What the Chinese think of Japan

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/05/02/what-the-chinese-think-of-japa.html


I have all of my Father’s journals from his time in China prior to WII breaking out, they’re not for the faint of heart, he leaves no detail out concerning the Japanese invasion of China, it’s horrifically barbaric on so many levels.


I spoke to a number of Chinese about their thoughts on this while I was in China a few different times. Two vivid memories symbolize for me what the Chinese think of the Japanese:

One is talking with a young man who said that his grandfather lived through the war and absolutely despised the Japanese, and “wouldn’t piss on one to put out a fire.” His father, he said, hated the Japanese, but not as much. For the young man, Japan and China were partners in cooperation on the world stage, and he didn’t hate them at all. He paused thoughtfully for a second, and then said “well, maybe not as much as my grandfather.”

Second was a visit to the museum of the Nanjing Massacre. It’s laid out as a step-by-step counterargument to Japanese claims that the well-documented massacre never happened. It’s built with plexi-glass floors over partially excavated mass graves and is a very difficult thing to walk through. Throughout the museum are references to the Japanese people as devils, barbarians, inhuman, and all too likely to do the same thing again if China doesn’t keep a close eye on them.


Keep in mind these interviews are in Shanghai, which is far more international and liberal than 98% of China. As a representative sample, it’s like going to LA and asking about views on Mexico.


But everybody knows the Mexicans bombed Pearl Harbor.


My wife’s maternal grandfather was on the other side of that conflict, with the Kwantung Army (The Japanese invading force) in the mid 30’s. He went on to be middle management at a factory in Korea. One which almost certainly was using slave labor.

Rule number 3 in my in-laws house is that is considered rude to discuss what Grampa S. did during the war at meal times.

Don’t everyone take this the wrong way, but by and large I think a lot of the Japan bashing done today is done to shift focus away from the 30+ year horror of Mao’s control of the country and the atrocities committed by its citizens against their own. Of course bullshit revisionism and willfully ignoring past atrocities on the Japanese side of things doesn’t help one little bit. [See Yasukuni Shrine’s Peace Museum for examples of this]


This is what the Taiwanese certainly say. “Mainlanders make too much of Japanese occupation. They do it so they can ignore Mao.”


There’s a movie, I seem to remember it being in two parts(?)
about unit 731 which conducted medical experiment on prisoners in China.


“Philosophy of a Knife”
It’s good, also, it’s very rough going.


That sounds to me like the kind of thing that people say so they don’t have to think about a particular subject much anymore. Like; “But Mike Pence is worse.”

Is that not my place to say… probably.


At the risk of coming off like a Mao-defender (I am most certainly not,) the accepted western stats on the death toll during his reign are not reliable at all.

I say this because Mao’s rule was encompassed by industrial revolution, which was terrible for the poor everywhere it had occurred. How much death can be laid at the feet of Mao vs. the death that can be blamed on the processes of IR is an analysis that has not been made (to my limited knowledge at any rate) and would require a pretty significant forensic undertaking.

I think I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating- no one was counting the bodies tossed to the side of the tracks as the US industrialized, and it’s quite likely that we will never know the scale of death that took place, but you can be damn sure that it’s a significant figure. In terms of population percentages I wouldn’t be surprised if the numbers were similar.


Yeah, but, the Taiwanese had it really good under the Japanese compared to Mainland China, yeesh…


Yup. They rarely even talk about it as an “occupation.” Instead “period of Japanese rule,” which actually started several decades earlier.




It was different for them. Native Formosans were treated terribly by the mainland and Japanese control predated the Pre-WWII Sino-Japanese War by about 30 years.

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There was at least one published undertaking on the subject. It was claimed that the endemic famines in China were the result of Mao selling grain to allies at the expense of his own people.


I would say that the past complaints by democratic nations such as South Korea and Taiwan on the same subject carry far more weight due to the greater level of objectivity to them.

Japan’s treatment of China during the war was horrific on levels only matched by the Eastern Front at the same time. Examples of the worst wartime atrocities committed in modern times.

Again, it doesn’t help the situation at all that the Japanese are such jerks about refusing to acknowledge their atrocious past here either.


Add to that the number of slaves beaten or killed in order to sustain the cotton mills of the north…


It was the Germans. Jesus, what do they even teach kids these days.


Exactly. Hence the layout and official name of the “Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders”


Weird…when people in San Diego hear that I live in Tijuana (NOT Ensenada, NOT Rosarito) and actually like it, I always get this face…