Pro-China article in Japan Times?

A few days ago a reader sent me an article by a former Australian Diplomat and VP of Akita International University that I found so odd I was reluctant to post about it. I’m going to take the risk, knowing that it could open a can of worms for its description of Tiananmen Square as a “nonmassacre.” It’s rather amazing that this article appeared in, of all places, Japan Times.

Shedding imposed war guilt


Tokyo is right to blame the Chinese authorities for failing to prevent damage to Japanese diplomatic and other properties during recent anti-Japanese demonstrations. But the Chinese authorities probably had
their reasons. Demonstrations in China can easily turn into ugly antigovernment riots when confronted by state power.

The Tiananmen “massacre” was a good example. The alleged killings of thousands of prodemocracy students in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, in fact, as declassified U.S. Embassy documents show, comprised the heavy casualties caused on June 3 when angry rioters, including students, clashed with troops sent to remove the Tiananmen students. One of the Western punishments imposed on Beijing for this nonmassacre of students was a ban on the sale of riot-control equipment.

Ironically, one reason why the Chinese police may have failed to crack down on the anti-Japan rioters could have been the lack of such equipment.

That said, Tokyo is not without fault either. It seems quite insensitive to the damage caused by its anti-China moves and slights. These include everything from very one-sided views of three territorial disputes and tacit promises to cooperate with the United States in military action against China over Taiwan, to homage at Yasukuni Shrine and refusals to admit to the sickening catalog of Japanese atrocities against China before 1945. South Korea is beginning to suffer the same treatment, and is reacting with even greater official vigor.

Claims that Japan has apologized for past aggressions are meaningless. If Japan was really repentant, it would have done something to punish or at least ostracize those responsible for the worst atrocities — the notorious Unit 731, for example, with its germ warfare and vivisection experiments on live Chinese prisoners. Then we would not have to tolerate the obstinate efforts to deny Japan’s wartime military abuse of abducted sex slave “comfort women.”

I always believe at looking at all sides of the issue, and this is certainly a side that hasn’t had a loud voice in recent weeks. So I just thought I’d throw it out there.

For the record, I think he is over-simplifying Tiananmen Square. From all I’ve read, he’s quite right that most of the killing occurred on the sidestreets away from the square, brought on in some instances by attacks on soldiers from emotional mobs. But there are many more sides to the story than that, and unless Jan Wong and John Pomfret and Nick Kristoff and other eyewitnesses are all lying, the events of June 3-4 weren’t nearly so balck and white as Clark would have us believe.

I found it bizarre for a former diplomat and university official to make such explosive assertions so matter-of-factly.

The Discussion: 29 Comments

I wonder if this article would appear in the Japanese language edition as well or if it’s only for the consumption of the English speaking world.

April 20, 2005 @ 9:13 pm | Comment

It seems Mr Clark has a lot of enemies in Japan, see

April 20, 2005 @ 9:35 pm | Comment

Dylan, great find. I thought something seemed somewhat amiss. Wonder why Japan Times pays him??

April 20, 2005 @ 9:42 pm | Comment

I think this Clark guy really is out of his element. I have seen riot gear in China for the past few years. Just recently, I saw regular police with riot helmets with shielding going down the back below the neck/shoulder connection; I have seen armed police practicing techniques with body length plastic shields, batons and occasionally with what looks like AK-47s.

April 20, 2005 @ 9:44 pm | Comment

Yea I had a very *persistent* commenter a few weeks ago who told me to go get “educated” at that guy’s website after I wrote a post that wasn’t flattering to the CCP. I find myself agreeing with a lot of the stuff he writes, but not with any of his conclusions.

April 20, 2005 @ 10:35 pm | Comment

After the recent raid on HuanKanTou, I don’t think there is any question that at least some Chinese police (in rural Zhejiang province) have riot gear. The villagers have on display police uniforms, shields, cattle prods, batons, and other equipment they captured after their pre-dawn rumble with a large force of police and gov’t officials.

April 20, 2005 @ 10:50 pm | Comment

Gregory Clarke is one of the last of the “Old Left” comrades from back in the day so to speak. In the same school as Chalmers Johnson, Noam Chomsky, or the recently departed Eric Hobsbawm(One of the eminent Historians of his and any day I have to say.) Although deeply intelligent, they remain commited to what appears a slowly dieing ideology in the west and filter their perceptions through their ideological prism. Thats not to say that they are always wrong, as their ideological prism is actually quite right most of the time, but when they are wrong it is hard to admit it.

April 20, 2005 @ 11:09 pm | Comment

On the whole I tend to teach a version of Tiananmen Square that is rather sympathetic to the CCP … mostly as a counter-action against my students automatically hostile views … but I find that newspaper article to be a pile of **** without merit, no matter which way I look at it. I wonder if he has ever talked to someone who was in Beijing at the time? About the troops going nuts, and bullets striking buildings randomly, even in the embassy compounds? As for Jing’s comment that his kind of ideological prism is right most of the time … all I can say to that is “ha!” (sorry Jing, I’ve been agreeing with you too much lately).

