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I’ll talk about six points regarding Japan and the Sino-Japanese relationship on V-60 Day.|
I. Japan not invited to V-60 celebrations by her neighbors.
In stark contrast to a very active Gerhard Schroeder participating in the June 6th V-60 celebrations in Europe on behalf of Germany, Japan’s Junichiro Koizumi was not invited to participate in any of the V-60 celebrations in Asia and elsewhere on August 15, 2005.
Instead, Koizumi went up to a podium and delivered a speech.
Unbeknownst to many in the audience, he had two letters containing two different versions of his speech inside the same envelope, both purporting to show contrition over Japan’s unsavory role in WWII.
He began by talking about his nation having ‘inflicted tremendous damage and pain to wartime victims," and then gave the world’s news services the first version of his speech in which he mentioned Japan’s "serious reflections" or "apologies."
The second version that he delivered to the home audience said nothing of the sort and in fact omitted many of the important elements of what came to be known as the Murayama Apologies named after the former Prime Minister who first delivered the apologetic speech in 1995.
Koizumi’s deliberate omissions carried ominous forebodings to Japan’s Asian neighbors because of their momentous import.
You will recall that in 1995, in his official capacity as Japan’s PM, Tomiichi Murayama had taken on two main themes -- first, that "Japan must let the young generation know about the cruelty of wars so as not to repeat past errors" and second, that "re-war Japan had pursued an erroneous national strategy."
These two important points were both missing in Koizumi’s speech on August 15..
This kind of bait-and-switch trickery with its perennial speech-action mismatch was one of the major reasons why, unlike his German counterpart during V-60 Europe, Koizumi had not been invited to any V-60 Asia celebrations.
II. Comparing German and Japanese attitudes on V-60.
In the decade between 1946 and 1956, altogether a total of 5496 Japanese war criminals divided into three classes were tried in various courts according to provisions of the Potsdam Conference. Amongst those tried for war crimes, there were 14 Class A criminals tried and convicted in Tokyo. Not a single one of the convicts had been condemned by any Japanese official in the intervening years between 1956 and 2005. Conversely, not one victim had his or her pain commiserated by one single Japanese gesture of sincere remorse. Only repeated denials came in the wake of each factual revelation. Such indifference on the part of the Japanese has therefore earned scornful derision from the other Asians.
In retrospect, the differences between German and Japanese responses to war crime accusations weren’t totally unpredictable.
Germany was divided into two nations representing opposing ideological camps at the end of WWII, and its capital Berlin was partitioned into four zones – each controlled by the troops of one of four nations – the former USSR, USA, Britain and France. Conversely, Japan was solely controlled by the U.S. and no Chinese soldiers were ever sent by Chiang Kai-shek to patrol the streets of Tokyo. So Germany was beholden to both Europeans and Americans, while Japan was controlled by General Douglas MacArthur alone until his dismissal by Harry Truman.
As a victor nation which had suffered the most and contributed the greatest towards the eventual defeat of the Japanese, this was of course a ludicrous situation for post-war China. However, she was in the throes of a Civil War with Chiang eager to retain the good graces of the defeated Japanese military in order to enlist the latter's help in his war against the CCP.
The Japanese saw an opportunity in the contradiction and exploited it. Since then they had always called August 15, 1945 the day when "hostilities ended" and, unlike the Germans, never regarded the occasion as a symbol of their triumph over Fascism.
The deliberate American post-war support of Japanese militarist remnants by allowing Japan’s imperial institutions headed by the emperor to remain was the Original Sin that accounted for all the problems in the relations between Japan and her Asian neighbors today.
III. Cultural differences between Japanese and Chinese as reflected by behavior of Japanese politicians
Japanese words and actions suffer from a huge mismatch and this leaves a yawning credibility gap. The Chinese believe in the intrinsic trustworthiness of spoken words amongst all decent men (junzi), whether they are scholars or just plain citizens. Confucian culture touts men who honor their verbal commitments with aphorisms such as "one word is worth a thousand taels of gold." etc.
And Confucius had said, "If someone’s demeanor towards his fellow men is respectful (Ju chu gong); assumes a responsible attitude in his job (ze si jin); and does not cheat his fellow men (yu ren zhong); even if he says he is not a learned man, I will still say he is (suai roi wei xue, wu bi wei zi xue yi)." (See "Analect")
My Japanese friends told me there is no such comparable moral teachings in their culture.
