The Roots of Anti-Japanese Feelings in China

I am not going to claim that I know all the answers, but my perspectives here do veer somewhat away from some convention wisdom.

First of all, I assert that the scope of anti-Japanese sentiments cannot be explained away simply as Chinese government manipulation.  There are other historical situations in which Chinese people have suffered horrendously at the hands of foreigners.  For example, if the Chinese government wanted to push the issue of Southeast Asians (such as Indonesians, Malaysians, Vietnamese, Cambodians and Filipinos) persecuting persons of Chinese descent, it is doubtful that they will collect 25 million signatures at such a short call, or muster tens of thousands of people into the streets.  Objectively, in those many incidents in Southeast Asia, often with the connivance of the local governments at the time, hundreds of thousands of Chinese perished; and you should be grateful that the detailed color photos of those incidents are not in wide circulation because you will probably retch at the sight (note: I certainly retched at the sight of women being gang-raped, gutted and skinned).  No, the anti-Japanese sentiments are a mass phenomenon in China, irrespective of the government, and you can find those sentiments in abundance in the relatively open-minded Hong Kong.  So what is the deal?

Next, I am going to propose here that the incendiary point is historical revisionism.  Thus, this is not as simple as a one-time-only historical era in which crimes against humanity were committed.  The anger is about the concerted attempt over time to revise the historical record of that era.  Here, I am going to very specific with a strategic analysis of historical revisionism.

What is the goal here for the Japanese revisionists?  To revise the official history of Japan in the first half of the 20th century from the defeatist version to one in which the Japanese people can feel proud and noble about their objectives and accomplishments during that period.  That is the overriding goal, and the rest is just tactics.

This stated goal was probably adopted by the revisionists immediately after the war.  They have always tried to revise textbooks to reflect their viewpoints.  For example, I was reading the books of Yung Chingching during my flight from Hong Kong to New York City, when she recounted how she began writing the first of her innumerable short essays:

My writing follows my heart.  I published my first essay in a newspaper when I was fourteen (note: that was in 1978).  I still have a copy of that newspaper.  My essay was titled "The Hypocritical Japanese" in which I criticized the Japanese for revising their textbooks.  [Interesting aside: "My second essay was titled "I Am Not Laughing" to criticize Disneyland.  Twenty plus years ago, in the "It's A Small World" tour, there was an exhibition of the singing children around the world in their native costumes.  But the representative from China was the only one who couldn't sing: this was a poor peasant with slit-like eyes perched on top of a water buffalo.  That was why amidst all the happiness, a Chinese person such as I could not smile."]

If historical revisionism has always been around, then why is there an apparent rise in anti-Japanese sentiments among the Chinese today.  That is because the Japanese revisionists have finally figured out a way to push their agenda through.  If they used to be an embarrassing bunch of kooks thirty or forty years ago, they are now using the contemporary art of issue-based triangulation to their advantage.  If they needed a casebook paradigm to follow, they only have to look at the teaching of Intelligent Design (ID) in American schools as a 'scientific' theory on the same basis as Darwinian evolution.  ID is marketed in the same way in the United States (see the WaPo article further down this page).

Here is the simplest two-step approach.  

Step one, go and attack the conventional wisdom on purely academic grounds, as opposed to appeals based upon emotional patriotism.  Thus, the major events during that historical era are dissected:

Example: The Nanjing massacre?  Who witnessed it?  The most reliable witnesses were a few foreigners.  Did these people count the bodies?  Or were they just guess-estimating?  Did this missionary really see 1,000 dead bodies in his district, or was he relying on second-hand reports?  Where were all the bodies buried?  The witnesses are attacked on evidentiary grounds, and uncertainty is injected.  If we don't know for sure whether 300,000 or 20,000 or whatever died for who knows what causes, then this should not be called a massacre.  All we can say is that 'experts' are in disagreement about happened.  The only thing for certain was that order was restored by the Japanese Imperial Army afterwards, and that we know is a good thing.

