China-Japan relations

Far from ‘despising’ Japan, China has always intended to ‘render good for evil’

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 3:49pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 3:49pm

I refer to Barnaby Ieong’s letter, in which he called on China to break the cycle of vengeance (“A century on from the end of the first world war, can China help break cycle of vengeance?”, May 13).

Mr Ieong claimed that “Japan took vengeance on China in the Treaty of Shimonoseki … and brutally persecuted the Chinese in the second world war as a result of being despised by China for centuries”.

I can find no historical evidence that China had despised Japan for centuries. The Chinese never invaded Japan, except under the Kublai Khan in 1274 and 1281, both failed campaigns. In the imperial past, especially in the Tang dynasty, Chinese monks travelled to Japan to spread Buddhism and many Japanese came to China to study. 

That was reversed in the 20th century when Japan modernised amid the Meiji Restoration and ranked as a world power after defeating the Russians. China was then willing to learn from Japan and many young Chinese went to study there. 

Also, the Treaty of Shimonoseki was not Japan taking “vengeance on China”. It was the result of the imperialism of Japan, emboldened by successful Westernisation. Likewise, the second war world was caused by Japan’s ambition for land and resources, and for regional supremacy.

After the war ended, though China came out as the “victor”, neither the Nationalist government nor the Communist government laid any harsh demands on Japan (in no way comparable to Shimonoseki). China waived reparation claims on Japan for huge losses suffered during the war. There was no Japanese compensation to forced labour or comfort women or the war victims. In contrast, Japanese orphans left behind in China were taken in by rural Chinese families.

Are these not evidence of China intending to “render good for evil”? 

Icy Fok, Ho Man Tin