If the situation could be likened to writing a letter, it would be as if a Japanese wrote a letter to a Chinese with the words "East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" inscribed on the envelope but instead enclosed a letter listing his evil deeds -- including the murder of 35 million Chinese in more than a hundred horrendous ways, countless rapes, robberies and arson.
First, In his publicized speech on August 15, Koizumi wrote that he "acknowledged with humility the pain and suffering to Asians" on the envelope, but the real content was a decades-long incremental whitewashing of the facts in the school textbooks.
Second, he mentioned "deep reflections and apologies" and "facing the past and correctly treating history" on the envelopes for their foreign dispatches, but the real content was a denial of war guilt in numerous cases of forced labor and comfort women, and of course the Nanjing Massacre. The Japanese term "fan-shen" which they are so prone to use in official documents has no connotation of "apologies" in it. It simply means adopting a reflective posture.
As far as I am concerned, they could be reflecting on why they lost the last war and not on their war guilt. If their recent activities can be taken as a guide, it is almost certain that they are pondering on how to avoid making the same mistakes in their next war against China.
Third, Koizumi wrote of "forming forward-looking cooperative relationship with other Asians" on the envelope, yet the truth is that while most of the other regions of the known world are forming trading blocs, the three East Asian countries still have not formed a FTZ due to the Japanese excuse that their farmers’ interests (and hence votes for the LDP) were of overriding importance to them.
It was the umpteenth time they had used the schizophrenic approach to wiggle out of the war crime issue by mouthing regrets while acting otherwise. During both the 50th Anniversary of the First Bandung Conference earlier in 2005 and the current V-60, the PM would be talking about his "deep regrets or fan-shen") and his cabinet members would be visiting the Yasukuni Shrine on the same day.
One apologetic word would have sufficed had it been followed by sincere, concrete actions. It is not that the Chinese do not want to forgive the Japanese. It is only that the ones holding the reins of power on the island do not think they need to be forgiven. In-depth self-examination is totally lacking here. Even the Japanese paper "Daily News" carried the news yesterday that a straw poll on August 15th showed that three out of four ordinary Japanese citizens felt that the so-called "reflections" in their official documents lacked real depth.
Japanese culture cherishes extremism – it touts complete servitude to those it deems superior, and complete dominance over those it looks down upon. In contrast, Chinese culture cherishes avoidance of extremism by searching for the Way of the Medium – it neither sucks up to the strong and brawny nor tramples down on the meek and scrawny.
That’s why Zhuge Liang during the time when he was fighting Meng Huo – a leader of some barbarian tribes to the south of Chengdu – was patient enough to keep on releasing the man upon recapture, and did it seven times before Meng finally gave up.
Would this have happened in Japan? Not a chance.
IV. The Shrine visits as a political bargaining chip used by the Japanese
By the way what happened at N anjing in December, 1937 was only a small sample of what would happen to the rest of the nation in the ensuing eight years. The authenticated 300,000 victims at the capital city represented only 1 out of 117 or less than one percent of the 35 million Chinese victims of the Anti-Japanese War.
And yet the Class-A war criminals responsible for such atrocities and whose ash urns are housed at Yasukuni are visited by Japanese high officials year after year.
The Shrine visits had started with former PM Nakasone in 1985. Fifty-five of Koizumi’s cabinet members visited the Shrine on August 15, 2003. This year the activity has continued unabated and they are still going there like a school of mackerels.
It is totally mind-boggling that when other pressing issues surrounding the war (comfort women compensations, chemical weapons found at Qiqihar, Heilongjiang Province) are still in limbo, they are using the Yasukuni visits as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with her Asian neighbors. Whether Koizumi is going to visit on a certain date and whether his cabinet members are following suit have become the headlines overshadowing more pressing issues.
The Shrine visits had even been presented as a bargaining chip on Japan’s admission to the UNSC. "Stop the visitations and we’ll let you in" says one netizen bewildered by the fireworks display of the Japanese nincompoops.
V. China’s crop of "New Thinkers about Japan"
There is a whole generation of Chinese cadres in their late fifties who grew up in the materially disadvantaged years of the CR. Having little academic background and even less actual experience living in foreign lands, they were too impressionable when they went abroad. These folks included some advocates masquerading as scholars touting the now-defunct "New Thinking about Japan."
This group of middle-aged men, represented by Ma Licheng of People’s Daily and Si Yinhong of Renmin University, played harmful roles in the nation’s fight against Japanese militarism.