Example: The "comfort women"?  Were all of them forced into sex slavery?  Well, apparently, some "comfort women" actually "voluntarily" went into service because they could earn a better living than staying home.  The Japanese military's paper trail does not identify who is who.  Was the ratio 20%-80% or 80%-20%?  Nobody knows, so any surviving "comfort women" today may just be a willing participant back then.  Therefore, the "comfort women" phenomenon may just be a matter of exaggeration.  All we can say is that the 'experts' are in disagreement.

These messages are delivered relentlessly by a group of 'scholars' who will write letters, go on talk shows, attend conferences and publish journal articles and books so as to create an impression of genuine intellectual disagreement about the facts and their interpretation.

Step two, commission your own history text book that reflects the revisionist viewpoints.  But you should remember that the ultimate objective is to revise history, and you don't need to own 100% of the history book market for this.  By staking yourself out on the extreme right, you are subtly forcing the other major publishers to move towards you, especially with the uncertainty that you have injected in Step One.  This is playing the 'fair and balanced' card.

For supporting evidence, there is Kyodo News:

While some of the eight history textbooks approved in the latest round of ministry screenings mentioned wartime sex slaves in simplified terms, most avoided going into detail and none used the term ''comfort women'' where some had done in the past.  In previous screenings in 2001, three of eight history textbooks used either ''comfort women'' or ''comfort facilities.'' This time, only one publisher's textbook had the term ''comfort facilities.''  One of the textbooks referred to wartime sex slavery by simply saying, ''Young women from Korea and other parts of Asia were assembled and sent to the battlefield for Japanese soldiers.''  All textbooks used in the 1997-2001 school years made reference to ''comfort women,'' or women, mostly from Asia, who were forced to work as prostitutes or sex slaves for the Japanese military. 

As for the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China, with the exception of one textbook that says the number of victims ''is said to be as many as 200,000,'' all the textbooks gave no specific numbers, saying only that ''many'' were killed.  Prior to the previous screening in 2001, six of seven history textbooks gave specific figures.

It is true that the textbook offered by Japan's Society for History Textbook Reform in 2001 was adopted by only 0.039% of the schools, and the 2005 edition will probably not do very well either.  But just look at what is happening to the other books!  And how far will the books move the next time?  They disappeared the Unit 731 bacterial weapons division in 2001; in 2005, they disappeared the "comfort women" too; what next?  How long before every history book in Japan say that the whole war was about liberating the "Asian nations from the western imperialists"?  If you believe that this is a non-issue due to the low adoption rate of one textbook, then you are quite wrong about the real intent and the practical results.

Via PeaceHall, Hong Kong's Apple Daily obtained copies of the eight history textbooks from the Japanese consulted and summarized the portion on the Nanking massacre:

Meanwhile, what do you think that the Chinese people ought to think?  For half a century, this was not necessarily a major issue and they have plenty more problems of their own.  Their common heritage does include a heavy dosage about The Eight Years War of Resistance against the Japanese; if you live in Hong Kong, it was the nightmare known as Three Years And Eight Months.  There were occasional flare-ups about territorial disputes (namely, the Diaoyu Islets) to remind them of the resurgence of Japanese militarism.  But it is within the last decade that the Chinese can observe a rapid and organized attempt to rewrite Sino-Japanese history.  Should the Chinese react vociferously about the downgrade of the Nanjing massacre to the Nanjing incident, and the total disappearing of Unit 731 and "comfort women"?  Or should they just "get over it" and have the Japanese tell them to be thankful for the war that was waged to "liberate the Asian countries from the western imperialists"?

Additional Reading:  The Textbook Feedback Loop and Masochistic History by Muninn.

(Washington Post)  Battle on Teaching Evolution Sharpens.  By Peter Sleven.  March 14, 2005.

