Hoppers and Gargoyles

As I’m currently in Japan, the tension between China and Japan is a hot issue at the moment. I was talking to Jo’s host father yesterday and he asked me what I thought about it, which made me realise I didn’t know much on the issue. So I decided to do some research using trusty wikipedia and the ABC news*, which I’m writing up so I remember it.
The problem (from China’s end) is, to quote Wu Dawei , John Taylor and AFP is that “The Japanese Government is unable to face and deal squarely with the issues of history arising from the invasion of China by Japanese militarists.” In short, Japan did bad things and hasn’t quite faced up to it.

During the second Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945) and the Second World War (1939-1945), the Imperialist Japanese forces commited several atrocities, such as the Nanjing, Sook-Ching and Manila massacres. During this time, over 15 million Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Indonesian, Burmese, Indochinese civilians, Pacific Islanders, and Allied POW were killed.

On August 6th, 1945, the US President, Harry S. Truman, gave the go ahead for the atomic bombing of Hiroshima (Nagasaki was bombed 3 days later), to force the “unconditional surrender” of Japan. It has been argued that Japan was essentially defeated already by this stage, however Japanese Military leaders were commited to “fighting a ‘decisive battle’ on Kyushu” (aka Operation Downfall). On August 15, Japan surrendered unconditionally.

Whether or not the use of the atomic bombs was ethical, a war crime, or the correct plan of action is still contested. International law at the time stated that the use of poisionous weapons (e.g. radiation poisioning), was prohibited and a war crime (with massive civilian casualties). However, the US got the desired result: they avoided an all out confrontation in Kyushu (of which the expected death toll was about 500,000) and quickly freed over 600,000 POW’s from concentration camps. For all you cynics – they also gave the soviet union a taste of US power and justified the 2 billion dollar Manhattan project.

The actions of the Japanese military cannot be justified, but can be partly explained by the bushido code which they subscribed to at the time. The Japanese Military believed it to be cowardly to surrender and that anyone who did so was cowardly and sub-human. This does not, however, excuse the actions that the military took (which we unfortunately see mirrored all too often throughout history).

So, the current situation stems from actions taken in the past by the Japanese Military. The ‘feather on the camel’s back’ was the white-washing of the events in Japanese textbooks, as well as Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the security council of the United Nations. The recent rallies in China are related to this. Now, Japan is demanding an apology for the violence in the rally which China doesn’t think they deserve. So there you go.

* Sorry to all of you 7, 9 and 10 watchers – but commercial news sucks – feel good dog stories, weather reports submitted by children, biased reporting (e.g. every Today Tonight story), incorrect information (e.g. Today Tonight on several occasions), and ad breaks are not good things.