Japan and China established diplomatic relations in 1972. Ever since then, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, known as MEXT, has been cooperating with Beijing’s “one China” propaganda by forcing publishers to present Taiwan as part of China’s territory in elementary, middle and high-school social studies textbooks and atlases, which are used by more than 3 million students each year.
For example, Taiwan is included in chapters about China and marked as Chinese territory on maps. Regrettably, after so many years, more than half of all Japanese have studied from such erroneous textbooks.
The danger of this “one China” propaganda is that it aims to legitimize aggression against and even invasion of Taiwan. For this reason, we, Japanese friends of Taiwan, have for more than a decade been denouncing MEXT’s policy, and have been using petitions and other forms of protest to tell the ministry to stop giving students the mistaken impression that “Taiwan is part of China.”
Back in the days, our activities were only supported by a few media and some members of the Japanese National Diet and prefectural assemblies. Because of this, and that the Japanese public were more or less brainwashed by “one China” propaganda, our efforts did not receive much attention.
The administration of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) also protested, but Tokyo took no notice. This shows that the Japanese government at the time only attached importance to Japan’s relations with China, while being highly indifferent to Taiwan.
Later on, we had to set aside our textbook-related activities and concentrate on the campaign for Taiwan to take part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games — which were, of course, delayed until this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic — under its proper name, Taiwan, instead of Chinese Taipei.
Among other things, we collected signatures for a petition to be sent to the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.
However, now that the Tokyo Olympics are over, the campaign to rectify the team’s name can be set aside.
We are working alongside Taiwanese residents in Japan, with the support of some Japanese legislators, to restart the campaign to petition the parliament to urge MEXT to correct its mistakes, but we cannot predict how many legislators will support this demand.
What we really need now is the Taiwanese government and public raising their voices, because Japan is not the same as it was before.
The administration of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga often stresses the importance of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and most Japanese politicians and members of the public are pro-Taiwan and anti-China.
If they could hear the Taiwanese government and public say that “Taiwan is a sovereign and independent country, not a part of China,” the Japanese government and public would find it hard to ignore MEXT’s inappropriate pandering to China.
Hopefully, future Japanese textbooks will lead children to understand that Taiwan and China are two completely different countries, and Taiwan is the one that is our true friend, as well as that China has no right to annex Taiwan.
Hideki Nagayama is chairman of the Taiwan Research Forum.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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