Saturday, April 16, 2005
I feel, as an Asian Studies majors, that I need to comment on this. For the last week or so there have been, major, violent protests in China, major protests over the approval of new history textbooks in Japan. The Chinese claim that these history books downplay the atrocities committed in China during World War II. I'm going to start by saying this: the Chinese are right. The Tokyo school district has approved a textbook that is inflammatory in it's refusal to recognize the horrors of that terrible era. They downplay the Nanjing massacre, the use of chemical weaponry, and, most importantly, the 'comfort women', the use of Chinese and Korean women as sex slaves. But, while this is all entirely true, I can't agree with the protests as a whole. The reason for this is the simple fact that China is far, far, FAR worse at censoring books than Japan. Good luck at finding any book in that sick, repressive country that recognizes that, for more than 50 years, the communist regime has actively killed and tortured their own citizens. The Japanese, for all their faults, have at least taken a different path than that of there history. I agree that they have not been as good in the Germans in repudiating wartime atrocities, but there is a reason for this. The Germans have the luxury of saying that the Nazi's were almost a different race. They were the NAZI'S, not Germans. But the Japanese can't say this. To completely reject all actions of WWII is to reject 3000 years of Japanese culture. Not to mention the fact that the Japanese were merely following the example of 400 years of Western colonization in Asia. To understand these protests, you've got to realize what the Chinese government is doing. The Chinese people still do feel a real resentment towards the Japanese. But the Chinese government makes absolutely no attempt to fix the stereotype that the Japanese are anything but murderous psychopaths. The Japanese really have changed. Most people in Japan believe in pacifism. Good luck find ANY country in the world where the majority of the people complete repudiate all acts of war. The Chinese, on the other hand, have yet to, for example, allow the people of Tibet to have a true Nation. The hands of the Chinese are far more dirty than those of the Japanese. I really don't know what to think of these protests. On the one hand, I really sympathize with the Chinese people. The acts committed by Japanese soldiers during WWII were sickening. And yet...Japan has changed. China has not. They are still a terribly authoritarian country. And in the end, I think I would like to side with the legitimate democracy any day of the week.