• Sat
  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 2:09pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Do Chinese and Japanese really want a life filled with hatred and war?

Lex Zhao says East Asians must move beyond the hatred of the past

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 6:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 February, 2014, 1:59am

Years ago, a former Japanese colleague asked me about the Analects of Confucius . But I couldn't help because I had never learned any of Confucius' teachings. He was so stunned he asked whether I had actually been educated in China. Now that I recall, as a child I did learn something: we used to sing songs such as "Traitor Lin Biao, Kong Lao Er, both are bad elements!" - Kong Lao Er being a disparaging reference to Confucius.

Later I learned that in Japan, Confucius' teachings are part of college entrance exams; babies born into the royal family are usually given names from the Chinese classics; while the kimono was originally called a gofuku, supposedly learned from the Wu state during the Three Kingdoms period.

Even today, the more formal a Japanese document becomes, the more Chinese characters it uses. Chinatowns in Yokohama, Kobe and Nagasaki are at the centre of these cities and attract millions of visitors each year.

On the other hand, countless word and terms in modern Chinese words were initially Japanese. Many Chinese pop songs are copies of Japanese originals. Beijing's earliest subway and its airport were built with interest-free loans from Japan. Part of the booming high-speed rail in also uses Japanese technology.

And did you know that the Chinese national anthem March of the Volunteers (you could call it "the anti-Japan song"), is sung in Japan every year, with a ceremony? That's because its composer Nie Er died in an apparent drowning off Shonan beaches, south of Yokohama, while he was with a Japanese girl. The girl's local community built a tomb for him and remember him by singing his masterpiece on the anniversary of his death every year.

Of course, politicians visit the Yasukuni shrine, glorify invasion or justify the use of "comfort women", but they are a tiny minority. Japan is a stable democracy run by tradition and civil servants. Politicians come and go. In order to be heard, some ultraconservatives often make extreme noises, which unfortunately are picked up by overseas media.

Yet, even today, former prime ministers Tomiichi Murayama and Yukio Hatoyama have criticised the current premier's handling of Sino-Japanese relations and the Diaoyu Islands dispute, even calling him a traitor of the Japanese people.

Chinese used to say "little Japan", referring to its physical size and also the fact that the average Japanese was shorter than the average Chinese. But data shows that both are almost identical in height, on average. Japan also has a per capita gross domestic product almost 10 times that of China, with many world-famous brands. In short, China can learn a lot economically from Japan.

We should also remember that when Japanese prime minister Kakuei Tanaka visited Beijing in 1972, he tried to apologise for the Japanese invasion and the pain it inflicted upon the Chinese. Mao Zedong stopped him short, saying there was no need for an apology, because without the Japanese invasion, the Communists could not have toppled the Nationalists and eventually come to power.

Mao's generation and the generation afterwards, such as Deng Xiaoping and Hu Yaobang who had directly suffered as a result of the Japanese invasion, chose to forgive. There is no need to settle old scores with the grandchildren of the invaders.

People in East Asia must ask whether we want a life of turmoil, fear, hatred and war, like our fathers and grandfathers suffered. What about our children and grandchildren; wouldn't they be able to lead a better life by co-operating and prospering with each other? We must live for today, and for our children and grandchildren, instead of for our great grandparents.

Lex Zhao is a professor of economics at Kobe University in Japan. zhao@rieb.kobe-u.ac.jp

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This article is now closed to comments

