Smart words from Imagethief

This is a blogger in China who works in the world’s lowliest profession, public relations. Despite his vocation, he makes some brilliant observations about the China-Japan imbroglio.

First, angry nationalism is a fickle political tool. Demonstrations can often be switched on and off, but the sentiments kindled tend to smolder beneath the surface like peat fires and then burst to the surface at unfortunate times.

Second, Japan and China, Asia’s leading and fastest rising economy respectively, seem determined to goad each other in a slow spiral of increasing extremism. If I were the rest of Asia, I would worry about this.

Third, Japan is not the only nation to revise its official histories to minimize atrocities committed against the Chinese people in the 20th century. Quiz: Name another one.

That final point is the one my Chinese friends here tend to avoid the most. If a big part of this is the revision of history, there’s a group of self-serving, duplicitous revisionists way closer to home they should be pointing fingers at.

The Discussion: 38 Comments

Yes, it is certainly worthwhile mentioning the fact that most countries distort their own histories, and the histories of their neighbours and of those whom they have conquered or fought.

Just look briefly at some of the ways in which Chinese textbooks distort history. Last year, Hong Kong’s new Chinese history textbooks for upper secondary students made mention for the first time the student protests of 1989, but failed to make any reference to the violent crackdown that occurred. Legislator and chairman of the Professional Teachers’ Union (PTU) Mr Cheung Man-kwang for one, made a big issue out of this, and accused publishers of “rewriting history” by concealing what happened at Tiananmen.

“They have either distorted or evaded history by not mentioning what happened during the crackdown. There is no mention of the use of force, that military tanks and machine guns were used to disperse the crowds,” he noted.

“This is deeply regretful. It is no different from changing `Japanese invasion of China’ to `Japanese entry into China’,” Mr Cheung said. “Publishers are so worried their books will be banned and afraid of political pressure that they dare not tell students what really happened.”

Now, it is worth noting too that many South Koreans are not only upset with the contents of Japanese textbooks, but also with Chinese textbooks. Hwang U-Yeo, of the South Korean National Assembly’s Committee on Education for example, has criticised Chinese school textbooks for distorting the history of China’s relationship with Korea. Going through a number of Chinese middle and high school history textbooks, Hwang has documented several cases where elements of Korean history are distorted, minimalised, or misrecorded. For example, one upper-level middle school history textbook claims that Pyongyang was the capital of the Shilla Kingdom – something that would come as quite a surprise to residents of Kyongju.

Another lower-level middle school history textbook produced by Shanghai Education Publishing characterises the ancient Parhae Kingdom NOT as an independent nation, but as a regional government within the Chinese Tang Empire. Most Chinese history textbooks also fail to make any mention at all of the Kojosun (Old Chosun) Kingdom, which spent much of the Bronze Age slugging it out with the Chinese (Han Emperor Wu-ti eventually conquered the kingdom in 108 BC). To mention this would shatter the myth that China has only ever fought wars in self-defense, never aggressively or in conquest.

The People’s Educational Publishing House’s “World History,” used by 70-80% of Chinese schools, even goes so far as to call into question both the originality and scientific nature of Korea’s hangul alphabet, claiming that “in the 15th century, Chosun tried to meld Chinese [and Korean] by creating an alphabet of 28 letters.” Other textbooks claim that hangul was invented “using the phonemes of Chinese characters as a reference. As I mentioned in my earlier comments, most Koreans are fiercely proud of their culture, and they strongly resent any attempts by the Chinese to belittle their achievements in this way.

Chinese textbook assertions that only Kim Il-sung and his followers participated in a long-term armed struggle against the Japanese, have also caused considerable offense to the peoples of South Korea.

South Korean textbooks are also full of serious distortions, but I don’t wish to labour my point too hard. I simply want to draw some attention to the hypocrisy of the self-righteous, of the chauvinist. I could easily have chosen to pick away at American textbooks, or Australian textbooks, or from wherever.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 12, 2005 @ 7:56 pm | Comment

Sounds like a case of the pot calling the kettle black…. Thanks for the insights and good to see you back.

April 12, 2005 @ 8:26 pm | Comment

Hmm, pretty interesting, I didn’t know the Koreans were also pissed off at the Chinese for textbook history distortion.

I haven’t heard of any US history distortions (at least, in current textbooks) as blatant as in China and Japan … are there any ? (I haven’t seen any … I could expect some downplaying the indian stuff … but there’s been a lot of hand-wringing over that too …)

April 12, 2005 @ 8:29 pm | Comment

I think it’s safe to say all countries distort their history books. I certainly remember in my student days getting the distinct impression America was always right and never wrong, at least when it came to foregin relations. But I have to give America credit – the textbooks included plenty about the Ku Klux Klan, lynchings, the Red Scare, and even the McCarthy era. They also made it abundantly clear that America was far and away the greatest country on earth, ever, bar none.

April 12, 2005 @ 8:33 pm | Comment

Thanks for that comment too, Mark. I knew you were back yesterday when I noticed one of the ‘comments’ going on for for about 17 paragraphs. I’ve always found these comments useful in my class as discussion points, and I’d like to print out your comments and paste them on the walls of my class.

April 12, 2005 @ 8:35 pm | Comment

There’s a book I’d highly recommend called “History Lessons: How textbooks around the world portrays U.S. history”. Quite entertaining. No
big surprises, but a gentle reminder of how our actions are interpreted very differently by those on the recieving end.

Yes, there is something very ironic about the mainland Chinese demanding honesty in the textbooks of other countries. Plenty of blame to go around.