Ma went to Japan once in January, 2002, after which he wrote an essay which appeared in the bi-monthly December 2002 issue of Beijing-based "Strategy and Management." The Japanese were waiting for someone like him to appear on the Chinese horizon and he became their instant hero. The fact that Ma was working as a vice-editor at People’s Daily helped to fan the flame – it catapulted him headlong into the maelstrom of the Sino-Japanese war of words.
The Japanese actually thought there was a change of official attitude towards their militarist past with the new generation of Chinese leaders coming in at that time. From the utterances of the likes of Ma, however, it could be seen that these men didn’t understand squats about Japan and should be counted as amongst the lost generation of the Cultural Revolution. Ma’s main themes in his "New Thinking" include the following:
1. The Mongols had attacked Japan with 200,000 soldiers in thousands of ships. So the Japanese invasion of China was not a one-sided event.
2. Japan has reason to fear China’s rise and in order to keep the supply chain going in Sino-Japanese trade, we should not harm the relationship by constantly harping on Japanese war crimes 60 years ago.
3. The textbooks distorting the historical facts were used in only a small fraction of Japanese schools and hence there is no need to be hysterical on such a small usage by the rightist schools.
4. Japan has been lending us low-interest loans making it possible for us to build several mega-projects.
The four corresponding point-by-point refutations of Ma are:
1. The Mongolian ships never even reached Japan. They were destroyed by storms in the treacherous waters. Or else there wouldn’t have been any legendary Kamikaze or Divine Winds in Japanese history.
2. The more we fear alienating the Japanese even on matters of principle, the more they will advance and take us for granted. Meekness buys nothing except disdain in international relations. If the success of China’s modernization has to be premised on her people’s cooperating with Japanese war criminals and their descendants in whitewashing the past, then such modernization would have been meaningless anyway, just as Deng Xiaoping had told Margaret Thatcher in 1984 that if Hongkong’s continued prosperity had to depend on continued de facto British colonial administration, such ‘prosperity’ would have been nothing but shame.
3. The textbook issue is not just a national issue. If such distortions of basic facts are allowed to continue unchallenged by Japan’s neighbors, it would take only two seconds for the textbooks to be used en masse in all Japanese schools once the time is ripe. Therefore the percentage of usage of such books cannot be used as an excuse that ludicrous distortions can be tolerated.
4. The loans had to be repaid. They were not gifts. Compared to the sharp demands for war reparations at the signing ceremony of the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895 when China’s representative Li Hongchan was allowed only to respond "yes" or "no" to a Japanese war reparations demand that amounted to millions of taels of silver (equivalent to many many billions of dollars today), the loan amounts weren’t impressive at all. This reparations money from the Qing government was the fuel that drove the engine of Japan’s rapid industrialization in the early 1900s. Here, China’s loans borrowed from Japan constituted but a infinitesimally small fraction of the financial losses of China sustained during the Sino-Japanese War, not to speak of lives lost, punitive monetary compensation receivables, and other tangible or intangible losses during the war.
What’s more, Japan’s cash caches need investment outlets in many market sectors. It was to her advantage to accomplish both economic and political goals through stabilizing her relationship with an up-and-coming but cash-strapped China in the last decades of the Twentieth Century. The loans are coming to an end in China today, but they are merely re-directed to South and Southeast Asian as well as African nations in the form of commercial investment venues to achieve their geopolitical aims, showing that political and economic self-interests have always been guiding her loan policies, and those to China weren’t exceptions.
VI. Future Prospects of Sino-Japanese relations
In the Chinese calendar according to the Farmers’ Almanac, the first year of a 60-year cycle of Gan Zi is called one "Jia Zi" and such a year, if begun with auspicious divinations, should augur well for another 60-year cycle of prosperity.
This was not destined to be the case with Koizumi or his followers on August 15, 2005.
Aside from derisively thumbing her nose at China’s inability to take advantage of her military victory in WWII, Japan has concluded that she has nothing to fear from China.
A reading of Chinese tea leaves had shown them that even if they lose again in another war of aggression, the Chinese will always be suckers that will treat them well after such a war because of the Confucian teaching of "Yi de bao yuan" or "Rewarding evil with goodness." All they have to do is to make sure that they bow deeply enough in such an eventuality.
On the other hand, if the Japanese were given another chance at attacking China when conditions are ripe again – which is sure to come some time before Hell freezes over – they will annihilate if not enslave the Chinese people and their nation.
