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China's sympathetic response to Japan's crisis eases tensions

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Soon, however, such posts were vastly outnumbered by more humane reactions. "I have to say that I admire the Japanese people's quality and spirit," wrote a netizen in Shanghai who calls himself Jiaoyueyouyou on another leading portal, Sina.com.

Sina.com has received more than 2,788,000 clicks recently on an icon on its site reading "Pray for the Japanese in the disaster zone."

That seemed more representative of ordinary Chinese citizens. In an online poll by Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, 73 percent of 1.8 million responses were positive. Some said they were surprised by the Japanese people's disciplined response to the disaster. Others admired the relatively low casualty rate or the Japanese government's quick response.

Those in favor of sending aid outnumbered those opposing it by more than 2 to 1.

Four days before the earthquake, a different story

This was in striking contrast to the opinions culled by World Public Opinion, a Washington-based international polling agency, in a survey released four days before the earthquake and tsunami. That poll found 71 percent of Chinese holding negative views of Japan.

Reasons for that are not hard to find. Resentment at Japan's brutal occupation of China between 1931 and 1945, and the war that claimed 20 million lives, still boils in many Chinese hearts. The sentiment is further embittered by a sense that Tokyo has never fully apologized for its atrocities.

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