SPEAKING FREELY China still haunted by Japan
By Amrita Jash
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click hereif you are interested in contributing.
On September 3, China commemorated the 69th anniversary of its "War of
resistance against Japan" at the Museum of the War of Chinese People's
Resistance against Japanese Aggression.
The Chinese government officially had designated September 3 as the
"Victory Day of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese
Aggression", a move that was ratified by the
Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in February.
The rationale behind such behavior is the result of its brutal memories.
Burgeoning economic engagement between China and Japan has not
succeeded in mitigating the grievances of the past, for China views the
past as a mirror to the future.
Since a normalization in ties in 1972, China's relations with Japan have
been guided by the philosophy of "taking history as the mirror and
looking forward to the future", where the Chinese leadership have been
motivated by the bias of "never forget national humiliation".
Following his predecessors, Chinese President Xi Jinping has reinforced
the rhetoric of "national humiliation". As he said, "the war launched by
the Japanese militarists in modern times brought calamity to the people
of China and other Asian countries. The facts cannot be denied. China
will never allow any denial and distortion of this history of aggression
or any return to militarism."
This symbolic gesture holds a strong meaning. With this commemoration
and official declaration of "Victory Day", China wants to signal an
alarm to the international community of a militarist Japan.
From this, it seems that China's memories of Japan have been deeply
internalized, whereby the present behavior towards Japan exists in the
historical narratives of the wartime aggression. China fears a
militarist Japan and thereby, the main objective behind such an act is
to resist any form of resurgence of Japanese militarism in the future.
Thereby, commemorating a day in the memory of China's victory over
Japanese aggression would act as a constant reminder for Japan and
the world of its past aggressions.
With this policy, China wants Japan to constantly remember its
imperialist past and not repeat the mistakes. As Xi stated, "Japan must
show a sense of responsibility for history, the region's people and the
future to maintain Sino-Japanese friendship as well as the stability and
development of Asia" and "take a prudent attitude and appropriately
deal with historical issues, learn lessons and stick to the road of
In this context, it can be strongly stated that China's relations with
Japan goes beyond the fixed contours of national interest. It is more
related to the conscience of national memory and identity. Such strong
sentimental rhetoric weighs down the realist understanding, where it is
argued that nation-state's actions are interest driven, but in case of
China, it is consciously memory driven.
China's attitude towards Japan is motivated by the logic of historical
memories than that of rational interests. This argument stands valid as
the present China-Japan relations exhibit a departure from the two
conventional norms: first, that time can heal all wounds; and second,
that growing bilateral contacts should mitigate historical grievances.
This digression in behavior can be argued on the grounds that, despite
deepened economic integration and cultural exchanges between the two
countries, there is still an anti-Japanese political culture in China.
The cognitive component of historical memories seems to defy the
neo-liberal arguments - and strong economic ties have failed to forge a
reconciliation between the two countries.
China's behavior towards Japan tends to be shaped by the Chinese
emphasis on two philosophical thoughts- first, the past experience, if
not forgotten, is a guide to the future (Qianshibuwang, houshizhishi); and secondly, never forget national humiliation (Wuwangguochi).
These two constructs point to the role of memories in this relationship,
not only in terms of the sense of events of the past but also as a
powerful symbol. In this, the "Middle Kingdom complex" and the "century
of humiliation" act as key drivers to China's historical consciousness,
which links the past to the present.
It signifies how history has influenced Chinese people's attitudes and
perceptions towards Japan. The important reason for China's emotionality
is that people of China connect the current events with historical
grievances. Thus, any act on the part of Japan reactivates the Chinese
memory of the wars and invasions that this country has suffered many
It seems that for China, the brutal war and this part of history in
relation to Japan, have left many sensitive historical dents, which get
reactivated deliberately or unintentionally, creating a discord in
China's attitude towards Japan. This fundamental reason helps to explain
as to why the bilateral relations have always been fragile and
dangerous even after decades of normalization. It is because the
historical issues and interpretations of the past pose a major barrier
for China to reconcile with Japan.
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.Please click hereif
you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this
section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not
necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's
Amrita Jash is a PhD Research scholar at the Centre for East
Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru
University, New Delhi-India. Her research interests are international
politics, China's politics, foreign policy, security issues, conflict
and peacebuilding and strategic studies. She can be reached at:
ROLAND SAN JUAN was a researcher, management consultant, inventor, a part time radio broadcaster and a publishing director. He died last November 25, 2008 after suffering a stroke. His staff will continue his unfinished work to inform the world of the untold truths. Please read Erick San Juan's articles at: ericksanjuan.blogspot.com This blog is dedicated to the late Max Soliven, a FILIPINO PATRIOT.
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