View of China and Japan
after the Sino-Japan War in 1895
Japan was clearly the dominant power of Asia in the 20th century. China is shaping up to be the dominant power of Asia in the 21st century. How this transition plays out and how China and Japan deal with it will have a profound effect on Japan, China and all of Asia.

The Chinese harbor a lot of animosity still towards the Japanese based on what happened in World War II and Chinese believe that Japanese culture is derivative of Chinese culture not visa versa,

Despite strong economic ties and massive amounts of trade between the two countries, China and Japan have differences over interpretations of World War II, challenge one another over influence in the Asian-Pacific region, and have feuded over ownership of islands in the East China Sea, the division of exclusive economic zones, gas exploration rights and Japan’s position on Taiwan.

From 1999 to 2003, China was the largest recipient of development loans from Japan. Japan gave China $45 billion in aid between 1979 and 2002, nearly half the total that China received in that period. In 2004, China said it didn’t want Japanese aid money any more. The same year China was replaced by India as the largest recipient of aid from Japan. Aid to China ended completely in 2008.

The relationship between China and Japan has been described as a “hot-in-business, but cold-in-political relationship.” Japan supplies China with technology and capital and China provides Japan with low-cost production and an export platform. While trade and business between the two nations are robust the two governments bicker over a range of issues and politicians and ordinary citizens of each country badmouth the other.

Kishore Mahhubani, a public policy scholar at the National University of Singapore, told the Yomiuri Shimbun the biggest challenge for Japan in the coming decades will be becoming psychologically prepared for “a world in which China is the world’s greatest power” and that Japan should shift its focus from the West being the center of the world to China, India and Asia being at the center.

There are some concerns about a dangerous showdown between China and Japan in the future as nationalist sentiments and military ambitions rise in both countries and both countries aggressively pursue their share of global markets and energy and resource supplies.

China is viewed as a military threat. The 800 missiles that China has aimed at Taiwan are also capable of striking Japan. In the first three months of 2006, Japan scrambled jets 107 times in response to what were viewed as provocations from Chinese spy planes.

China, Japan and Military Concerns

A white paper released by the Japanese government in 2005 described “new threats” as justification of a plan to introduce a new anti-missile system. The report mentions China’s military build up, leading one to conclude that China was one of the “new threats.”

The white paper stated: “China, which is steadily growing as a political and economic power in the region, continues to strengthen its military capabilities. Such a trend draws the attention from other countries in the region. It is necessary to keep paying attention to these modernization trends and to carefully evaluate whether the modernization of China’s military forces exceed the level necessary for its national defense.”

Japan has also been upset by the activity of Chinese ships and submarines near Japanese territorial waters and the occasional incursion by a submarine into their waters. In November 2004, a nuclear-powered Chinese sub entered Japanese waters around some small islands south of Okinawa. Japan lodged a protest and China said it made a “mistake” and expressed regret for doing so. The submarine was snooping not far from the contested natural gas fields at Chunxiao.

Some feel China and Japan are headed for a major showdown. They have a bit of an arm’s race going on and hostilities towards the other, particularly on the Chinese side, run deep. Both China and Japan have large militaries. Japan is worried about China's military growth. Some worry that without the United States acting as a buffer, the two countries could be at each other’s throats.

The Chinese defense mister visited Japan in August 2007, the first such visit in 10 years, and a sign that tensions wee easing between China and Japan. Somewhat

In November 2007, a Chinese warship (The Shenzhen, a Luhai-class missile destroyer) docked at a Japanese port (Tokyo) for the first time since Communist China was created in 1949. In June 2008, a Japanese MSDF (navy) vessel docked in a Chinese port (Zhanjiang in Guangdong) for the first time since the end of World War II. The vessel carried relief supplies for victims of the Sichan earthquake. A Chinese navy training vessel with crew of 300 made a port call in Japan in November 2009.

There are plans to create a hotline between the militaries of Japan and China to prevent a accidental military conflict.

