Tag Archives: Nationalism

Celebrating May Fourth With Slow Internet

The internet is unusually sluggish today. I wrote a bit about some possible reasons why at Sinobyte.

Blogspot has re-disappeared, MSN Messenger is inaccessible from an artsy Beijing cafe, searches for Carrefour are just back from going unanswered, and the spring sky is clear. It’s the 89th anniversary of China’s May Fourth Movement.

In 1919, student activism took a powerful and still-honored turn for the patriotic in China. On May 4, thousands of students gathered at Tiananmen to protest the Treaty of Versailles and its treatment of previously German-held territory in Shandong Province, which was given to Japan rather than back to China.

Today, students have been at the forefront of recent demonstrations of national pride in the face of demonstrations against the Olympic flame as it toured the world. After a French demonstrator went after a woman carrying the torch in a wheelchair, anti-French sentiment was converted to demonstrations and boycotts directed against the French megamart Carrefour.

Go read the full post here.

Selden: How can the U.S. criticize Japanese atrocities?

Mark Selden, coordinator of Japan Focus, asks:

[M]ore than six decades since Japan’s defeat in the Pacific War, by what right does an American critically address issues of the Nanjing Massacre and Japan’s wartime atrocities? Stated differently, in the course of those six decades US military forces have repeatedly violated international law and humanitarian ethics, notably in Korea, Indochina, Iraq and Afghanistan. In the course of those decades, Japan has never fought a war, although it has steadfastly backed the US in each of its wars

In “Japanese and American War Atrocities, Historical Memory and Reconciliation,” Selden attempts to lay out a comparative framework to examine Japanese and U.S. atrocities and trace their significance to today. As implied in the quote above, condemnation hasn’t necessarily been going around in proportion to atrocity. The article begins by taking up the Nanjing Massacre.

Selden outlines quickly what happened, and emphasizes that not only do the events at Nanjing constitute an atrocity, but those events were a beginning of a longer string of atrocities that would last until the end of the war. He writes, “In short, the anarchy first seen at Nanjing paved the way for more systematic policies of slaughter carried out by the Japanese military throughout the countryside. … Nanjing then is less a typical atrocity than a key event that shaped the everyday structure of Japanese atrocities over eight years of war.”

He goes on to address U.S. actions, noting the U.S. “has never been required to change the fundamental character of the wars it wages, to engage in self-criticism at the level of state or people, or to pay reparations to other nations or to individual victims of war atrocities.”

The article takes on the bombing of cities, culminating in the firebombing of Tokyo and the nuclear bombings. He questions the U.S. and Japanese number for casualties in the Tokyo bombings:

An estimated 1.5 million people lived in the burned out areas. Given a near total inability to fight fires of the magnitude and speed produced by the bombs, casualties could have been several times higher than these estimates. The figure of 100,000 deaths in Tokyo may be compared with total US casualties in the four years of the Pacific War—103,000—and Japanese war casualties of more than three million.

Selden also alludes to wars in Korea, Indochina, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq, focusing not on the big name atrocities but on “foundational practices that systematically violate international law provisions.” He lists what apologies or acknowledgements he can find from the United States, but doesn’t find many.

I think an important if not entirely new point in the essay is that the Tokyo Tribunal was a starting point for a sort of two-tiered system, in which Germans would make amends, Japanese would give concessions to their U.S. occupiers, and the United States would begin what is now more than 60 years of life outside international law. I won’t say that international law is widely followed, but this is something to think about:

Only by engaging the issues raised by such a reexamination [of the bombing of Japanese cities]—from which Americans were explicitly shielded by judges during the Tokyo Tribunals—is it possible to begin to approach the Nuremberg ideal, which holds victors as well as vanquished to the same standard with respect to crimes against humanity, or the yardstick of the 1949 Geneva Accord, which mandates the protection of all civilians in time of war. This is the principle of universality proclaimed at Nuremberg and violated in practice by the US ever since.

'Conquer English to Make China Stronger!'

Ampontan points out that the media’s love for Li Yang’s instructional rallies and methods, called Crazy English, recently included a New Yorker article by Evan Osnos.

I’m pretty happy with myself because with my Mandarin tutor today I finished a textbook. But our meetings at a Beijing cafe are nothing like Crazy English.

