Most existing scholarship on Japan’s cultural policy toward modern China reflects the paradigm of cultural imperialism. In contrast, this study demonstrates that Japan—while motivated by pragmatic interests, international cultural rivalries, ethnocentrism, moralism, and idealism—was mindful of Chinese opinion and sought the cooperation of the Chinese government. Japanese policy stressed cultural communication and inclusiveness rather than cultural domination and exclusiveness and was part of Japan’s search for an East Asian cultural order led by Japan. China, however, was not a passive recipient and actively sought to redirect this policy to serve its national interests and aspirations. The author argues that it is time to move away from the framework of cultural imperialism toward one that recognizes the importance of cultural autonomy, internationalism, and transculturation.