China is developing the DH-10 cruise missile which has a range of more than 2,000 kilometers and is capable of reaching Japan undetected.

In September 2007, Chinese H-6 medium-range bombers flew into Japanese-claimed air space over the East China Sea.

Japanese Military White Paper Calls China 'Overbearing'

The Defense Ministry's white paper issued in August 2011 expressed strong concern about China's growing maritime activities in recent years and described China as "overbearing." China's arms buildup could arouse "anxiety about its future direction," as exemplified by what can be termed its "overbearing reactions" to Asian neighbors in connection with its military expansion, according to the paper, titled "Defense of Japan, 2011." [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, August 3, 2011]

The paper describes China's rapid modernization of its military hardware as an attempt to "strengthen its capacity to have its military potential reflected in distant locations." As in the same report last year, the latest paper points out that China's opaque national defense policy and the direction of military power "are a concern for the regional and the international community," and deems it important that China "be aware of its responsibility as a major power and abide by international rules."

China has set off a number of disputes with neighboring countries including Japan over territorial rights and maritime interests. The white paper describes China's overly hegemonic stance on the issues as "overbearing." China is not only causing friction with Japan, but also with Vietnam and the Philippines. The white paper's analysis of the situation concludes that China "can be expected to expand its sphere of naval activities and carry out operations as a routine practice in the East China Sea, the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea." A new chapter was created in 2011 defense paper to analyze China's activity in the South China Sea, according to which territorial disputes between China and its neighbors--such as the dispute over the Spratly Islands--"will affect peace and security in regional and global society."

China responded to the white paper by accusing Japan of deliberately exaggerating Beijing's military threat.Foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu obliquely warned Tokyo not to stray from its longstanding defense posture and, in comments on the ministry website, criticized "irresponsible comments" in the white paper.In a clear reference to Japan's military occupation of China before and during World War Two, which remains a thorn in relations, Ma said: "We hope that Japan will use history as a guide, and earnestly reflect on its defense policies, and do more to enhance mutual trust with its neighbors."Defense ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said Japan was deliberately exaggerating the 'China threat' and acting out of ulterior motives, according to the ministry's website. [Source: Chris Buckley, Reuters, August 4, 2011]

A commentary in Xinhua said Japan was intentionally creating tension."(Japan is) beset by a long-standing Cold War mentality, and is trapped in the myth of the Japanese-American alliance ... (it) has a powerful impulse to shed the constraints of the purely self-defense policy advocated in its post-war peace constitution."

Views of Japanese and Chinese

In the minds of Chinese, the Japanese never adequately apologized for the atrocities before and during World War II and they view the Japanese assertiveness in military matters as a threat and a reminder of the World War II era. Textbooks, newspapers and government-sponsored films in China emphasize China’s suffering after the 1935 Japanese invasion but mention little about how relations have improved and Japan has given China billions of dollars in aid.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin had personal memories of Japanese atrocities in the World War II era and was not bashful about lecturing the Japanese about them. His successor Hu Jintao seemed to be more intent on establishing better relations with Japan. His efforts were shot down by Koizumi and nationalist Japanese but have been welcomed with more open arms by recent Japanese prime ministers.

A poll conducted by the Pew Research Center before the 2008 Olympics found that 70 percent of the Chinese interviewed had an unfavorable impression of Japan.

In a poll by a Japanese newspaper, 57 percent of Chinese asked said they considered Japan "untrustworthy." Even so the Chinese seem to love Japanese commercial pop culture. Chinese children walk around with Hello Kitty and Pokeman bags. Young girls wear platform shoes and Casio G-Skok watches.

The number of Japanese that said they warm feelings toward China declined from 69 percent in 1988 to 32.4 percent in 2004. In a December 2004 Gallup survey, 71 percent of Japanese said they distrusted China. Even so China became very fashionable. Shanghai became a popular tourist destination. Food and fashion have clear Chinese influences. Four million people travel between China and Japan every year. After English, Chinese is the second most popular foreign language. Mandarin language classes had waiting lists.