Propelled by a polished strategy crafted by activists on America's political right, a battle is intensifying across the nation over how students are taught about the origins of life. Policymakers in 19 states are weighing proposals that question the science of evolution.

The proposals typically stop short of overturning evolution or introducing biblical accounts. Instead, they are calculated pleas to teach what advocates consider gaps in long-accepted Darwinian theory, with many relying on the idea of intelligent design, which posits the central role of a creator. 

The growing trend has alarmed scientists and educators who consider it a masked effort to replace science with theology. But 80 years after the Scopes "monkey" trial -- in which a Tennessee man was prosecuted for violating state law by teaching evolution -- it is the anti-evolutionary scientists and Christian activists who say they are the ones being persecuted, by a liberal establishment.

They are acting now because they feel emboldened by the country's conservative currents and by President Bush, who angered many scientists and teachers by declaring that the jury is still out on evolution. Sharing strong convictions, deep pockets and impressive political credentials -- if not always the same goals -- the activists are building a sizable network.

In Seattle, the nonprofit Discovery Institute spends more than $1 million a year for research, polls and media pieces supporting intelligent design. In Fort Lauderdale, Christian evangelist James Kennedy established a Creation Studies Institute. In Virginia, Liberty University is sponsoring the Creation Mega Conference with a Kentucky group called Answers in Genesis, which raised $9 million in 2003.

At the state and local level, from South Carolina to California, these advocates are using lawsuits and school board debates to counter evolutionary theory. Alabama and Georgia legislators recently introduced bills to allow teachers to challenge evolutionary theory in the classroom. Ohio, Minnesota, New Mexico and Ohio have approved new rules allowing that. And a school board member in a Tennessee county wants stickers pasted on textbooks that say evolution remains unproven.

A prominent effort is underway in Kansas, where the state Board of Education intends to revise teaching standards. That would be progress, Southern Baptist minister Terry Fox said, because "most people in Kansas don't think we came from monkeys."

The movement is "steadily growing," said Eugenie C. Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, which defends the teaching of evolution. "The energy level is new. The religious right has had an effect nationally. Now, by golly, they want to call in the chits."

Polls show that a large majority of Americans believe God alone created man or had a guiding hand. Advocates invoke the First Amendment and say the current campaigns are partly about respect for those beliefs.

"It's an academic freedom proposal. What we would like to foment is a civil discussion about science. That falls right down the middle of the fairway of American pluralism," said the Discovery Institute's Stephen C. Meyer, who believes evolution alone cannot explain life's unfurling. "We are interested in seeing that spread state by state across the country."

Some evolution opponents are trying to use Bush's No Child Left Behind law, saying it creates an opening for states to set new teaching standards. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a Christian who draws on Discovery Institute material, drafted language accompanying the law that said students should be exposed to "the full range of scientific views that exist."

"Anyone who expresses anything other than the dominant worldview is shunned and booted from the academy," Santorum said in an interview. "My reading of the science is there's a legitimate debate. My feeling is let the debate be had."

Although the new strategy speaks of "teaching the controversy" over evolution, opponents insist the controversy is not scientific, but political. They paint the approach as a disarming subterfuge designed to undermine solid evidence that all living things share a common ancestry.

"The movement is a veneer over a certain theological message. Every one of these groups is now actively engaged in trying to undercut sound science education by criticizing evolution," said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "It is all based on their religious ideology. Even the people who don't specifically mention religion are hard-pressed with a straight face to say who the intelligent designer is if it's not God."

Although many backers of intelligent design oppose the biblical account that God created the world in six days, the Christian right is increasingly mobilized, Baylor University scholar Barry G. Hankins said. He noted the recent hiring by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary of Discovery Institute scholar and prominent intelligent design proponent William A. Dembski.

The seminary said the move, along with the creation of a Center for Science and Theology, was central to developing a "comprehensive Christian worldview."

"As the Christian right has success on a variety of issues, it emboldens them to expand their agenda," Hankins said. "When they have losses . . . it gives them fuel for their fire."

