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When did Japan and China become enemies?


Japan and China have had a long and complicated history. While the two countries have had periods of peaceful relations, they also have a history of conflict and tension. This article will delve into the factors that led to Japan and China becoming enemies, examining the political, economic, and cultural factors that contributed to this complex relationship.

Early Relations

Japan and China have a long history of trade and cultural exchange dating back to the 7th century. During this period, Japan was heavily influenced by Chinese culture and adopted many Chinese customs and practices. However, tensions began to emerge in the 19th century as Japan began to modernize and assert its power in the region.

Japanese Snack Box

The First Sino-Japanese War

In 1894-1895, Japan and China fought their first war over control of Korea. The conflict ended with Japan emerging victorious, marking a significant shift in power dynamics in East Asia. This war also marked the beginning of a period of Japanese expansionism that would ultimately lead to World War II.

World War II

During World War II, Japan invaded and occupied China, committing numerous atrocities against Chinese civilians. This brutal occupation soured relations between the two countries for decades to come.

Territorial Disputes

In recent years, tensions between Japan and China have been further exacerbated by territorial disputes over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea. Both countries claim ownership of these islands, which are believed to be rich in natural resources.

Economic Rivalry

Japan and China are also economic rivals, both competing for influence and access to markets throughout Asia. This rivalry has led to tensions over trade policies, currency manipulation, and intellectual property theft.

The Role of Nationalism

Nationalism plays a significant role in the relationship between Japan and China. Both countries have strong national identities rooted in their respective histories and cultures. However, this nationalism can also fuel animosity towards one another.

Cultural Differences

Cultural differences between Japan and China have also contributed to their tense relationship. While both countries share many cultural similarities, there are also significant differences in language, religion, and social norms that can create misunderstandings and tensions.

The Role of the United States

The United States has played a significant role in shaping the relationship between Japan and China. As a major economic and military power in the region, the U.S. has often acted as a mediator between the two countries.

The Future of Japan-China Relations

The future of Japan-China relations is uncertain. While both countries have expressed a desire for peaceful coexistence, there are still many unresolved issues that could potentially lead to conflict. It will be important for both countries to continue to engage in dialogue and work towards resolving their differences.


In conclusion, the relationship between Japan and China is complex and multifaceted. While there are many factors that have contributed to their tense relationship, including historical conflicts, territorial disputes, economic rivalry, nationalism, cultural differences, and external influences like the United States, it is important for both countries to find common ground and work towards peaceful coexistence in order to ensure stability in East Asia.

Why did China and Japan become enemies?

The enmity between these two countries emanated from the history of the Japanese war and the imperialism and maritime disputes in the East China Sea. Thus, although these two nations are close business partners, there is an undercurrent of tension, which leaders of both sides are trying to quell.

Who is Japan’s biggest enemy?

Although China and Japan have not engaged in military conflict since the 1940s, they have been continuously competing over the years. Recently, protests have erupted in Beijing and other Chinese cities over Japan’s revisionist textbooks, adding to the ongoing tensions between the two nations.

What did China and Japan fight over?

The Senkaku Islands, also known as the Diaoyu Islands or Tiaoyutai Islands, are a group of uninhabited islands that are at the center of a territorial dispute between Japan, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the Republic of China (ROC or Taiwan).

What is Japan’s problem with China?

The disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, are a major point of disagreement between the two countries. Japan claims the islands as part of its territory based on historical and international law reasons, even though they are currently uninhabited. The islands were once home to a Japanese seafood factory.

How many Chinese were killed by Japan?

Rummel reports that during 1937 to 1945, the Japanese operations resulted in the death of approximately 3.9 million Chinese civilians in China alone. The total number of Chinese killed during the war was estimated to be around 10.2 million.

Who helped China when Japan invaded?

A tense peace was maintained between the two countries until 1940. During 1940 and 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved U.S. aid to China, extending credit to the Chinese Government for the purchase of war materials, while also gradually imposing restrictions on Japan.

Efforts to Improve Relations

Despite their complicated history, both Japan and China have made efforts to improve their relationship in recent years. In 2018, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping met for the first time in seven years and agreed to work towards improving bilateral ties. This meeting marked a significant step forward in improving relations between the two countries.

In addition, economic cooperation between Japan and China has increased in recent years. In 2020, the two countries signed a new trade agreement aimed at reducing tariffs and increasing investment between the two countries. This agreement is expected to boost economic ties and improve relations between Japan and China.

The Role of Regional Organizations

Regional organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) have also played a role in improving relations between Japan and China. These organizations provide a platform for dialogue and cooperation on regional issues, which can help to reduce tensions between countries.

The Importance of Diplomacy

Diplomacy will continue to be crucial in improving relations between Japan and China. Both countries will need to engage in open and honest dialogue to address their differences and work towards peaceful coexistence. This will require a commitment from both sides to put aside past grievances and focus on building a constructive relationship for the future.


In conclusion, while the relationship between Japan and China has been fraught with tension and conflict, there are signs that both countries are committed to improving their relationship. Through efforts to increase economic cooperation, engage in diplomacy, and work through regional organizations, Japan and China can move towards a more stable and peaceful relationship in the future.

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