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Anti-Japanese sentiment in China

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Anti-Japanese sentiment in China is an issue with modern roots (post-1868). Modern anti-Japanese sentiment in China is often rooted in nationalist or historical conflict, particularly in Japan's Japanese history textbook controversies.

Historically, the 3rd century Book of Wei, one of China's oldest written records regarding Japan, reported that the Japanese were uncivilized barbarian tribes constantly at war with each other. Similar views have been repeated over the centuries. Marco Polo, who never personally visited Japan, repeated reports on the land of "Zipang" he heard while in China and described in his book Il Milione , a.k.a. The Travels of Marco Polo, that "the islands off the sea east of China" was a wealthy nation inhabited by idol-worshiping cannibals[citation needed].

Modern Japan annexed parts China towards the end of the Qing Dynasty. Dissatisfaction with the settlement and the Twenty-One Demands by the Japanese government led to a severe boycott of Japanese products in China. Bitterness in China persists over the atrocities of the Second Sino-Japanese War and Japan's post-war actions. This sentiment may also be at least to some extent influenced by issues related to Chinese people in Japan.


Effects of World War II

Most reasons for anti-Japanese sentiment in China can be directly traced to the Second Sino-Japanese War, which was one theatre of World War II. As a consequence of the war, China suffered over 20 million civilian deaths and 3 million military casualties,[1] as well as another 23 million ethnic Chinese civilian deaths in Southeast Asia.[2] In addition, the war caused an estimated $383.3 billion USD in damage and created 95 million refugees. Manchuria came under Japanese control in 1931 as a state named Manchukuo. Many major cities thereafter, including Nanjing, Shanghai, and Beijing were occupied in 1937 by the Japanese. Notable incidents included the Nanking Massacre. In Manchuria, Unit 731, a medical unit of the Japanese army, researched biological warfare using Chinese civilians as test subjects, who were referred to as human 'logs' in the medical journals. Women from many Asian countries, including China, were made to serve as prostitutes in military brothels (and were often referred to as "comfort women") under Japanese occupation.

Post-War issues

There is deep resentment over the veneration of Japanese war veterans in the Yasukuni Shrine, where a number of war criminals are enshrined, treated as kami or important spirits, and the fact that the shrine openly states that the purpose of Japanese military involvement in Asia was to bring prosperity and liberation to Asians. This is further exacerbated by attempts to whitewash Japan's role in the war in certain school history textbooks, such as by softening some statements and removing others. That some popular media such as comics [3], books, movies, or documentaries depicting Japanese wartime involvement in atrocities are withdrawn due to nationalist or popular sentiment further contributes to this image. As examples, critics point to the withdrawal of Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking from planned publication and the censorship of scenes of the Nanking Massacre from the Japanese theatrical release of The Last Emperor.[4]

Although China renounced the right to war reparations from Japan[5] in the 1972 Joint Communiqué, Japan gave ODA (official development assistance), amounting to 3 trillion yen (30 billion USD, 90% of which are low interest loans). In Japan, this was perceived as a way of making amends to China for past military aggression. According to estimates, Japan accounts for more than 60 percent of China's ODA received. About 25 percent of the funding for all of China's infrastructure projects between 1994 and 1998 — including roads, railways, telecom systems and harbours — came from Japan.[6]

Japanese aid to China was rarely formally publicized to the Chinese people by the Chinese government, until Japan announced that aid was to be phased out. It was finally publicly acknowledged by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao during his April 2007 trip to Japan.[7].

There is a perception among some Chinese that the United States, Japan, and Taiwan are attempting to contain China. Japan's more recent debate to revise Article 9, the "No War" clause, is viewed with suspicion of possible re-militarization. Anti-Japanese sentiment in China is also highlighted by the branding of several prominent Taiwanese politicians (especially those who advocate Taiwan independence) as "Japanese running dogs" by the state-run media.

Contemporary issues

Issues from the Second World War continue to generate ill-feeling in China. One issue is Japanese disposal of chemical weapons left in China by Japanese troops at the end of the war. The Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which came into effect in April 1997, and the Memorandum on the Destruction of Japanese Discarded Chemical Weapons in China, signed on 30 July 1999, required Japan to dispose of an estimated 700,000 abandoned chemical weapons (Japanese estimate), but Japan was unable to complete the work on time and requested a five-year extension. See [3] [4], [5]

Chinese plaintiffs suing the Japanese government over accidents caused by the unearthing of poison gas have had difficulty gaining satisfaction from Japanese courts. 43 people injured in a 2003 accident and five relatives of one who died have so far been unsuccessful in their claim for 1.43 billion yen (US$11.8 million; €9.1 million) as well as medical costs and income losses due to health problems. [6], [7]. Such issues continue to cause ill-will.

