More anti-Japanese protests?

From Martyn….

Here in China, it’s been almost impossible to escape the recent run up to the 60th anniversary of China’s victory in the “War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression” during World War II. 60 days of commemorative events culminated, last weekend, in an extravaganza of mass rallies and spectacular events in Beijing. The run up to the anniversary provoked a government-sanctioned media frenzy, including television documentaries and newspaper articles galore detailing the experiences of Chinese heroes of the Anti-Japanese Struggle. Even the most progressive of Chinese newspapers, the Southern Metropolitan News, changed its usual format and printed a special anniversary edition commemorating the defeat of Japan, as the Asia Times Online reports:

Even in the remotest of China’s provinces, TV channels have been jam packed with documentaries, dramas and other programming focusing on what is frequently described as “the most brutal war in human history” and semi-officially referred to as the “World Anti-Fascist War”.

Even casual viewers could not escape being moved by highly emotive programming largely consisting of graphic documentaries and gripping war-related drama series. The tear-jerking testimony of elderly women who as young innocent girls were forced to serve as Japanese sex slaves and the depiction of Chinese suffering and humiliation during the occupation have strengthened the already strong sense of national resentment about Tokyo’s wartime actions and the need for genuine remorse.

China has been producing wartime dramas and documentaries for decades, but this year has released a far greater volume. Several of the TV dramas have masterfully captured the almost unimaginable degree of human misery Japanese troops inflicted on ordinary Chinese people. After watching such gut-wrenching productions it is hard not to come to the conclusion that even today Japan is honor-bound to show the deepest remorse for its past actions as a prerequisite for good relations with the Middle Kingdom.

Saturation Chinese media coverage of the 60th anniversary along with a host of regional events and national ceremonies have ensured that the full tragedy of the historic milestone has been vividly imprinted on the Chinese national consciousness. Awareness of the terrible acts committed by Japan during its brutal occupation has probably never been greater, creating a potentially volatile atmosphere for bilateral ties. The significantly heightened level of anti-Japanese sentiment makes it imperative for Japanese leaders to tread carefully, something Koizumi seems reluctant to do.

However, despite a recent Japanese opinion poll in which showed that a majority of Japanese people disapprove of the visits, Prime Minister Koizumi further renewed speculation that he will continue to visit the controversial Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo. Needless to say, the announcement immediately sparked outrage, particularly in China and South Korea. Commentators have already predicted that Koizumi’s expected landslide victory in this Sunday’s general election and expected visits to the shrine will plunge relations between Asia’s two largest powers to new lows:

Chinese anger about what is perceived to be the Japanese leadership’s lack of genuine remorse over Tokyo’s wartime invasion was one of the main driving forces behind a series of ugly anti-Japanese protests that swept China in April.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have both personally told Koizumi not to go to Yasukuni during the sensitive 60th anniversary year, a request he has so far observed. However, at the weekend, buoyed by polls that suggest he will win the Lower House election, Koizumi strongly hinted that he would probably visit the shrine this year, risking a fierce Chinese backlash.

Since he has visited the shrine every year since taking office in April 2001, his comments seemed to imply he intends to visit the shrine again this year if reelected. Such a pilgrimage would set him on a collision course with the Chinese leadership, deeply anger ordinary Chinese citizens and probably lead to another series of anti-Japanese demonstrations.

Koizumi also said during weekend TV appearances that it was inappropriate for foreign powers to try to influence his personal decision to pay tribute to the Japanese war dead at Yasukuni.

The Discussion: 12 Comments

But (barring unforseen events such as Koizumi being pressured to stay on as PM) he will only visit the shrine once more – presumably on an unprovocative date before the end of December this year. Next year he won’t have to go under his self-imposed discipline before he leaves office in September. Undoubtedly there will be lots of sound and fury in China when he does finally visit the shrine this year, but after that what incentive is there for HJT to take relations in a worse direction? I expect that after a ‘decent interval’ HJT will start making the kind of overtures to Japan he was making late 04/early 05. And I expect the JZM crowd and the PLA to turn up the heat on him again.

