Japan achieves the impossible

Japan looks set to deport foreign activists who landed illegally in the Senkaku islands, or release citizens who have been illegally detained in Diaoyutai – according to taste. Although we have seen Diaoyu protests and expeditions before, the uniformity of opinion among virtually all conceivable Greater Chinese parties is unprecedented. Beijing, Taipei, the Hong Kong government, Mainland netizens, their Hong Kong counterparts, the Big Lychee’s pro-Beijing working-class Federation of Trade Unions and (snapped as I passed Exchange Square yesterday) the anti-Beijing middle-class Civic Party are all toeing the same line. How often does that happen?

If any one element is slightly deviating from the consensus, it is Taiwan officials, who are differentiating their phraseology a bit. This is mainly for branding purposes, to emphasize that they are not part of the PRC. But it may also reflect something people there don’t talk about too much: many Taiwanese thought Japanese occupation from the 1890s to 1945 was OK – good infrastructure, decent schools and all that.

Japan is the reason why the Senkakus/Diaoyu is unique in uniting Chinese who would normally hate each other. In Hong Kong people as far apart as pro-democrat Audrey Eu, Chief Executive CY Leung, patriot Lew Mon-hung and former Legislative Council president Rita Fan have all reportedly donated to the Diaoyu activists, who include such radical anti-government firebrands as boisterous League of Social Democrats activist Tsang Kin-shing (aka the Bull).

After years in which United Front work in the Big Lychee has left much of the community estranged from if not hostile to all things Mainland, this must please Beijing, which ordered/allowed the Hong Kong government to openly support what is largely a Hong Kong-organized expedition. But will it be possible to build on this and unite the community behind other patriotic causes? Chinese sovereignty over the South China Sea? Chinese sovereignty over Tibet? The injustice of American complaints about China’s exchange rate? The need – for the sake of harmony – to persecute blind lawyers and other busybodies protecting the little guy against corrupt officials? The glory of the Communist Party and the need for one-party rule? The coolness of weeping astronauts? The importance of National Education in local schools (opponents of which I snapped yesterday in Wanchai)?

It sounds unlikely. It is Japan that brings everyone together. The Chinese government’s hurt ‘innocent victim’ act can be tiresome, but Japan’s is nauseating. Unlike the Germans in Europe, who have never stopped beating themselves up over World War II, the Japanese still don’t quite see what the fuss was about. We needed resources from Southeast Asia; we displaced alien Western colonial regimes there and provided Asian rule; our soldiers used a few prostitutes here and there; then the evil Americans slaughtered hundreds of thousands of our civilians with atom bombs, and we’ve been feeling sorry for ourselves at candle-lit peace shrines ever since.

It’s a wanton obliviousness to history that makes other Asians’ – and non-Asians’ – blood boil. An old neighbour of mine talked about having to bow to Japanese soldiers in the street when she went to school in the Mid-Levels, otherwise they would chop your head off. It happened. My own father, whose contact with the Chrysanthemum Throne’s forces was brief and as a victor, bought bad-quality cars, cameras and electronics throughout his life rather than touch any Japanese product. Shanghai’s World Financial Centre had to be re-designed because the hole in the top reminded people of the rising sun flag. Don’t forgive; don’t forget. It’s the one thing everyone can agree on.


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44 Responses to Japan achieves the impossible

  1. Walter De Havilland says:

    You are spot on today (again). My wife’s grandfather fought the “turnip heads” in 1941 and escaped by the skin of his teeth through Aberdeen. This 95 year old almost jumped out of his wheelchair with joy when viewing the landing on the Diaoyutai Islands. I must say there is something deeply unsettling in that the Japanese have failed to acknowledge the horrors there brought to Asia.

  2. Bela's People says:

    Japan pursues the strategy of the UK (1947 on) and the USA (1972 on) in building on a divided Asia. It knows the reason China cannot reach out to its neighbours is that it cannot forget the twentieth century. It can’t forget it because it wasn’t really there. The twentieth century is only arriving vaguely in China: the recognition of other people and countries, the idea of comfort, progress, prosperity. Japan has joined the surround and bait China club. And the Middle Kingdom always bites.

    Having said that…

    Mmm…let me see…a politician, a teacher and a construction worker…in various styles of dress…fighting for a cause…misunderstood…looking tough on their boat Kai Fung 2…the waves, the rocks, the men in uniform…

    Old man, there’s a place you can go.
    I said, old man, when poll ratings are low.
    You can’t stay there, but I’m sure you will find
    Many ways to have a good time.

    It’s fun to stay on the Kai Fung 2
    It’s fun to stay on the Kai Fung 2

    They have everything for old men to enjoy,
    You can hang out with all the plod.