April 12, 2005 @ 8:49 pm | Comment

Hey, that looks like an interesting book ! 🙂

Actually, I’m French so I’d need to first read a US textbook before that, to fully comprehend ^^

April 12, 2005 @ 9:08 pm | Comment

There is nothing ironic about it. In fact, it is entirely intentional on the part of the Chinese Communist Party. Given the horrific toll inflicted upon the Chinese people by the CCP, and faced with growing demands for human rights reform, the Party leadership decided consciously decided after Tiananmen flood the country — especially the education system — with “patriotic” propaganda (“patriotism” meaning supporting the CCP and belief in the victimization of Chinese by foreigners).

According to the CCP, the Chinese people were perennial victims of evil Western Colonialists and wicked Japanese imperialists until rescued by the Party. The fact that the Party killed far more Chinese, in a far shorter period of time, than either the Westerners of Japanese is conveniently ignored. In short, direct the people’s attention away from the CCP’s gory record and continued repression and at someone else.

The result of the Party’s efforts is, to be blunt, a generation of historically ignorant, jingoistic, nationalistic, xenophobic chowder heads. And that suits the CCP’s purposes exactly.

The continued Japan bashing also assists the CCP’s foreign policy ambitions. Having Japan on the UN Security Council is contrary to the CCP’s desire to have China become the dominant regional power in Asia, so — The CCP flogs Japan over its wartime misdeeds, thereby arousing Chinese anti-Japanese sentiment. The CCP then tacitly supports on-ine petitions and message boardsy demending that China veto a UN Security Council seat for Japan. The CCP then stirs up and allows anti-Japanese demonstrations. Finally, it cites those petitions and demonstrations as grounds for a veto, thereby doing precisely what it wants to do anyway, while (1) scoring points for “listening to” the will of its subjects and (2) having a pretext (public opinion) to raise when the US and others try to pressure it to relent.

April 12, 2005 @ 9:33 pm | Comment

I concur whole heartedly with all of your points Conrad, if not neccessarily your sentiment. Particularly in the last paragraph where I essentially echoed those same issues in previous posts.

Except instead of the conservative gweilo outrage, all you’ll find on my face is a self-satisfied smug look. 😛

April 12, 2005 @ 9:58 pm | Comment

The UN, largely because of the very existence of the so-called Security Council and its powers of veto, is a very undemocratic organisation. That said though, I do have to agree with what Conrad has to say above, in his last paragraph. The whipping up of anti-Japanese sentiment (or the tapping into that sentiment, as a resource) is almost certainly done with the intent of sabotaging Japan’s bid to gain a seat on the UN Security Council – and for the extact reason that Conrad asserts: China wants to position itself as the dominant economic, political and cultural force in the Asia-Pacific region. It arguably already is the dominant power in Asia, but this positioning would be threatened, or at least weakened, if another Asian power were to gain a seat on the UN Security Council.

Mark Anthony Jones

April 12, 2005 @ 10:04 pm | Comment

Keir – are you serious? You really want to post some of my comments up on your classroom wall? I have always had something of the narcissist within me, and so feeding my ego in this way could prove dangerous. It’s certainly not healthy for me.

O.K. I’m just kidding (well, half kiddng anyway!) Go ahead and post up my comments. If you like, I will even email you my photo. You can print it out, frame it, and hang it up on your classroom wall, in among all of the other portraits that are commonly used to decorate Chinese schools to inspire today’s youth. I’d feel quite comfortable up their alongside Marx or Engels or Einstein. But please distance me a little from Lenin, and keep me well away from Mao and Deng – they have too much of a mixed legacy for my comfort.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 12, 2005 @ 10:31 pm | Comment

Mark…you need to get yourself a blog!! Your high quality comments are appreciated by more than just Keir! Your excellent additions of context and analysis are a sorely needed addition in our sparsely populated Asia blog arena! -KML

April 12, 2005 @ 10:58 pm | Comment

The myth that Japan has not apologized for its actions in WWII is just that a myth.

In 1972 an official Japanese communique stated:

“The Japanese [are] keenly conscious of the responsibility for the serious damage that Japan causes in the past to the Chinese people through war and deeply reproaches itself.”

1982 Prime Minister Suzuki said:

“I am painfully aware of the responsibility for inflicting serious damages during the past war. We need to recognize criticism that (Japan’s occupation) was invasion.”

In 1984 Prime Minister Nakasone told the South Korean President:

“(Japan) brought enormous difficulty to your country and your people. I feel a deep sense of regret about that”

1990 Emperor Akihito said:

“I can’t help feeling the deepest regret when I think of the suffering of the people . . . during this unfortunate period brought by my country.”

1990 Prime Minister Kaifu said:

“I humbly feel deep regret and express forthright apology for the fact that the people of the Korean peninsula experienced unbearable anguish and grief because of our country’s action.”

In 1992 Emperor Akihito, while visiting China, said:

“I express my regret and contrition for what my country did to the people of China.”

In 1993 Prime Minister said at a press conference:

“The last war was war of Japanese aggression.”

1994 Prime Minister Murayama said during a visit to Korea:

“I’d like to express my apology from the bottom of my heart and deep regret seriously.”

In 1995 Prime Minister Murayama said:

“In the not-to-distant past, Japan, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly tose of Asia. In the hope that no such mistake will be made in the future, I regard, in the spirit of humanity, these irrefutable facts of history and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology.”

In 2001 Foreign Minister Tanak said:

“We have never forgotten that Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries during the last war. Many lost their precious lives and many were wounded. The war has left an incurable scar on many people, including former prisoners of war. Facing these facts of history in a spirit of humility, I reaffirm today our feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology.”

In 2001 Prime Minister Koizumi said:

“I offer heartfelt apology and condolences to the Chinese victims of Japanese aggression”

He also laid a wreath a a memorial to Chinese war dead and signed the visitors book with characters asking for “forgiveness”.

The above omits numerous other apologies to other countries like South Korea and the Philippines.

It’s also a hell of a lot more than the CCP has done in respect of the Cultural Revolution, the Great Leap Forward, Tiananmen or Tibet.

