China marks 70th anniversary of war with Japan

China marks 70th anniversary of war with Japan
Posted on : 2007-07-06 | Author : DPA

News Category : AsiaBeijing – When former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Beijing’s Lugou Bridge in October 2001, his laying of a wreath and his “heartfelt apology” for Japan’s wartime atrocities in China received a lukewarm response from Chinese leaders. As China marks the 70th anniversary of the July 7, 1937 “Luguou Bridge incident,” which started Japan’s full-scale invasion of China, relations between the two nations remain troubled.

“There are still many problems between China and Japan which are not being solved,” Song Chengyou, a historian at Beijing University, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

Song gave the examples of territorial disputes in the East China Sea and Beijing’s objection to Japanese history textbooks that it says sanitize Japan’s wartime atrocities.

“Although experts from the two countries are making joint research on the history textbooks, I do not have high expectations,” Song said.

The dispute over history is a key element in diplomatic relations.

Formal ties have improved since Koizumi’s successor, Shinzo Abe, visited Beijing in October. But many Chinese experts see Abe as a more pragmatic version of his predecessor.

“Abe is contained a lot by the rightists,” sad Liu Jiangyong of the International Relations Institute at Beijing’s Qinghua University, “but he needs to consider the overall image of Japan.”

“Abe does not act as tough as Koizumi but fundamentally they stand for the same points,” Song said.

Abe was heavily criticized for saying in March that there was “no evidence” of Japan’s military forcing thousands of women in East Asia into sexual slavery.

But he has so far refrained from making a public visit as prime minister to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. The shrine honours nearly 2.5 million Japanese who died in wars since the mid-19th century, including 14 class-A war criminals convicted after World War II.

Bilateral ties had been soured by Koizumi’s annual visits to the shrine, and Chinese leaders had refused to meet him since 2001.

Like many ordinary Chinese people, Liu contrasts Japan’s attitude with Germany’s greater willingness to atone unconditionally for its wartime past.

Visits by Japanese leaders to the Yasukuni shrine do “huge harm to Chinese people’s feelings”, Liu told dpa.

It is “unimaginable” that German leaders would pay homage to Nazi war criminals in a similar way, he said.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang on Tuesday said 2007 was a “sensitive year” for bilateral relations because of the 70th anniversaries of the Lugou Bridge battle and the Nanjing massacre.

The Japanese attack on Nationalist guards at the bridge in 1937 “marked the long-premeditated launching of all-out war on China” and the start of the “largest imperialist invasion ever experienced by China”, according to an official history.

It led to a loose alliance between Nationalist and Communist troops in what is now known in China as the War of Resistance Against Japan.

“Lugou Bridge symbolizes the beginning of national disaster, and also the beginning of the awakening of the Chinese,” Song said.

The Japanese forces had seized much of northeastern China in 1931 and placed it under the puppet government of Manchuria, which was led by China’s deposed last emperor, Pu Yi, the following year.

Japan fully occupied Beijing and nearby Tianjin by the end of July 1937, then moved its troops south to attack Shanghai and other major cities.

The year ended with the Nanjing massacre, in which Japanese troops are estimated to have killed up to 300,000 Chinese soldiers and civilians.

The Chinese government this week allowed the first showing of the new Hollywood documentary film “Nanking,” which takes its title from the old Western name for the city.

According to the official publicity for the film, “Nanking” shows how the “Japanese army unleashed murder and rape on a horrifying scale” that left “more than 200,000” dead in and around Nanjing in December 1937 and January 1938.

Some Japanese historians and politicians claim Chinese and international experts exaggerated the death toll in Nanjing, but Song accuses them of “playing tricks” by questioning the number of victims.

“We all know that there are lots of rightists in Japan now. They do not look back at history properly and try to beautify this history,” Liu said.

Anger over Japan’s alleged failure to admit the full extent of its wartime atrocities in China were one of the reasons behind a series of large-scale anti-Japanese protests in Beijing and other cities in early 2005.

The government has allowed several small-scale, highly controlled protests outside the Japanese embassy since 2005.

One activist who helped to organize recent protests said he expected “simple memorial activities” to be held “mainly at Lugou Bridge” on Saturday, but he did not rule out the possibility of more protests.

Li Hanmei, another expert on international relations from Beijing University, concedes that it might be useful for both governments to maintain the “mild tension” between the two nations.

“Japan is trying to be an international political power and China is a fast-developing economic and political power,” Li said. “There are fundamental conflicts between the two.”

It’s always nice to know Koizumi visited the Lugou Bridge in 2001 with a wreath and a “heartfelt apology” for starting World War II in Asia before taking it all back with his スーパーハーピー visits to Yasukuni Jinja. There are many who see no offence to visiting Yasukuni since they see it as Japan’s rough equivalent to America’s Arlington Cemetery.

There are some things that need to be clarified with Yasukuni. First it cannot be considered Japan’s “Arlington” because it is a private institution while Arlington Cemetery is maintained by the United States government. Second, while it is true that Yasukuni was originally built by the Imperial government to commemorate all Japanese soldiers who died helping Japan modernise, the shrine has been tainted with the presence of War Criminals and the corruption by the right-wing into a symbol of militarism and nationalism.

It is no coincidence the right-wing revisionist museum, the Yushukan, that justifies World War II and downplays if not denies all war crimes is built just inches away from the Yasukuni Jinja itself. Emperor Showa’s anger at the enshrinement of th 14 men who lost his war (making it difficult to honour the soldiers that died for him) and his decision to no longer visit (it would tarnish his reputation and Japan’s) since then is a good indication of the extent the Yasukuni Shrine has been perverted by the Japanese right-wing.

In any event, people generally will remember the bad over the good and Koizumi’s actions to mend fences were easily overshadowed by his visits to Yasukuni. As a Prime Minister who professes to understand sensitive issues in East Asia, its ironic to see him enthusiastic in nearly all of his state visits to Yasukuni. Like Koizumi, Abe’s meetings with Chinese and South Korean leaders were easily undermined by his comments on comfort women and by the remarks from his handpicked Cabinet ministers.

Some claim that Koizumi made a deal with the right-wingers in his party (LDP) to make the visits in return for their support in his domestic reforms, which would explain why so many Japanese love him for his national policies at the expense of increased tensions in the region. Then again, it seems like Koizumi’s brief reign is being undermined by Abe who seems to be restoring much of the politics Koizumi tried to destroy during his rule. Abe’s approval ratings are so low, from his domestic policies rather than his foreign policies as Japanophiles claim, that it looks like the opposition will get swept into power, assuming enough of Abe’s critics actually vote in the coming weeks.

I really wonder how Shinzo-kun will be received if he ever makes a diplomatic tour in China like Wen Jiabao did in Japan earlier this year. Sino-Japanese tensions will remain as Japan tries to find some way to cope with their loss of economic influence in the world due to a rising China, while China will look to find ways to finally assert itself after spending several decades as a weak communist state at America’s benefit.

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