See Japan Tourism

Anger Towards Japan in China

Atrocities during the Rape of Nanking
Anti-Japanese sentiments run high among ordinary Chinese. One Chinese official told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “The psychological scars the Sino-Japanese war left on the Chinese people run very deep. If the Japanese try to deny this, on an emotional level as victims, we can never accept this.”

There are lively exchanges of anti-Japanese messages in Chinese Internet chat lines and bulletin boards. Many Chinese believe if anything the Chinese government is too friendly with Japan. The authors of “China Can Say No” wrote: "Japan is a fierce dog that bit people. It's militarism has not been wiped out.”

The U.S. ambassador to China once said the Chinese "treat the Japanese like monsters.” Chinese television often features old film clips from the 1930s which show atrocities committed by the Japanese on television. The Chinese-made, Cannes-Prize winning film “Devils on the Doorstep” was banned in China because it treated the Japanese too sympathetically even though the term "devils" refers to Japanese.

In the late 1990s, one Chinese man sued the Japanese company Canon for $12 million because a Canon promotion caused him mental distress by indirectly implying Taiwan and China were separate countries. After the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia in 1998 a group of Japanese students, kicking around a soccer ball, had to be evacuated by police when their ball accidently hit an anti-American banner.

In August 2003, an accidental unearthing of some poison mustard gas canisters, left behind by Japan after World War II, in Heilongjiang. Province, in China killed one Chinese worker and injured dozens of others. Tokyo apologized but its offer of compensation was considered insultingly low by Chinese and set off a series of anger denouncements by various Chinese groups. See Poison Gas, World War II

Some have said that the anger towards Japanese in China has been drummed up the Communist government to take attention off their own shortcomings yet the anti-Japanese outrage does seem to be genuine and deeply felt.

See World War II, Anger Towards Japan, Texts.

Anti-Japanese Sentiments Among Chinese

“Anti-Japanese” themes are still very strong in Chinese film, television and history. Japanese characters are portrayed with more sympathy and depth and are not as stereotypeed as they used to be but they are still the primary bad guys, especially is works about the World War II era and the period of foreign domination before that. A few years a ago there were plans to produce a film based on “Remembering 1942“, a popular book by Liu Zhenyun based on a true story about a Japanese soldier that saved a large number of Chinese from starvation. But as of 2010 government approval to make the film had not been granted.

First-year university students are required to take classes in modern Chinese history in which atrocities committed by Japanese are often highlighted. The Chinese government has spent about ¥72.8 billion to eliminate entrance fees to patriotic educational facilities that include memorials with an anti-Japanese messages. [Source: the Yomiuri Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper]

More than 20 percent of films and over half of television dramas deal with themes linked to the Sino-Japanese war, Many are made with the aim of strengthening the legitimacy of the Communist government. On the positive side for the Japanese there are more roles for Japanese actors.

See Nanjing.

Patriotic Education in China and Anti-Japanese Sentiments

Many of the participants in the anti-Japanese demonstrations triggered by a row over disputed islands in the East China Sea were university students. Akira Fujino wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The young people who took part in the recent anti-Japan protests were born in the 1980s and '90s — members of the so-called post-80 and post-90 generations. They have received patriotic education since childhood. In other words, they are products of China's patriotic education policy.” [Source: Akira Fujino, Yomiuri Shimbun, October 22, 2010]

Anti-Japanese teachings have been a central part of the Chinese education system's promotion of patriotism, which has been reinforced since Jiang Zemin became general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in June 1989. Fujino wrote: “China started bolstering its patriotic education in the first half of the 1990s, following the Tiananmen Square crackdown...Seeing its grip on leadership weaken in the aftermath of its crackdown on the democratization movement, the party felt a sense of crisis about its ability to maintain single-party rule. In pursuit of national unity, the party brought patriotism to the fore to replace the ideology of socialism.”

