan about his current mission: facilitating understanding between Japan and China.
Real China, according to Anti, is the one that shows through the Chinese blogs, bulletin boards and independent Internet media whose authors are often professional journalists, and it has nothing to do with the one propagandized by the government through the “standard” media.
But the Japanese media has yet to understand the lesson.
Stuck in their old (almost obsolete) system, they don't trust the Internet media, and of course they would never rely on bloggers to get their news. And there's the rub! You cannot think to report on what really happens in China unless you turn your attention away from propaganda to people's voices.
And vice versa. The Chinese people will understand Japan only when they stop reading biased bulletin boards like 2channel and visit Japan.
With wit and humor, Michael Anti explained to us why the Chinese and Japanese bloggers are the diplomats of the future.
What was the purpose of your trip, and what did you accomplish?
As a result, I talked to many people in the media, many politicians, and all the “big” bloggers and Japanese people. I think I changed some of their ideas. Now, we will do some more activities in the next year; for example, inviting Chinese bloggers to visit Japan. And there will be other initiatives like this to give more chances to both sides to understand each other better.
Is there anything that disappointed you, coming here?
Was there something that surprised you?
But the problem is, that the textbooks in China and everything about Japan were discontinued in 1945. So I know everything about Japan before 1945. This time, I really witnessed a Japan that’s post 1945. And this Japan is a democracy, which makes me really happy. It’s a very nice place, a peaceful place. This trip changed a lot of my biases about Japan. Because you know, all the ideas about Japan are a mixture of rumors and the textbooks about wartime Japan. So, it surprised me. Japan is a normal democracy. Also, Japan has conservatives, like the rightists. But this kind of rightists are not like the picture which I got about Japan in China, which is about wartime military guys. It’s the same as the tea party in the United States! We’re not scared of them. So, this is a normal society. A normal democracy, which even includes normal conservatives. And of course, normal stupidity.
How about China instead?
The problem is that the Chinese traditional media are very successful in connecting with the Internet and the mainstream media are very connected. So that’s the thing that the Japanese media should know because now most of the best journalist and editors are bloggers.
I think in China there is a very strong censorship to prevent some risk. But here it’s different. You have the kisha club…
What do you think Chinese should know about Japan, that they can’t know because, as you said, the Japanese mainstream media?
Now that you’re going back to China, if you had a conference right now, what would be the first message you give to your audience?
That’s the first step. Sometimes, the media can only give you a certain perspective. For example, referred to one moment of the society. Sometimes, you may have 100 news reports, but even if they are direct and correct, a real trip is more important. Please go to Japan! Japan is the country that [the Chinese people] don’t know, that they don’t understand. I mean the real Japan, not the one written in the textbooks and Chinese media. So that’s the message. Please go to Japan!
What would be your advice to Japanese media to improve the connection to Japanese civil society?
Do you think things will change?
China has already become an Internet-era-China. Japan is still now in a pre-Internet era. It’s like if we’re talking to the ancient people. There is this disconnect in eras and times.
Will you miss Japan?
Michael Anti tweets in Chinese at @mranti.