Finally, since the war Japan has renounced aggression and become a liberal democracy that respects the rule of law. During the same periodChina has invaded Vietnam, India and Tibet, murdered and repressed millions of its own subjects and just passed a law requiring it to initiate military force to prevent Taiwanese independence.

The bottom line is that Japan has aplogized, repeatedly. And even if they hadn’t, the thugs currently ruling China lack the standing to request an apology from anyone.

April 12, 2005 @ 11:00 pm | Comment

Japan and China, Asia’s leading and fastest rising economy respectively, seem determined to goad each other in a slow spiral of increasing extremism. If I were the rest of Asia, I would worry about this.

More reasons to start worrying: Japan is now preparing to start drilling in areas of the East China Sea claimed by China.

April 12, 2005 @ 11:03 pm | Comment

I’m not trying to apologize for Japan anonymously. I inadvertently omitted my name from the comment above.

April 12, 2005 @ 11:04 pm | Comment

Conrad – while I think it is important and worthwhile pointing out the fact that numerous acknowledgments and expressions of regret and remorse have been made over the years by prominent Japanese spokespersons – acknowledgements of Japan’s war time atrocities – the fact remains that all of these acknowledgements and apologies have been personal ones. At no time, not to my knowledge, has any leader formally apologised for the past on behalf of the Japanese state.

This mirrors the “sorry” issue so controversial in my native Australia. Former Prime Ministers have apologised personally but publically for the way in which Australia’s indigenous peoples have been treated in the past since European settlement. But no formal apology has ever been delivered, on behalf of the Australian state.

In both cases, it has been widely speculated that such formal apologies would open the floodgates to the courts, resulting in a deluge of lawsuits.

Such formal apologies, in my opinion, ought to be made nevertheless, because without such formal acknowledgments, made officially on behalf of the state, there can be no real healing, no real reconciliation. The issue will simply continue to burn, indefinitely. To issue such apologies would be the right thing to do, morally.

By the same token though, exploiting the past in the way that both the Japanese and Chinese governments have to date done, only further fuels the flames of resentment, and results not in reconciliation, but rather, in heightened levels of xenophobia and chauvinism. The CCP exploit emotions in their efforts to influence their geopolitical aspirations, while past and present Japanese administrations stage shows to appease the ultra-nationalist constituences on whom they rely upon for their own political survival.

Mark Anthony Jones

April 12, 2005 @ 11:34 pm | Comment

Any form of historical revisionism is detestable, whether by China, Japan or whoever.

But then we all know China, while no longer the true Commie it used to be, is still an undemocratic dictatorship.

Japan on the other hand, and so often acclaimed by her supporters, is a true democracy with a free press.

Who then has the greater responsibility not to indulge in revisionism, and face up to the truth of history and responsibility of her immoral and heinous crimes? Who ought to have the moral courage courage to say, sorry I did that, for unless that has been done, who can trust that immoral ostrich? To borrow a procedure from the Catholic Church, who should we expect to purge his sins with a confession and say Hail Mary 88 times?

The German President demonstrated that amply and unreservedly early this year in the Israeli Knesset.

Horst Koehler stated:
“I want to underline that the responsibility for the Shoah forms part of the German identity”

Can we ever expect the Japanese Emperor or Prime Minister to say:
“I want to underline that the responsibility for the Rape of Nanjing and the Tragedy of the Comfort Women form part of the Japanese identity”?

Instead, we see Koizuma and one of his predecessor revering at the Yukusuni shrine, where Japan’s war criminals lie in hallowed state – those very murderers and criminals who were the hounds of hell in Korea, China and SE Asia.

Germany has erased and extinguished every facet of Naziism, while Japan’s Education Ministry approved the use of those revisionist history books.

In Germany it is a crime to deny the Holocaust.

In Japan, her wartime aggression and atrocities are glossed over, even today, as ‘an advance into Asia’ as part of the participative Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Japan blames evereyone, including the USA, for her invasion and occupation of China and other parts of Asia. She has conveniently forgotten that the US embargo of material had been a result of her aggression in Manchuria and China.

What China has done is despicable but by comparison of the severity of her crimes to those of wartime Japan, and that she is not truly a democracy, I wonder why there is this defence of Japan – or perhaps just China bashing per se?

By all means, bash China, but let’s deal with one thing at a time. Let’s not allow Japan to hide behind the China bashing.

Let us examine what other WWII victims of Japan have to say as well
Let’s deal with the issue of revsionist Japan, unrepentant, arrogant, ambitious, rich, powerful, breaking free of her constitutional military restrains – now, that’s truly scary, given her record of unapologetic evil.

Evil must be spoken aaginst, especially unrepentant evil as teh Japanese variety!

April 12, 2005 @ 11:59 pm | Comment

Japan engaged in brutal, imperialistic aggression. That’s bad but, put in its historical context, it isn’t, sadly, unusual.

I can’t see any significant qualitiative distinction between what Japan did and, for example, Belgium did in Congo, Spain did in the New World (and again later in North Africa), France in Indochina and North Africa, or the US did against the Native Americans. Indeed, arguments can be made that some of the examples above were worse. Brutal imperialistic wars can be traced backe to, well, back at least as far as Imperial China (ask the Vietnamese).

Germany and the Holocaust are quite different and genocide is, it strikes me, qualitatively more evil. Imagine that Germany launched WWII in Europe, but had not engaged in any effort to exterminate Jews, it seems pretty clear to me that — while millions would nevertheless have died — Germany would not have been called upon nor felt compelled to make the abject apologies that were necessitated by the discovery of the gas chambers.

Japan, although guilty of an extremely brutal and cruel war of aggression, never engaged in genocide and therefore comparisons to post-war Germany are not apt.

BTW, when will the CCP be apologizing to the Cambodian people for supporting and propping up the murderous Khmer Rouge regime (indeed, invading Vietnam when that country moved to depose Pol Pot’s thugs).

When hell freezes over is when. . . .

