BEIJING (Kyodo) -- A number of Chinese journalists saw their long-held negative views about Japan and its people change completely after traveling to northeastern Japan to cover the aftermath of the March 11 quake-tsunami disaster, according to their reports to a recent symposium with university students in Beijing.
Impressed by the orderly and patient behavior of disaster victims and the relatively high transparency of information released, they said they developed a feeling of respect toward the Japanese.
Their reports were so full of positive aspects that some of the about 200 students in the audience questioned whether the journalists had come across anything negative while in Japan.
"The ability of the government to handle relief operations was not as high as that of the Chinese government," said Zhang Hongwei, 44, a reporter from the Chinese Business View newspaper based in Shaanxi Province.
Other than that, however, the journalists only cited favorable aspects about Japan.
Chen Jie, 38, a cameraman from Beijing News, was one of them. While admitting that he had felt resentment and mistrust toward the Japanese for a long time, he said, "The prejudice that I felt gradually disappeared while I was there, trying to cover the disaster damage."
"In the 14 days I spent on the assignment, I learned much more than I would have done by if I had read books for 10 years," he added.
Chen flew to Sendai on March 14 and covered disaster-hit areas including Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture and Fukushima in Fukushima Prefecture.
The strongest impression he received about the Japanese was "the cool and collected" manner demonstrated by the people in devastated areas, including the direct victims of the disaster.
He was moved, he said, when he saw people patiently queue up in front of shops following disruption to merchandize distribution. He also noted that shop owners had not taken advantage of the confusion to indulge in price gouging and that even family members of those who had died tried to restrain themselves from crying openly during burial rituals.
"I was surprised that I was given priority treatment at a gas station as I had an emergency press pass," he said, showing slide photos of a large number of people waiting for their turn to fill their vehicles.
The Chinese Business View's Zhang, who visited sites in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, said he had also been "an anti-Japan person" but that through his assignment he had realized that "the Japanese deserve respect."
Chen and Zhang were among more than 150 Chinese journalists sent to cover the Japanese disaster. The unusually large number appears to have been partly because it was a natural disaster, not a political matter.
Qin Xuan, a reporter from the Southern Weekly magazine based in Guangdong Province, told Kyodo News, "It must have been the first time that so many journalists flew out to cover an overseas incident."
The magazine carried a special feature on the Japanese disaster with a headline saying "The nation of patience," mirroring straightforwardly the impression its reporters got at the stricken areas.
The story touched on how Self-Defense Forces members gave a salute to dead people before burying them, providing a new image of SDF members, whom ordinary Chinese still tend to view in ways colored by memories of the wartime Imperial Japanese Army.
Feeling that his own understanding of Japan was "superficial," Chen said that after coming home he had begun reading history books about Japan, such as about the 17th-19th century Tokugawa Shogunate era.
(Mainichi Japan) April 29, 2011