The efforts are not limited to schools. From offices overlooking Puget Sound, Meyer is waging a careful campaign to change the way Americans think about the natural world. The Discovery Institute devotes about 85 percent of its budget to funding scientists, with other money going to public action campaigns.

Discovery Institute raised money for "Unlocking the Mystery of Life," a DVD produced by Illustra Media and shown on PBS stations in major markets. The institute has sponsored opinion polls and underwrites research for books sold in secular and Christian bookstores. Its newest project is to establish a science laboratory.

Meyer said the institute accepts money from such wealthy conservatives as Howard Ahmanson Jr., who once said his goal is "the total integration of biblical law into our lives," and the Maclellan Foundation, which commits itself to "the infallibility of the Scripture."

"We'll take money from anyone who wants to give it to us," Meyer said. "Everyone has motives. Let's acknowledge that and get on with the interesting part."

Meyer said he and Discovery Institute President Bruce Chapman devised the compromise strategy in March 2002 when they realized a dispute over intelligent design was complicating efforts to challenge evolution in the classroom. They settled on the current approach that stresses open debate and evolution's ostensible weakness, but does not require students to study design.

The idea was to sow doubt about Darwin and buy time for the 40-plus scientists affiliated with the institute to perfect the theory, Meyer said. Also, by deferring a debate about whether God was the intelligent designer, the strategy avoids the defeats suffered by creationists who tried to oust evolution from the classroom and ran afoul of the Constitution.

"Our goal is to not remove evolution. Good lord, it's incredible how much this is misunderstood," said William Harris, a professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City medical school. "Kids need to understand it, but they need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the data, how much of it is a guess, how much of it is extrapolation."

Harris does not favor teaching intelligent design, although he believes there is more to the story than evolution.

"To say God did not play a role is arrogant," Harris said. "It's far beyond the data."

Harris teamed up with John H. Calvert, a retired corporate lawyer who calls the debate over the origins of life "the most fundamental issue facing the culture." They formed Intelligent Design Network Inc., which draws interested legislators and activists to an annual Darwin, Design and Democracy conference.

The 2001 conference presented its Wedge of Truth award to members of the 1999 Kansas Board of Education that played down evolution and allowed local boards to decide what students would learn. A board elected in 2001 overturned that decision, but a fresh batch of conservatives won office in November, when Bush swamped his Democratic opponent, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), here by 62 to 37 percent.

"The thing that excites me is we really are in a revolution of scientific thought," Calvert said. He described offering advice in such places as Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Cobb County, Ga., where a federal court recently halted an attempt to affix a sticker to science textbooks saying evolution is theory, not fact.

Despite some disagreement, Calvert, Harris and the Discovery Institute collectively favor efforts to change state teaching standards. Bypassing the work of a 26-member science standards committee that rejected revisions, the Kansas board's conservative majority recently announced a series of "scientific hearings" to discuss evolution and its critics.

The board's chairman, Steve Abrams, said he is seeking space for students to "critically analyze" the evidence.

That approach appeals to Cindy Duckett, a Wichita mother who believes public school leaves many religious children feeling shut out. Teaching doubts about evolution, she said, is "more inclusive. I think the more options, the better."

"If students only have one thing to consider, one option, that's really more brainwashing," said Duckett, who sent her children to Christian schools because of her frustration. Students should be exposed to the Big Bang, evolution, intelligent design "and, beyond that, any other belief that a kid in class has. It should all be okay."

Fox -- pastor of the largest Southern Baptist church in the Midwest, drawing 6,000 worshipers a week to his Wichita church -- said the compromise is an important tactic. "The strategy this time is not to go for the whole enchilada. We're trying to be a little more subtle," he said.

To fundamentalist Christians, Fox said, the fight to teach God's role in creation is becoming the essential front in America's culture war. The issue is on the agenda at every meeting of pastors he attends. If evolution's boosters can be forced to back down, he said, the Christian right's agenda will advance.