April 13, 2005 @ 12:04 am | Comment


To compare evils:

The CCP killed far and away more Chinese than did Imperial Japan.

To compare Japan and the Chinese CCP today and call the former “unrepentent” is perverse.

I challenge you to pick through the long list of CCP sponsored atrocities and find one, just one, for which they have ever offered any remorse.

As for your suggestion that the present Japanese government should be held to a higher standard, for actions by their Imperial predecessors, than should the CCP which is still in charge, is depraved. By that standard, the Nazi’s would get a break were they still in power in Berlin.

April 13, 2005 @ 12:11 am | Comment


Dear Munnin – thank you for your kind words of endorsement. I have just finished reading your own blog site, which I must say impresses me greatly. I would like to engage with you on one issue though, which you raise on your own site, and that is the issue concerning the value of apologies of the controversial kind – of the kind in discussion here on Peking Duck.

On your blog site, you wrote: “I think it is ridiculous to claim that Japan has never apologised, nor do I find such apologies particularly useful as such statements of national regret are of limited value to the victims of past aggression and violence.”

As I just mentioned in my above comment, addressed to Conrad, all of the apologies issued from Japanese officials to date have been personal ones, not official ones, made on behalf of the Japanese state.

The question is, should such official apologies be made? What good can such apologies achieve?

In your opinion, such apologies are not useful, and are “of limited value to the victims”.

I beg to differ.

Let us look first, for example, at the reconciliation issue in Australia, which, every year since 1998, has staged a national “sorry” day.

On the first Sorry Day in 1998 close to a million people signed or wrote messages of sorrow and apology in Sorry Books. For the first time, many of the stolen generations of indigenous Australians felt that the wider community understood what they had endured, and this has helped many find the strength to launch out on a journey of healing.

We have seen steps towards commemorating the side of our history which we forget but which Indigenous people remember. In June 2000 a memorial was opened to the Aboriginal people killed in the Myall Creek massacre, in north central New South Wales, on 10 June 1838. The two-year project brought together descendants of those who were killed and descendants of their murderers in an act of personal reconciliation, as well as hundreds of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in mutual respect and a commitment to reconciliation. It resulted from hundreds of hours of volunteered time and effort, and funding from Federal, State and local Governments, the Uniting Church and individuals.

We have seen many many other examples of reconciliation. Moree in northern New South Wales for example, was notorious for ugly relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. In 1996 local people launched the Moree Aboriginal Employment Strategy. As a result, several hundred more Aboriginal people have been employed, and many more are in traineeships and apprenticeships. Now Moree’s Aboriginal students see some reason to study, and school attendance has improved.

All of these examples have been made possible by the vision and determination of individuals. They have come through capturing Indigenous aspirations, and developing partnerships – between Indigenous and non-Indigenous, between the public and private sectors – which have turned those aspirations into reality.

The Sorry Day Committee’s report recommended that to advance healing among the stolen generations:

– A national apology be offered to the stolen generations. This one step would do so much to establish the trust on which healing and reconciliation can develop.

– A monitoring body be established to evaluate the present State and Federal responses to Bringing Them Home report on the stolen generations and propose improvements.

– A consultation process be developed with stolen generations people speaking for themselves.

– A survey be conducted to determine the extent to which family reunion services are needed, particularly in rural areas.

The first of these recommendations is important (which is WHY it is the first recommendation, and not the second or third),and is relevant to our discussions here regarding the Sino-Japanese relationship. Formal apologies, made on behalf of the state, help to establish the trust that is needed on which healing and reconciliation can develop.

Munnin, never underestimate the value of the symbolic. Reconciliation between Japan and and its neighbours will require a degree of humility and trust which has not always characterised relations between the peoples of these nation states. Each has a particular contribution to make if relations are to improve, and if the scars of past wounds are to heal.

Sometimes the solutions will require acknowledgement of past mistakes, of past atrocities. Reconciliation requires changes of heart and spirit, as well as social and economic change. It requires symbolic, as well as practical action.

“Sorry” is very often one of the hardest words to say. It’s a word that doesn’t always come very easily. When it is spoken, when it is offered up in the right spirit, it can be more powerful in its long term legacies than that of any atom bomb! Ask any psychoanalyst.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 13, 2005 @ 12:28 am | Comment

Dear Jacky,

You say that “Germany has erased and extinguished every facet of Naziism.”

You are WRONG!

At least 40,000 racist attacks occur in Germany every year! – mostly by neo-Nazi organisations, and mostly directed against immigrants, particularly Turkish and Asian immigrants. Jews are also regularly targeted.

In France, the smae problem exists – around 10,000 racist attacks per year, once again, committed by neo-Nazi organisations.

When I lived in London such racist organisations also roamed the streets attacking mostly Asians. Liiterally every week we teachers used to have to wash off images of Nazi swastikas that had been spray-painted on the school gates. Four Asian students from Bethnal Green, where I taught, were beaten into comas by neo-Nazi thugs in the space of two months, back in 1994 while I was there. The problem was so serious, that the London metropolitan police used to have to patrol Roman Road on horseback every afternoon from 3:15 onwards, to help protect our students from the possibility of a racist attack!

Mark Anthony Jones

April 13, 2005 @ 12:38 am | Comment


“I challenge you to pick through the long list of CCP sponsored atrocities and find one, just one, for which they have ever offered any remorse.”

Very easy question, the CCP had repeatedly remorsed /ping feng about the Cultural Revolution.

Best Regards,
Ordinary Laowai

April 13, 2005 @ 12:43 am | Comment

Now see, Mark (Anthony Jones), here’s someone else, Muninn, calling for you to start a blog – you really should! I get how sometimes it’s easier to just comment on other peoples’ blogs than doing your own (that’s me tonight, after a party with my friends and much wine), but you are so prolific…we’d all come and visit!