Final point, which a few others have already made in different forms … this guy is just plain stupid or knowingly insincere when he suggests that the arms embargo would deprive China of riot control gear. It’s not exactly high-tech stuff, and is the kind of “military” equipment China can mass-produce and sell to the world … not the other way around.

April 20, 2005 @ 11:49 pm | Comment

I’m feeling a little stupid – perhaps a consequence of all the wine I drank tonight with several friends – but I don’t get what this fellow is saying about Tiananmen. He speaks of the “alleged” massacre but where does he present a case that suggests othotherwise? Is he sayhing that there wasn’t a massacre? That there was one but it didn’t happen in the square (and if so, so what?)?

April 21, 2005 @ 1:11 am | Comment

When western media refer to the Tiananmen massacre, the number of victims they estimate ranges from hundreds to thousands, or even tens of thousands.

I’m tired of those continued accusations, not because I’m so numb about what happened years ago, but feel they are no more than an excuse to counter and restrain China’s development.

It’s become such a convenient tool for them to fit into any forms to accuse China of whatever they don’t like, from trade to arms embargo.

And I think more and more young Chinese start realising this as well.

April 21, 2005 @ 3:38 am | Comment

I would go along with FSN 9. China is sending astronauts, sorry, taikonauts to space, is building atom bombs, but is relying on Japans aid to equip its police with riot gear? And so Japan is responsable that chinese police couldn’t prevent its citicens from destroying other peoples property (a lot of them Chinese I guess). Ridiculous!

April 21, 2005 @ 4:42 am | Comment

P.S. Bing:
Perhaps you should differntiate between those who use human rights as a political weapon, and those who really care about them.
Not everyone who mentions human rights violations in the PRC is Anti-Chinese and against its developement(in the contrary), as not everyone who opposed the Irak war is Anti-American and good friends with Bin Laden.

April 21, 2005 @ 5:04 am | Comment

Apparently, there is a politically-correct way to talk about Tiananmen event on this board, and as I have found, generally in the western media. That is, it is a massacre. However, as to the questions of how it was happenning, how we can avoided in the future, how many people died, they can’t be raised. It is just downright evil and what ever you want to exaggerate that is justified.

But, as anyone who was there and was part of the whole thing knew that the whole event was complex and there were many faces of it. For westerners Tiananmen might just serve as an image of CCP cruelty. But for Chinese, it was much more than that. The whole thing was a tragedy, however, it would be wrong to use it to justify any Japanese effort of glorifying its past.

Also as to the number of people died in the event, just as Clark pointed out, the number ranges wildely from hundreds to thousands, to tens of thousands. It seems that it is just politically right here to talk the largest number.


April 21, 2005 @ 8:29 am | Comment

It seems that it is just politically right here to talk the largest number.

Why do you say this?

April 21, 2005 @ 8:34 am | Comment

I second Richard’s question: if I wasn’t clear in my earlier comment (I think I had some wine-influenced typos for one), I was genuinely curious as to what Clark’s take on Tiananmen is – it wasn’t clear to me from the article.

Overall I’d have to agree that Tiananmen was a tragedy and a rather more complex situation than it is often portrayed, at least when it is not looked at in depth.

April 21, 2005 @ 10:29 am | Comment

This fixation on numbers is sickening. A massacre is a massacre whether the casualty is in the hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands. Those who try to minimize Tiananmen by playing the numbers game should be aware that this is the same tactic used by the Japanese right-wing to deny the Nanking Massacre. Shame on you.

April 21, 2005 @ 5:15 pm | Comment

Richard and all commenters:

Very many thank yous to each and all for helping me place the Japan Times op-ed in some sorlt of context. It puzzled me considerably when I read it last Sunday.

Thanks again from a “baka beikokujin”
— ml

April 21, 2005 @ 5:21 pm | Comment

Schticky, right on.

April 21, 2005 @ 6:13 pm | Comment


Why are you “amazed” that this article would appear in Japan Times? Japan is a liberal democracy which protects free speach and a free press. The fact that a dissenting opinion would appear in the Japanese press is no more amazing than the fact that, say, Robert Fisk or Noam Chomsky is published in the US press.

Now, were something critical of China’s Japan bashing or sympathetic to Japan’s position to appear in the Chinese media, that would be “amazing”.

April 21, 2005 @ 10:15 pm | Comment

You can accuse Westerners of being unfair about the numbers of people killed 6/4, but since the Chinese government actually knows to a relative certainty what those numbers are, all it has to do is tell the world and the Chinese public. Then there would be no chance to use that knowledge to counter and restrain China’s development.

I don’t often agree with you, but I am glad you make comments here as I learn a lot from you as to where the Chinese are coming from, the historical context of Chinese moves and motives and perhaps how two powerful countries can find accomodation, friendship, compromise and ultimately peace together.

April 21, 2005 @ 10:35 pm | Comment


The Chinese government has reported the number of dead. Zero.

