China steps up appeal to West in Japan propaganda battle

Paramilitary policemen hoist a Chinese national flag during a memorial ceremony on the 82nd anniversary of Japan's invasion of China at the September 18 Museum in Shenyang, Liaoning province, September 18, 2013

Paramilitary policemen hoist a Chinese national flag during a memorial ceremony on the 82nd anniversary of Japan’s invasion of China at the September 18 Museum in Shenyang, Liaoning province, September 18, 2013

Reuters says in its report today that China is stepping up its propaganda against Japan in the West. The following is the full text of its report:

China took reporters on Thursday on an unusual trip to a camp which housed Western prisoners of the Japanese in World War Two, a further sign of Beijing broadening efforts to drive a wedge between the West and Japan over its wartime past.

The visit comes as tensions between Asia’s two largest economies rise to a fever pitch, and China works to convince the world of its viewpoint that Japan’s war-era militarism is directly linked to its current military buildup.

China’s ties with Japan have long been poisoned by what Beijing sees as Tokyo’s failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China before and during World War Two.

China consistently reminds its people of Japan’s historical brutality, such as the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in which China says Japanese troops killed 300,000 people in the then national capital.

A postwar Allied tribunal put the death toll at 142,000, but some conservative Japanese politicians and scholars deny a massacre took place.

Beijing is now stepping up efforts to take its message to the West, especially aimed at the United States, Britain and other Western nations who fought with China against Japan.

At the former prisoner of war camp outside the industrial northeastern city of Shenyang, reporters were shown graphic images of the terrible conditions endured by some 2,000 prisoners from the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

“Life was extremely difficult for the prisoners in the camp. Food was an extremely precious thing. It was almost impossible to have contact with them as a Chinese person,” said Li Lishui, 89, the last of a group of Chinese who helped the prisoners by passing them food.

Li proudly showed off a certificate of appreciation given him by the U.S. State Department in 2005 for his efforts.

He added it was important people understood what was happening now in Japan, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has upped military spending and is contemplating stretching the limits of the pacifist constitution amid an ugly territorial spat in the East China Sea.

“The way the Japanese think about the East China Sea now is like how they thought about northeast China. They didn’t stop at the northeast, they kept heading south to Shanghai and even Southeast Asia,” Li said.

Abe elicited harsh criticism from China last month when he visited the Yasukuni Shrine, where Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals are honored along with war dead. China and South Korea see the shrine as a symbol of Japan’s militaristic past, and visits there by Japanese leaders have strained relations.

Deteriorating relations between Beijing and Tokyo have been fuelled by a row over a chain of disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese. Ships from both countries frequently shadow each other around the islets, raising fears of a clash.

Shenyang – known for its coal mines and harsh winters – is particularly significant to the Chinese because of its role in Japan’s wartime occupation.

Japanese troops attacked Chinese military barracks in Shenyang in 1931 – the start of the Japanese occupation of large parts of China that only ended with the close of World War Two.

China has also been using its foreign ambassadors to spread the message about the perceived Japanese threat.

Earlier this month, China’s ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming wrote an editorial in The Telegraph newspaper comparing Japan’s militarism to Voldemort, the infamous villain the popular Harry Potter series of children’s books.

Liu reminded his British readers that Britain and China were allies during the war, and referred to the new movie, “The Railway Man”, starring Hollywood actors Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth, a harrowing tale of Western prisoners of war forced by Japan to build the Burma railway during the war.

Japan has not stood idly by, with its ambassador to London writing in the same newspaper that it was China who was like Voldemort. Tokyo has also announced plans to take Beijing-based foreign reporters to visit Japan to explain its point of view.

Japan points to China’s actions, such as setting up an air defense identification zone in the East China Sea and its aggressive moves in the South China Sea, as evidence Beijing is acting aggressively.

Sun Cheng, a professor of Chinese-Japanese relations at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, said Beijing was breaking new ground in taking its warnings about Japan directly to the English-speaking world.

“Japan is viewed in the West as a democracy which should have the support of the United States, Britain and others,” he added. “But Japan is changing and we need to pay attention to this and … reminding the world about its past is understandable.”

I still remember that when China attacked Vietnam in 1979, Deng Xiaoping visited the United States and hinted that Vietnam had to be punished and Chinese leaders and diplomats were busy accusing Vietnam in the world. What China is doing now is somewhat similar to what it did before the Sino-Vietnamese War.

Taking into account of the much talked-about war in 2014 between China and Japan among Chinese people for revenge of China’s defeat 120 years ago in the first Sino-Japanese War, the war may become a reality, but it will be a limited one like the Sino-Vietnamese war.

Most Chinese people want such a war, but Chinese leaders should be much more sobre. However, as the war may help Xi Jinping establish his position as the paramount leader (see my post yesterday “War with Japan instead of Philippines Helps Xi Jinping Become Paramount Leader”), Chinese reformist leaders may also vigorously support Xi in starting the war.

In my post “Chinese Attack of Zhongye Island Seems Unavoidable but Is Not Inevitable” on January 14, I said the cost of the battle to seize Zhongye Island back from the Philippines may be too heavy if it is too harmful to Sino-US and Sino-ASEAN relations. However, establishment of Xi Jinping’s position as paramount leader is much more important for the success of Xi’s ambitious reform.

If China really wants to attack Japan for control of the Diaoyus, it will first seize Zhongye Island to test the US response. If the US response is too serious, China may give up its plan to attack Japan. Otherwise, it will establish an air base on Zhongye Island to control the South China Sea and thus divert some US aircraft and warships to the area near the Philippines to reduce US force in the area near Japan.

Meanwhile, China will step up production and development of weapons for the war. If the US and its allies are clearly aware of the danger of the war, they will conduct intensive diplomatic activities to bring China and Japan to the negotiation table in order to prevent the war.

Source: Reuters – China steps up appeal to West in Japan propaganda battle
 


Categories: Politics & Law

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15 replies

  1. Nice post. This situation is just going to continue to deteriorate. One of my best friends in China believes that war with Japan in inevitable…and while he wishes it would not happen, he said that the simple fact that 99% of the population of China would be thrilled with war (to atone for what happened in WWII), and these 99% are passionate in their ‘hate’ for Japan…and the China government is walking this tightrope where it needs to appease its population. It all leads down this one, very scary path.

    The danger is apparent, and I am more of the mind that the US and China work very closely on such issues (important for both countries)…but any further slip in the economy or deeper unrest in China and this scenario becomes more real.

    Very good writing. I agree with your thoughts about China aggression toward the SE Asia territories, should it go the route of war, Xi Jiping’s focus on Japan will be heralded in China.

    Like

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