Sunday, April 17, 2005

Japanese textbooks

Anti-Japan riots spread in China. The Chinese are not satisfied with the attempts of Japan to become a permanent member of the U.N. security council (this bid is supported by the U.S. while China not only opposes it, but probably wants India to become a permanent member), and with the new Japanese history textbooks that seem to downplay the evils of the Japanese aggressions against its Asian neighbors.

For example, the textbooks in the past used to talk about the "comfort women" i.e. the employees of the military brothels (a part of the Japanese war policy at that time). Most of them were Japanese, but some of them were Korean or Chinese. Most of the new textbooks fail to mention the "comfort women" and other war topics. These textbooks may be viewed as a victory of the Japanese nationalist groups that have fought against the "masochist" education that was undermining the national identity.

In Shanghai, 20,000 protesters attacked cars and restaurants that had something to do with Japan. There were also 10,000 protesters doing similar things in Hangzhou where Andy Strominger, his family, and his collaborators are having a great time. Let's pray - or do a rational equivalent of it if there is one - that the situation won't become dangerous for them. Japan demands an official apology from China - a country that apparently failed to prevent the violence; China seems to blame Japan's "wrong attitude" for these protests.

Shing-Tung Yau was explaining us that the current education system in Japan is very nationalistic. But there are many statements one cannot be certain about. I would recommend both nations to think about the present and the future - which means to tollerate different interpretations of history as long as these interpretations don't influence the present and the future. Well, this is definitely not a universal recipe for peace and friendship - China wants to become the Asian number one instead of its rival, Japan - but given the fact that the co-operation and trade is important for both countries, the future is probably a better guide than the past.

Finally, representative Chinese and Japanese newspapers:


  1. It's true that Japanese textbooks have minimized Japanes war crimes in ways that the Germans were not allowed to get away with. It's also very easy for an authoritarian dictatorship to turn on this kind of riot and protest, but if they aren't careful, they might find that it's not quite so easy to turn them off.

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  3. Lubos, thanks for your attention and quite correct view to the current situation in Asia. Let me add some more things.

    First, it's very rare that such a big demonstration by citizens occur spontaneously in China, and also that China government does not forcefully stop them. The huge demonstration by citizes reflects nothing but the things with textbook. Citizens do not care much about the status of Japan in UN. China government may do.

    We, Korean, remember that when there occurred big earthquakes and infection in some place in Japan, they impute the catastrophe to the Korean there(whome they forcefully took there) and killed much of them just as scapegoat.

    Those comfort women, some of them are still alive and used to make demonstration theirselves in front of, say, embassy and Japanese government doesn't want to say anything sincerely. Isn't that problem? There were horrible maruta program by Japanese government and they keep quite for it. Quite opposite to Germany, isn't it.

    I know and should note that many of Japanese do not want to cheat their history, but only some nationalists do. The problem is that who wants to be sincere do not know history while who wants to cheat is enthusiastic.

    Interpretation can be different, but the facts are there as they were. Thanks for reading.

  4. Shing-Tung Yau was explaining us that the current education system in Japan is very nationalistic.

    And the one in China isn't? Perhaps he was joking?

    Actually, the Japanese teachers' unions tend to be very left-wing, and many teachers there give their students a version of history that would satisfy anyone outside China.
    Meanwhile, in China, the teaching of "history" is oriented towards the idea that China has always been a victim of everyone else, and that it is a patriotic duty to ensure that China takes its rightful place among nations -- ie at the top, justified by 6000 years of glorious history etcetcetc. A lot of discussion of these matters in China is frankly fascist and racist in character -- and a great many Chinese openly believe in racism.

  5. Lubos:

    I do not know why you want to be on the WRONG side of history. Maybe that's because your Czech motherland was part of the camp of axis countries?

    You need to know a little bit of history background to be able to make some comment. It is NOT an employement as you would like to portrait what those poor women were forced to do, as part of your attempt to beautify that part of ugly history. No, it's called slavery, not employment, and they are not paid. Some of those still alive tried to sue the Japanese government today to get some compensation, but they lost.

