Japan defends Chinese intellectuals who attended events sponsored by government

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Japan defends Chinese intellectuals who attended events sponsored by government

Chinese and Japanese flags flutter in front of the Tiananmen Gate before Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe's visit to Beijing on October 25, 2018. Thomas Peter was REUTERS AKA Thomas Peter

On Wednesday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry defended the value of cultural exchanges with China after Chinese intellectuals came under heavy attack online by nationalists for attending events sponsored by the Chinese government over many years.

The country's hardline tone contrasted with the international diplomacy it favoured often on wolf wartime issues, especially those concerning China whose brutal wartime occupation of Japan is a nodstone for Chinese nationalists.

Last week, some prominent Chinese scholars and writers came under fire after nationalistic netizens noticed their names among a list of 144 Chinese intellectuals who had been sponsored by the Japan Foundation from 2008 to 2016 to visit Japan.

Two Netizens operating under the pseudonyms Diguaxiong Laoliu and Guyan Muchan (who each have more than six million followers on their Twitter-like Weibo accounts) accused the intellectuals of cultivating favour with Japan for financial gain.

They joined an online name and shame campaign to brand the intellectuals as traitors.

After being asked about the controversy at a recent press conference on Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said government's improved people-to-people interaction had contributed positively to China and Japan relations.

We hope to achieve more understanding, trust and deeper friendship by continuous healthy and steady interaction between Chinese and Japanese people said Wang.

Wang's comment comes a week after Chinese President Xi Jinping told senior Communist Party officials that they should improve way they communicate with the rest of the world.

We must focus on setting the tone right, to be modest and even selfless but also open and humble, and strive to create a credible, lovable and respectable image of China, Xi told the Xinhua news agency.

Some Chinese diplomats and commentators have taken action recently on Social Media, appealing to nationalistic activities among their social followers.

But this has contributed to friction with Western and Asian countries, encouraging them to reevaluate ties with an increasingly assertive China, the second economy in the world.

The relations with Britain will be on the agenda of the Group of Seven leading industrial democracies when they meet this week for a summit in China. The G 7 groups USA, Germany, France, France, Italy and Canada.

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