September 7, 2005 @ 8:43 pm | Comment

Koizumi should blatantly ape mainland Chinese commentary on Taiwan and start referring to Yasukuni as an “internal Japanese matter” from now on. This is not to say that his visits to Yasukuni are justifiable morally, or even in terms of (foreign policy) cost to (domestic policy) benefit. In fact, it seems as if Koizumi has made a show of saying “I haven’t made up my mind” for the last year or so without actually visiting the shrine, as if he knows it’s wrongheaded but doesn’t want to hand his critics a PR victory.

September 8, 2005 @ 1:32 am | Comment

I can imagine Beijing’s reaction to any foreign power telling government leaders what they should and shouldn’t do.

But China is the loser in all this and it will continue to pay a high price for its extreme nationalism by:

1. Encouraging, especially Japanese, businesses to invest elsewhere.

2. Alienating itself diplomatically and confirming world suspicions that China is an unpredictable and overly nationalistic threat.

3. Driving away potential friends like Japan and driving them straight into the arms of the sole world supoerpower, America.

September 8, 2005 @ 9:10 am | Comment

Dylan, so you’re saying the the JZM faction in the ccp are responsible for the anti-japan frenzy in china?

How, therefroe, is the current sino-japan relationship much worse under HJT than it was under JZM? JZM was responsible for bringing japanese companies into china all during his reign.

For whatever reason, hasn’t the ccp taken the position that the uniting force of anti-japan hatred/focus on a common enemy is a price worth paying for a serious dip in diplomatic realtions and a small dip in trade relations?

I do not share you prediction or optimism.

September 8, 2005 @ 12:29 pm | Comment

I know that China had a tough time of it with the IJA running about the place, etc. But then again so did everyone else in the region. So why is it that China (and now SK) have such a problem with Japan when other countries are more interested in rapproachment?

Chris, indeed, Beijing would never tolerate attempts from any countries to come clean about China’s involvement in the Korean War, would it?

“Oh, we were just defending North Korea from the evil American capitalists who started the conflict.”

Heard about a little organisation called the UN and it sending a multi-national force to stop the North Koreans overruning the South? Guess that must be Western propaganda as well…..

September 8, 2005 @ 5:53 pm | Comment

Sorry Matt but I differ in my reading of recent CPC history or inner workings. Policies are the result of consensus amongst factions, departments and interests, and therefore what one particular leader thinks is seldom the only factor. That explains why policies can appear that do not seem completely in line with the leader’s agenda.

That said, JZM is fiercely anti-Japanese. There are various reasons advanced for this: the FLG would say it is because JZM is covering up for collaborating during the war; others say JZM lost relatives to the Japanese in the war; in any event JZM felt he was publicly humiliated by Japan for not adhering to the apology he thought they were going to give in 1998 during his state visit. For someone as vain as Jiang this was unforgiveable.

HJT OTOH is widely thought to have a rather different view of Japan. Note he suffered no known direct consequence of the Japanese invasion of which he is unlikely to have any memory. Instead, his main experience with Japanese was during his time in the CYL where he (at the behest of HYB- who was also big on Japan) led the youth delegations that exchanged with Japan at a time of warming relations. He supposedly is friends with the former leader of minshuto and some other Japanese politicians. More than this, HJT and those around him push the theory that China should make up with Japan so that it can woo Japan from its US alliance and hence China can become a leader of a unified Asian bloc, or at minimum avoid the kind of self-destructive rivalry that would potentially derail China.

Now why can’t Hu just come out and say this and get on with it? Precisely because Japan is the third rail of Chinese politics. HYB was ousted at least in part because his enemies were able to portray him as ‘soft’ on Japan (an even easier task after Nakasone visited Yasukuni). Hu tried a little kite flying when he first came to power (remember the “new thinking on Japan movement of Ma Licheng and Shi Yinhong?) but his enemies and nationalists quickly turned the tables on him by stoking Sino-Japanese tensions. Because Japan is so incredibly sensitive it leaves Hu acutely vulnerable if he pushes the boat out too far on pragmatic warming of political relations (note: virtually nobody in China denies good economic relations are valuable, but they are treated entirely separately from political relations). Hu/Wen did just that when they started making noises from late 2004 about Hu’s “five principles” for a future-orientated relationship with Japan. Hence the nationalist backlash orchestrated by the PLA and Hu’s political enemies in early/mid 2005.