    35 million Chinese were slaughtered and trillions of dollars of properties were lost to the Japanese invasion. But in the 70's, China's then prime minister Tzou En-Lai publicly announce that China would forgive Japan for any monetary compensation, as long as the new Japanese government can properly acknowledge and cut itself clean from that part of history which Japan was guilty. We just want to win back peace.

    But that's the big problem of Japan for its failure to do its part of forgiveness. Hitler is public condemned in today's German, and today's German prime minister, when he visit Isreal, would knelt down and beg for forgiveness for the murder of 6 million Jews by Hitler's German. And forgiveness is certain not that easy: Isreal is still relentlessly hunting down every single Nazi war criminals throughout the world, and make sure they get their punishments.

    On the contrary. In Japan, all those war criminals are being worshipped as national hero and national god. And year by year, the majority of Japanese government's cabinet members, defying strong protests from their Asian neighbors, go and pay their respect to those "national heroes", not in their private name, but officially in the name of the positions they hold. But their history textbooks are utter distortions, not merely coverup or deliberate ommissions.

    What kind of public outrage it will trigger in Europe if German does the same?

    Sure enough, The Chinese history textbook has its own problems. It does not tell the true stories about the the suffering of the people during Japan's brutal invasion. There is a reason, the Japanese invasion actually gave the communists an opportunity so they did not get eliminated by the nationalist government, so they could eventually defeat the nationalists and drive them to the island of Taiwan, which was only returned to China after the defeat of the Japanese, but minus a small fishing island which the then US government wrongly assumed to be part of Okinawa while it was actually part of Taiwan. And that remains a sore spot on today's Sino-Japan dispute.

    Any suggestion that the Chinese government intentionally encouraged recent protests doesn't know that part of the world. Ever since the 1989 crackdown, the government is scared to death that the next big wave of protests can well mean the end for them, as indicated by what happened in east Europe and Russia, following the 1989 events in China. So if there is any public gathering of more than a few people for any purpose at all, they would quickly try to dissipate the crowd before it can grow bigger.

    But certainly, from time to time, when they feel it is not a direct threat to them, they would realize the need to allow people to vent their anger a little bit through public demonstration, so that the pressure does not build up too much. Recent public protests is one of such occasions, but sure enough huge groups of police force is dispatched to carefully keep the scale of protests to within control.

    Meanwhile, part of people's anger is actually directed towards the Chinese government, who so far showed ambiguity towards how it will vote in regard to accepting Japan to be a permanent member of the security concil, or even a hesitation to even vote a NO. Part of the purpose of the protests is to force the government to make a clear demonstration that it will vote no. Certainly, if China does vote no, there is no chance Japan can be accepted as permanent member. That's what the demonstraters want.

    I believe, the economical scale of Japan along would be it is inevitable that one day Japan will have to be accepted as a bigger role player in world affairs. But as it is now that it refuses to acknowledge that part of infamous history, and it refuse to make good with its neighbors on those accounts. For this reason Japan is NOT a responsible enough party to be accepted as a permanent security concil member. It can not be trusted.

    It is also dangerous for the USA to support Japan this time, and do other things to allow Japan to grow. Anybody ever realize that Japan's military power now is only second to USA, and far exceeds the third? And certain Japan's economic power is also the second. And very soon it could surpass the USA. Japan does not officially has any nuclear weapon, but has accumulated lots of weapons grade nuclear material. At a moment's notice, it could well assembly enough nuclear weapons to destroy the whole world. From the hostoric prospect, Japan is a country limited by its natural resource on the island, but never limited by its aggression. Americans still need to contain Japan in some way, or it will find itself having to deal with a terrible enermy again in the future.


  6. Quantoken,

    Your take on the Japanese / Chinese situation is interesting to say the least.

