Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

What China could learn from recent anti-Japan riots
HANABUSA Masamichi / Former Japanese Ambassador to Italy

April 27, 2005
It is naturally welcomed that Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan and President Hu Jintao of China reaffirmed in Jakarta that friendly Japan-China relations are desirable not only for the two countries but also for Asia at large.

It is beyond doubt that good Japan-China relations promote peace and prosperity in this region. This objective, however, is achievable only through faithful endeavors of the two countries concerned. In this connection, serious concern remains with regard to the statement made by President Hu at his press conference following his meeting with Prime Minister Koizumi that Japan needs to "correctly address the history issue and prove this by deed."

We are aware that this statement is for home consumption in China where the leadership is fearful whether the "patriotic movements" of youths sharing information through internet, might turn easily into anti-government movements when touched off by various rising dissatisfactions among people. The Chinese leadership presently is constrained to nip potential troubles in bud, while maintaining its face in the world. The Japanese side knowingly is prepared to continue to play mature "kabuki" by refraining from the game to rub China's fur the wrong way. As Japan today is a democracy assured of freedom of speech and expression, the level of public knowledge and capacity to understand are pretty high. The Japanese people, therefore, are sufficiently aware that emotional recriminations with China are futile and benefit none.

Nevertheless, one thing must be pointed out in this regard. That is, the present bargain between the two nations could turn out to be counter-productive to either of us, if the Chinese side misconstrues such adult attitudes on the Japanese part to continue endlessly. This is because the anti-Japanese riots of late and the Chinese official stance of approval of these unruly demonstrators provided the Japanese general public with an opportunity to comprehend the consequences of the "patriotic education" initiated by Jiang Ze-ming following the Tiananmen "massacre". They also found out that China's one-party leadership is subject to various pressures arising from widening disparities and deepening contradictions in China's society. The Japanese are made the wiser.

Under these circumstances, it is not advisable for the Chinese government to repeat the same behavior. According to President Hu's statement the Chinese authorities could pick a particular act or omission to their disliking on the Japanese side and call it a disagreement between Japanese saying and deed as they please in the future. That would surely flare up dissatisfactions towards Japan in China again, which might serve the purpose of diverting Chinese people's attention from their own government to Japan. Even if this happened, however, they could not expect desired reactions in Japan, as Japan and the world learned that the Chinese are using this "history recognition" issue as a diplomatic card vis-a-vis Japan.

The episode also revealed that the Chinese are prisoners of certain stereotypical perceptions about Japan and have long neglected to see Japanese reality and sentiments without prejudice. For this there is a room for self-reflection on the Japanese part; to be blamed is Japanese national penchant not to explain as well as part of Japanese media which has been too self-critical and at times even masochistic in faulting their own government.

China can have legitimate concern about if this economically powerful neighbor comes to entertain hostile intent towards China, moves to interfere into China's domestic issues such as Taiwan, human rights and it's political system. But, in fact, throughout some 60 post-war years there did not exist any significant political forces in Japan which advocate such a hostile intention towards China. This situation remains unchanged even now. As it is, it is China not Japan, that possesses formidable nuclear arsenal and deploys long-range missiles aiming at targets of the other side. If the Chinese Embassy and Chinese scholars studying Japan failed to know this, they need to study Japan more earnestly.

We witnessed that Chinese youths in the street shouted the slogan of "patriotism knows no guilt," while damaging Japanese Embassy and other buildings in defiance of internationally recognized code of conduct. We also saw that they gained cheap satisfaction by belittling their undesired opponent by the contemptuous call of "Little Japan." Such disgraceful acts on the part of Chinese youths do not befit their proud nation, which after all scored victory against the Japanese in the last war and is now steadily growing powerful.

A modicum of nationalism may do good to nations as a national unifier. The world is still composed of nations and better governed nations are more welcome than poorly managed nations. There is nothing wrong about well-governed nations which are strengthened by sanguine nationalism. But it is dangerous to cajole it into the chauvinistic one. The degree of such danger is greater for authoritarian States than democracies with freedom of speech.

Needless to say, Japan must maintain its quiet and patient stance towards China and support the Chinese people in their long struggles to become a wealthy, democratic nation. In the meantime, we sincerely hope that the Chinese leadership learn wisely from the recent episode and avoid to be constrained by its own saying for domestic consumption.

The writer is a former diplomat and Chairman of the English-Speaking Union of Japan.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

英 正道 / 元駐イタリア大使

2005年 4月 27日









一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > What China could learn from recent anti-Japan riots