I was writing a response to Jing’s much appreciatedcomment on my previous post and it began to meander enough so I thought I would post on the front page instead. For full background, read the original article, and the response to it on the excellent ESWN blog.
[Note: I posted the wrong link at first, I apologize, it has been corrected.]
Very interesting. I generally look at ESWN once in a while, but I hadn’t caught this article yet. Based on what he writes at ESWN (and based on what I’ve read there in the past I have pretty good faith in what he writes) the Japan Times article (actually a translated Kyodo piece, I think it’s worth noting) is either deliberately misleading or very factually misinformed (I would wager on a combination).
I would still like to know more about what the books say. For example, does he only visit the most extreme rightist institutions in Japan, or does he also explain how in reality these views are an extreme minority position these days? Were these books even banned for their own sake or was it really something else he did?
Whatever the case, it is still an obvious fact that anti-Japanese sentiment is encouraged by the Chinese government. When I was traveling in China I don’t believe I met a single native person who didn’t cringe a little bit when I mentioned that I studied Japanese, and when asked they all admitted to “hating Japan.” I remember a conversation with one Chinese man working at a youth hostel where I stayed, and after talking for a while and admitting that he got along very well with almost all of the Japanese guests there and has no dislike them on an individual basis, he still hated the country for some unarticulatable reason.
This attitude is common throughout the country, and clearly a result of education and media and not personal conclusions, because people only ever learn one side of the story. I will gladly admit that there is some level of this in Japan as well, but not nearly to the same degree. For example, Japanese textbooks may inappropriately gloss over attrocities comitted in the past by the Japanese, but they do not teach outright hatred of modern China the same way that the Chinese seem to be taught to hate Japan.
Certainly the museum at Yasukuni shrine exhibits some reprehensible attitudes, but there are right-wing nutcases in every country. (excepting a few like, say, China where the nutcases universally call themselves left-wing instead for obvious reasons) There is anti-Japan sentiment in China, and anti-China sentiment in Japan, but the former case seems to have far more encouragement from the government and the media (which is of course all controlled by the government to some degree), and therefore far more of a majority opinion. I am also not saying that there is not enourmous racism in Japan, but it tends to be more universalist in nature (uck, that almost sounds positive!), and not the result of a longterm propaganda campaign against a specific political enemy.
ESWN writes that “Yu Jie as an example of a public intellectual pressuring the Chinese government to become more forceful against the revival of Japanese militarism.” I have no argument at all with working to prevent the revival of Japanese militarism, but China (and North Korea) have a decades old policy of using that as an excuse to maintain Japan as a potential threat to continue to justify their long-corrupted revolutionary demagogy, to fan the flames of their own nationalism.
As a footnote, all of the Uyghur I spoke to in the far west province of Xinjiang had very different attitudes. While they probably learn about the evils of WW2 just like any other student in the country, they seemed to be of the universal opinion that hating the Chinese for what they are still doing to to the Uyghur up this very day is a far more pressing issue. The professional guides who tend to receive a lot of Japanese tourists in Turpan all agreed that the portrayal of modern Japan in the Chinese media was quite unfair, and also said that they found the tourists from Japan far more agreeable than the domestic ones, who are often blatantly rude and racist to the local Uyghur people. (One of them, who spoke fluent Japanese and no English, mentioned he was particularly fond of young, single Japanese women, but this is another matter entirely, which would probably receive rather more popular support from the average Chinese man on the street.)