On March 13, 2007, the Tokyo High Court upheld a lower court ruling and rejected compensation claims from four Chinese people who were injured and one whose relative died from being exposed to chemical weapons abandoned by Japan in China at the end of the war. Presiding Judge Hiromitsu Okita said the Japanese government was not liable for death or injury from the weapons, saying it could not have conducted a proper search for weapons in another country. The plaintiffs had sought a combined 80 million yen from the Japanese government. The court said the state was not obligated to conduct a search or to pay damages "because it cannot be said that the defendants could have prevented the outcome" of the death and injuries in the case, according to Japan Times.[8] There were at least 700,000 piece of chemical weapons Japan buried in China with site information destroyed by Japanese military according to Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.[9] Such law suits have been filed before,[10] but Japanese courts have rejected most claims filed by individual WWII war crime victims so far.[11]

In March 2007, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sparked a row over "comfort women." A group of about 120 lawmakers from Abe's governing party want the prime minister to revise the official apology. The lawmakers claim there is no evidence to suggest the Japanese military was directly involved in coercing the women. They said they would present the government with a petition next week demanding a rewrite of the apology, which they consider a stain on Japan's national honor. Abe told reporters in his Tokyo office that he shared the belief that there was no direct proof of the military's involvement. "The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion," he said according to LA Times.[12][13] Mr Abe said the government would cooperate with a study to be conducted by a group of Liberal Democratic party MPs who are sceptical of claims that thousands of Asian women were forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during the second world war according to Guardian.[14] After the condemnation around the world, Abe made a qualified apology, saying "I express my sympathy for the hardships they suffered and offer my apology for the situation they found themselves in," Abe told the legislature when pressed on what he would say to the aging survivors of the "comfort women" system. "As the prime minister, I am apologizing here" according to LA Times.[15]

Continued visits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine, and the recent approval of a textbook that downplays the Rape of Nanking and the role of sex slaves in the Imperial Japanese Army have further aroused Chinese sentiment. Japan's campaign to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council has met with stiff opposition among Chinese people, and the Diaoyu Islands / Senkaku Islands, currently controlled and claimed by Japan, but claimed also by both PRC and ROC, continue to be a sticking point and a symbolic focus of anti-Japanese sentiment in China.

The buildup of anti-Japanese sentiment, aided by websites, had already been noted by Western media in early 2005. In spring 2005, anti-Japanese demonstrations were organized by anti-Japanese elements in several cities across China. The Internet, including instant messaging services, was used in organizing groups of demonstrators to take part in protests. Many were calling for a boycott of Japanese products. Outside China, these demonstrations were viewed with cynicism, partly since the Government of China does not usually permit demonstrations without government approval. The result was an apology by the Japanese PM.Concern at anti-Japanese sentiment is believed to be behind the decision of Chinese censors to ban the film Memoirs of a Geisha on February 1, 2006. The fact that Chinese actresses played Japanese geisha, often wrongly perceived as prostitutes in China, had caused considerable controversy among some elements of the Chinese population.

There have been several reports that stores, restaurants, public institutions and hospitals in China refuse to serve Japanese customers because the Japanese don't apologize for the invasion of China.[16][17]

Anti-Japanism displayed at sporting events

Asian Cup 2004

During the Asian Cup 2004, a soccer championship held in China, Chinese fans booed the Japanese team during the playing of the Japanese national anthem at Japanese matches with several countries, including China. Except for the match against Bahrain, Japanese supporters were instructed by the local police not to use "banners, flags, musical instruments, or wear team uniforms" and were asked to refrain from cheering. The flight to Beijing, the venue of the final match against China, was delayed for two hours due to Chinese protesters at Beijing International Airport. After defending champion Japan defeated China in the final by 3-1, a Chinese protest broke out, and the Japanese ambassador's car was severely damaged.

2007 FIFA Women's World Cup

At the last game of Group A of 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup held in Hangzhou, tens of thousands of Chinese spectators in attendance cheered for the German team and booed the Japanese team vehemently. Japan was defeated by Germany and knocked out of the tournament prematurely. The Japanese players later held up a banner to thank China ("Arigato 謝謝 (Xie Xie) China") at the end of the game while the audience applauded in response. The incident caused minor controversy in China over the Chinese nationalism and anti-Japanese sentiment displayed at the game.[18][19]

The game was originally planned to be held on September 18 when Mukden Incident occurred. Because of the sensitive nature of the date in China, it was held one day earlier.[20]

East Asian Cup 2008

During the East Asian Cup 2008, Chinese fans booed the Japanese team during the playing of the Japanese national anthem again, at the first match for the Japanese team with the North Korean national team in Chongqing on February 17. The attitude of Chinese fans had not improved despite police warnings before the game.[21][22] After the match between the Japanese team and the Chinese national team on February 20, in which the Chinese team was defeated, a small group of Chinese fans burnt the Japanese national flag and booed the Japanese team with the derogatory term, xiǎo Rìběn (小日本, little Japanese).[23]


Other explanations have been offered for the extraordinary persistence of virulent anti-Japanese sentiment in China. One theory is that China's perceptions of Japan are influenced by the historical concept of Sinocentrism, as well as the nature of the historical relationship between the two countries.