    The first issue is regarding Japanese war crimes. As far as I am aware, the Japanese did not try to exterminate anybody. Sure they were war criminals, but not in the way of the Nazis or Communists!

    If I was Japanese, I would feel that criticism of Japan's Human rights record in China by communists as ironic.

    By the way, due to the racist treatment of the Japanese pre WWII, and immoral behaviour in Western Colonies by the Western powers means that the West cannot point any fingers. This was recognise by the West after WWII.

    Now to the issue of Japan as a veto wielding member of the Security Council.
    In my opinion, the UN is a waste of time! Who frankly cares! At best with 30,000 american troop in Japan, it will just be another farce at the UN.

    Finally the Taiwan issue. America's involvement is bizarre. Taiwan as far as I understand has a large population of Han Chinese. Also approximately 45% feel that they are Chinese with 55% feel that they are Taiwanese. I see no chance of China 'invading' Taiwan as Taiwanese independence has no chance of getting off the ground, and China would lose too much face. America is basically missing the real problem in East Asian of North Korea.

    An Amateur Mathematician

  7. Since I have almost never agree with Quantoken before, I thought I'd better thank him for his useful and heartfelt contribution.

    For Amateur Mathematician, it seems pretty hard to me to make a case that Japanese imperialism was much more benign than German, both committed terrible and loathsome crimes, murdered millions, and conducted evil biological experiments on prisoners.

    It's hard to think of another example in History where losers who committed such terrible crimes got off so lightly. I don't begrudge the present inhabitants of Japan or Germany their prosperity, since I don't believe that the sins of the fathers are visited on the 7th (or even third) generation, but the world has a right to insist that these crimes be remembered by the nation that committed them. The Germans have, in the main, met this condition. The Japanese have not.

  8. Zetah:

    Your comments are very insultive, to say the least.

    The Japanese war atrocity is not a single bit less than the Nazis, it's much worse if anything. By the same token of your suggest, you probably does not think massacring 6 million Jews is any extermination since that counts as only 50%. Six times as many, 35 million Chinese were massacred. How many more Chinese do you want to see killed, before you would considered it as an "extermination"? I personally know many villages that have been completely wiped out by the Japanese.

    The Japanese army were animals. I have heard plenty of stories from the old generations that the villagers fleed to forests when the Japanese came. When they returned later and tries to cook, they found the Japanese had urined and shitted on top of their rice. And there are plenty more stories of the Japanese cut off human organs and cooked to eat them. What kind of animal will do that? The Nazi German may kill mercilessly but I do NOT think they would shit on breads, will they?

    Those are history and I do not think any of today's Japaneses need to be held responsible for something their fathers did. But it is absolutely unforgiveable when a whole nation is try to cover up, deny and beautify its shameful past.

    Unlike in Europe, lots of Japanese war criminals went unpunished, for various reasons. For example the infamous Japanese 731 unit, which used thousands of prisoners of war and civilians for cruel animal type experiments to develope biological weapons, which we only learned not through textbooks, but through the writting of a Japanese who was a member of the 731 unit, who felt pressed by his own conscience to write that part of history down. All those people went unpunished because the Americans wanted a deal to acquire the research data they have accumulated. Some of the worst war criminals in the Chinese war theater were also released by Chiang's Nationalist government because they needed those Japanese's expertise in training an army to fight the communists.

    As for Taiwan. There is a close relationship to the Sino-Japan relationship. Taiwan was seceeded to Japan after China lost a major sea war in 1895. It was only returned to China after Japan's surrender in 1945. It did not last very long since the Nationalist lost the civil war and retreated to Taiwan.

    You may not like the idea that Taiwan fall back to communist rule. I don't either. But Taiwan is still officially part of China and the government there has always called themself "Republic of China". There is absolutely no way China can tolerate an official Taiwan independence and once that happens that would only mean war, with and without American intervention. You have to understand to the Chinese, that Taiwan is part of an unhealed wound left over from Japan's aggressive past, rather than a leftover from a civil war, as what most westerners would think.