realestate
The writer has touched the right notes and agree with much of his assessment..its time this bickering stopped and both Japan and China move on..
Hollander323
Professor Zhao has got it all wrong. The Chinese people has no hatred, no hatred at all, against the Japanese people. I personally have high regards for the Japanese people on their morality and citizenship standards. But, I and also a lot of the Chinese people, in China and all over the world, hate Japan as a government. We have seen a lot of cunning and dishonest acts in the past and the present Japanese governments as far as recognizing the facts of history is concerned. What are these acts? please check them up yourself from the media and from history archives. Don't read those from China but those in the western world.
nghongkay
As a professor of economics at Kobe University in Japan, your pay master is Japanese. You will get a pay rise but the souls of Nanking and other victims of atrocities committed by the "Nazis of the East" will only get more pains. Germany faced up its past and move ahead with France and Britain. Why can't Japan do the same and face up to its past like the Germans do and accept the cost of its aggression instead of constantly peering over its neighbors belongings? It is not we wish to be enemies. It is a matter our enemy who do not wish to make friends with us. Maybe not all Japanese - just those who vote for politicians like Abe. Do Germans vote for a politician who build a memorial for Hitler? Be real professor of money without soul and righteousness but knows nothing of history's lessons. We do not wish to build a new Great Wall with more fresh and blood by forgetting the lessons of our history if Japan does not learn its lessons of history. Thank you very much. Ng Hong-kay
whymak
This professor is either ignorant or economics illiterate.
The best proxy to standard of living is probably GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power parity. World Bank figures indicate that the ratio of this metric between Japan and China is 3.8 at the end of 2012. Taking only differential growth rate into consideration, this number has been narrowed to 3.56, not 10 times as claimed.
Whereas yen has depreciated to 0.74 of its 2012 value, yuan exchange rate is up by 3.48%. The 2012 gap is now further reduced due to the low purchasing power of yen for imports.
Japanese are a great people with a derived Confucian culture. In governance, Japan has a de facto one-party rule dissimilar to many democracies. Its power structure is architected around keiretsus – a vestige of zaibatsus of Imperial Japan – and bureaucracies. Japanese seldom have the frenzied mindset over politics common in mindless democracies. However, its "elective" governance is highly unstable.
Unlike Japan, China's stable authoritarian government has diversity in decision inputs and meritocratic rulers rarely seen in the West. That’s not to imply that China can’t learn from Japan. Most importantly, China garners the highest mandate of the governed than any country one cares to name.
Holding Japan accountable for electing criminal minded and history revisionists must not be mistaken as hostility toward Japanese people, among who are some of my friends and role models.
epprengel@gmail.com
If France and Germany can overcome generations of vicious conflict where both sides contributed, then China and Japan might want to take a look at how a new partnership has been accomplished.
For one there were wise leaders whose goal it was to end the hostility between their countries and to assure that never again there would be war between them. Robert Schuman, Charles De Gaulle, Konrad Adenauer are just a few of the many leaders who implemented treaties and programs that eventually resulted in todays European Union. For another there were grass roots programs that brought ordinairy people and local communities and towns together: student exchanges, sister cities programs and inter regional cooperations all helped to overcome the perceived differences between Euroopean peoples. There is hardly any town in Germany - even smaller villages that does not have a sister town in France with frequent visit from on to the other. This sister city program has been extended to former Warsaw Pact countries and even to China where a number of Chinese cities have partnerships with German cities Hong Kong Sister Cities. And a number of Chinese cities have partner cities in Japan, these partner cities need to speak out for better cooperation.
ykbc
According to the Analects, those who have inflicted great pain upon others should not expect forgiveness to come by easily: "Someone said, 'What do you say concerning the principle that injury should be recompensed with kindness?' The Master said, 'With what then will you recompense kindness? Recompense injury with justice, and recompense kindness with kindness.' "
Aaaaaughibbrgubugbugrguburgle@gmail.com
The real question that the author of this article should be asking is how much longer can he really survive amidst the Japanese by employing this soothing rhetoric. Does he think he can walk amongst the herd like Michonne with her two new pet walkers?
Good luck, Lex. Good luck.
whymak
XYZ: Your hate China sentiment define your mean persona, which is now duly noted by other readers.
matt.lee.1485
@ XYZ - By the way, Japan actively sends their politicians and diplomats to try and snuff out memorials for comfort women in far flung places like California and New Jersey. How truly chlidish and pathetic is that? Enough already as you say.
matt.lee.1485
@ XYZ - This is where you are wrong. It isn't and never was about the quantity of apologies. It is rather the quality which never existed. Memorializing 14 Class A war criminals and another 1054 convicted of war crimes at Yasukuni is hardly apologetic. Abe's analogy of Yasukuni to Arlington is a joke as the latter only allows honorable soldiers. There is a constant whitewashing of history, lack of teaching factual history to its future generations, and the constant controversial statements issued at the leadership level with hardly any protests from the general population that makes the apologies ring hollow. Germany never argues about saying sorry enough, it doesn't have a problem doing it. It forbids the Swatiska and has no qualms seeking and putting to trial former Nazis for war crimes. There is no betrayal of ancestors or renouncing of Shinto beliefs by putting some substance behind the apologies. Your explanation doesn't hold water for the Koreans feel the same. And the US ain't too happy presently with the latest whitewashing that the US fabricated the war crimes against the Japanese.

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