This is not fantasy. In fact they had tried to do exactly that in WWII with chemical and germ warfare to solve their endemic problem of munitions shortfalls, and the notorious 731 troops had experimented on captured civilian Chinese prisoners at their Shenyang headquarters – doing medical experiments on living subjects, with such data procured later by the Americans in exchange for setting the villainous perpetrators free.
This act best illustrated the true gut feelings of Anglo-Americans towards Chinese lives no matter what they say in retrospect. It is as if a rapist took some pictures of his victim in compromised positions and hustles to sell the pictures to you – the policeman – in exchange for your setting him free. Would you have gone through with the evil deal? Would you have done it if the woman is someone you know or respect?
Such incomparably cruel malfeasance was the reason why the South Korean President decried the other day that it was his nation’s misfortune to have Japan as a neighbor.
What makes the situation even more unbelievable is that it is currently the Japanese that are talking about "taking revenge" on the Chinese in their infamous cartoons and tabloids, and not vice versa. They have been complaining that it was due to Chinese resistance that there was a N anjing M assacre. In other words, if the Chinese had been docile like a herd of cattle, no one would have been killed or harmed at N anjing in December, 1937. Could the whole darn thing have been more preposterous?
It is ironic to see the huge rallies depicting Japan as a victim of atomic bombs in front of the world’s media year after year without any mention of why bombs were dropped on them, and yet there are only scattered, regional gatherings in China teaching school children about Japanese atrocities. In Hongkong there were only a few hundred people gathered for the occasion, despite the fact that Hongkong was occupied for 44 months by Japanese troops whose cruelties were responsible for reducing the city’s pre-war population of more than a million and a half inhabitants to 600,000 by the end of the war.
As George Santayana had said, those who forget their history are destined to re-live it.
It is time for Japan to truly face up to her war crimes. The present stalemate in Japanese politics occasioned by the dispute over postal privatization reforms affords a respite from one-man rule, so much so that there is ongoing prediction that Koizumi’s loss is a good omen for Sino-Japanese relationship.
It is clear that Japan has to tear herself away from her long-cherished national policy of "Qu Ya Ru Ou" or "Leaving Asia for Europe" – a world outlook unquestionably accepted by the Japanese nation since the time of the Meiji Emperor in 1868. They need to return to Asia in both psychological and corporeal dimensions if they want to become a truly normal country. For Japan to become ‘normal’ she needs to start the effort in Asia – it shouldn’t be just remilitarization or distancing herself from her immediate neighbors while flashing fistfuls of yen to buy votes from African officials so as to gain admission to the veto-wielding UNSC. It should involve remedial PR work starting with a sincere "sorry" to her war crime victims followed by concrete actions that show the contrition is real.
It is far better to do it voluntarily than to wait for the day of retribution with someone else doing the reckoning.
The talk of social and political systems being different in China and Japan as causing their failure to view historical events in the same light is moot. South Korea has very similar political institutions to their Japanese counterparts and yet South Koreans and Japanese typically don’t see eye-to-eye on many political issues.
The fundamental difference between Japan’s rise and that of China’s is in their way of procuring capital and resources. Japan did it through aggressive wars patterned after the European colonial powers; while China is doing it through equitable exchanges and trading on an equal footing through win-win negotiations with countries throughout the world.
Perpetual vigilance is essential in dealing with the Japanese.
Future Sino-Japanese interactions ought to be a reflection of the complementarity of their economic structures. Ever since the last Ice Age at which time Japan was separated from Mainland Asia, it was pre-ordained that the Chinese and Japanese subcultures would develop differently. But our seeming geographic proximity with our two nations separated by a thin but turbulent strip of water – making us so near and yet so far apart psychologically – is a fact that cannot be changed, and it beckons our national wisdom at the highest level not to let events drift past a point of no return. For her own future prospects, the Japanese should start by learning to truly commiserate with her former victims and not just pretend to do so.
Mao had commented on the CCP interactions with the KMT this way:
"Those who unite with the KMT for the sake of unity will fail, but those who use struggle as a means of achieving unity will succeed."
The same principle can be applied to Sino-Japanese relations.
China is quite adept at achieving a consensus through patient and practical negotiations within an agreed framework. Still, however, diplomatic success is premised on her achieving a commensurate level in her aggregate national strength.
As the Six-Party talks illustrated so well, the Old Country could weave the raw cotton of confrontation into a fabric of peace through using skillful threads of negotiations with the Japanese based on such aggregate strength.
Wei Chao, M.D.