Japan & China — Tempest in a Teacup

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My mother-in-law was over helping around the house as she turned on the television to get her fix of the nightly news as presented by the Japanese government-run news station, NHK. She watched for a while and then said to me, “Mike, don’t you think that those Chinese are terrible?” I knew I was in for one of my political spiels that usually wind-up with people thinking I’m a paranoid nut — because I will ask them to believe me or their gut feelings over what the government tells them.

She added, “I can’t believe that the Chinese are having demonstrations about Japanese textbooks.”

I do think that she has a good point there. I can’t believe it either. I told her not to believe what she sees on the TV and then asked her if she would participate in a demonstration against China if some Chinese textbooks said bad things about Japan. Of course she said, “No.” I mean, who actually would? Don’t those people have something important to do?

These demonstrations remind me of something I saw a few years ago that we now know was completely faked and designed for mass-media propaganda: The toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad.

Of course, there are still folks living who remember World War II, so some Chinese most probably do have a valid complaint. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi apologized for World War II the other day. That makes at least 4 prime ministers that I can recall who have apologized for Japan’s actions. But it won’t matter. People will still continue to say that Japan hasn’t apologized for its war crimes. Perhaps if the war-time emperor apologized? Sorry. He died.

It’s when I watch the Western news media that I hear the most about this “Japan-China” friction. I wonder why. I also am surprised when I get mail from Americans who like to bring this nonsense up.

Since when doesn’t a government wish to gloss over its past misdeeds? They all do. That is a fact. Japan is no different than China. I’m sure Chinese textbooks talk lovingly of the take-over of Tibet. And neither country can be taken to task by the American government or American people about past wars or war crimes.

What about the American Civil War? What about the Spanish-American war? What about presidential scheming to get involved in two World Wars? What about two atomic bombs? What about bombing China after World War II ended? Vietnam? Iraq? Afghanistan? And, according to American historian William Blum, the bombing by the United States of over 30 countries and their civilian populations since 1945? No, Americans haven’t a leg to stand on when it comes to complaining about other countries war deeds and crimes.

The recent events concerning China all suspiciously seem, to me, connected to America’s disastrous war in Iraq. America is being defeated militarily and has already lost economically and morally. The Chinese are not stupid and are taking advantage of this situation any way that they can — while avoiding direct confrontation. Witness arms deals to India and oil deals with Iran.

The United States does not like this situation one bit. So the Bush administration is trying to use its dog in Asia, Japan, to keep China in check. And to try to take the American public’s attention off of disastrous U.S. Middle Eastern policy.

But it won’t work. In the end, China needs Japanese technology and its business network. Japan needs cash and a workforce and a market. When push comes to shove, I believe that Japan will side with China. At the moment, Japan needs to appease the United States. But Japan is not so foolish to risk its future on a sinking America. One day, soon, Japan and China will pull the plug on financing the United States’ red ink. Of course they will. Only a fool couldn’t see that America’s future is decidedly dim.

For now, there looks to be a storm brewing over Japan and China, but rest assured, it is only a tempest in a teacup.

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.

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