One by one, the doctors tried it out. “I would like to take your temperature!” a woman in stylish black glasses yelled, followed by a man in a military uniform. As Li went around the room, each voice sounded a bit more confident than the one before.

In Shanghai at a gallery whose name I’ve forgotten on Moganshan Lu, I saw a photographic exhibition composed of massive prints of Li Yang’s instruction. The scenes were astonishing. Student-teacher ratio was actually optimized to be very high. The events in these images and in other reading on the subject emerge as motivational events, and one of Li Yang’s primary methods is to increase confidence in his students.

But there is a nationalist element. The title of this post, “Conquer English to make China stronger,” is Li’s motto, according to the New Yorker. Ampontan points to another article that contains this passage on China and Japan.

During a question and answer session with the crowd, one student told Li that he hated the Japanese for their rape and occupation of the mainland prior to World War II. The student then said he didn’t want to study Japanese because of this hatred.

“If you really hate the Japanese, then you will learn their language,” Li told the student and the crowd. “If you really want revenge against Japan, then master their language.”

Nationalism, I suspect, may be a tool to reach audiences and to keep his massive events (along with the potentially millions of books sold) from running afoul of the government. This, from the first article, may tell you something about his deeper motivations:

On the couch at the hotel, Li turned one of our interviews into a lecture for his employees, who crowded around to listen. (Someone recorded it on a video camera.) “How can we make Crazy English more successful?” he asked me, his voice rising. “We know that people are not going to be persistent, so we give them ten sentences a month, or one article a month, and then, when they master this, we give them a huge award, a big ceremony. Celebrate! Then we have them pay again, and we make money again.”

He turned toward the assembled employees and switched to Chinese: “The secret of success is to have them continuously paying—that’s the conclusion I’ve reached.” Then back to English: “How can we make them pay again and again and again?”

I wonder how much the students learn.

Top Japanese Officials Not Among Politicians Visiting Yasukuni

Tis the season for Yasukuni Shrine visits. Between 62 (per Mainichi) and more than 150 (per AP) Japanese lawmakers visited the shrine on the traditional occasion of the spring holiday. But Jun Okumura notes that none of the very top leaders were among them:

The AP report does tell you that “Prime Minister Fukuda did not attend”. What it doesn’t tell you, though, is that Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura, Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura, and Shigeru Ishiba also didn’t go. Call them the Big Four–the Chinese authorities told the Koizumi administration that if they stayed away, it would be okay with them (if not with the South Koreans). Prime Minister Koizumi wouldn’t listen, but the Abe administration did. So has the Fukuda administration, but that’s no surprise; there aren’t that many people in the LDP to Mr. Fukuda’s left, as far as foreign relations is concerned. No. The real news is that no Cabinet member joined the Yasukuni-fest, and how often do you see that happen?

'China Can Say No' Writer: Japan Less of a Problem Than U.S.

Danwei today posted an excellent set of material on the 1996 book China Can Say No (中国可以说不). The book was influential in Chinese nationalism and follows a 1989 book by Japanese novelist-turned-governor-of-Tokyo, Ishihara Shintaro, and a top Sony executive, Morita Akio, called The Japan That Can Say No.

The Danwei post includes a recent interview with one of the Chinese book’s writers, Song Qiang. In it, Song says anti-Japanese nationalism is not as warranted as anti-U.S. sentiment.

NH: What were you thinking during the anti-Japanese demonstrations of 2005?
SQ: I think that China’s biggest enemy is America. Japan is relatively harmless, so it’s easy to confuse things if you’re anti-Japan. China is a poor country, but Japan and Korea have done things better than us: each move they’ve made has been carefully considered. A national attitude of prudence and self-protection is something that China lacks. I didn’t take part in the demonstrations but I did sign my name. I said to Tong Zeng [defender of the Diaoyu Islands] that I was afraid that the anti-Japanese demonstrations would slip up and be exploited by the Americans.

China Youth Daily reported that a Japanese exchange student had posted online, saying: The “Chinamen” (支那人) don’t have any warriors; the Yamato people are superior to the Chinese. When I first read that I thought it was fake. There was no source of stimulation inside the country, so why not make up a post by a Japanese exchange student to inflame the passions of the Chinese—then we’d all have something to do. This is taking things far too lightly. A few years later, people said that the post was a fake, something cooked up by a Chinese person. If you’re anti-Japanese to such an extent, I’d say there’s a problem.