This article aims to offer an impartial vision to recent and old facts as a recap on open questions between China and Japan looking back to past events just impartially.
After World War II there have been many tensions between People Republic of China and Japan.
First we need to consider that what is world wide referred as WWII in China is instead remembered as Sino-Japanes Wars or War or Resistance Against Japanese Invasion, and for good reasons.
In 2001 the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform (新しい歴史教科書をつくる会, Atarashii Rekishi Kyōkasho o Tsukuru Kai) revisited the history of the relationships between Japan, China and the two Koreas.
Tsukuru-kai’s mission was to change history education in Japan from “masochistic” history to something that put more emphasis on the positive things that Japan has done in history . [from here]
The textbook is not representing the whole education system, but the political thought of Japanese extreme-right parties. In fact, another Japanese scholar Makoto Iokibe, expert in Japanese history and diplomacy, in 2001 openly criticized the “intentionally neglecting the failures of the government that opened the war against the whole world […] instead the text book is designed to deceive the junior high students into admiring this government” [pg. East Asian Hunted Present, by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa,Kazuhiko Togo, London].
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent in 2001 a protest letter to Japan to review Tsukuru Kai. As result Japanese institution asked China to review their history books.
The Japanese secretary of cabinet argued that China was trying to impose a chino-centrist vision of modern history.
As a matter of fact the textbook involved are those for middle schools.
Even if the text is not wide spread, we need to consider that in Japan there is a cultural tendency to the standardization of content, which extends also to textbooks. Between 2001/2010 there were officially just 8 textbooks that school could choose to adopt.
In China instead per decades the educational system was administrated by the People’s Education Publishing House (人民教育出版社）. In theory all the provinces of China can publish their text books, but as a matter of fact the main publishing houses are those in Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces.
Here some hot topics:
- Battle of Hakusonko (白村江の戦い or Hakusuki no e) was a Naval Battle fought on 27 and 28 August of 663 A.C. between a fleet sent by the Yamato kingdom (Japan) and that of the Chinese Empire of the Tang Dinasty (618-907), respectively allies of the Korean kingdoms of Paekche and Silla. The grave defeat suffered by the Japanese put an end to their influence on Korea and, shortly, the disappearance of the state of Paekche. [see: Treccani , for more details on the causalities here]
- Jian Zhen (鑒真,Gan Jin in Japanese, Jian Zhen 鉴真 in Chinese) a monk who lived between 688–763 and who went to Japan to help propagating Buddhist church in Nara (Kansai Prefecture) , where he founded in 759 a.c. Tōshōdai-ji (唐招提寺)
Above points are usually not mentioned in Chinese textbooks to mitigate the aggressive actions in Chinese history and mostly focused in the cultural influence of China over other countries.
- 13th century Mongolian invasion of Japan. The invasion wasn’t successful also thanks to a huge typhoon that stopped the Mongolian vessels and protected Japan. From this event originates the word kamikaze (神風, litt.”spirit wind”).
- The Treaty of Shimonoseky in 1895, China gets invaded in Manchuria without interests. This event is considered as at the same level as the unequal treaties of Opium Wars. Shimonoseky treaty also included topics such as Korea independence, a point omitted by Japanese text.
- In 1876, Kanwa treaty (or Ganghwa in Korean), is the first modern agreement between Korea and Japan. This area of Korea was closed to commerce to western countries, Japan brought his modern battle ships to coastal areas of Korea and force Ganghwa Island to surrender. The treaty allowed Japan to apply extraterritoriality to this area of Korea, as before western countries did in Japan few decades earlier.
The controversy again was about the approach China and Japan used, the former based on the tradition and the second based on modern international treaties.
- Mukden Incident September 18, 1931 (Shenyang) took place in the new railways-infrastructures, used by Japanese as an excuse to occupy Manchuria and create a puppet vassal state Manchukuo. Head of the state was the last Qing Manchurian emperor Puyi (溥儀; 7 February 1906 – 17 October 1967).
- Marco Polo Bridge Incident (卢沟桥事变, Lúgōuqiáo) in 8 July 1937. Early in the morning shotguns gunshots take off towards Japanese soldiers. The following day the Sino-Japanese War broke out.
The following year in Shanghai were killed 2 Japanese soldiers.
Both events are still considered as casual events by China, while at the time the Japanese had used the two incidents as an excuse to launch military offensives in the two areas.
Much of the Japanese textbooks do not specify the incident of Marco Polo Bridge that was premeditated by the Japanese forces. Chiang Kai-shek after all at that time met the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs because more Japanese armies reached the Manchurian borders. The official statement was that Japan didn’t want to occupy China but just to maintain order in the area.
From Chinese textbooks is highlighted instead that Japanese armies premeditate to allocate their armies along Marco Polo Bridge and used the incident to occupy Northern China, starting the War of Resistance to Japan （抗日战争，Kàngrì zhànzhēng ).
- Nanjing Massacre: Nanjing was the former capital of Chinese Republic, the incident happened between December 1937 and January 1938. Chinese armies fell back to Chongqing (western part of China, far away from the coastal areas). Without a proper protection civilians were left undefended to Japanese armies. Casualties between civilians reached almost 300,000 souls.Chinese institutions accuse Japanese education system to reduce the facts which occurred in Nanjing, leading their students to doubt about Chinese official information about the massacre.
In 1949 People Republic of China (PRC) is founded by Chinese Communist Liberation Armies in Tian’anmen (Beijing) by Mao Zedong and his supporters, thus beginning a period of political isolation.
Just a few decades before also in China was not officially mentioned the massacre for the negative impact in the history of the country, and in 1970s China was trying to rebuild the relationships with Japan.
Eventually the story of massacre was openly transmit in 1990s at the time of economical crisis. Now in Nanjing is possible to visit the museum of Nanjing Massacre, similar to the nuclear bombs museums in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In the Japanese textbooks is not always mentioned the number of deaths, while Chinese medias compare it to the Nazis concentration camps.
In 1970s, after decades of silence which followed the end of the Sino-Japanese war, China starts its politics of opening to the world, and in Shanghai were allowed for the first time to Japanese factories to install production facilities in Baoshan District (宝山区).
In 1972 the Chinese Prime Minister went to Japan to close agreements.
In 1978, after a long silence, are finally signed the peace treaty between China and Japan. In which China recalls the validity of treaties and Japan recognizes PRC as the official representative of China instead of Republic of China (Taiwan). The significant financial support that Japan provided to PRC in those years was not mentioned during these negotiations.
In 1992 the Japanese emperor Hakihito visits China symbolizing the good relationships between the countries and first Japanese emperor to visit PRC.
Even since this period there have been more episodes of tensions between PRC and Japan. Tsukurukai in 2001 was just an example of the political tensions, as then a football incidents in 2004 a the Chinese protests in 2005.
In 2015 for the 70s anniversary of the end of WWII, called 70s anniversary of Japan’s Surrender, Xi Jinping took back the traditional military clothes to give a speech to the entire nation. That same year were allowed a longer holiday in China to commemorate the retreat of Japan armies, but as result something link 400.000 Chinese tourists visited Japan spending over $830 million in Shopping.