“In August 1994, the party issued guidelines for implementing patriotic education, with the aim of making the public appreciate the persistent and tireless development of the Chinese people throughout history, with particular focus on modern history and current events. The guidelines installed a policy of providing thorough patriotic education from kindergarten to university...The aim of patriotic education is, in effect, to make people love the party. It has been used as a tool to maintain the current regime.”

“Japanese people need to understand the Chinese position that they will never forget that their country was invaded by Japan...China's patriotic education is tinged with anti-Japan sentiment because it uses the history of war with Japan as its core theme.” At an internal meeting in August 1998, Jiang stressed the need for China "to remind Japan about the issues of history consistently and continuously." And in the autumn of 2005, then Vice Education Minister Yuan Guiren (currently education minister) declared that China would "promote patriotic education of young people and students by using the history of war against Japan."

“The current Chinese administration of President Hu Jintao,” Fujino wrote, “which waves the banner of patriotism just as the Jiang administration did before it, will not take strong action to clamp down on anti-Japan demonstrations. As a result, the tendency to justify anti-Japan feelings as patriotic, and to then define patriotic behavior as just, is prevailing in China.”

China's Brainwashed Youth and Their Hatred of Japan

In the 1990s, the Chinese government under Jiang Zemin introduced new guidelines of “patriotic education” that included anti-Japanese lessons for primary, middle and high school students. Although maybe a little less systematically the same message had been drilled into Chinese students for some time.

Qi Ge wrote in Foreign Policy: “Ever since the 1970s, I have known that the Chinese people are the freest and most democratic people in the world. Each year at my elementary school in Shanghai, the teachers mentioned this fact repeatedly in ethics and politics classes. Our textbooks, feigning innocence, asked us if freedom and democracy in capitalist countries could really be what they proclaimed it to be. Then there would be all kinds of strange logic and unsourced examples, but because I always counted silently to myself in those classes instead of paying attention, the government's project was basically wasted on me. By secondary school and college, my mind was unusually hard to brainwash. [Source: Qi Ge, Foreign Policy, September 21, 2012]

Even so, during my college years, I still hated Japan. I felt that the Japanese had killed so many of my countrymen, the vast majority of them civilians, that it wasn't enough that they had eventually surrendered. It was only after studying Japanese and reading additional historical materials that I gradually understood the true face of history: When the Japanese army invaded China in 1931, Mao Zedong, in those days still a guerrilla fighter, turned and ran. Chiang Kai-shek, China's nominal president at the time, stayed behind to fight the Japanese in his wartime capital of Chongqing, but Mao's Communist Party fled to the north to establish a base of anti-Japanese resistance in the provinces of Shaanxi, Gansu, and Ningxia, where there was no Japanese army at all.

Today's youth are repeating the same growth experience I had, but unlike my generation, whose hatred of Japan remained at the verbal level, they have taken the streets to demonstrate. Even though China's constitution permits demonstrations, the government prohibits them except in special circumstances. Anyone familiar with Chinese history knows that when Chinese law says one thing, it might mean the opposite. For example, Chinese law says that everyone is equal before the law, but in fact Hu Jintao and his colleagues are more equal than everyone else.

So, Chinese young people today ought to thank the Japanese government, for if it hadn't purchased the Diaoyu Islands, the Chinese government wouldn't have opened the net a little, allowing them to take to the streets last week. The demonstrators chanted monotonous and boring slogans, like telling the Japanese to get the hell out of the Diaoyu Islands; plainclothes cops intermingled with the marchers, keeping in nervous contact through their earpieces. Protesters even carried images of Mao, who died in 1976, though I wish he had died much earlier.

Many of the young marchers were terribly excited. For decades, TV shows about the Anti-Japanese War of 1931-1945 had distorted historical facts and turned the Japanese into a stupid, aggressive, cruel race of cockroaches that needed to be exterminated. Amusingly, the Chinese actors portraying those Japanese devils only spoke Chinese, bowing and scraping shamelessly, their every move no different from those of corrupt officials throughout China today.

