Different countries have different ways of doing things. Apparently, each culture has its
own cultures and traditions that set it apart from the others. A country may be weak or strong in
terms of economic and political performance, but their cultures and traditions define them.
Majority of the countries will have elements that unite them as a whole. Some of those elements
will include the national flag, the national language or currency that they use. Fundamentally,
these things are unique in each country given that they promote unity in those countries. In
addition, countries will have their national narrative that acts as a bond to their citizens. It
reminds them of where they have come from and achieved as a country. The only problem that
countries have to face is the challenge of minority groups. Discrimination and prejudice have
been a common factor in different countries although some protective rights have been
established to counter the situation. In this regard, the paper will discuss the elements of national
identity in Japan and China plus their national narratives and the way they have been dealing
with ethnic groups.
Drivers and Elements of National Identity
Both Japan and China have their national symbols. In both instances, they have unique
national symbols that represent their history. One of the symbols in Japan includes the flag. The
Japanese flag is rectangular while the white banner with a crimson-red disc located at the center 1 .
The official name for the Japanese flag is Nisshoki representing Japan as a land of the rising sun.
On the other hand, the flag of China is composed of a red field with some five starts at the
canton. The red color is a representation of the communist revolution 2 . The four small stars
1 Dinnie, Keith. Nation branding: Concepts, issues, practice. Routledge, 2015.
2 Saunders, Phillip C. China's global activism: strategy, drivers, and tools. NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV
WASHINGTON DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES, 2006.
Japan and China Identities 3
represent the four social classes in China while the large star represents the unity of the country
under the leadership of the Communist Party.
The national anthem of Japan is referred to as the ‘kimigayo.’ Typically, it is one of the
oldest lyrics of the national anthems with 32 characters in it. It was written in the Heian period as
a way of enriching their character. The national anthem of China is ‘March of volunteers’ which
also symbolized the achievements and the unity of that country. The national currency of Japan
is the ‘Yen.’ A report indicates that one of the most traded currencies in the foreign exchange
market. The national currency of China is the Renminbi although the basic unit is the Yuan. It’s
not commonly traded, but its global recognition is growing with time. The national colors in
Japan are red and white while the secondary colors are black and blue 3 . The secondary colors are
majorly used in sports. On the other end, the national colors of China are black and red while the
standards colors are white and yellow.
Culture and traditions
Religions- The communist party that rules the communist party is Atheist although with
time the administration has allowed other religions to be practiced. The constitution has given
the freedom of religion to the number of people in that country. As a result, five new religions
have been introduced in the country. In Japan, the earliest religion is the Shinto, which began
before the prehistoric period. Over time, the freedom of religion was introduced. As a search,
Christianity and other religions were practiced
Language- In China, there are seven major dialects with different variations. The
common one is the Mandarin dialect that is used by more than 70% of the population 4 . Notably,
3 Fan, Ying. "Branding the nation: What is being branded?." Journal of vacation marketing 12, no. 1 (2006): 5-14.
4 Liu, James H., and Janos László. "A narrative theory of history and identity." In Social representations and
identity, pp. 85-107. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2007.
Japan and China Identities 4
the dialects used in the country are what unite them. People can use different dialects including
fluent communication in English. In Japan, the common language is the Japanese separated by
several dialects although the common one is that of Tokyo. Other languages include Ryukyuan
and Kagoshima that is spoken in Ryukyu Island 5 . The common language is popular to the extent
of being spoken in several countries in the European Union.
Science and technology- China has invested heavily in science and technology. Their
advancements are focused on scientific research with its total expenditure exceeding that of USA
five-fold. The recent technological advancement developed by China is the teleportation. When
it comes to science and technology in Japan, it’s ranked second only to the united states in
research and technology 6 . In this sense, Japan has become an economic powerhouse because its
technology is focused on the development of industries. Some of the notable features of
technological advancements include high-speed trains, cancer research, and environmental
Narratives of National identity in Japan and China
One of the narratives found in the national identity of Japan in the existence of the Meiji
period. Typically, the Meiji period replaced the Tokugawa regime that was not wholly accepted
by the citizens of Japan. It was not an easy move as it involved a series of battles and political
alliances that led to the fall of Tokugawa and the rise of Meiji. Importantly, the establishment of
the Meiji regime was supported by European countries such as finance and Britain, which would
help in the recovery process. In this regards, the Meiji regime was supported by top European
5 Ford, John B., and Earl D. Honeycutt Jr. "Japanese national culture as a basis for understanding Japanese
business practices." Business Horizons 35, no. 6 (1992): 27-35
6 Brown, Melissa J. Is Taiwan Chinese?: the impact of culture, power, and migration on changing identities. Univ of
California Press, 2004.
