China's rise means that Japan's relationship with its giant neighbour will be key for Italy

Italy’s image of Japan is characterised by a clear dichotomy between insiders – who include entrepreneurs, officials and enthusiasts for Japanese culture - and outsiders – those with a general and superficial understanding of what Japan is.

Both these groups seem to have a generally positive image of the country, with the “insiders” having obviously greater awareness of the many facets and nuances that compose the general picture.

Moreover, the general good – albeit at times superficial - image of Japan seems to have remained stable over the years. China seems to be the only potential “interference” factor in the bilateral relations between Italy and Japan, and clearly has the capacity to gain even greater importance in the future.

Italy is traditionally an export-oriented economy and so the greater the market potential of a country, the greater importance that country will be given. These commercial – and, consequently, political - imperatives influence the perceived inevitability of ever-increasing Italy Sino-Italian relations. In light of these considerations, realistically, the role that Japan will have in Italy in the years to come seem to depend greatly on how it will be able to work out its relations with the bigger neighbour.

One aspect that was not directly touched by this experts’ survey but which has the potential to positively influence the overall image of Japan in Italy is the topic of capital punishment. Italy is perhaps one of the countries which care the most about capital punishment. If Japan was to increase the public discourse on capital punishment and was to revise its stance on the matter, there is reason to believe that the overall image of the country would greatly benefit.  

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The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. This commentary, like all publications of the European Council on Foreign Relations, represents only the views of its authors.