More on the Japanese History Books

At New Century Net, Chinese blogger Anti has an essay about the Sino-Japanese dispute over the history textbooks.  While there is not necessarily any new ground, this essay is noteworthy for the primary research.  This is impressive because I certainly had no clue that these materials were published before.  

For example, the introduction and Chapters 4 and 5 of the 2001 edition of the textbook from the Society for History Textbook Reform have been translated into Chinese and published in an academic journal in Taiwan.  As another example, there is an article titled <<The Analysis of the Problem of the Japanese History Textbooks, 1947-2002>> that summarized the beginning and evolution of the entire issue.  Anti states: it is difficult to see how a reporter can talk about the textbooks without understanding this history. 

I am not going to translate Anti's entire essay, so I'll just highlight some points.  First of all, Anti also caught on to the point about the deeper implications behind the 1%< adoption.  Here he is reacting to someone's comment to the effect "this textbook is used by only a few people and this is therefore not a problem; the Japanese educators tend to be leftists and therefore the rightwing textbooks have no market."  Anti objects on three points:

First, the commenter completely failed to understand the new conservative movement in Japan in his discussion of left vs. right.  The people at the Society for History Textbook Reform are in fact mostly leftists.  These people actually do not accept the historical vision of the imperialist army; rather, they believe that Japan should come out of the American protective umbrella and seek its own national identity.  Anti offers a link to an article by a Beijing University professor on how the Japanese left and right collaborated to revise history.

Second, the 1%< adoption rate was for the 2001 edition.  This summer, the new adoption battle for the 2005 edition will be a tough one. The Society for History Textbook Reform has a goal of 10% and Anti believes that they will come close.  What has changed is that many counties in Japan have turned over the authority to choose textbooks from their educational committees to their assemblies, and so politics is now a prominent factor.  There is a strong supporter for this textbook in the Tokyo Prefecture too.

Third, the more important thing is not about this particular textbook.  Rather, it is the impact on the other seven textbooks, both in terms of their contents as well as adoption rates.  Many school and county educational committees do not want controversies; so they will not use the School for Historical Textbook Reform version nor will they use the more historically accurate ones either.  Rather, they will choose something in between the two.  Anti offers a link to an article by a Chinese social researcher on the details of the other seven textbooks.  To consider solely this one textbook is to understate the significance of the matter.  [This is the point that I made in The Falsification of History in China].

Reading the introduction and Chapters 4 and 5 of the translated 2001 textbook, Anti has these thoughts:

The basic logic is this: China and other Asian countries were colonized by the western powers.  Based upon a sympathy for its Asian neighbors, Japan helped China and other Asian countries to resist the western powers.  In truth, Japan helped Indonesian and other countries achieved their glorious dreams of independence.  As for China, due to the rogue actions of the Japanese Kantogun army and the intrasigence of the Chinese government to cooperate with this vision, things got out of hand and Japan was forced to go to war with China.  Later on, the Communists extended the war for its own purposes.  Thus, Japan was trapped in the quagmire of war without even knowing why it was fighting.

To a Chinese, this is absurd.  For example, the textbook says "The Chinese Communist Party saw that the Sino-Japanese War was a good opportunity to seize power, and therefore caused the war to go on longer."  Why does that mean?  Should the Chinese people made the war shorter (meaning that the Japanese can spend less time and effort to occupy China)?  This is like saying: That ugly woman refused to cooperate so we spent so much time and effort trying to rape her, even to the point of forgetting why we want to do this.  So maybe the Chinese Communists did grow as a result of the Sino-Japanese War, but the warmongers should not be acting innocent.

But it was the discussion about the responsibility about the war that was most intolerable.  The author defined "massacre" as "the destructive behavior against a people who is not at war."  Since China and Japan were at war, therefore what Japan did to China was not 'massacring.'  And then "over history, every country has killed and maimed unarmed citizens, and Japan is no exception."  Japan is also a victim of the war, as the Russians killed many of its civilians when they invaded and the Americans killed many Japanese by bombing.  Although Japan was allied with Germany, its had helped at least 6,000 Jews escape from Europe.

One sentence to sum it up:  I fuck his mother! (我操他妈!)

From the Society for Historical Textbook Reform book, we have seen what constitutes shameless logic.  Actually, this is good because I hope people can look within themselves and think about what historical truth is.  Perhaps then we can have some genuine Chinese historical research and news reporting.  My worst fear is for the Chinese to come up with an even more shameless logic: "Since the Japanese are shameless, we are right in being shameless ourselves.  Since the Japanese are publishing textbooks that contain lies favorable to themselves, we ought to demonize Japan even more in our textbooks."  This is the spirit of "if someone else eats shit, we'll eat shit too."  This eating-shit context can only send China into a bottomless pit.

That does not mean that Anti is correct on all of his premises.  He wrote: "In the western democratic countries, the history textbooks used in elementary and secondary textbooks are completely independently chosen by the schools themselves without being evaluated by any national bureau."  Obviously, Anti has never heard of the Texas School Board or the whole creationism vs. evolution controversy (which I argue in The Roots of Anti-Japanese Feelings in China is fought in a very similar manner).

Anti's bottom line is that the government of China is in an awkward position to be protesting historical revisionism, since they are the masters themselves.  However, if the people of China feel angry, they can protest for themselves.  But the protest should not be directed against either the Japanese government or the Japanese people.  Rather, it will be a demand for a genuinely independent and trustworthy assessment of the Sino-Japanese war.  It will be a demand made together with those Japanese who are also interested in finding these truths.  The outcome will be a common history, instead of the Society for Historical Textbook Reform version opposing the Chinese Communist Party version.

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