"If you believe God created that baby, it makes it a whole lot harder to get rid of that baby," Fox said. "If you can cause enough doubt on evolution, liberalism will die."

Like Meyer, Fox is glad to make common cause with people who do not entirely agree.

"Creationism's going to be our big battle. We're hoping that Kansas will be the model, and we're in it for the long haul," Fox said. He added that it does not matter "who gets the credit, as long as we win." 

(New York Times)  Design for Confusion.  By Paul Krugman.  August 5, 2005.

I'd like to nominate Irving Kristol, the neoconservative former editor of The Public Interest, as the father of "intelligent design." No, he didn't play any role in developing the doctrine. But he is the father of the political strategy that lies behind the intelligent design movement - a strategy that has been used with great success by the economic right and has now been adopted by the religious right.

Back in 1978 Mr. Kristol urged corporations to make "philanthropic contributions to scholars and institutions who are likely to advocate preservation of a strong private sector." That was delicately worded, but the clear implication was that corporations that didn't like the results of academic research, however valid, should support people willing to say something more to their liking.

Mr. Kristol led by example, using The Public Interest to promote supply-side economics, a doctrine whose central claim - that tax cuts have such miraculous positive effects on the economy that they pay for themselves - has never been backed by evidence. He would later concede, or perhaps boast, that he had a "cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit."

"Political effectiveness was the priority," he wrote in 1995, "not the accounting deficiencies of government."

Corporations followed his lead, pouring a steady stream of money into think tanks that created a sort of parallel intellectual universe, a world of "scholars" whose careers are based on toeing an ideological line, rather than on doing research that stands up to scrutiny by their peers.

You might have thought that a strategy of creating doubt about inconvenient research results could work only in soft fields like economics. But it turns out that the strategy works equally well when deployed against the hard sciences.

The most spectacular example is the campaign to discredit research on global warming. Despite an overwhelming scientific consensus, many people have the impression that the issue is still unresolved. This impression reflects the assiduous work of conservative think tanks, which produce and promote skeptical reports that look like peer-reviewed research, but aren't. And behind it all lies lavish financing from the energy industry, especially ExxonMobil.

There are several reasons why fake research is so effective. One is that nonscientists sometimes find it hard to tell the difference between research and advocacy - if it's got numbers and charts in it, doesn't that make it science?

Even when reporters do know the difference, the conventions of he-said-she-said journalism get in the way of conveying that knowledge to readers. I once joked that if President Bush said that the Earth was flat, the headlines of news articles would read, "Opinions Differ on Shape of the Earth." The headlines on many articles about the intelligent design controversy come pretty close.

Finally, the self-policing nature of science - scientific truth is determined by peer review, not public opinion - can be exploited by skilled purveyors of cultural resentment. Do virtually all biologists agree that Darwin was right? Well, that just shows that they're elitists who think they're smarter than the rest of us.

Which brings us, finally, to intelligent design. Some of America's most powerful politicians have a deep hatred for Darwinism. Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, blamed the theory of evolution for the Columbine school shootings. But sheer political power hasn't been enough to get creationism into the school curriculum. The theory of evolution has overwhelming scientific support, and the country isn't ready - yet - to teach religious doctrine in public schools.

But what if creationists do to evolutionary theory what corporate interests did to global warming: create a widespread impression that the scientific consensus has shaky foundations?

Creationists failed when they pretended to be engaged in science, not religious indoctrination: "creation science" was too crude to fool anyone. But intelligent design, which spreads doubt about evolution without being too overtly religious, may succeed where creation science failed.

The important thing to remember is that like supply-side economics or global-warming skepticism, intelligent design doesn't have to attract significant support from actual researchers to be effective. All it has to do is create confusion, to make it seem as if there really is a controversy about the validity of evolutionary theory. That, together with the political muscle of the religious right, may be enough to start a process that ends with banishing Darwin from the classroom. 

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