Japan and China Identities 5
countries, which would be useful in the industrialization and the national building process. It's
prudent to state that the Meiji regime destroyed a political structure that had been in existence for
more than 200 years 7 . The structure political system that had been placed were destroyed as new
ones were brought into place
The good thing is that Meiji would unite the people of Japan given them clear goals that
all people would work for. A new political structure would be built, one that would unite the
citizens. In this regards, the country would turn to top European countries such as France for
models that would be useful to bring the country on its feet again. The foreign powers would
offer aid and advisors that would help the country to grow both politically and economically. At
the time, the country would engage in creating a strong state and end unequal treaties between
Japan and USA (including other European countries). The citizens of that country had finally
gotten hold of something that would bring them together 8 . The freedom to be masters of
themselves was here to make them a better nation. After a while, Japan was recognized as a
nation by other European countries with equal rights as other nations. Typically, it was through
the formation of the Meiji government that the notion of a nation was established in Japan. Over
the years, the narrative has been spread from one generation to another as a form of national
identity. The citizens will have to familiarize themselves with that part of history and avoid other
activities or alliances that would lead to the same satiation. It was a successful move
overthrowing the Tokugawa and establishing a new regime that would bring aspect
industrialization and equity when compared to other powerful European nations.
7 Bukh, Alexander. "Japan's history textbooks debate: National identity in narratives of victimhood and
victimization." Asian Survey 47, no. 5 (2007): 683-704.
8 Friedman, Edward. National identity and democratic prospects in socialist China. Routledge, 2016.
Japan and China Identities 6
The narrative of China identity is based on the pluralist unity that has lasted for more than
a century. China is one of the largest economies in the world with an approximate of 56 ethnic
groups. In addition, there are other contemporary groups referred to as the unrecognized groups.
Despite the many nationalities in China, the country still boasts and national cohesion that has
been their pride. In over 100 years, there have never been ethnic wars 9 . In this regards, they call
that narrative as an ethnic family that will never be broken by external forces. The reason they
call it an ethnic family is that they all live in a similar geographic area with many things being
common among them 10 . Some of the practices in these nationalities are similar. The other reason
for terming it as an ethnic family is the political, economic and social features that the groups
have instilled in each other. They have formed a strong economic movement that currently is
ruling the world. Notably, China and the USA have the largest economies in the world because if
their internal affairs that are characterized by the unity of the people. China, have understood that
when people work together, they will share the same belief that will ultimately conquer any
challenge which is political social or an economic one.
The pluralist ideology in China has been the key to the country’s success. Every time the
country is faced with an internal challenge, they will always remind themselves of their
narrative. It took almost 100 years to bring unity to all the ethnic groups. In this sense, it has
become a source of inspiration and hopes to these people every year. They share a long history
that can never be erased. The ethnic groups that existed and created a strong bond will for a long
time be remembered because they have remarried and created even stronger bonds.
9 Doak, Kevin M. "What is a nation and who belongs? National narratives and the ethnic imagination in twentieth-
century Japan." The American Historical Review 102, no. 2 (1997): 283-309.
10 Ong, Aihwa. "Chinese modernities: narratives of nation and of capitalism." Ungrounded empires: The cultural
politics of modern Chinese transnationalism (1997): 171-202.
Japan and China Identities 7
Protection of Various Ethnic or National Groups
In China, there a different ethnic groups that total up to an approximate of 56 national
groups, however, the national groups in China have to leave in peace and unity despite their
different sizes, their level of the economy or even their different custom and beliefs. It must be
noted that every ethnic group is a part of the Chinese nation, which means that they have to
perform the same duties that are connected to the social and political life as stated in the
constitution. By all means, ethnic oppression is condemned in which all groups and required to
maintain justice and equality 11 . In this regards, all the national groups are required to safeguard
and promote unity amongst themselves as they appreciate the differences between them. Ethnic
oppression and discrimination are some of the issues that have been put first in policy-making to
ensure that no loophole would be present.
The constitution has incorporated some public policies that help in the protection of the
minority groups. The constitution of China states that “All ethnic groups in the People's Republic
of China are equal. The state protects the lawful rights and interests of the ethnic minorities and
upholds and develops a relationship of equality, unity and mutual assistance… 12 ” In this regards,
the policy stipulates that all people have the chance to do anything legally without minding their
ethnic background. They have the right to vote, the right to stand in a general election, the right
to speech or right to religious beliefs regardless of their ethnic differences. They had been
11 Daniels, Roger. Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850. University of Washington
12 Weiner, Michael, ed. Japan's minorities: the illusion of homogeneity. Vol. 38. Taylor & Francis, 2009.
Japan and China Identities 8
overseen some decades ago when quarrels were almost tearing the country, but the constitution
was there to protect the powerless and the minority in China.
China has adopted a policy that allows all ethnic groups to participate in state affairs at an
equal level. Typically, the government has ensured that the minority and the Han people
participation in the management issue are guaranteed. It happens when elections in the highest
state of power are taking place. As the law states, the minority people in China will have all their
deputies sit in the national people’s congress 13 . As for the ethnic groups, whose population is less
than the one prescribed, they are permitted to elect one deputy. It means that they will be fully
participating in matters of administration that would have been difficult of the constitution was
Freedom for the minority came a long way. Initially, the system in China was based on
one strong ruler that would appoint lords and chiefs in charge of different regions. At this point,
the people did not have any freedom. However, some reforms eliminated all the privileges that
were with the feudal lords and the nobles. The old system that allowed the oppression of man-to-
man was over. As a result, the minority groups were given their freedom and became the masters
of their destinies. They would choose what they wanted in their homeland without being forced
to do anything.