  3. Stephen says:

    To quote a Certain Mr. M Loaf “You took the words right out of my mouth” I am talking about quote attributed to Chan Yue-nam – Action committee for defending the Diaoyu Islands – who slammed the DAB as “Shameful” (Sub Standard)

    Of course I would describe the DAB as “shameful” on a whole host of issues and don’t really care for a few rocks off the coast between Taiwan and Japan. Apparently 14 DAB members sang the National Anthem, displaying the astute political awareness renowned of HK Politicians, despite the anti-mainland sentiment in Hong Kong these days and 4 weeks before an election.

    The weekend must be open and I’ll toast it with Tsing Tao instead of my preferred Sapporo – It’s fun to stay on the Kai Fung 2 …

  4. Reductio says:

    Headache: I know what you’re saying but check out the details for the Japanese Unit 731. That’s in a class up there with Mengele. Any apologies? Will you find it in Japanese school history books? Nah.

  5. Old Timer says:

    I wonder what percentage of Chinese have actually studied the ins and oputs of Diayou/Senkakhu ownership and come up with an informed, rationally thought-out opinion to back up their claims.

  6. Maugrim says:

    The comment about the Japs was absolutely spot on. Particularly with regards to what makes Chinese blood boil. I once asked a relative who is a published academic and whose father had been part of the Samarkand death march if she felt the Japanese had an evil disposition and she said no, that it was something that any cultural group could have done. I’m still not convinced though.

    OT: and closer to our northern brothers is this fascinating story about the mainland practice of ‘body doubles’ that I’m not sure is getting a run in the local papers: http://www.smh.com.au/world/body-double-claim-a-part-of-show-trial-fear-20120816-24bj8.html

  7. Real Tax Payer says:

    This is a serious issue (for once)

    But as an aside, if one clicks on the very first link in Hemmers above one gets to a Jap newspaper with a map that looks decidedly weird compared to normal maps of the Diaoyutai relative to Japan and Taiwan.

    If Japan can distort geography they can distort anything.

    I have worked for 2 decades for a German company and it’s true the Germans beat themselves up over their WW2 sins of the past. But by God have they done everything they can to atone for their sins, let alone try to reconstruct Europe so that there’s never another European civil war. Give the Germans credit for that at least, which is partly why Germany has such immense kudos in China.

    Meanwhile Japan woffles on as if WW2 was all in a day’s work, (except for the BOMB of course, which was SO unfair/ bad cricket / against the rules )

    A close American friend once lent me a book on the invasion of Okinawa: mostly untold stuff, and far FAR worse and more costly in lives than the US invasion of Iwo Jima .

    He warned me the book would make me physically sick at the excesses the Japanese went to to resist to the last widow and child, and indeed I did puke (e.g. destitute civilian women crawling into US dug outs with hand grenades )

    Then I understood why the US just had to use the BOMB.

    I don’t condone the BOMB . But I think I understand why that was the only way ( and by heck it worked)

    Now, Japan out of whatever stupid nationalistic pride play pussy foot with a few outcrops of rocks just off the north coast of Taiwan, which Japan colonized for many decades. So stupid .

    Meanwhile they don’t have the common sense to re-bury their small handful of convicted war criminals in some other innocuous place

    So stooopid.

    Enough or I will explode.

  8. Mary Hinge says:

    “My own father … bought bad-quality … cameras throughout his life rather than touch any Japanese product.”

    Today’s blurry pictures suggest that you are using a hand-me-down, Hemmers. Get yourself a nice Nikon SLR. With a bayonet mount. Happy shooting.

  9. Vile says:

    Does this mean we have to stop snapping each other posing with 100 Doraemon statues in TST, and perhaps daub them with blood instead? I wish Beijing would clearly enunciate its stance in this matter.

  10. Headache says:

    Reductio, you’re absolutely right, but at the same time, Old Timer is too.

    Anger at past Japanese acts and (perceived or actual) lack of contrition for those is completely understandable, but it rankles when it’s used to drum up Chinese nationalistic fervour which could itself turn ugly in due course.

    Of course, any nation which is selective about its own history to cover up uncomfortable truths is engaging in hypocrisy (hello national and moral education).

    By the way Hemmers, if you’d visited Hiroshima you’d understand that your characterisation of those affected by the bombs as a bunch of whingers is completely off the mark.

  11. Reductio says:

    I’d like one day to see history text books divided into two bits: bits we done good (eg cured smallpox and polio, raised status of women, brought millions out of poverty…) and bits we done bad: (eg Wounded Knee (US), Cultural Revolution(C), Amsritsar massacre(UK), Jewish Pogroms(er… a lot)…). Then students would be able to make more balanced judgements when the flags start a-waving and the feet a-marching. Not going to hold my breath.

  12. Real Tax Payer says:

    Having written the rant above, I should add that some of my best friends are Japanese

    So this is nothing personal

    Just that persons are persons but nations are nations

  13. PropertyDeveloper says:

    Maugrim, The ‘news’ in your link is rather out of date, the notion having been raised in this forum a few days ago.