September 8, 2005 @ 10:10 pm | Comment

Thanks for the detailed expanation Dylan. That’s a great analysis with a lot of background issues that I was not aware of.

You mentioned one thing that would definitely scare the pants off the US and the west and that’s a China-Japan-South Korea block. Imagine the lengths the US would go to to try and not allow that to happen.

In such an alliance, perhaps you could even throw Russia in among those three as well, the rest of Asia and the world would have to reassess their our relationshipd with the US and China.

At the moment, it appears to be going the other way of course. Japan is moving fuirther away from China and closer to the US. Although South Korea is growing increasingly ambiguous with its US relationship, Vietnam a looks like it will jump in bed with the US at China’s expense. Vietnam, with Thailand will prevent the whole of SE Asia from turning into a Chinese protetorate (Burma, Laos, Cambodia).

September 9, 2005 @ 7:06 am | Comment

One last thing, even if HJT’s faction were able to implement better and closer relations with Japan, how far would they dare to go vis the population as a whole?

Especially the young in China, are now completely over the top in their anti japanese fervour, even outright hatred.

It would be very difficult for the ccp to push for better relations with japan as long as japan’s right wing remain active and koizumi continues his shrine visits. Even if koizumi quite the visits, many members of his govt would not. And that will give China’s Japan-haters plenty of ammunition to keep up their anti japan initiatives.

September 9, 2005 @ 7:10 am | Comment

Sorry buddies,

It’s Japan that will suffer with worsening Sino-Japanese ties. The PRC is perfectly happy with an outraged Chinese population. Any Chinese leader would be pretty foolhardy to placate Japan and piss off the Chinese people. Conversely, any Chinese leader would do well to have his people pissed at an annoying external enemy.

Koizumi’s visit to the shrine and his seemingly apparent alliance with Taiwan only strenghtens popular support for the PRC should Taiwan declare permanent separation from China. It’s the perfect story: Right-wing Japanese nationalist prime minister Koizumi had finally teamed up with Taiwan secessionist forces to once again declare war on the Chinese people. IF anything, this is the cannon fodder for any future straits war. Already talk abound of nuking the hell of Japan should Japan ever intervene in the Taiwan Straits.

So what can America do? Go defend Japan should Japan intervene in Taiwan? Two nuclear powers duking it out in the Straits is a very dangerous spectacle. The PRC will not relent precisely because it cannot lose any war to Japan, especially to Koizumi’s Japan. Otherwise, the PRC will face the wrath of the Chinese people and will go into the dustbin of history. And so, we have the making of World War 3.

And in event of such a war, the PRC will definitely use tactical nukes to achieve its twin objectives of neutralizing any American or Japanese forces, in which case, Japan’s own survival may be at stake. Wars, once started, have a logic of their own, a logic of attacks and counter-attacks….

It just won’t do for Japan to keep pissing off millions and millions of people on the mainland of Asia.

September 9, 2005 @ 5:06 pm | Comment

Thanks for the background Dylan, much appreciated. Matt, Raj, thanks for the interesting points.

AC, I go along with you up to a certain point and agree that Japan is the near perfect external enemy that the CCP can use to keep the country both unified and focused on. If it wasn’t Japan then it would be America I suppose.

The China-Japan relationship is, of course, on two fronts – diplomatic and trade. Trade has always flourished as Japan continued to outsource. China, in particular, has benefitted enormously from technology transfer. However, diplomatic relations soured very quickly and, conincidentally, right around the time that protests and social unrest heightened in China.

Anyway, that aside, I’m not as certain as you are regarding firstly, China’s appetite for war over Taiwan and secondly, China’s chances of winning it and/or afterwards suffering the consequences of any conflict whether it be economically, diplomatically or both.

Allowing young people in China to take part in their first ever demonstration is one thing but fighting a conflict — alone — against Taiwan, the US, possibly Japan and god knows who else is simply foolhardy. Why on earth would China and the CCP risk everything rather than allow the status quo to continue?