April 21, 2005 @ 11:26 pm | Comment

As an ordinary Chinese, I’m in no position to play any numbers game but you are so wrong if you think number doesn’t matter. A massacre of 100 people is the same as that of 100000?

When you make accusations, be careful in what you are saying otherwise they won’t be taken seriously.

There are numerous strong evidences in China that support the accusations towards both the “quantity” and “quality” of atrocities that Japan committed before and during WWII.

What do you have to support the estimates of Tiananmen massacre, say 1000? Don’t tell me the CCP has effectively blocked all the sources and people from finding the truth. There were reporters from outside at the time and there are people in China like those Tiananmen mothers who make persistent efforts to expose the massacre to outside world despite the suppression of CCP.

My opinion has changed many times since the massacre at the time I was at middle school.

.Believed what the CCP said when I was at middle school, it was an anti-revolution riot. I had no opinion of myself.
.Realised the CPP hadn’t told the full story in my first year of university. But believed they did the right thing to suppress the demonstration which might lead China to fall apart in chaos.
.In my final year of university, having seen a few gory pictures and descriptions from Internet via proxy, I was astonished and felt disillusioned about the CCP, which drove me to find out more about this massacre and those exiled activists.
.Understanding what those exiled activists had done since they left China only made me think twice what would happen if they did succeed in overthrowing CCP. In terms of the massacre, I expected to get more information if I could go abroad.
.Since I came here (outside China), I have tried many times to get as much information as possible about that massacre. To my surprise, most of what I found is accusations in various forms and very few about discovering the truth.

I understand the CPP should do something to draw a conclusion to that, apologies, compensations and so on.

And I don’t argue the rights of others to accuse CCP of its glossing over the history.

The point is, if those accusations are intent on impeding China’s development from a political and economical point of view, they are against Chinese people, not just the CCP and won’t be supported by most Chinese.

Unfortunately, two many such politics and economy fuelled accusations have been made. It is much more likely for a lot of Chinese to disregard any such accusations, either good intent or not.

April 22, 2005 @ 3:09 am | Comment

Okay Bing. You are right. Numbers matter.

Now, compare the number of Chinese killed by the CCP in the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution with the number killed by Japan during the Japanese occupation. The number killed by the Party is far more than the number killed by the Japanese.

So, since, as you say, numbers matter, and since the Party is responsible for a greater slaughter of Chinese than is Japan, you will no doubt agree that the CCP’s denial of its bloody history is worse than Japan’s, no?

April 22, 2005 @ 4:08 am | Comment

The point is, if those accusations are intent on impeding China’s development from a political and economical point of view, they are against Chinese people, not just the CCP and won’t be supported by most Chinese.

This illustrates a typical pattern in Chinese thinking. A tacit derivative is, if it takes 1,000 lives to benefit China politically and economically, then let’s just do it! There is no right or wrong per se, it all depends on calculation of interests. If the intention is ‘good’, you can do whatever it takes.

This points to the very heart of the Chinese culture of violence and its justification.

April 22, 2005 @ 6:27 am | Comment

A Japanese revisionist or right-winger could have said the followings:

When western media refer to the the rape of Nanjing, the number of victims they estimate ranges from 100 thousand to 200 thousand, or even 300 thousand.

I’m tired of those continued accusations, not because I’m so numb about what happened over 60 years ago, but feel they are no more than an excuse to counter and restrain Japan’s development.

It’s become such a convenient tool for them to fit into any forms to accuse Japan of whatever they don’t like, from trade to geisha.

And I think more and more young Japanese start realising this as well.

He may hate the Yasukuni shrine worshiper, but he is actually exact the same animal.

April 22, 2005 @ 6:39 am | Comment

Good point bellevue.

April 22, 2005 @ 7:14 am | Comment

“This illustrates a typical pattern in Chinese thinking.”
“This points to the very heart of the Chinese culture of violence and its justification.”

Ok, are you interested in patternizing Chinese? If you aren’t a Chinese, is it not too arrogant for you to make such comments? If you are or were a Chinese, do you understand who you are speaking for?

“He may hate the Yasukuni shrine worshiper, but he is actually exact the same animal.”

And thank you for not using anything else to describe me.

April 22, 2005 @ 11:48 am | Comment

It’s not that funny to compare 6.4 and Nanjing.

Tell you one more time, there is solid evidence in China to prove both the “quantity” and “quality” of atrocities committed by Japan.

And in terms of China accusing Japan of whatever they don’t like, from trade to geisha, spouting something untruly like this won’t add any credit to your argument.

April 22, 2005 @ 12:15 pm | Comment

A good, snarky point, zero dead.

IMO, the CCP says that about Tiananmen Square proper, but doesn’t deny deaths in other parts of the city. Anyway, it seems the SARS episode is just like 6.4, the immediate CCP reaction is denial, then later, minimize if it can’t avoid the truth, then forget.

April 23, 2005 @ 7:57 pm | Comment

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