CEAC Commentary

February 27, 2020 

My Take On Anti-Japanese Movement Issue


Having been inspired by the clear and to-the point argument in Mr. Araki Kazuhiro’s article "Don’t Be Destructed by Staged ‘Anti-Japan/Korea Hate’ Movements” posted on e-forum “Hyakka-Somei (Hundred Ducks in Full Voice)” on January 10, 2020, I gave some thought on the anti-Japan movement issue. It seems that most media reports treat recent anti-Japan movements in South Korea as equivalent to those observed in China several years ago. At the peak of the movements in China, in 2010, almost all taxi drivers in Beijing refused Japanese boarding. We therefore had no choice but to pretend as if we were Korean to enjoy taxi rides. Meanwhile in South Korea these days, according to my friends who visited Seoul during the peak of the anti-Japanese movement last year, taxi drivers did not refuse them boarding at all even if the drivers know they were Japanese. Then I thought this difference might come from that in polity: South Korea is indeed a democracy.

I have lived in China from time to time since 1970s. I have often asked to my close Chinese friends “how come China sees Japan as the biggest enemy?” Here are the list of their answers as I remember: “Japan has been most outrageous towards China, as seen for example the case of Nanjing.” “There were Western invasions, like the Opium War by British, but Japan is the last invader so far.” “The Communist Party exists in power to counter from Japanese invasion, therefore it is their raison d'etre to bash Japan.” “Barbarities by same race is harder to accept than by different ones. You know, it is harder to settle the dispute between brothers than between strangers.” “The leaders of the world today are the Western philosophy and the Western countries. It is unfortunate for me to say that they are the first world people and we the East Asia are in the second. The first world countries seem to not get along with each other, but they unite to secure their interest when needed. Meanwhile the second world countries continue to confront each other.”

Meanwhile, I also think that sometimes Japanese people think they are targeted and feel victimized. When I stayed in Guangzhou, the third largest city in China, in early 2000s, I found the Sanyuanli People's Anti-British Martyr Memorial Hall on a tourist map. It locates in downtown, like Asakusa if it were in Japan, and exhibits the remainings of Qing dynasty bureaucrats, and weapons used during the Opium War. The half of the site, however, are the prayer room for Taoism, where I saw ladies in a good manner visiting for service. The Hall also displays stories from the war with simple pictures.

So they keep noting the anti-English sentences, such as how they beat down the abhorrent English soldiers and pushed them down to livestocks’ cesspool, etc. My English expat friend in Guangzhou told me, as I asked him about it, that “most of English people cannot read them, so we ignore. (…) They would discontinue such exhibit if it does not cause much reaction.” It is often true a detailed reporting by Japanese get backfired in Chinese local city, and the issue gets worse.

It would be half true the current anti/hate-Korea, or anti/hate-Japan, are occurring because for some people it makes a business, as a friend of mine says. I realized there are many publications and TV programs in Japan that praise Japan for being “great,” “excellent,” “superb,” etc., these days, which was not the case when Japan was an obvious front runner in Asia. It is saddening for me to see why they do not understand such self-praising only make Japan look pathetic on the Asian emerging countries’ eyes, while they, particularly China and Korea, are passing by Japan’s growth in various areas. This self-praising is also fulfilled with chauvinism. It reminds me that a Western wise man once said a narrow-minded nationalism is an illegitimate child of an inferiority complex. The anti-Japanese movements in China and Korea may also be relatives.

There are, meanwhile, affinity among Japan, China and Korea. Often the case, they are helpful to each other in a third country. A friend of mine, who were in Iraq and trying to evacuate from the country during the Iran-Iraq War, had a trouble when asked to submit an official certificate, but the embassy of Japan was too far away. Then, he was saved by a Korean diplomat who were visiting for the service there by chance, whom issued an identification for him. There are similarities of characteristics among the three countries, such as industriousness and willing to study hard. The three also share the culture of classic Chinese literatures, Confucius, Mencius, poems of the T'sng period, which are their common treasures.

The each of the three countries is, however, putting their domestic politics first nowadays. China and Korea would initiate anti-Japan campaign at any time to avoid themselves being criticized for domestic issues, by leading their nationals’ attention to overseas, as long as they believe Japan owes them on the history issue. This will continue until they have a Copernican Revolution in their history education curriculum. Yet according to Korean Yonhap News’ report dated January 12, their history textbooks will be restored from the current conservative contents, by detailing more on the time under Japanese rule, and touch upon comfort women and former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. This will make the situation more challenging for Japan. Xinhua News reported on January 10 that the Seoul Mayor paid a visit to the statue of comfort woman in San Francisco, which make it look that China and Korea are taking the joint front against Japan.

Japan must be aware that China and Korea would use anti-Japan card, more or less, at any time. Japan should react to avoid such attack smartly with practical wisdoms, by any means, without a hassle, noise, panic, nor counter-attack in anti-sentiment, and keep calm. And Japan needs to handle the case very carefully not to be caught in a trap by some groups, as Mr. Araki wrote, by remembering to consider the unheard voices of anti-anti-Japan movement in both countries that are not loud enough to be recognized, but a little bit disappointed how their governments are fueling the confrontation with Japan. Because there is no immediate cure for this issue.

(This is an English translation of the article written by NAKAYAMA Taro, Adjunct Staff of a Nonprofit Organization, which originally appeared on the e-forum “Hyakka-Somei (Hundred Ducks in Full Voice)” of CEAC on January 16, 2020.)