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Textbook example

If there's one thing China hates, it's other countries meddling in its internal affairs. And for China, "internal affairs" covers a lot of ground.

Some issues, such as its harrassment of Falun Gong members or its rollback of political freedoms in Hong Kong, China deems internal in much the same way an abusive husband might call his wife-beating a "family matter".

Other matters, such as China's agression toward Taiwan, its occupation of Tibet, and its treatment of the separatist Uighurs, concern groups of people who, all things considered, would prefer to be part of China's external affairs, thank you very much.

And still other topics seem quite external to China indeed, such as the Vatican's choice of whom to canonize as saints.

In fact, despite its own sensitivity to criticism, China has no qualms about telling the rest of the world what to do. Possibly the most egregious example of this behavior came when Chinese representatives in Utah for the 2002 Winter Olympics demanded that American citizens take down a Taiwanese flag they were displaying (along with the flags of over 90 other nations) on private property. As the local Deseret News reported at the time, it took the Chinese a little while to realize they were in another country and couldn't just order people around:

"It took a couple of times for them to understand that this is private residence, not a government building, and that the government did not give us these flags," resident Annetta Mower said..."We do appreciate their perspective, but this is America."
Now China is at it again. Offended that certain new Japanese school textbooks don't go into as much detail about Japan's World War II atrocities as it would like, China is launching a fusilade of indignant criticism at Japan:
Chinese scholars said Wednesday that Japan's intention of "whitewashing" wartime history will not produce any respect from the international community neither help it become a political giant.

"It's absolutely not wise for Japan to do so in order to achieve its political aspiration," said Ma Junwei, a researcher with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.

..."The textbook issue is only one segment of the whole Japanese rightist move," said Shen Jiru, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
And the BBC reports:
A Chinese retail group also urged shops to stop selling Japanese goods in response to the new books.

"We call on all patriotic Chinese consumers who have a conscience to support our action. For the sake of our pride and our children, let's take action," it said.
In response to China's complaints, Japan's ambassador to Beijing, Koreshige Anami, unleashed one of the great smackdowns in diplomatic history. Again from the BBC:
Earlier, Japan's ambassador to Beijing defended the new text books in the face of criticism from China.

Koreshige Anami said the textbooks were produced by private companies and not the government.

"In Japan we ensure freedom of speech and publication," he told the Chinese foreign ministry, according to an embassy spokesman.

Anami was being a little disingenuous, because while the books were produced by the private sector, they were nonetheless approved by Japan's Ministry of Education. (It's worth mentioning, however, that Japanese schools don't have to use them. In fact, a previous history text that downplayed Japan's wartime aggression found its way into less than 1% of the nation's classrooms.)

And China does have a valid point: Japan is ill-served by glossing over the large-scale atrocities, like the Rape of Nanking, that its troops committed during the war. But Anami's riposte put Chinese hypocrisy on full display. Surely the manner in which a nation chooses to educate its own schoolchildren is part of its internal affairs?

If not, I'd like to take a look at China's own textbooks. I'm sure I'd find a few bones to pick over their depiction of America.

Japundit and BoingBoing point out another incredibly petty example of China telling other people what to do.


Anonymous said...

A great post!


Posted by JP

Anonymous said...

Frankly, this is one time I think China has it right. Japan as a nation has never owned up to their aggression in WWII. They have been whitewashing the story for years.

Many WWII POW's were never able to forgive Japan for the treatment they received and a large part of that is that no apology, at any level, was ever forthcoming.

Mitsubishi sells their cars in the U.S., but has ever acknowledged the slave-labor conditions American POW's worked under in their factories.

When "The Rape of Nanking" was published some years back, Japan howled about the unfair portrayal of its soldiers. Now, I guess the show is on the other foot? 

Posted by rixtex

Anonymous said...

Some excellent posts regarding the "sleeping" (waking) giant.

I'm afraid we will soon be finding out what real "hegemony" is. I fear that fast food francises and bourgeosie entertainment will pale in comparison.

Odd that a person doing meditation exercises on Tiananmen Square will be arrested, jailed, and possibly tortured or killed while thousands are permitted to destroy private (Japanese) property. 

Posted by Cliff

Anonymous said...

Good post!! Well done.

It is interesting to note that after Tienanman Square Japanese atrocities during World War 2, especially in Nanking, exponentially increased, new evidence was "discovered," and those murdered in Nanking, for instance, grew by hundreds and hundreds of thousands. It is difficult to apologize to regimes such as North Korea (that killed and starved millions in the 1990s) and China (how many millions and millions were murdered for communism?), tyrannies, in the midst of tyranny, and as one who spends a bit of time with Japanese conservatives, the problem is less an unwillingness to owning up to the past, and rather, the futility of apologizing to regimes who use such apologies for propaganda to further their tyranny. The reason "The Rape of Nanking" was "howled about," as rixtex says, is because it was an outrageous book, whose author was taking her cues from China's push for patriotic education (re: get the masses focused on an external enemy, by all and any means) that was formulated as a reaction to pro-democracy movements. If one wants to judge Japan's contrition, better to consider the perspectives of citizens of Taiwan and the Philippines, and not regimes like China and North Korea. Can more be done by Japan, yes. Are a few textbooks, out of many, not as forthright as I would like--again, yes. By going to Yasukuni is Koizumi rekindling militarism--no, quite the opposite. Is Japan light-years ahead of China and North Korea in facing up to the past and learning history's lessons--a resounding yes.  

Posted by yama-arashi



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