The situation in Japan has been different in matters of protecting the minority groups.
Typically, Japan has had a democratic constitution, but the majority still rules over the minority
even without considering the opinion 14 . The United Nations reported that Japan had had the
13 Xie, Lei. Environmental activism in China. Routledge, 2012
14 Nagel, J., 1994. Constructing ethnicity: Creating and recreating ethnic identity and culture. Social problems, 41(1),
Japan and China Identities 9
highest rate of racial discrimination amongst all the developed countries. The suggestion was
made in a better way to deal with the issue that resulted in insight changes that would help in
protecting the minority groups
At the start of the aim to protect the minority, a national movement has been
championing the idea of a policy to protect the foreigners. The move was established as a way of
mobilizing the citizens of the country to eliminate discrimination and prejudice on a racial basis 15
. The awareness was created in all parts of the country with an inclusion of the Paralympic games
that would show how the citizens were committed to dealing with that issue. On the same note,
the policymakers have been forced to create laws that will protect the minority groups and
especially foreigners. In this sense, the stipulated laws allowed for the employment of all people
in any part of the country without considering their ethnic background. Employers were
supposed to inspect on skills and not origin of a person. It's likely that after the integration of
different ethnic groups in workplaces, people will learn to respect and accept each other.
Finally, the government of Japan was required to create a human rights institution and
protect its activities through the constitution. It means that the activities of the body were
supposed to be independent. At this point, there will be a body with the responsibility of
speaking on behalf of the minorities. The protection of the Korean, the Chinese and the Muslims
will be strengthened through the rights institution. The only policy that has been effective since
1982 was the refugee recognition policy. In this policy, the government understands the rights of
refugees in the sense that they are allowed the majority of the rights in that country. They are
offered language interpreters that allow them to live as ordinal citizens of Japan. In addition, they
are offered food, clothing, and employment to the few that are qualified.
15 De Witte, Bruno. "Politics versus Law in the EU's Approach to Ethnic Minorities." (2000).
Japan and China Identities 10
In conclusion, it's clear that all countries including Japan and China have their different
elements of national identities. They may be having a similar element, but the meaning may be
different. The different ethnic groups in China have been a narrative that has been used as a
symbol of national unity. For many years, the 56 ethnic groups have been living in peace thus
strengthening the cultural and political aspect in that country. On the other hand, the narrative of
Japan has been the establishment of the Meiji administration. It allowed people to live with
freedom, as the national identity of Japan was cultivated. The only challenge with Japan is the
lack of administrative tools that would protect the rights of the minority. It has been a struggle
that has lasted nearly decades, but progress is on its way. On the other hand, China has done well
in protecting the rights and freedom of the minority.
Brown, Melissa J. Is Taiwan Chinese?: the impact of culture, power, and migration on changing
identities. Univ of California Press, 2004.
Japan and China Identities 11
Bukh, Alexander. "Japan's history textbooks debate: National identity in narratives of victimhood
and victimization." Asian Survey 47, no. 5 (2007): 683-704.
Daniels, Roger. Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850.
University of Washington Press, 2011.
De Witte, Bruno. "Politics versus Law in the EU's Approach to Ethnic Minorities." (2000).
Dinnie, Keith. 2015. Nation branding: Concepts, issues, practice. Routledge, 2015.
Doak, Kevin M. "What is a nation and who belongs? National narratives and the ethnic
imagination in twentieth-century Japan." The American Historical Review 102, no. 2
Fan, Ying. "Branding the nation: What is being branded?." Journal of vacation marketing 12, no.
1 (2006): 5-14.
Ford, John B., and Earl D. Honeycutt Jr. "Japanese national culture as a basis for understanding
Japanese business practices." Business Horizons 35, no. 6 (1992): 27-35.
Friedman, Edward. National identity and democratic prospects in socialist China. Routledge,
Liu, James H., and Janos László. "A narrative theory of history and identity." In Social
representations and identity, pp. 85-107. Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2007.
Nagel, J., 1994. Constructing ethnicity: Creating and recreating ethnic identity and culture.
Social problems, 41(1), pp.152-176.
Ong, Aihwa. "Chinese modernities: narratives of nation and of capitalism." Ungrounded
empires: The cultural politics of modern Chinese transnationalism (1997): 171-202.
Japan and China Identities 12
Saunders, Phillip C. China's global activism: strategy, drivers, and tools. NATIONAL
DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC
Weiner, Michael, ed. Japan's minorities: the illusion of homogeneity. Vol. 38. Taylor & Francis,
Xie, Lei. Environmental activism in China. Routledge, 2012.