The East Asian History Book

(Xinhua)  East Asia history book aims to set facts right.  June 10.

Scholars and publishers from China, Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) yesterday unveiled the Chinese edition of "The Contemporary and Modern History of Three East Asian Countries", a book that aims to set the record straight about what happened in, and between, the three neighbouring countries.


Masahi Umeda, a representative of Kohbunken Co, publisher of the Japanese edition, mentioned that, in his country, some suspected it was never possible for historians of the three countries to reach a consensus about historical facts and the interpretations of them. "We have proved to them that it is possible."

The writers and publishers acknowledged that there were "fierce disputes" during the writing process, but everyone showed respect for the facts.

"When there were diverse versions, we would give the different sources," said Bu Ping, deputy director of the Institute of Modern History under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Notwithstanding the publishers' claim that this book is not meant to be a rebuttal of the Japanese school textbook published by the Japanese Society for Textbook Reform, the immediate questions has to be a comparison of those two books on a number of issues that are affecting current Sino-Japanese relationship (see Japanese History Textbooks (2005 edition) and That Japanese History Textbook: 2001 vs. 2005.

First up, the East Asian history book covers the subjects of the "Comfort Women," the Huagang slave labor uprising and the Japanese biological warfare Unit 731, but the Japanese Society for Textbook Reform does not.

Here are the three major historical episodes, as compared by Nanfang Daily and translated here:

East Asian book Japanese Society for Textbook Reform
The Nanjing Massacre:
Two numbers were cited: '340,000' and 'more than 200,000.'  On page 131, "According to the investigation by the Chinese military court during the trial of Japanese war criminals in Nanjing, more than 190,000 were executed en masse and their bodies were disposed of by the Japanese military; 150,000 more were executed in isolated incidents and their bodies were buried by charity organizations in Nanjing.
Bu Ping explained: During the editing process, there was a debate between the Chinese and Japanese scholars.  On the matter of the Nanjing massacre, there are many schools of thought in Japan: the "massacre" supporters, the "hoax" supporters and the "small number" supporters.  The "massacre" supporters believe that Japan engaged in a massacre in Nanjing, and one of them is an editor of this book and he cites a figure of 200,000 for which he has been pilloried by right-winger elements in Japan.  The textbook used the figure cited in the Nanjing war crime trials of 190,000 + 150,000 = 340,000, and it also cited the "more than 200,000" figure from the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.
The Nanjing Incident:
"The Japanese army thought that if they occupied the Kuomintang capital of Nanjing, then Chiang Kai-shek would surrender.  In December, Nanjing was occupied, but Chiang Kai-shek merely moved his capital to Chongqing in the interior and continued the war of resistance."

There is a footnote:
"During the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, the verdict was that the Japanese military killed many Chinese people during the occupation of Nanjing in 1937 (The Nanjing incident).  But there are still doubts about the facts related to the true situation of this incident, and the various interpretations are still being debated today.

The Marco Polo Bridge incident:
"On the night of July 7, 1937, the Japanese military provoked the Marco Polo Bridge incident on the outskirts of Beijing.  Japan used the excuse that this incident was initiated by Chinese soldiers shooting at them, and sent large numbers of trrops into China to seize northern China.

The Chinese editor said: "On the meeting about the final draft, I found out that the text contained the description: 'On July 7, 1937, gunshots rang out at the Marco Polo Bridge and war began.'  I disagreed as a matter of principle, since it was very important to indicate just who fired the first shot that triggered the war."

The Marco Polo Bridge Incident:
On July 7, 1937, unknown persons fired at Japanese soldiers who were taking part in military exercises near the Marco Polo Bridge on the outside of Beijing.  This was the spark, and the Chinese army continued shooting the next morning and a state of war came into being (The Marco Polo Bridge incident). 
The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal:
On page 186-189, the process and inadequacies of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal was described, with doubts about its thoroughness.  There was also an analysis about the contradiction between the victims in Asian countries saying "No compensation has been received" versus the Japanese government saying "The compensation problems have been totally resolved."
The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal:
It was an unprecedented legal step for the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal punish the leaders of a country.  Even today, there is not yet any final opinion about the Tokyo war crime trials.  The broad propaganda about the illegality of the Japanese war effort affected the historical viewpoints of post-war Japanese people.

(6Park)  Bu Ping: "Most people are concerned about how this new book will position the major problems such as the Nanjing massacre.  Basically, we didn't have any disagreement among us, for we all believe that the Japanese invaders conducted a brutal massacre in Nanjing.  The most important thing is the historical viewpoint.  The problem with the revisionist Japanese history textbook is not just the eight or ten things that the media pointed out are wrong.  The real problem is that its historical viewpoint is wrong, because it assumes the position of the sacred national history that the Japanese invasion was normal and execellent.  If the overall historical viewpoint is wrong, then everything within it is wrong."

However, you should not think for one moment that this is the definitive history by any means.  This book was made possible only because it was the collaborative effort of like-minded groups of people from different countries.  If instead the Japanese Society for Textbook Reform was invited as the Japanese partner, nothing would have been accomplished because their overall viewpoint is so different.  Let me say that I would have been interested if the Japanese Society for Textbook Reform had gotten together with the Taiwan Solidarity Union to come up with a Japan-Taiwan history!

Related LinkA Joint Approach to History  Danwei.