China had been a regional superpower for thousands of years before the emergence of Japan in the late 19th and early 20th century, and many now-independent countries were tributary states to China. Chinese philosophy and Confucianism figured prominently in the development of East Asia. As such, China saw itself as the center of civilization. Much of Japanese culture and society was heavily influenced by Imperial Chinese models.


Some believe that anti-Japanese sentiment in China is partially the result of political manipulation by the Communist Party of China.[24]

According to this view, Mao Zedong and the Communist party claimed the victory against the Japanese invaders as part of their legacy. Initially, there was no need to resort to anti-Japanese sentiment because the principal enemies of the new country were the United States and later the Soviet Union.

After the failure of the Great Leap Forward and the disruption of the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping and other leaders decided to take the country on a path of economic development based on the market economy, without relinquishing the party's grip on political power. According to this view, the government resorted to nationalism, including an appeal to the CCP's anti-Japanese credentials, in order to reassert its legitimacy to lead the country and defuse the inevitable tensions that would accompany rapid economic growth. This tendency was intensified by Jiang Zemin, under whose leadership, many foreign scholars and Japanese believe, Chinese schools began instilling anti-Japanese rhetoric into students. Anti-Japanese propaganda in China continues today, with more nuanced accounts of the War censored[25].

Today, surveys have shown that anti-Japanese sentiment in China is higher among the current generation than among the Chinese who actually lived through the occupation of the Second Sino-Japanese War.[24]

See also


  1. The real 'China threat' . Chalmers Johnson.
  2. The Looting of Asia. Chalmers Johnson.
  3. News - Telegraph
  4. Joseph Chapel, "Denial of the Holocaust and the Rape of Nanking" (2004)
  5. Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China
  6. Asia Times Online - News from greater China; Hong Kong and Taiwan
  7. Letter from China: Wen reveals himself as a new kind of Chinese leader, By Howard W. French, International Herald Tribune, Published: April 19, 2007 [1]
  8. Japan off hook for China gas weapons ills: court | The Japan Times Online
  9. MOFA: Budget for the Destruction of Abandoned Chemical Weapons in China
  10. Chinese victims of Japanese chemical weapon sue Japan's government - International Herald Tribune
  11. ZNet |Japan | Japan's Top Court Poised to Kill Lawsuits by Chinese War Victims
  12. WWII sex slavery issue revived - Los Angeles Times
  13. [2]
  14. Japan to study wartime 'comfort women' | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
  15. A qualified Abe apology - Los Angeles Times
  16. "海南一医院挂牌称“日本人拒不认罪禁止入内"” (南方都市报, July 15, 2005)
  17. "深センのバーで 「日本人の入店お断り」" (人民網日本語版, May 23, 2002)
  18. "なでしこ日本「謝謝」に中国で大論争" (in Japanese). Daily Sports. 2007-09-21. http://www.daily.co.jp/gossip/2007/09/21/0000643695.shtml. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  19. "被民族主义狼奶毒化的中国愤青 刘晓波 日本女足展开横幅向中国致谢" (in Chinese). Observe China. 2007-09-19. http://www.observechina.net/info/artshow.asp?ID=45406. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  20. "サッカー女子W杯日独戦、満州事変の日はずして実施" (in Japanese). 中国情報局. 2007-09-18. http://news.searchina.ne.jp/disp.cgi?y=2007&d=0918&f=national_0918_003.shtml. Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  21. "4年前の教訓生かされず、日朝戦でブーイング サッカー東アジア選手権" (in Japanese). Sankei Shimbun. 2008-02-17. http://sankei.jp.msn.com/sports/soccer/080217/scr0802171956003-n1.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  22. "市局部署2008年东亚足球锦标赛决赛安保工作" (in Chinese). 重庆市公安局. 2008-02-05. http://www.cqga.gov.cn/jfzx%5Cjfdt/3108.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-18. 
  23. "日の丸燃やし、敗戦悔しがる=騒乱防止へ3000人動員-中国当局" (in Japanese). Jiji Press. 2008-02-20. http://www.jiji.com/jc/c?g=spo_30&k=2008022001092. Retrieved 2008-02-20. 
  24. 24.0 24.1 Shirk, Susan (2007-04-05). "China: Fragile Superpower: How China's Internal Politics Could Derail its Peaceful Rise". http://www.cceia.org/resources/transcripts/5425.html. Retrieved 2007-07-29. 
  25. Matthew Forney, "Why China Loves to Hate Japan". Time Magazine, December 10, 2005. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1139759,00.html, accessed 1 June 2008


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