Their leaders' bickering over the Senkaku islands and a long history of conflict have taken their toll: the majority of China now expects a war with Japan at some point in the future.
A survey carried out by Genron with China Daily, a state-sponsored newspaper, has revealed the attitudes of the two countries' citizens to each other.
In China, 53 per cent of respondents think war with Japan will happen at some point in the future, with 17.4 per cent of those beliving the conflict would come within the next few years.
The sentiment in Japan was less negative but still striking: 29 per cent of Japanese respondents foresaw war with Japan in the future, with three per cent expecting arms to be lifted within a few years.
When asked what the biggest barrier was to better relations, both sides cited the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands as the primary cause, with 58.6 per cent of Japanese and 64.8 per cent of Chinese people surveyed naming it an impediment.
An interesting twist came from the survey including questions on the national character of the other (page 11 of the report). Respondents were asked to choose how much opposing pairs of adjectives fitted the national character of the other nation; for example kind/humble vs unkind/arrogant.
Choosing only adjectives getting more than 50 per cent, Japanese people see the Chinese as: unkind and arrogant (55 per cent), belligerent (61 per cent), stubborn (62 per cent), untrustworthy (76 per cent), dishonest (64 per cent), imitative (54 per cent), uncooperative (64 per cent) and egoistic (66 per cent).
Meanwhile, according to Chinese contributors, the Japanese are unkind and arrogant (51 per cent), hardworking (56 per cent) belligerent (69 per cent), untrustworthy (66 per cent), dishonest (63 per cent), uncooperative (60 per cent) egoistic (62 per cent) and individualistic (56 per cent).