Praise just courtesy: Japan's Nanking expert
JULIAN RYALL in Tokyo
Dark days: The Nanking Massacre, also known as "the Rape of Nanking", is
considered one of the worst examples of systematic slaughter of civilians
during the second world war. SCMP graphic
Nobukatsu Fujioka gives a little laugh as he dismisses the applause Premier
Wen Jiabao received after addressing the Japanese Diet as "just Japanese
"Politeness is part of our culture," said the professor of education at
Tokyo's Takushoku University.
Politeness does not stop the secretary-general of the Committee for the
Examination of the Facts About Nanking and his colleagues bridling at the
content of Mr Wen's speech.
"His speech was based on the basic assumption that only China is right and
at the very outset he mentioned that Japan initiated the war against China,
but history has proven that the Marco Polo Bridge incident was started by
the Chinese side," said Hiromichi Moteki, president of the Sekai Shuppan
publishing house and another member of the 13-strong committee.
"On one hand he calls for friendship and amity while at the same time saying
in his speech that Japan initiated a war of aggression. It is very
The committee was formally set up last month and grew out of a series of
symposiums which attracted professors, historians, writers and politicians
from both of the main parties, the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party and
the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. It aims to disseminate "correct
knowledge" about the "Nanking incident" of December 1937, particularly among
The committee believes teachers have misled them about issues such as the
Nanking Massacre, Unit 731 - the military biological warfare research unit
which experimented on prisoners in the Sino-Japanese war and second world
war - and the hundreds of thousands of Asian women forced into sexual
slavery for Japan's Imperial Armed Forces in the early decades of the 20th
century. To coincide with Mr Wen's visit to Japan, the committee sent a
letter requesting responses to questions concerning what it says are
discrepancies in the Chinese take on events of nearly 70 years ago.
They asked why Mao Zedong said in his book, On Protracted War, that "not
many were killed"; why massacres were not reported between December 1, 1937,
and the following October in 300 press conferences for foreign journalists
and diplomats; and why no authentic photos of the massacre have ever been
produced as proof. The committee concluded that the Nanking Massacre could
not have happened, and that by building a memorial museum in the city and
promoting the number of dead as 300,000, the Chinese were "undermining
"As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Nanking incident, various
organisations inside your country are said to have planned movie productions
about the Nanking Massacre, with many now under way," the letter to Mr Wen
stated. "We perceive these acts as an unbearable humiliation to us, who
really hope to be friendly with your country."
Professor Fujioka said chaos reigned within the walls of the city now called
Nanjing as the Japanese army began their attack. Chinese soldiers shot
deserters, and a mere 20,000 to 30,000 Chinese soldiers were killed in
clashes with the Japanese forces. He claimed "almost no civilians were
killed" and an official Chinese report only identified 26 cases of murder,
only one of which was witnessed by a named person. The remainder, he said,
were just hearsay.
Professor Fujioka hoped Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would be firm in
stating his opinions on the two countries' shared history when he visits
Beijing this year.
The Japanese committee's questions
1 How do you account for the fact Mao Zedong never mentioned the incident?
2 In more than 300 press briefings in 1937 and 1938, why didn't the
Kuomintang mention civilian deaths?
3 Why did an official Chinese book say Nanjing's population was 200,000
pre-occupation and 250,000 afterwards?
4 Why does the same book accuse Japanese soldiers of only 26 murders in the
5 Why do no authenticated photos exist of the massacre? Can China provide
6 If you suspect it occurred, can you objectively examine materials we
In the short term,
the deal struck in Beijing will play into the hands of China, North Korea's great power protector.
But China should not celebrate too soon. China, by isolating Japan, may reap what it sows if Japan gets nuclear weapons.
China is far from an impartial broker in these talks, as so many people seem to think. Operating on the basis of realpolitik, China seeks to regain its rightful status as hegemon of the Korean peninsula.
And even though relations between Beijing and Pyongyang have their nuances, North Korea serves China's interests simply by continuing to exist. North Korea's constant provocation serves,
for example, as a strategic distraction for the US.
Thus in the talks in Beijing, China has been sought to accommodate North Korea's interests, and help the US to leave the Korean peninsula.
Part of this strategy is to isolate Japan. The Bush administration has been vulnerable to this Chinese ploy because it is bent on getting a result,
any result, that will allow the Republicans to remove North Korea from the agenda in the 2008 presidential elections.
Yet the North Korean nuclear threat to Japan has grown steadily on Bush's watch.
Last year, Pyongyang ramped up its dangerous missile and nuclear brinkmanship, with missile tests in July and its first nuclear test in October.
But in response to ever greater North Korean provocation, the Bush administration has been doing exactly what it castigated the Clinton administration for doing: rewarding bad behaviour.
Why? Because the Bush administration is so weakened by the consequences of a botched occupation of Iraq
Worse, the US and China have joined forces to shove this dubious deal with North Korea down Japan's throat, and expect Japan to help pay for it.
The Chinese government has been rather hard on Japan
for some time, but
especially in recent months. Many Japanese consider the Chinese government
at least an accessory after the fact in the student attacks on the Japanese
Consulate in Shanghai. It is plain to see that the Chinese police aren't
overzealous in putting a stop to the vandalism of Japanese property.
More generally, the Japanese are getting tired of the Chinese government's
selective use of history. The Chinese government is demanding yet another
apology from the Japanese government for the Rape of Nanking and other
acts of Japanese brutality in China before and during World War II.
At the same time, it treats any reference to the more recent, and continuing,
Chinese brutality in Tibet as contrary to the rules of international discourse.
Since Tibet has been incorporated into China, what goes on there is an
internal matter, and foreigners have no right to discuss it.
Many Japanese have lost patience with this one-sided spirit of criticism.
Following is a Japanese comment on the question of relative culpability,
Japanese and Chinese.
Earlier, Ms Rice and her counterparts held talks on how the three countries could deal with issues such as China and tackle its growing military strength.
Ms Rice had voiced concerns that Beijing would become a "negative force" unless it was more open about its military build-up.
"Though there are difficulties... China and Japan also share a lot of interests," Ms Rice said in Sydney after meeting Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
"There is a lot to work with in the Japan-China relationship and we've encouraged that relationship to get better and better," she said.
Australia has argued the meeting should not be seen as a bid to "contain" China but at ensuring a working relationship.
"China, as it's a growing power, as it's an emerging power in the region, is a country that needs to understand that brings a level of responsibilities," Foreign Minister Downer said.