April 13, 2005 @ 12:54 am | Comment

Thank you, Other Lisa, for your encouragement. But like you, I too prefer to party in the evenings, to indulge in nights of red wine and fine cheeses. I’m such a hedonist!

My days are sometimes busy, sometimes not. At any rate, I’m way too lazy to develop my own blog. I will just stick to occasionally contributing to already existing sites, like this one.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 13, 2005 @ 1:11 am | Comment

While I agree that the CCP exploits nationalism (whether anti-Japanese or not) for its own benefit, I don’t see how this is really a news flash. Every government does this, including the Japanese government. There are a lot of pots and kettles in this story. Also, you can always dredge up the GLF and the Cultural Revolution in any debate involving the Chinese government (kind of like the Chinese always drudge up WWII when an issue relates to Japan — say, for example, when Japan wants a seat on the security council). These are simply ready-made arguments that demonstrate how utterly dismissible the criticisms of the other side are on any issue.

Obviously you can’t equate the madness of the Cultural Revolution with, say, the Nanjing massacre. If you just want to go by numbers, you are missing a basic point: foreign attacks are qualitatively different from domestic incidents and wars. Why not compare 9/11 to the American civil war? Way more people died in the civil war at the hands of the US government. That kind of comparison is plainly idiotic, mainly because the whole element of nationalism is missing from the equation — and that is what this is all about, nationalism.

About all of the apologies Japan has issued, ask 10 average Japanese about Japan’s role in WWII. Now ask 10 Germans about Germany’s role in WWII. I think you’d get vastly different answers from the two groups. Why? There are a lot of theories on that, but I don’t subscribe to theory that Japan, like Germany, has fully accepted and acknowledged its role and is simply the victim of a myth created by the CCP; “Japan as victim” of WWII is a prevalent view today among many Japanese, especially the youth.

About American textbooks, pick up any high school text and look up the Viet Nam war. Ok, now look at the Spanish American war. Ok, now get a biology text and look up “creationism” in the index.

April 13, 2005 @ 1:12 am | Comment

Japan, although guilty of an extremely brutal and cruel war of aggression, never engaged in genocide and therefore comparisons to post-war Germany are not apt.

But the “brutal and cruel war of aggression” was engaged with a superior-race mentality. While the killing of civilians wasn’t systematic enough to qualify as “genocide,” the sense of Japanese racial superiority definitely laid the basis for it.

Germany and the Holocaust are quite different and genocide is, it strikes me, qualitatively more evil. Imagine that Germany launched WWII in Europe, but had not engaged in any effort to exterminate Jews, it seems pretty clear to me that — while millions would nevertheless have died — Germany would not have been called upon nor felt compelled to make the abject apologies that were necessitated by the discovery of the gas chambers.

If you haven’t read the Rape of Nanking and seen the pictures inside, search in Google Images, and that should show you that the Japanese rapes and massacres would have made the gas chambers at Auschwitz seem humane. Futhermore, 6 million Jews died as a result of the Holocaust, while 10 million Chinese civilians died because of Japan’s invasion. In this enumeration of WWII deaths:

you should notice that China suffered many times more civilian casualties than any other country, even though the Jews made up a significant majority of the deaths in European countries such as Poland. I wouldn’t call it “genocide,” but it couldn’t have been that easy to kill 10 million civilians unless they really tried. Note that China’s population back then was much less than it is right now. (It was about 540 million in 1949). Falling under the Japanese army is arguably worse under than any other belligerent country in WWII, just ask the POWs.

The CCP killed far and away more Chinese than did Imperial Japan.

But for the large part, it was a result of ill-conceived policies. They didn’t make them with the intention of killing millions and millions of people. And therefore comparisons to CCP are not apt.

China never demanded war reparations from Japan (for Cold War reasons, I believe). Germany paid 80 billion in war reparations, but Japan only lent China 30 billion in development aid, which China still has to pay back. And Japan’s about to end the development aid in 2008. Is an official apology so much to ask?

I’m not trying to stand up for the CCP. It really is the pot calling the kettle black. I’m just a bit irked to see people who doubt whether attacks on Japan’s post-war behaviours are justified.

April 13, 2005 @ 1:55 am | Comment

crap, the quotes didn’t work out right. Anyway, they’re from Conrad’s post

April 13, 2005 @ 1:57 am | Comment

another mistake, China suffered many times more civilian casualties other than Russia. Nazis had something against Slavs too.

April 13, 2005 @ 2:07 am | Comment

Mark Anthony Jones,
mate, I have a lot of respect for your comments, but you went on the wrong track in regards to Naziism in Germany. My point is that it is OFFICIALLY and LEGALLY not permitted to support Naziism or engage in any Nazi activites, or deny the occurrence of the Holocaust. Last year a WWII bunker reputed to be the hideout of some top Nazi brass was discovered, and the firstv thing the German authority did was to erase it completely to the extent no one now can pinpoint its precise location.

The aim is obvious, that the Nazi past must not be allowed to be resurrected by publicly-tolerated worship or adulation. Naziism must be crushed – I applaud the German decision as a nation prepared to BREAK from its evil past.

Thus, I wasn’t talking about illegal activities by neo-Nazis, inasmuch as I can’t blame a country for the criminal activities she would inevitably experienced.

But I would certainly blame a country for condoning or abetting or supporting or tolerating crimes. Japan is guilty of that. Her crimes are still unforgiven for various reasons frequently discussed almost everywhere, not just here on Richard’s blog.

She bleats that she has no control over privately published books, yet her Ministry of Education (last I heard is still a government organ) APPROVES the use of those revisionist books. She’s not only lying but utterly unrepentant over her war crimes and aggression.

Conrad (BTW, good to have you back – I heard you were going to take a long break), as I mentioned, whenever Japan is criticised, straightaway blokes like you would come out and say, look at China – she’s just as bad. Does that excuse Japan?

