Nationalism can take various forms, and in some cases, it is based on the opposition to a certain country or its ideology. This argument is partly relevant if one speaks about China and its long-term rivalry with Japan. Each of these countries struggles to become the main regional power in Asia. Moreover, the representatives of these states attach much importance to the historical competition. Certainly, one cannot say that anti-Japanese attitudes are decisive for the construction of Chinese nationalism, but their role should not be overlooked because it is important for understanding the rhetoric of governmental officials as well as journalists. In turn, the article by Li Xiaukun and Zhang Yunbi (2014) exemplifies the so-called anti-Japanese nationalism which is fueled by the former tensions between two countries; in particular, it is sparked by numerous debates about World War II and the new geopolitical strategy of Japan that wants to play an active role at the international level. This is the main thesis that should be discussed more closely.
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The article written by Li Xiaukun and Zhang Yunbi (2014) throws light on the some of the tensions in the relations between Japan and China. In particular, the authors refer to the concerns of Chinese political leaders who pay much attention to the new trends in Japanese politics. For instance, one can speak about rising militarism and unwillingness to recognize the crimes committed by Imperial Japan in the past (Xiaukun & Yunbi, 2014). It should be noted that the government of Japan has de facto abolished the constitutional provision according to which the country has no right to deploy its troops abroad. In turn, this new policy alarms many Chinese officials who perceive this trend as the threat to the national security of their country.
Additionally, Li Xiaukun and Zhang Yunbi (2014) discuss the growing popularity of right-wing politics in Japan. The problem is that the supporters of this ideology tend to deny the atrocities committed by the Japanese Army during World War II (Xiaukun & Yunbi, 2014). In some cases, these people tend to glorify the imperial past of Japan. In turn, this change in public attitudes is also of great concern to Chinese political leaders. In their opinion, such tendencies can eventually contribute to the military conflict between China and Asia (Xiaukun & Yunbi, 2014). These are the main aspects that can be identified.
This article represents the so-called anti-Japanese nationalism. This concept can be defined as the ideology according to which the nation should be unanimous in its struggle against a certain opponent that attempted or attempts to deprive the country of its sovereignty. In this case, one should speak about Japan if this country pursues right-wing and imperialistic policies that can potentially threaten the security of China (Zheng, 1999, p. 11). Thus, one should take into account that anti-Japanese sentiments are related to very specific aspects that adversely affect the relations between the two states. This form of nationalism does not involve the complete denial of Japanese culture; furthermore, it does not prohibit the relations between two countries (Zheng, 1999, p. 11). Such an assumption is not accurate because Chinese policy-makers note that their rhetoric should not be compared to chauvinism or xenophobia (Zheng, 1999, p. 11). This is one of the issues that should be taken into account because it is important for understanding the rhetoric of Chinese policy-makers who want their country to the main arbiter in Asia; yet, they do not want to enter into an open conflict with Japan. This detail is important for analyzing the motives of Chinese journalists and governmental officials.
Overall, this article reflects several aspects of anti-Japanese nationalism. At first, one should speak about the war crimes committed by the Japanese army during World War II. In particular, the authors speak about 200.000 Chinese and Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery (Xiaukun & Yunbi, 2014). It should be noted that in Japan, many revisionist historians argue that such these claims about the atrocities of the Japanese army are either exaggerated or false (Li, 2009, p. 301). This is one of the reasons why many tensions occur between China and Japan (Li, 2009, p. 301).
Apart from that, the authors refer to the massacres perpetrated by Japanese soldiers. For instance, it is possible to mention the notorious Nanking Massacre that took place in 1937. Researchers concur that at least 40.000 people were killed during this event (Li, Sabella, & Liu, 2001, p. 62). In turn, Li Xiaukun and Zhang Yunbi (2014) also pay close attention to this issue, because the recognition of these events is a part of the Chinese national identity. Moreover, this legacy of World War II is one of the barriers that limit the cooperation between the two states. This detail is important for understanding different dimensions of Chinese nationalism which incorporates the legacy of World War II, especially its influence on the country’s relations with other states.
One should keep in mind that the history of World War II continues to be debated by many historians in China and Japan. Both of them pay close attention to the role played by the Japanese Army during this military confrontation. Furthermore, many policy-makers in China argue that the nationalism of this country involves people’s struggles to gain their political sovereignty. In turn, the former confrontation with Japan is an important part of the narrative about the liberation of the country from foreign control (Li, et al., 2001, p. 62). This is one of the aspects that can be singled out since it is critical for discussing the rhetoric of Chinese political leaders who use historical debates in order to criticize the strategies of the modern Japanese government that intends to remove the restrictions limiting the military strength of the country. This is one of the points that should be made.
Furthermore, Li Xiaukun and Zhang Yunbi (2014) speak about the political situation that emerged in Japan 77 years ago. At the time, imperialism ideology was particularly strong in this country. This ideology implied that Japan should play a leading role in Asia. In turn, the authors of this article argue that this political agenda becomes more popular in Japan. One should keep in mind that the policy-makers of modern Japan argue that the country should play a more assertive role in the international relations (Tisdall, 2014).
Nevertheless, these new steps fuel anti-Japanese nationalism in China. On the whole, the contemporary Chinese criticism of Japan may be exaggerated since one cannot say that any change in the geopolitical strategy of the country can be compared to new imperialism. Again, it is important to emphasize the idea that anti-Japanese nationalism does not involve the rejection of any relations of Japan. More likely, more attention should be paid to the right-wing politics and revisionism of history because these issues are of great concern to many people whose experiences were dramatically transformed by World War II.
On the whole, the article written by Li Xiaukun and Zhang contains numerous references to anti-Japanese nationalism. To a great extent, this text indicates that the former rivalry between China and Japan has significant implications for the current relations between two countries. Much attention should be paid the crimes perpetrated during World War II. To some degree, this situation can be explained by the attempts of both countries to become the most dominant geopolitical player in Asia. Thus, it is important to remember about the motives that drive the critics of Japan. These people want China to remain the main international player in the region. These are the main arguments that can be put forward.
Li, P. (2009).Japanese War Crimes: The Search for Justice. New York, NY: Transaction Publishers.
Li, F., Sabella, R., & Liu, D. (2001). Nanking 1937: Memory and Healing. New York, NY: M.E. Sharpe.
Tisdall, S. (2013). Is Shinzo Abe’s ‘new nationalism’ a throwback to Japanese imperialism? The Guardian. Web.
Xiaukun, L., & Yunbi, Z. (2014). Japan must face up to past. China Daily. Web.
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Zheng, Y. (1999). Discovering Chinese Nationalism in China: Modernization, Identity, and International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.