    You have to understand that part of history to understand why most Chinese people would not allow Taiwan independence. Actually there HAS been successful independence from China in recent history. The Republic of Mongolia break way from China while the inner Mongolia remains. But very few Chinese would even think about taking back Mongolia. As for Tibet, many Chinese have privately said that why the Tibetans are still complaining, even as the central government susidize Tibet greatly economically. They say let Tibet go independent and let them do whatever they want, see if they can survive without our subsidize. But on Taiwan things are different, because it is an unhealed wound inflicted by Japan.

    But if you think China has any ambition regarding territory, you are wrong. There had been a border war between China and India in 1962, in which India was totally defeated. But China promptly withdrew all the way back, and even further withdrawn another 30 miles back from where the Indians considered the border was. It's been peaceful there ever since althought the land is still being disputed. Have you seen another war in history where the winner instead of march on to grasb more land, chooses to retreat and give off some land instead, in order to preserve peace?

    And as for Hongkong, China did not recognize the original treaty which was signed under gun point, but honored the terms nevertheless and did not take back Hongkong until the term terminated in 1997. And Marcao, neighboring Hongkong, the Portuguese government tried several times unsuccessfully to persuade China to take it back, but China refused the offer since they thought they were not ready yet. That was until 1999. And in the history, when China was the No. 1 superpower of the world, instead of went out and invade others, It built the Great Wall to defend itself from harrasments of its neighbors. You really can not find another country who has less territory aggression than China.

    Japan is different in that it has limited natural resources on that island and it had always been aggressive, throughout thousands of years of history. Japan is simply not qualify enough to be a responsible member of the UN security concil.


  9. dear zelah,
    I'm extremely insulted and disappointed as a Chinese. Not that I lived that miserable period of time or anything, it's enough if we accept there's some truth in history records and documentaries. You're being extremely over-simple minded and ridiculously decorating the Japanese's anti-human crimes during WWII in China.
    It is in a sense true the Japanese probably did not exterminate the Chinese, as you might/could/would have been suggesting them to. But they did kill millions of Chinese for FUN, for bloodthirst, for developing biological weapons, as quantoken has mentioned. In a culture not encouraging stem cell research, you may want to use your brain more effeciently than a pipe for right-wing nuts' view on WWII history. And for the record, it's not just human rights violated in China by Japanese invasion, it's human lives. It's not just Chinese lives, there were western lives too, esp. American ones. It's surely war time, but I guess you are not suggesting people should forget about all human rules and principles even then.
    I also disagree completely on the comment regarding Chinese rights to complain against these distorted history education in Japan. It's one thing that China is formally a communist country, it's a seperate issue whether its people can say something. Are you saying whatever we say don't count because we have a communist government? That's nonthing short of outrageous.
    You sure have learned enough math to calculate what will and shall happen in Taiwan. I congratulate you on that. And I sure encourage you to update your asian history and world history understandings.
    For people out there who would like to victimize China again whenever the chance comes, we feel rightful to call you guys bandits as we have been! I do not consider that a racist point of view.

  10. "For people out there who would like to victimize China again whenever the chance comes"

    Yeah, yeah, the Chinese have always been everyone's victim. Like the way they were victimized by India. By Vietnam. And worst of all, by the Tibetans. The poor Chinese! They would never harm anyone if they got the chance. And the Chinese invented the compass, spaghetti, warm underwear, nuclear reactors, you name it, 6000 [or is it 10000?] years before anyone else! bandits! you are all bandits!

  11. Let us not forget the Opium wars. Today, the Medelin cartel in Columbia is not very different from the British of that time, it would seem.


  13. well,well, only that the British now wouldn't love to poison themselves or their ally, otherwise they could maybe split benefit with the cartels.

    people who mess up around china by luring china's neighbors didn't really get what they'd love, did they? in vietnam, india... ...
    only if they knew to stop. life is hard, don't die a loser with a losing dream. I guess that's way too much political accusation already for a string theory blog. period.