Of course we could look at many countries in the world as we like who had perpetrate such acts as the Chinese did. But does looking at China or USA or India or France etc excuse Japan for her recalcitrant unrepentant arrogrant dismissal of her evil past?

If the crimes were not so horrendous I would be amused by your attempts to deem the Holocaust as truly evil (which I fully agree with) but the rape of Nanjing as a normal act of wartime aggression.

Was burying people alive by the thousands then normal for an invading army? Was raping 20,000 women in Nanjing alone, and bayonetting many in their private organs normal for wartime soldiers? Were the sporting activities of some Japanese army officers in Nanjing, consisting of a competition of who could lope off the most number of heads of randomly selected innocent Chinese civilians normal? Was the savage use of hundreds of thousands of women as sex slaves normal (never compensated for their sufferings till today)? Was the experiment of fatal germ warfare on tens of thousands of Chinese, resulting in the most horrific deaths normal aggression?

In Malaysia and Singapore were the torture of European priests, and the execution of Chinese civilians who had donated money to the Chinese government normal? Ask the Aussie soldiers and nurses, and Dutch women in Indonesia whether they believe that what Japan did to them in WWII was normal wartime aggression?

If you think so, then the Nazis and Gestapo behaved normally as the troops of a nation at war too, and Conrad, now that would be truly depraved.

I cannot help but notice each time Japan is criticised, there seems to be the same campaign by the same people to shield Japan by putting the ball in China’s court.

Let’s look at the conduct of Japan itself, and ask ourselves, does such a nation (and I am talking at the official level, not the ordinary Japanese people) deserve to be a global leading citizen, with a seat in the UNSC when she continuously bury her head in the sand, and refuse to acknowledge her very very dark past. What she had done in Nanjing and elsewhere are not so easily forgiven without that closure of an official apology. Why make excuses for her refusal to act decently?

Actually my questions have been rhetorical, because I know the answer. I also know the reason for the ‘protect Japan at all cost’ campaign whenever China criticised Japan. The answer is and always has been “China must not be allowed to be right”. The dislike and in some case hatred for China overrides everything, even commonsense, decency and fair play for the victims of an evil WWII Japan.

I have no difficulty about criticism of China. But it’s a pity that by leaping in with indecent haste to protect Japan just for the sake of bashing China, you are all allowing a recalcitrant Japan to get away with it.

April 13, 2005 @ 3:10 am | Comment

Dear Jacky,

I do apologise if I have misread you, but you did indeed say that “Germany has erased and extinguished every facet of Nazism…” – the key words here being “erased” “extinguised” and “every facet”. The fact of the matter though, is that the Germans have not succeeded in doing this. They have so far failed in their attempts to “erase” “every facet of Nazism”.

O.K. So you didn’t mean what you actually said. All you meant was that the German state has put into place laws that prohibit Nazi hate propaganda and violence, and that the German state has offically recognised and apologised for the Nazi sins of the past. Progressive, certainly.

The Japanese state, as you quite rightly say, have not offically acknowledged and apologised for their past atrocities. They have not, to date, followed Germany’s lead.

I agree with you Jacky, that such an offical acknowledgment and apology ought to be made, and for reasons which I have already outlined in one of my earlier comments above, which I addressed to Munnin.

What is alarming though, is that the Chinese protests are increasingly expressed as anti-Japanese discourse, rather than as anti-Japanese state policy discourse. In other words, the overall tone of the Chinese protest is beginning to sound increasingly racist and chauvinistic. In Germany and France, to name but two examples, racial violence continues to exact a terrible social toll, DESPITE all of the laws that are in place to outlaw such racial behaviours and attitudes. Such is the hypnotic power of ultra-nationalism, as discourse.

The Chinese people’s anger and pain is completely understandable and human, and they are right to challenge the Japanese state for its endorsement of school texts that present a sanitised past. But it would be a terrible tragedy if such heigthened emotions were allowed to distort one’s own humanity. It would be a tragedy if China was to end up one day resembling present day Germany or France, where “certain” racial minority groups face the constant threat and danger of being both physically and verbally abused, and where such attacks number in the tens of thousands, every single year.

The point here I think, and this is what is concerning so many people, is that the tide of xenophobia may be on the rise right here in the middle kingdom. The Chinese, generally speaking, enjoy a widespread reputation around the world as being a generally peace-loving and tolerant people – enthusiastic global citizens of the postmodern age, whose social and economic development has not only lifted millions of its own civilians out of poverty, but which also promises to extend this success abroad, to help others in the region. China’s recent efforts to aid the tsunami victims provides a good case in point. China’s impressive efforts certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the Australian and New Zealand mainstream media.

The tone of some of last week’s protesters threatens to undermine this good image – something which also didn’t go unnoticed by the foreign media.

Yours respectfully,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 13, 2005 @ 4:14 am | Comment

The Peking Duck

I have finally added the superb China-oriented blog The Peking Duck to my blogroll. It had been sitting in my bookmarks for too long as this latest post about current tensions between China and Japan (and now even Korea) proves. When you go over ther…

April 13, 2005 @ 5:05 am | Comment


I apologise for misleading you with my absolutist assertion with regards to German’s handling of Naziism. I was a wee too expansive then.

I agree that Chinese chagrin with the very thought of Japan ‘ascending’ to the exalted position of one of the world’s leaders via a permanent seat in the UNSC is becoming uglier than what it ought to be, a strong protest at a recalcitrant nation (or government). Having said that, I am still fairly confident that the average Chinese don’t have any extreme feelings of hatred for the Japanese people. What the authority ought to look out for are those minority at the lunatic fringe.

Mind you, Japan hasn’t helped itself by being provocative in entertaining the more right wing elements of its society, in allowing such revisionism to be taught at schools, albeit primary schools for the handicapped. But the very fact of official approval for those books, even limited at this stage, has been feared not only by Japan’s traumatised neighbours, but its own teaching profession as a foot in the door to more extreme revisionism.

