China’s strategy of winning over Taiwan with anti-Japan rhetoric

Only it’s not working, because Taiwan doesn’t hate Japan with the all-consuming passion of the Mainlanders (a passion that’s been carefully nurtured by the state). Here’s how it works.

In a World War II anniversary speech to 6,000 dignitaries in Beijing last September, Chinese President Hu Jintao recalled the anti-Japan alliance between the Chinese Communist Party and the Nationalist Party (KMT) before it fled to Taiwan, saying he would not tolerate Taiwan independence from China.

In October, Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, blamed Japanese rightwing forces for inciting current efforts to separate self-ruled, democratic Taiwan from China.

Jia claimed that people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should “feel proud” of the “exalted victory” that secured Taiwan’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule.

On Oct. 25, thousands of people attended a China National Museum exhibit marking the 60th anniversary of Taiwan’s return to China after 50 years of Japanese rule. Some museum visitors confessed they did not know China blames Japan for Taiwan’s current self-rule and hostilities toward Beijing.

China, in its push for China-Taiwan reunification, is increasingly attempting to win over Chinese citizens as well as Taiwan leaders by portraying Japan as a common enemy, Asia scholars say.

“Reminding the public on both sides of the strait about wartime history could perhaps be a way of reinforcing the view of Taiwan as an inalienable part of China that has been wrongly and forcefully kept separate from the motherland by Machiavellian foreign powers,” said William Hurst, a Chinese studies fellow at Oxford University.

The article looks at how Taiwan’s history with Japan differes from the PRC, and how the Taiwanese aren’t being won over. China is investing all this tike and effort into its campaign because it fears Taiwan will strengthen ties with Japan and the US, making life more difficult for the PRC.

The Discussion: 21 Comments

This reminds me of one of my more intriguing classes in Beijing when the indoctrinated class of Mainlanders was challenged by the one Taiwanese girl in the class.

She interrupted an anti-Japanese diatrabe by calmly pointing out that a high proportion of Taiwan’s population (including her grandparents) had warm memories of the fairly enlightened Japanese occupation, much preferring it to the corrupt and repressive Goumindang oligarchs who took over in 1945.

She and this other girl almost came to blows over this observation.

January 13, 2006 @ 11:05 pm | Comment


January 14, 2006 @ 12:13 am | Comment

Well, now that the KMT are the ‘good guys’ I suppose they’ve got to focus on a new enemy who has clearly brainwashed all the Taiwan compatriots.

As you say, blaming the Japanese for the current situation ain’t going to work in Taiwan because:
a) most Taiwanese get on pretty well with Japan, and
b) most Taiwanese are quite happy with Taiwan’s development. It’s China that’s got a problem with the current situation.
I guess if blaming Japan doesn’t work, they can start blaming the US next …

Personally, I blame the half-Japanese Koxinga for the clearly deviant views of independence-minded Taiwanese.

January 14, 2006 @ 1:27 am | Comment



January 14, 2006 @ 2:00 am | Comment

Sorry Michael – link is up now. Thanks for pointing it out.

January 14, 2006 @ 2:13 am | Comment

The article is from the Kyodo News:



January 14, 2006 @ 2:24 am | Comment

Sorry! Crossposted!

January 14, 2006 @ 2:25 am | Comment

As for Taiwan leaders, they have quite an interest in cozying up to Japan. Japan does not want the PRC endangering their shipping lanes by controlling both halves of the Taiwan Strait. So Japan is an important potential ally in future political developments. Even if the KMT takes over in 2 years, this point will certainly keep Taiwan seeking friendly terms with Japan for a while. Which means the government will have an interest in portraying the Japanese in a relatively positive light at home.

January 14, 2006 @ 4:26 am | Comment

China is on to a looser here.

If you know Taiwanese politics, you will well know that Taiwanese natinalists (particularly Lee) have been working for decades to draw a line between China-Japan and Taiwan-Japan, and to build bridges that can be used to draw Japna in between Taiwan and the mainland in the event of a conflict.

Look at madmen like Ko Bunyu (anti-Chinese Taiwanese author), he has been working for years to get Japanese to hate the mainland, and to draw links between Taiwan and Japan because he wants Japan as an allie in any future war agaisnt China.

Though I hate to say it, history also is actually on Taiwan-japan’s side here.

Japan might have ocuppied Taiwan and sloughtered countless thousends of people for no good reason, but it also did a lot of good things that people ten dto remember alongside the bad ones.

Japan wanted to solidify its status as an Asian power, and in order to do this it needed to get western colonialists on its side, so it tried to present Taiwan as a ‘model colony’.