  14. expat says:

    Read Paul Fussell’s essay on why the bomb was necessary:


    Excellent point made today: the japs are easy targets because they were and remain almost totally unrepentant. But given the scale of the horror they inflicted, they would still be vilified even if they did offer apologies.

  15. Maugrim says:

    PD though the pictures used are the same, my point was more about the use of body doubles, something not mentioned in the American source article. The slate article is also interesting: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2012/08/china_s_wealthy_and_influential_sometimes_hire_body_doubles_to_serve_their_prison_sentences.html

  16. Aghast says:


    Can’t see anything wrong with the Yomiuri map – looks the same as Google to me. Why claim they’re distorting geography?

  17. Boo says:

    Yes, totally unrepentant for something that happened before 90% of the current living population was born. How horrible.
    Better to leave history to the historians and get on with life, don’t you think?

  18. Old Timer says:

    The Americans could easily have demonstrated the power of the Bomb to the Japanese military without killing tens of thousands of the folk who simply prepared their packed lunches and darned their socks. Twice.

  19. Slavia Wanderer says:

    Old Timer, same with Japanese on Chinese folks. And Boo, Chinese authorities would love to see everyone think like you.

  20. Chopped Onions says:

    Dropping Fat man and Little boy was, and remains, one of the most inspired acts ever performed by a nation at war. It demonstrated forevermore what conventional war was about to become ie;a shift from battlefields and soldiers to cities where the civilians were targets, if you f@ck with a “sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

  21. Reductio says:

    Old Timer: that’s one of the big “what if’s”, isn’t it? There were a lot of radical hotheads running around the Emperor who arguably wouldn’t have given in at the sight of a big blast going off. The cult of the samurai was strong (ref RTP above on Okinawa). Plus, if the bomb hadn’t been dropped when it was a lot of camp prisoners would have died. Orders were in place. War is f—–g horrible, and difficult choices have to be made. Innocent people always die, the best you can do is make the best choices to reduce the number.

  22. Vile says:

    We all need to learn to love the bomb.

  23. Quality of Life says:

    Enough rabble-rousing, just get on with the business of lowering my rent. I declare CY’s honeymoon period OVER.

  24. Old Timer says:

    Reductio: The two bombs were a message to the Soviets, not the Japs. They were unecessary as practical tools of war, as was the fire-bombing of Tokyo, which killed even more people than FM and LB combined. It was a ‘terrible resolve’, as you say. The US is a staggeringly vengeful foe.

  25. PCC says:

    Old Timer: The Americans only had two operational bombs, and they weren’t entirely confident either one of them was going to work. Wasting one of them on a “demonstration” was discussed and quickly dismissed for this reason alone.

    In the event, even after Hiroshima was decimated on 6 August 1945, the Japanese fought until the Americans destroyed Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.

    The dropping of the A-bombs on Japan ended the war, and thereby saved up to an estimated 1 million allied lives, and countless millions of Japanese lives as well.

  26. ushekim says:

    The way “Old Timer” and “Headache” lecture Chinese about learning about history and nationalism is precious. Maybe the Olympics fever gets into your brains even though you do need your Africian “subjects” to win the gold for you. Call them British, don’t call them English, call me, maybe.

  27. arm bears says:

    Trying to figure out if it’s Japan or China that is in greater denial about the more murderous parts of their respective histories is a somewhat pointless exercise.

    Bottom line is that they both excel at killing Chinese civilians and both suck at winning wars.

  28. Walter De Havilland says:

    @Old Timer. The Americans did consider giving the Japanese a demonstration of the bomb, but with so few prototypes available and the logistics of setting it up, it was decided to go ‘operational.’ Further, a demonstration would have meant US soldiers continued to die without a certainty that Japan would surrender. Tough decision, but I think the right one.

  29. davy jones says:

    Hemlock – seems your post jarred a few people! But it was accurate historically.

    I’ve been to Japan many times and find the Japs in general fairly hospitable.

    Some show some disdain but the younger generation are quite accomadating.

    My own impression of the Japs is that how can you make an apology to inferior people?

    Have a good weekend.

  30. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Aghast

    By Gad you’re right !

    I thought that Okinawa was just off the southern tip of Japan but in fact it’s halfway to Taiwan

    No wonder the Yanks decided that invading Japan mainland was not an option when they had so much trouble with Okinawa

  31. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ PCC

    You are correct : the USA did only have 2 operational A-bombs at that time.

    Terrible choice to have to make, but given that Japan started the war I would have decided the same : it was either the bomb or millions more lives lost on both sides

    Tragic that in the 20th C we still behave like prehistoric barbarians

  32. rusty one says:

    @expat @davy jones

    Japan apologised in 1995: http://www.mofa.go.jp/announce/press/pm/murayama/9508.html

    “…and express here once again my feelings of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology.”