Personally, I won’t support a Japan as a permanent member in the UNSC unless and until she extends a full and unreserved apology to her aggrieved neighbours and victims. Not that I have any direct say, but I reflect the opinion of the average Chinese, people that I have talked with these last few days.

That apology is more important than ever, and I hope Japan takes notice, that unless she brings formal closure to the sorry tragedy of her WWII atrocities, and reject/disown her militant aggression, regardless of whether she can bulldoze her way into the UNSC, she will always be reminded of her barbaric past by nearly two billion people, a third of humanity.

April 13, 2005 @ 5:36 am | Comment

Mark- I put a big laminated poster of me in my British officer’s uniform on top of the Himalaya Hotel in Lhasa with the Potala behind, just above my massive poster of Stalin and smaller Lenin. This positioning made my students complain that I thought I was “better than Stalin”. I do have a small space between Mao and Marx….

April 13, 2005 @ 5:44 am | Comment

Hey Mark,

Thanks for popping in for a visit. I would caution you about your claim, however, that “At no time, not to my knowledge, has any leader formally apologised for the past on behalf of the Japanese state.”

This, I’m afraid, is part of the same myth about Japan not having apologized. I will post later this week a list (often overlapping with my existing post about apologies to Korea at of apologies to China.

The foreign ministry and the cabinet’s office (Prime Minister) agonize endlessly over these statements of regret and apology and with the exception of statements such as Koizumi’s “private” statement when he visits Yasukuni (even that is contested as private, just as the whole Yasukuni visit’s “private” nature revolves around the violation of the constitution)

The emperor’s statements, often followed by official foreign minister or prime ministerial statements are official and must be seen to represent Japan. Their wording is often vague precisely because of deep misgivings by the foreign ministry which wants to maintain a consistent reference (since 1995) to the most official of all apologies: the Murayama Diet statement in 1995. This statement was, unlike so many other, debated throughout the entire Diet (I’ll write more about this in a future blog posting, stay tuned!).

It is the most often referred to statement and countless future press conferences refer to it when a reporter asks for an apology update.

“During a certain period in the not too distant past, Japan, following a mistaken national policy, advanced along the road to war, only to ensnare the Japanese people in a fateful crisis, and, through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. In the hope that no such mistake be made in the future, I regard, in a spirit of humility, these irrefutable facts of history, and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology. Allow me also to express my feelings of profound mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad, of that history.”

I will write more at my blog this weekend about how this apology was watered down from its original formulation but again, to repeat: 1) it is ridiculous to say that Japan has not apologized and it is a myth to say that all these statements were “personal” (some might be reasonably attributed this status, but some simply cannot be seen in this light, 1995 statement, pyongyang declaration, Obuchi declaration to Korea in ’98, Tanaka declaration to China in ’72 (though there is a hilarious story about translation on this). 2) The apology issue is a waste of time…the whitewashing issue is important, but we should focus on Japan’s historical narratives of itself rather on this stupid issue of apologies which is so ridiculous that the most pro-Asia Japanese academics are puzzled at how to maintain their sympathy towards it.

April 13, 2005 @ 6:42 am | Comment

Ok, I have committed myself to future blog postings on statements to China, gaffes, and perhaps a special one talking a little about the background to the 1995 statement. Give me until this weekend…

April 13, 2005 @ 6:50 am | Comment

From Japan times, more hard facts on the Japan’s revisionist textbooks.

The junior high school history and civics studies textbooks are written by a group of nationalist academics — the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform — that claims other textbooks are “biased against Japan” and marked by “self-denigration” in their descriptions of Japan’s conduct before and during the war.

China and South Korea consider the revisionist textbooks as “distorting history” and “justifying and beautifying” Japan’s imperialist past.

Of the two revisionist textbooks released Tuesday, one was an update of a text approved in the previous round of screening in 2001. That textbook was adopted by less than 1 percent of the nation’s public schools.”

Fuso flouted screening regulations
Unapproved revisionist texts making rounds since July

Fuso Publishing Inc. repeatedly violated textbook screening regulations by distributing drafts of texts to boards of education and teachers more than eight months before its textbooks were officially approved, the education ministry said Wednesday.
The textbooks published by Fuso have been criticized for glossing over Japan’s past colonial rule and military conquests and have drawn fierce protests from China and South Korea. The texts were approved Tuesday.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said Fuso began distributing the drafts to teachers and others concerned in late July “in order to gather opinions.” It was also learned that Fuso had loaned drafts to teachers in January.

Nobuyoshi Takashima, a professor at Ryukyu University, reported Fuso’s violation to the ministry in March. He said he had learned the drafts had been distributed to board of education members and school officials in Saitama, Tokyo, Kyoto and Wakayama prefectures since around November.

In March, Fuso declined comment on the allegations. It said the screenings were under way and claimed it had prohibited any promotional activities until the screenings were completed.

The ministry advised Fuso on three occasions — in October, January and March — to improve its management of unauthorized texts.

Education minister Nariaki Nakayama said: “It is a problem that the rules were violated. . . . I hope (Fuso) is aware (of the problem). The ministry can suspend the screenings if the leak of the drafts is deemed detrimental.”

Under textbook screening regulations, publishers and others involved in the process are supposed to ensure that the contents of drafts submitted for approval are not revealed to third parties.

Masami Zeniya, chief of the ministry’s Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau, said the ministry had ordered Fuso to recall the already-distributed drafts.

The junior high school history and civics studies textbooks are written by a group of nationalist academics — the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform — that claims other textbooks are “biased against Japan” and marked by “self-denigration” in their descriptions of Japan’s conduct before and during the war.

China and South Korea consider the revisionist textbooks as “distorting history” and “justifying and beautifying” Japan’s imperialist past.