This mean that Japan massivly invested in Taiwanese agriculture and industry, building roads, irrigation facilities and factories. This improved Taiwan’s economy considerably, and was a lot more than the Mainland had ever done for Taiwan.

Consiquently, after Japan was defeated, Taiwan still had all of the groundwork done by Japan, and it gained a massive economic boost that allowed it to stand on its own two feet after the civil war split it from the Mainland.

Japan also ‘permitted’ many Chinese to study in Japan (again, including Lee, who suddied in Kyoto Imperial University) which provided many Taiwanese with opportunities that they would never have had under Chinese rule, and which allowed them to cment Taiwan’s freedom after the Japanese were forced out.

Frankly, without Japan, Taiwan would not been nearely so well of as it is today. Just as Hong Kong would still be a small collection of fishing villages without Britain and the opium wars, and a lot of Taiwanese know this.

Plus, even if they hate Japan with all their hearts because of the occupation (who can blame them), they know that while the mainland is aiming missiles at them 24/7, and is denying them international recognition, Japan isn’t, and that Japan has a lot of self interest in ensuring that Taiwan doesn’t fall, or even come under attack, because Japan fears that it would be next.

January 14, 2006 @ 5:14 am | Comment

Then there’s the fact that younger Taiwanese, never raised on a steady stream of anti-Japanese vitriolic and indoctrination (how many different dramas on the Japanse invasion does CCTV run each night?), love almost all things Japanese. Japan’s soft power in Taiwan is considerable. I once saw a woman take back one cheap plastic product and exchange it for another because the former was Taiwan-made and the latter was a Japanese import … electronic stores tout which models are actual Japanese imports and which are just Japanese brands made in Taiwan. Faux shabu shabu restaurant, hot springs, Hello Kitty, Circle-K and 7-11 … there’s some serious Japan-envy going on here.

January 14, 2006 @ 9:51 am | Comment

Taiwan is strongly influnced by Japanese culture and American culture. It can be sure the ‘anti-Japan’ scheme would not easily carry out, simply because the current debating issue in Taiwan is more about the relationship between ‘China and Taiwan’, not ‘Japan and Taiwan’.

As a young Taiwanese myself, to tell the truth, what happened between the Chinese governement and Japanese government in the history does not affect the fact that Japan has an enchanting culture, especially for the young people in Taiwan. I dare to say almost every person in Taiwan’s young generation reads Manga and can name one or two Japanese entertainers. Their culture is strong for a reason. That’s their plan of their ‘culture invasion’. For example, I know Japan export their teachers to other countries to teach the school pupils Japanese challigraphy, eating styles, language, and a lot more.
Their culture is well known for being refined and delicate, like a well-wrapped product on the shelf that’s very easy to sell. I think that’s the main reason why Taiwanese found it very appealing, especially when we receive a lot of Japanese entertainment programmes and dramas in our TV. It’s very easy to get accessed with, and by the time you know, you are already influenced by it, whether you like it or not.

Of course in a sense I do hate what Japanese did to ‘our people’ at that time (the slaughter, raping, etc.). It is written in our history book and the scenes are well-kept our literature or films. However, I am also very clear that what I hate is the Japanese of the ‘last generation’. The history is taught for us to remember it as a lesson, not to arouse more hatre.
Recently my friend had a chat with his Korean friend, and the Korean friend said that all the Koreans ‘hate Japanese guts’, and that he ‘has never and will never *try to* like a Japanese’. Isn’t it just too quick to judge a person by his history background?

As for my very little understanding of what our government is doing now, I agree with ACB’s last paragraph. With the strong threatening of China’s armed force, the only thing we can do right now is to be as close as possible with Japan and the U.S. It is not a very good feeling though, and I think every Taiwanese knows that.

January 14, 2006 @ 12:40 pm | Comment

Right on, Natasha.
The taste and appreciation for many things Japanese in Taiwan are much beyond mere “soft power” or “Japan envy”, as the same can be said about all things Americans export.

January 14, 2006 @ 2:14 pm | Comment

As much as one loves many things Japanese let’s not mistaken that Taiwanese is firmly in Japan’s camp in all issues regarding history. I personally do see any relevance in citing the “soft-power” of the Japanese culture here because everyone in Asia loves Japanese product, even the Chinese or Korean. Japanese colonization of the island is an extremely brutal one and regarding its history has an rather romantic view. There is several times that someone said something that truely hit a raw nerve which illicit an reaction just as fierce.

January 14, 2006 @ 8:19 pm | Comment


I wouldn’t say stuff such as “without Japan…” in either Korea or Taiwan or anywhere in Asia if you want to keep your head firmly on your shoulder. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves with all the Japan-love because it does not mean people have forgotten history. In asia such a view point has no market, period.

