24 October 2010

Senkaku Island Notes

I've been going through a huge time line of the Senkaku Islands conflict which I found online in order to prepare for (maybe) having to write an essay for a grad school application. (We'll find out about that part soon enough.)

But I was reading through the time line and through some essays and newspaper articles and was thinking back to conversations I was having with Ikumi about it and what she was saying about extremely patriotic-- and sometimes just very extreme essays-- Japanese people were writing about the crisis on websites like mixi. I also happened to see a photo album on the Globe and Mail's website with a wide variety of far-right racist douchebags.

With all this swimming in my head I started reading a 40 year old essay by famous Japanologist Donald Keene and just-as-famous Mishima Yukio buddy talking about the cultural effects the Sino-Japanese War had on Japan, and he started off the whole essay talking about how before the war Japan still had a definite image of China as being culturally and militaristically absolutely superior to the still-東夷 Japan, with huge Chinese ironclad warships visiting Japanese ports and Japanese diplomats still being given "the treatment" in China while trying everything to impress Chinese diplomats in Tokyo. As the extremely popular war progressed there was a wide-scale propaganda campaign put on by newspapers and book and woodblock print publishers to glorify Japanese soldiers while depicting the Chinese as weak and cowardly and wholly undeserving of their now-perhaps-mythologized glorious past. This view of China seems to have continued on to this day amongst the previously stated far-right racist douchebags, some of whom are in parliament, and a lot more revealingly: it was during the same war where the image of the Chinese went 180° that China lost the Senkaku Islands to Japan. (This is only after an evenings pre- and post-StarCraft 2 reading, but) I think the economic and diplomatic conflict between Japan and China over the last two months, as well as the general attitude of nationalist groups in Japan toward China, really began during the war 115 years ago. The atrocities of World War 2 and subsequent US occupation, the communist revolution in China and sometimes forced attempts to "reunite" the country, and more than anything, the discovery of 100 billion barrels of oil in the vicinity of the islands of course have a huge role on this crisis, but I think the crux of the issue has, Japan and China are at a crossroads right now the same way they were 115 years ago in terms of regional power and influence and Japan seems to be relying too much on those old post-war stereotypes of China being a backwards, lesser country and China seems to be embracing the even older stereotypes of their own grandeur.

(How many Chinese or Japanese ultranationalists will leave long rants in the comments section now...)

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