Now, the Chinese government feels that it's not enough to smear the enemy through television alone, and the time has come to allow young people to demonstrate, a chance young people welcome because through their patriotic actions they can prove their worth in this world. Many of them are ordinarily very humble, drawing a low salary and struggling in expensive cities. They can't afford to buy homes, have a family, raise children, or take care of their parents, and no one pays any attention to them. But now, these trampled marionettes have finally made the leap to the center of the political stage, so they willingly allow their strings to be pulled.

But the Chinese government's brainwashing education is more sophisticated than this. For a red regime to stand so long, to match Western countries in capitalistic indulgence, it needs to surpass the crude Soviet model. And sure enough, after the smashing and burning, the propaganda machine flung out the slogan "rational patriotism": It's the same old follow-the-party's-instructions, but it's a different era and the party must be hidden, which means that it must emphasize the fashionable word "rational." The Communist Party and its Propaganda Ministry have always kept pace with the times.

In this delicately authoritarian society, "rational patriotism" means respecting the rules set up by the totalitarians. This sort of rationality, and this sort of patriotism, would be familiar to Joseph Goebbels. Yet the brainwashed patriotic youth of the mainland don't understand this. The Hong Kongers who protested the "patriotic education" imposed by the mainland government really know how to protest -- unlike on the mainland, their demonstrations were truly spontaneous and did not have government support. No wonder domestic news outlets did not report on them. Strangely, on the microblogs, a surprising number of well-known intellectuals strongly supported the rational patriotism slogan. I found this baffling at first, but then it hit me: When they sat in ethics class in primary school, they must not have had my fondness for counting to really high numbers.

Nanjing Severs Sister-City Ties with Nagoya after Japanese Mayor Denies Massacre

In February 2012, Martin Fackler wrote in the New York Times: “The Chinese city of Nanjing has suspended its sister-city relationship with Nagoya in Japan after the Japanese city’s mayor expressed doubts that the Japanese army’s 1937 Nanjing Massacre actually took place, the Nagoya city hall said Wednesday. [Source: Martin Fackler, New York Times, February 22, 2012]

The falling out began on Monday when Nagoya’s mayor, Takashi Kawamura, told a visiting delegation of Chinese Communist Party officials from Nanjing that he doubted that Japanese troops had actually massacred Chinese civilians. Most historians say that at least tens of thousands of civilians were slaughtered in Nanjing, in one of the most infamous atrocities of Japan’s early 20th century military expansion across Asia.

The falling out underscored how history remains a potential flashpoint in Japan’s ties with the nations that it once conquered. While such denials are common by Japanese conservatives like Mr. Kawamura, they are rarely raised in such a public manner, and directly to Chinese officials. But there is also a widely shared perception in Japan that China’s communist government plays up the massacre for its own propaganda purposes, with many serious historians dismissing the official Chinese claims of 300,000 dead as exaggerated.

Still, the Japanese government scrambled to head off a full-blown diplomatic incident. The top government spokesman restated Japan’s official position that the massacre did, in fact, take place. “This is a problem that should be appropriately resolved between the cities of Nagoya and Nanjing,” said the spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura.

The city hall of Nagoya, an industrial city in central Japan, said it received what it described as a short and business-like e-mail from the city government of Nanjing saying that the Chinese city was temporarily halting all exchanges. Mr. Kawamura remained unrepentant, saying that did not intend to retract the statement or apologize. He explained that his father had been a solider in Nanjing in 1945, and was treated kindly by city residents, which he said would have been impossible had an atrocity taken place there just eight years earlier. “There are many opinions about the so-called Nanjing incident,” he told reporters, using the Japanese term for the killings in December 1937. “I have said I want to have a debate with people from Nanjing.”