  33. Jonathan Stanley says:

    All we need now are the Ruskies to prod about in Sakhalin. Incidentally, we’re in the 21st Century (and 3rd Millennium), RTP.

  34. Walter De Havilland says:

    Enough … can I declare the weekend open!

  35. Headache says:

    ushekim, why presume (incorrectly) that I’m any of the nationalities cited anywhere here? Make a coherent point that isn’t nationalist or racist gibberish, or get lost. Almost everyone else here has had something intelligent to contribute. Happy weekend all.

  36. Alex says:

    You need to work on your photography skills.

  37. Joe Blow says:

    Walter de H ,,,,” This 95 year old almost jumped out of his wheelchair with joy when viewing the landing on the Diaoyutai Islands.”

    get a life, man.

  38. Jon Dica says:

    Reductio – re: finding Unit 731 in Japanese history curriculum. You are actually dead wrong. It’s in the books. Read up on Saburo Ienaga:


    “By the time of the final ruling, however, Ienaga and the tens of thousands of Japanese who joined him in his battle against the authorization process had been victorious in fact if not in law. The most widely used Japanese textbooks in the mid- and late-1990s contained references to the Nanjing Massacre, anti-Japanese resistance movements in Korea, forced suicide in Okinawa, comfort women, and Unit 731 (responsible for conducting medical experiments on prisoners of war)—all issues raised in Ienaga’s suits.”

  39. Tiu Fu Fong says:

    Each prefecture (or some sub-prefectural government area) selects its own textbooks, so you can find very different textbook treatments of WW2 in different parts of Japan. Whenever there is one of these Japanese textbook furores, it’s always about a prefecture’s choice, not a national-level decision. That always seems to get lost in the debate.

    That said, when a reminisce about my few trips to Japan, I always first recall the black van with the rising sun painted on the side and male Japanese paramilitaries in black standing on top and around it while one of their number ranted into a megaphone, probably about racial purity, the Senkoku or Takeshima islands or some such. I thought to myself “Yes – very disciplined racism, there”.

    I also recall visiting the Yasuniki (sp?) war shrine and seeing guys who apparently spend their weekends walking outside its grounds in WW2 uniforms. The war shrine itself is an adventure in revisionist history, particularly where they refer to the liberation of Nanjing, following which the inhabitants “were able to return to their lives in peace”. Fortunately they had a guest book and I was able to leave my thoughts – “You deserved to get nuked.” Somewhat crude, but appropriate in my view.

    In contrast to the Japanese more disciplined form of racism, Chinese culture is attracted to much more of a rabble-to-riot style of racism when it comes to taking to the streets, smashing up sushi stores and attacking the drivers of Japanese-made cars. As the economic slowdown continues and Beijing has to resort more and more to rousing the rabble against external enemies, the world will be treated to much video evidence of the Ugly Chinaman.

  40. Real Tax Payer says:

    @ Quality of Life

    Good news and good news


    1. CY is a marathon runner, not a sprinter. He never expected a honeymoon period ( good thing, because he sure did not get one ! ) and he didn’t really care what happened in his first few weeks / months. What he cares about is what he can accomplish in 5 years ( if you want a classic example of how to lose and win a marathon , watch a replay of the 2012 London Olympic marathon)

    2. A little bird told me that Christine Loh will join CY’s team in environment.

    Now there’s one helluva Gal who is “not for backing down” (or however Maggie phrased it – was it “not for moving” ? )

    Expect some fireworks stuck up some EPD asses before long, and good riddance to those who will suffer such treatment

    PS : I forget the exact CE-lection details, but as I recall, Christine Loh was never pro CY . But if CY can indeed get her on board then full marks to him. Why the F*&$ must everyone sit in separate political camps when what everyone really wants is make HK a better place to live in : cleaner air, lower rents, etc .

  41. Will.I.Am says:

    Yes, only matter of time until the silly tough talk turns to something far uglier. Hemmers isn’t the only one noting the mesmerizing effect that kicking Japs has on Chinese. Soon as the Chinese economy takes a turn for the ugly the tempttion to bamboozle everyone with bloodsports will be the most viable option. Israel and the United Socialist States lusting to get bloodied slaughtering Iranians… Asians with their islands siliness… impending economic catastrophe… and not a single real issue being addressed… It really is 1934 all over again. How awesome is that?

    “Humanity… You never had it to begin with.”

    Charles Bukowski

  42. Black Van Man says:

    You get mad nationalists everywhere. The similarities between Japan and Britain never cease to amaze in terms of history and traditions: stiff upper lip, or samurai. It’s all there. If you’re taken aback by street level Nippon nationalism pity you if you ever encounter Britain’s version

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