Edward Friedman: Chinese Students’ Hatred for Japanese

About the recent protests, Edward Friedman writes:

The protests are abnormal. Student protests especially in spring time are natural all over the world. Studies of student protests show that the targets tend to be international with a demand that the students’ government live up to its proclaimed ideals. So Japanese students have protested American weapons on ships in Japanese ports despite that being illegal and American students have protested against their government’s involvement in apartheid South Africa. Chinese students could do the same thing. They could protest their government’s support of the genocidal regime in the Sudan in opposition to all the best human rights efforts of the peoples of the world. But instead these Chinese spew hatred toward Japan. Why? Is it really because Japan sides with the USA in not wanting to see the PRC use force or intimidation to annex small, peaceful, harmless, democratic Taiwan? A healthy student movement in China would be marching under the banner “Hands off Taiwan.”

In the Mao era, Chinese students. patriots all, then as now, were taught to hate the new Czars who had stolen more territory from China (the Qing?) than all other imperialists combined. The students knew the amount to the precise square kilometer. Many volunteered to go to the northern frontier to defend the fatherland against the new Czars. At that time, much closer in time to the Nanjing massacre of December 1937-January 1938, Chinese students were not marching against unrepentant Japanese (Actually Japan has formally and officially apologized 21 times.). Mao never mentioned the Nanjing massacre. Jiang Zemin never visited the massacre memorial in Nanjing. Mao even brushed off apologies from Japanese visitors saying he should be thanking them because without the Japanese invasion, the CCP would not have come to power.

Why an anti-Russian nationalism then an anti -Japanese nationalism after 1982 when from 1972-1982 Japan was presented to the Chinese people as a virtual ally? One must discuss the political interests of the ruling group. In the Mao era, the nationalistic dream was to have China lead the world revolutionary movement. Russia was the major challenger. It had to be discredited. In the post Mao era when the goal is to return China to its rightful ancient glory, that is, predominance in Asia, it is Japan that has to be discreditted. As Chris Bodeen wrote for AP on April 7 with regard to a Security Council seat for Japan, “China regards Japan as its main rival for status as East Asia’s dominant military power and could be reluctant to dilute its position as the only Asian member of the ‘Permanent Five’.” (Actually, I believe China would support India.)

Of course, the students are sincere. They were sincere in the Mao era too. Of course, Japanese textbooks are outrageous, although virtually no high school teacher actually teaches what the right wing Ministry of Education approves. But so are Chinese history books outrageous. Those Chinese books do not report how many millions died in the military conquests that more than doubled the size of Sinicized Ming China. Peter Perdue has a new book on this topic for those who would prefer history to the outrageous cover-ups of mass murders in Chinese texts. Sadly such cover-ups are standard practice all around the world.

I feel sad for these passionately patriotic Chinese students constrained by the regime into acting as 110%ers on the agenda permitted by the dominant line and precluded from protesting outrages inside of China by their home government, the natural target of normal student movements all around the world. The students are not manipulated puppets. They are full of energy to contribute to the common weal. I believe there are plenty of idealists who want to contribute to China’s good and just can’t find too many outlets for their idealism.

April 9, 2005 2:08 PM
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