Remember, China has zero oil reserves and a simple blockcade could bring the country to a grinding halt within days. Also, the US out-nukes China on all levels, as it does with capability. No, China’s not going to go down the road of war.

September 9, 2005 @ 11:29 pm | Comment

Sorry Martyn,

First, somehow some people don’t get this. China will never go to war over Taiwan as long as Taiwan does not formally declare its independence. On the other hand, if Taiwan declares independence, all bets are off.

Seems like you still have a premature view on Chinese politics. If the CCP loses Taiwan to the secessionists simply because it is afraid to piss off the United State or Japan, then it would be the end of the CCP. It is a rule in dynastic changes in China that when the incumbent dynasty appears weak towards external enemies that is also the time when serious internal revolts appear. This was the case with the old Qing Dynasty, the same with the KMT, and certainly the same with the CCP. The CCP leaders know this, and so therefore the logic is simple, if push comes to shove, it would have to win in any conflict, or at least tie the game with the United States, and certainly, without exception, with Japan.

Yes, and I certainly agree that China cannot win a conventional war with the United States or even with Japan. BUT that is where tactical nukes aimed at the battlefield, the seas, will come in handy. As the saying goes, NUKES are the best way to even the playing field.

Of course, the United States or Japan will retaliate with their own tactical nukes to nuke out the Chinese navy, in which case, the Chinese will re-retaliate with even more nukes on the American and Japanese navies.

If the Americans and Japanese decide to take a notch higher by throwing strategic nukes on Chinese ports and cities, then Los Angeles, San Francisco (your favorite city), and certainly Japanese cities and ports are only fair game. AND this is where I don’t believe the Americans or the Japanese will risk.

SO in any outbreak of war, tactical nukes will be very likely used on battleships and carriers, in which case, the great American navy is doomed. But so is the Chinese “navy”. But let me ask you, is Taiwan closer to the mainland of China, or is it closer to the United States?

The Chinese airborne division could quickly gain the upperhand in Taiwan once the American navy is neutralized. The same goes with Japan.

As for oil…Already the PRC is signing a whole bunch of contracts with a series of nations, including Russia (which incidentally is secretly hostile to America) and Iran (which is openly hostile to America). OIL, I don’t foresee a problem for China at war. In fact, as I have already stated, a Straits War involving the USA and Japan would largely be about throwing hundreds of tactical nuclear warheads around the Pacific Rim with their main targets on carriers and battleships, effectively neutralizing any conventional victory for the USA and Japan. Already China is building a mass arsenal of warheads.

BUT in any event, if it gets really bad, the PRC can still depend on the OSAMA option: That is, direct sales of nuclear devices to terrorist cell groups intent on blowing up the American mainland or Japan, which in itself is a partaker of the Iraq War.

So there you have it: THE LOGIC of the STRAITS WAR.

What should American policy-makers do? They should back off their over-protective stance with Japan. Koizumi’s rhetoric and actions are only playing into the hands of the PRC intent on rallying the nation. And not only that, but also creating enough tension to encourage the Taiwan secessionists to foster their agenda of separation from China, in which case, the war is imminent.

BUT then again, we do have a George Bush in power…don’t we?

DC (speaking on behalf of AC…: )

September 11, 2005 @ 5:43 pm | Comment

We all know the Japanese had done very barbaric things to humanity, but what have we as Chinese learnt?
Keep exploiting all the poor 800 million Chinese peasants like the old Soong dynasty era and wait for the next imperalist power (the USA ? ) to attack and bully us again?..Blame ourselves the Chinese and people in power who refuse to eradicate the well known poverty in the country side and dont educate the poor children so that they can be exploited as “Migrant workers” when they grow up so that the rest of the 1 million coastal chinese can live well? Blame ourselves and our faulty “dynastic” system. Want to change it or
want to look for a scapegoat?
Heard of the historical classic “The Water Margin”?
It is no different then and now…just a different mask of the corrupt Soong Dynasty.

We have to look hard in the mirror first and recongnise
honestly our own face first.
And it is ugly.

Signing off
A loyal realistic Chinese
Sept 13 2005

7:08 AM

September 12, 2005 @ 11:22 pm | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.