Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Anti-Japan sentiment in China

It seems like our wonderful friends over at the Middle Kingdom are at it again.

For the past few weeks now there have been numerous violent anti-Japanese protests in China. I always knew things would one day come to a head between the two nations and this time it may be it. These protest coincide with a number of other thorny diplomatic issues, the biggest being access to oil.

The main topic of contention firing up the protesters is the latest history textbook approved by the Japanese Education Ministry. It glosses over the death toll of the 1937 Nanking Massacre.

Now admittedly, the Japanese have done a very poor job in acknowledging their WWII atrocities. While it is true they had two atomic bombs dropped on them the fact remains that some of the stunts they pulled outclassed even the Nazis in sheer barbarism. There is a Japanese trait of avoiding that which is unpleasant. I know this is a gross generalization but it is an honest impression I have after having spent the past 14 years here.

However for the current state of bad relations I am placing the blame not on Japan, not even on the protesters, but squarely on the Chinese government. Through their propaganda they have raised an entire generation of Japan-haters. Like all totalitarian systems the Communists have always needed a scapegoat for the ills of the nation. And Japan, with its WWII brutality followed by its emascualated avoidant wimpiness since, is a scapegoater's wet dream.

It is exactly the same way that totalitarian mullahs and kleptocrats in the Middle East have always diverted the attention of their populace with tales of the evil deeds by the U.S. and Israel. Of course the fact that the U.S. and Israel are not exactly innocent makes the job easy for them. But it is a dirty dastardly diversion.

I have seen the Chinese propaganda machine first hand during a trip to Beijing. I was in my hotel room watching the news. It was the English version, basically a voice-over. Anyway, if you were to see that news program in a western country you honestly would think that it was a parody of news in a dictatorship. I have never heard a news program with so many adjectives spewed by the reporters.

One of the news items showed a group of convicted drug dealers blindfolded and handcuffed, being paraded around a public space. The reporter righteously described how the "horrible" drug dealers were then "swifty" executed after the parade.

It is pretty scary when you consider this is the number two economic power in the world.

Japan really has nothing to gain by modifying its textbooks, owning up to WWII atrocities or even trying to negotiate with the Chinese for better relations. They will be scapegoated either way. It similar to the principle that there is no point in negotiating with terrorists. Until they stop whatever crap they are pulling you have to hold fast against them.

Chinese culture has an obsession with the concept of "face". Saving it, not losing it, gaining it, whatever. I sincerely hope to see them with major egg on their face by having most nations boycott their Olympics in 2008.


Anonymous said...

Hi Arka,

Interesting points about the Chinese media and educational systems.

It seems that Japan can gain one important thing by being more brutally honest in the way it treats history in, for example, textbooks.

Quite apart from China, it will help increase the respect in which it is held by citizens of other countries.

This might well help it, down the line, in many areas - such as dealing with China.

There are no guarantees for honest self-reflection anywhere. Still, I don't think Japan would loose anything by trying to take a few more pages out of the German book.

- Ian

Arka Roy said...

Thanks for the feedback Ian.

Even thought this post was about the level of propaganda in China, you are right about Japan also having a long ways to go.

Indeed, the level of apology and self-reflection here comes nowhere near that of Germany's.

Seppo said...

Very interesting points, indeed, and a perspective I hadn't considered. I totally agree with Ian's comment, though. Though the Japanese may be demonized in China by the government, it's not just China that hates Japan, and South Korea, I don't think, has as much to gain by scapegoating Japan still - it seems to be a genuine sense of hatred for past events, that's still held by the general populace.

The problem, IMO, with Japan not teaching the unvarnished truth about their history is that essentially, what the kids learn is what they will believe happened. Because they'll never have learned the depth of some of their ancestor's depravity, they won't internalize it as the truth, and part of their history, which means, essentially, that any sense of moving *away* from that history will stop, because they simply won't acknowledge it as the truth.

Or something like that.

Veronica Tangent said...

Japan makes me nervous when they get really cocky. That's precisely when, historically, they start becoming 'imperialist'.

This time I agree with the Chinese, although you a make very compelling case against them. I think the japanese government should admit to their past atrocities, especially to their school children. And they still owe the Chinese an official apology, I believe.

But we'll soon be arguing this over beer, whiskey and loud techno-beats.



Veronica Tangent said...

I disagree. Japanese authorities make me nervous when they get cocky and do shit like rewrite history books. They owe it to their school children to tell the truth about their past atrocities, and apologize to the Chinese.

But we'll argue further over beer and tempura when I'm in Tokyo.

Love, Veronica