Sun, Apr 17, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Don't overlook nationalist threat

A series of anti-Japan protests has erupted in China recently. From Beijing to Guangzhou to Shenzhen, tens of thousands have taken to the streets. Japanese department stores, restaurants and stores that sell Japanese goods have become targets of rage and attacks. Some shops in China with Japanese investments have temporarily shut down. Japanese tourists and students have stayed indoors. Some Japanese restaurants owned by Taiwanese businesspeople were also vandalized.

The Japanese government has issued strong protests against these demonstrations. Japanese Premier Junichiro Koizumi said that the events were regrettable and that he hopes the Chinese government will do its best to prevent a repeat of similar incidents. Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura demanded an apology from Beijing.

However, China considers the demonstrations to be initiated by the people on their own and therefore "the Chinese government should not be held accountable." So, it seems that we've only seen the beginning of anti-Japan sentiment in China, and it will become more heated. Chances are that tensions between Japan and China will escalate.

The trigger of this anti-Japan trend may well have something to do with the approval of history textbooks in Japan, Japanese efforts to seek a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and disputes over the Tiaoyu islands and oil fields in the East China Sea.

However, the deep-rooted cause is the centuries-old historical feud between the two countries, which in turn has built up an irreconcilable sense of national hatred between the two sides. The cultural and historical exchanges between the two countries go back a long way.

During the Tang Dynasty, a large number of students and monks brought Tang culture to Japan, changing Japanese culture on a comprehensive basis. Today, the way of life and culture of Japan continue to show a high level of influence from Han Chinese culture and the Tang Dynasty.

Chinese first developed a negative view of Japan near the end of the Ming Dynasty, when Japanese pirates looted the southeast Chinese coast. The term wako or "short bandits," thereafter become synonymous with Japanese.

Later, although both Japan and China were victims of Western imperialism, China's Qing Dynasty did not pursue reform. Its tentative reform efforts were aborted mid-way. In Japan, by contrast, the Meiji Emperor successfully implemented reforms, and the country was completely Westernized in an attempt to turn Japan into a world power. Thereafter, the fates of the two countries were diametrically opposed. China was divided up between the world powers, while Japan became a world power after the Russo-Japanese War.

In the past 110 years, the Qing Dynasty was first defeated by Japan in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. Then, after the founding of the Chinese Nationalist government, Japan moved in and out of China at will as a world power. After the "Marco Polo Bridge Incident" on July 7, 1937, Japan launched a total war against China. China refers to this Sino-Japanese war as "8 years of combat in blood." The loss of lives and property was beyond calculation. China therefore views the history of the two countries' relations as a great humiliation. In the minds of Chinese, this history inspires a strong sense of indignation.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top