Of the two revisionist textbooks released Tuesday, one was an update of a text approved in the previous round of screening in 2001. That textbook was adopted by less than 1 percent of the nation’s public schools.

The texts are also contentious in Japan, where groups have urged school principals and board of education members not to use them.

In Japan, all elementary to high schools are required to use textbooks approved by the education ministry. Boards of education and school principals determine which authorized texts are to be used in their schools.

Under the compulsory education system, all textbooks from elementary through junior high school are purchased by the government and provided to students for free.

The Japan Times: April 7, 2005
(C) All rights reserved

Go back to The Japan Times Online Close window

April 13, 2005 @ 11:06 pm | Comment

This one just come out of BBC news, the journalist is a Japanese, so it should not be biased against Japan.

Textbook row stirs Japanese concern

By Jamie Miyazaki
in Tokyo

Anti-Japanese rallies have been staged in South Korea and China
The old adage that time is the best healer may ring true in most parts of the world, but unfortunately not in North Asia.

Every four years Japan’s Ministry of Education assesses which textbooks make the grade to be used in its schools.

Its decisions have usually met with an outcry from neighbours China and South Korea, who regularly accuse the ministry of giving the nod to history textbooks that whitewash Japan’s dubious World War II legacy.

But this time the Koreans and Chinese have had even more to be vocal about.

Coming hot on the heels of two separate disputes over islands that Japan claims as it own, but are also claimed by China and South Korea, the textbook issue has exacerbated already strained relations.

To Beijing and Seoul’s gall, the Ministry of Education and its affiliate the Textbook Authorization Research Council has once again approved the “New History” textbook of right-wing publisher Fusosha.

The textbook refers to the 1937-38 Nanjing massacre, when Japanese troops killed an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 people, by the more innocuous title of “incident”.

It also explains that the country’s actions during World War II were motivated by “self-preservation” and a desire to liberate Asia from Western control.

Of course we learned about the Nanjing massacre

Yasuhiro Miyauchi

Particularly infuriating for South Korea was the Ministry of Education’s decision to make four textbook publishers refer to a disputed set of islands – called Takeshima in Japanese, and Dokdo in Korean – as Japanese territory “unlawfully occupied by South Korea”.

But while its neighbours claim that the Japanese history curriculum, and the latest textbooks in particular, are dangerous distortions of Japan’s past, this is not a view shared by some Japanese.

In fact many right-wingers, such as prominent politician Shinzo Abe, have taken the opposite view and say that Japanese history textbooks fail to stress the positive advances and achievements that Japan has made.

And some critics have even claimed that the left-wing Japan Teacher’s Union exercises an unduly “masochistic” and left-wing bias on the current curriculum, by overly dwelling on the country’s wartime misdeeds.

They cite the recent refusal of some teachers to stand up and sing the national anthem as evidence of teachers’ own left wing political bias in the classroom.

Shift to right?

Whether the current curriculum has a right or left-wing bias or none at all, most teachers have shunned the controversial Fusosha textbook, which is used in less than 1% of Japanese schools.

And most Japanese remain unconvinced that history lessons have a bias in either direction.

“To be honest, I don’t think our history lessons were or are biased,” explained Yasuhiro Miyauchi, a 34-year-old product designer.

History does still have its influence, Mr Miyauchi said

Indeed, despite the textbook furore, most Japanese have a very strong awareness about the continued influence that Japan’s recent chequered history plays in its relations with two of its closest neighbours.

“Of course we learned about the Nanjing massacre, and we learnt it as a massacre rather than just as an ‘incident’ and yes, unfortunately, it still does have an influence on relations,” Mr Miyauchi said.

But while older Japanese may be aware of their mixed historical legacy, some commentators think the country is also in the midst of a broader shift to the right.

They point to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which have inflamed strained relations with Japan’s neighbours.

The shrine is said to house the souls, but not the bodies, of Japan’s war dead, including a number of convicted World War II war criminals, and is seen as a symbol of Japanese nationalism by China and South Korea.

Some Japanese are worried that the present government’s more nationalistic tone and its choice of approved textbooks may exert an undue influence on younger generations of Japanese.

Sayuri Inoue, a 27-year-old sales consultant, said: “I think that the problem is these books may have a bad influence on children in future, and the government is trying to put its opinions into children’s textbooks and that worries me.”

And the Ministry of Education seems more in chime with right-wing publishers such as Fusosha than at any time before.

Education Minister Nariaki Nakayama is also a prominent right wing member of the Japanese cabinet.

Just last November he remarked that textbooks being used in junior high schools contained passages about Japan’s past that espoused a “self-torturing” view of Japan’s modern history.

The problem is that Japan’s history books do not just help define how Japan’s next generation of school students learn to see themselves in the larger world.

They also define how its neighbours continue to see Japan – even if the citizens of China and South Korea, like most Japanese students, never actually get to see one of the controversial books.

History, it seems, can wear whatever face its masters wish it to.

April 13, 2005 @ 11:21 pm | Comment

I stumbled upon this doing a search for a phamplet entitled “The China-Japan Imbroglio” by Frank Herron Smith which was published sometime in the late 30s. With the dark lenses of the Japanese defeat by the Americans, with the oft under-emphesized help from the Allies, it is quite difficult to place things within their historical context. However, without removing the blinders of the present, we will never have the vision to understand the past in a way that will empower us to face the challanges of the future. (I just realized that’s a great sentence. Someday I’ll start my book with it.) I think that the victimization employed by both Koreas, China, and even Japan will have to come to an end in order for an honest evaluation of the war to come to light. As competiting neighbors, it would be unrealistic to imagine relationships without conflict. It is a possibility however that if East-Asian nations to accrately understand the past, they may be less inclined to take steps which have led to such horrors for the generations that preceeded them.
My applause for this line of discussion and I sincerely hope the discourse does not stop once the looting dies down.

May 8, 2005 @ 3:51 am | Comment

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