Understanding China, One Blog at a Time

An American in China

Great excerpt on the Japan v China Problem

Posted by w_thames_the_d on January 3, 2014


China and Japan began the 20th century locked in a struggle over supremacy in eastern Asia. That eventually led to a war which lasted almost 20 years, drew in America, Europe, and the Soviet Union, and ended in the devastation of both the Chinese and the Japanese homelands. From the Manchurian incident in 1931 to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and then to the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949 stretch a truly terrible series of battles, massacres, famines and other horrors.

The irony was that both states suffered from the same anxieties and insecurities. Both feared the west and Russia. Both believed in what was expressed, on the Japanese side, by the phrase “rich country, strong army”.Both, at different times, were to become obsessed with the idea that they had to have physical control over what they deemed to be their proper “space” on land, in the air and at sea, if they were to survive.

The soldiers whose service is honoured at the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo – peasant boys and shopkeepers’ sons as well as Samurai generals – died trying to make that idea a reality. Just as the young communist fighters remembered at the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing died defending their country’s interests. No easy symmetry is intended here. The Japanese were indeed the aggressors and the atrocities for which they were responsible are well known.

Yet Chinese self-defence did not stop when the country’s core territory was secure, but went on, over the years since the second world war, to seek to resume control over every scrap of land to which the Chinese empire had ever laid claim. Absolutist notions of what national power should mean have, in other words, not gone away. Attenuated they may be, but they are still not without risk.

Thus China’s expressions of outrage over the visit to the Yasukuni shrine by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abehave some justification, given the historical record, but they also show China at its most unrelenting. The Chinese speak of provocation, but do not mention that represented by their own military concentration around the islands over which the two countries have been quarrelling.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: