China's government has sentenced two of its citizens to life in prison for their role in securing prostitutes for hundreds of male Japanese visitors in the southern city of Zhuhai last autumn. The Chinese government is also pressuring Tokyo to turn over the Japanese businessmen who allegedly requested the prostitutes.
This story made headlines around the world, and fits well with how the world press typically covers Sino-Japanese relations. Regrettably, such incidents recur with enough regularity to feed the media machine that continues to stir a nationalism rooted in conflicting historical memories.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine - which is widely viewed as a symbol of Japan's former militarism - is a conspicuous example of this. The publicity that the press gives to these visits has helped impede an invitation to Koizumi from China's leaders for a state visit.
Recently, the discovery of mustard gas canisters left behind by Japanese forces during World War II has also served to keep memories of the Imperial Japanese Army's wartime conduct alive among older Chinese.