At a recent lecture at a Beijing university, students politely lambasted this correspondent – and by association all other foreign journalists – for painting too negative a picture of China.
“Why,” asked another questioner, referring to the massacre in Nanjing in 1937 and the imperial army’s use of sex slaves, “can’t Japan face up to the past?”
Such double standards are, of course, not limited to China. Nor does everyone in Beijing accept that Tokyo has a greater responsibility to grapple with unpleasant past episodes than their own government.
Yet the events of the past six months suggest that the education and media systems in China are exacerbating knee-jerk nationalism and choking critical self-reflection in a way that augurs badly for the country’s bid to become a world leader in ideas as well as exports.