Anti-Japanese Sentiments Raised Over Chinese Tourist Site Attraction

In August 2011, the China Daily reported: “Though hundreds of kilometers apart, Tanjiaqiao Township and Fangzheng County have both slipped into controversy after netizens shamed residents of both regions for kowtowing to money and forgetting the humiliation China suffered during Japan's invasion of China in the 1930s and 1940s.[Source: By Cheng Yunjie and Liang Saiyu , China Daily, August 8, 2011]

At the Purentan Scenic Area, located in Tanjiaqiao Township in east China's Anhui Province, Chinese tourists were photographed wearing garb similar to that worn by Japanese soldiers that invaded China some 80 years ago. In a photo widely forwarded by micro-bloggers, a dozen tourists were depicted dressed as Japanese soldiers, complete with mimicked guns and a military motorcycle.

Lu Ye, a project designer with the Jiufu Tourism Development Company, said that a 20-minute interactive drama detailing a historic attack by the Chinese army against Japanese invaders was being organized at the scenic spot. The intention of the drama was to educate young Chinese about the country's history, Lu said.

Despite the operator's apology, discontent and criticism regarding the incident remain contagious online. "It made me want to vomit, seeing these young people so merrily recreating our painful history. The scenic area operator must be money-hungry to turn a national scar into entertainment," said a netizen using the screenname "diguoliangmin" on, a popular Chinese news portal.

Anti-Japanese Sentiments Raised by a Monument in China to Japanese Settlers

A monument that was erected in July in Fangzheng County, located in northeast China's Heilongjiang province, has provoked an equal amount of anger and disdain, the China Daily reported. During Japan's invasion of China, Japanese military authorities dispatched 330,000 settlers to claim parts of China. When Japan surrendered in 1945, there were still about 15,000 Japanese settlers living in Fangzheng, said Wang Weixin, director of the foreign affairs office of the Fangzheng County government. [Source: By Cheng Yunjie and Liang Saiyu , China Daily, August 8, 2011]

"Due to the long journey (back to Japan) and the spread of disease, more than 5,000 Japanese settlers died in the county," Wang said. Hong Zhenguo, the county's vice-head, denied that the monument was erected to attract Japanese investment. "It was erected to help both Japanese and Chinese youth to better understand history and to encourage future generations to cherish peace," he said.

Many Chinese, however, are not buying his explanation, especially those who have taken a hard line against Japan over bilateral disputes. According to a micro blog user with the screenname "sima nan," five Chinese from the United Baodiao Association, a non-public organization dedicated to protecting China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, poured red paint on the monument on Wednesday afternoon. The vandals were briefly detained by local police before boarding a train for Beijing, according to a post on the user's micro blog.

"Building cemeteries or erecting monuments for the Japanese is acceptable. But opponents can not accept having the word 'settlers' inscribed onto the monument, because even the most tolerable Chinese cannot deny that the armed Japanese settlers were actually invaders," a netizen using the screenname "li mu" posted on his micro blog.

Guo Dingping, director of the Center for Japanese Studies at Shanghai's Fudan University, said that the distrust between Chinese and Japanese people has historical reasons. "It's not easy to change the sentiment, especially when Japan's ultranationalists keep instigating hostility toward China," said Guo. "It is easy to understand the psychology of Japan, as China has rapidly shaken off poverty to become a strong neighbor in mere decades. While some Japanese feel regret for their country's brutal aggression against China in the past, there is also the fear of a stronger China," said Guo.

Around the same as these incidents the education board of Japan's second largest city, Yokohama, adopted history and civics textbooks compiled by controversial publishing house Ikuhosha to be used at 147 public junior high and other schools from next spring, Japan's Kyodo News reported. The textbooks refer to the Pacific War as the Greater East Asian War or as a war for Japan's survival and self-defense. Opponents accused the textbooks as "justifying wars," Kyodo said.

A small anti-Japanese rally was also held outside a museum in northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang to mark the anniversary of a 1931 incident that led to Japan’s occupation of China.

Image Sources: 1) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 2) 3) History Wiz 4) 5) 6) 7) University of Texas maps, 8) Getty Images

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated December 2012

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