Sat, Feb 11, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Taiwanese have no issues with Japan


A 16-year-old Taipei schoolgirl surnamed Chen has little time for the searing anti-Japanese rhetoric commonly heard across the Taiwan Strait in China.

"Japanese things are cool," the teenager said, smiling pertly amid the glitter of a Japanese inspired photography shop in Taipei's trendy Ximending entertainment area. "Japanese fashion, Japanese music, they're all really neat."

Chen's enthusiasm is emblematic of the pro-Japanese sentiments in this country, and differ sharply from the prevailing mood in China.

Despite 50 years of often brutal Japanese colonial rule from 1895 to 1945 and a clear understanding of Japanese atrocities during World War II, many Taiwanese see Japan as a source of political and cultural inspiration.

In China, many believe Japan has failed to adequately atone for its colonial-era aggression against its Asian neighbors -- especially China itself.

Japanese leaders are routinely caricatured in the Chinese press with unflattering buckteeth and Hirohito-style metal-rimmed glasses, and Chinese broadcasts are rife with portrayals of rapacious Japanese soldiers despoiling the pristine Chinese countryside.

Just last Sunday Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan (孔泉) accused Japan's foreign minister of glorifying aggression after he said Tokyo's 50-year colonial rule over Taiwan was responsible for the high education standards there.

Amid tension on this and the war aggression issue, foreign ministry officials from Japan and China were due to hold talks yesterday and today in Japan.

Huang Fu-san (黃富三), a historian at Taiwan's Academia Sinica, ascribes the differing attitudes toward Japan among Taiwanese and Chinese to their differing experiences under Japanese rule.

In China, he says, World War II Japanese forces engaged in widespread brutality, while in Taiwan, Japan's colonial administration brought stable government, rapid economic development and excellent educational opportunities.

"The Japanese operated quite effectively here," he says. "Taiwan had the highest primary school enrollment rate anywhere in Asia outside of Japan itself."

Wu Zhiou-feng, 77, remembers the Japanese colonial period with great fondness.

"Things were good then," he said. "The political situation was settled and while things were tough economically we always got along."

Wu and many other Taiwanese of his generation favorably contrast the Japanese colonialists to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), who arrived in Taiwan from China in 1945.

But right from the start many Taiwanese disliked their new masters, regarding them as corrupt, overbearing and uncultured.

"Soldiers took many things from us," Wu said. "Including our young women."

In early 1947, riots broke out after soldiers beat an elderly Taiwanese woman for illegally selling cigarettes near Taipei's main railway station.

Fearing a loss of control, KMT dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) sent reinforcements from China, who killed, maimed and imprisoned thousands of Taiwanese -- including many of Taiwan's elite -- on the pretext that they were communists or saboteurs.

Huang sees the 1947 events as a turning point in modern Taiwanese history.

"It drew a clear wedge between the Nationalists and the local Taiwanese, and deepened our appreciation of Japanese rule," he said.

In Ximending, shops with Japanese names like Gaiku and Nanajyoutatsu sell imported Japanese goods including clothes, food and images of Hello Kitty.

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