It’s funny that the line seems to have been uttered in a recently controvesial manga bashing the Korean Wave or something that goes along the same line as Japan build up Korea to the prosperity that it has today.

January 14, 2006 @ 8:26 pm | Comment

The article itself has some rather interesting comments by Gordon “The Coming Collapse of China” Chang. Now sitting here in 2006 I can’t help but notice the greater irony of his book.

January 14, 2006 @ 8:31 pm | Comment

Egh the gross levels of ignorance in this thread makes my head hurt. I don’t even know where to begin setting things straight.

January 14, 2006 @ 9:47 pm | Comment

Thanks for straightening everyone out, Jing. :-0

January 15, 2006 @ 12:03 am | Comment

The article itself has some rather interesting comments by Gordon “The Coming Collapse of China” Chang. Now sitting here in 2006 I can’t help but notice the greater irony of his book.

I’m not sure if he ever put a date to his prediction (which, if he didn’t, was a smart decision). There’s a lot of melodrama in Chang’s book and a lot of exaggeration and fear-mongering. Some of his key points, however, make the book worth reading, especially for an understanding of just how tenuous the banking system there is. His main claim is that the Chinese economy is a “sea of gasoline” and that all that’s needed to ignite it is a spark. In some respects I think there’s a degree of truth to this, but I hope we never see it proven. Much as I dislike the government, the anguish and grief such a collapse would cause to so many wonderful people is impossible to contemplate. Let’s all pray there is never a run on the Chinese banks, which could prove to be the nation’s Achiles heel.

January 15, 2006 @ 12:15 am | Comment

Chang wrote sometime this decade as his prediction for the “Coming Collapse Of China” something most critics (few of whom have bothered to read the book) overlook in their haste to defend the robust PRC economy.

January 15, 2006 @ 12:39 am | Comment

I think Chang’s book is from 2000 and he predicted the collapse by now but it hasn’t happened. Unfortunately for all of the hooplah about China’s inefficient banking system, no one has actually bothered looking at the developing trends in the past few years. China’s percentage of non-performing loans are decreasing and the banking system is stronger today than it was 5 years ago.

Correcting everything in regards to Taiwan and Japan would take too long, but I’ll just be quick to point out that basically everything ACB said regarding the post-war Taiwanese economy is wrong.

Taiwan’s economic development under the Japanese colonial administration was almost entirely, up until the latter 30’s, an agricultural phenomenon. Taiwan’s economy rested upon the export of rice and sugar crops primarily and manufacturing was only a tiny percentage of total output. Now agricultural development is of course better than nothing but the problem with the Japanese model in developing Taiwan was that Taiwan’s agricultural economy was completly uncompetitive. It was a closed market system where Taiwanese products did not have to compete at global prices but were instead sent only to Japan at essentially subsidized value. This profited the Japanese owned agricultural monopolies during the pre-war period greatly but after the war and the subsequent loss of the Japanese market, Taiwan’s agricultural economy being totally uncompetive became completly FUBAR. A lot of blame is placed on Nationalist mismanagement post 1945, but the overriding economic conditions at the time (Japan not beginning its recovery until the Korean war, Europe facing starvation a year after the war ended, China in the midst of civil war) pretty much meant that Taiwan’s economy was screwed anyways and the most the Nationalists could be accused of is making it worse. Taiwan’s present economy is the result of public land reform in the 50’s and the conscious decision by the KMT to light manufacturing and the American market.

ACB’s arguement that Japan is responsible for Taiwan’s development (as is Britain for Hong Kong’s) is only true if one completly ignores more immediate causes. To visit Hong Kong briefly, few people are aware today but postwar Hong Kong was dirt poor and that it was in fact the Phillippines that had one of the highest incomes in Asia second only to Japan. That Hong Kong has prospered in the subsequent decade is a combination of British neglect and keeping the commies from taking over. Likewise Japan’s responsibility for Taiwan’s success is secondary to the acheivements made by Taiwan following the 60’s. Certainly if the Japanese had never seized Taiwan or the British Hong Kong, they would be very different places today, however it is impossible to say with any certainty how different they would be.

January 16, 2006 @ 4:03 pm | Comment

Jing, do you mind commenting on impact of the US on Taiwan’s development after WWII? The US made heavy investments in Japan’s infrastructure after WWII – how much of also happened in Taiwan? Thanks.

ACB, I’m not certain how allowing Taiwanese to study in Japan allowed Taiwan to cement its freedom after the Japanese were forced out.

January 17, 2006 @ 6:02 pm | Comment

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