After listening to the second part of BBC’s Freedom 2014, Missing History, China and Japan, several thoughts were on my mind last week.
Firstly, that the Nanjing Massacre happened is a fact, as much as Jesus Christ lived on earth once. At Japan’s attempt to make light of the event, calling it the Nanjing Incident in a textbook, China built a monument to testify to the event with evidence beyond dispute. Not withstanding the numerous survivor’s testimony, a number of Japanese soldiers were also interviewed where few of them actually admitted to the atrocity that they have committed during the invasion. However, the Japanese government still refuse to apologize formally and unconditionally to China for the event. Even as the economic and social ties of these two countries continue to intertwine, history will continue to be a barrier for them.
Secondly, I was remarking to my father after the podcast and that even as hundred of thousands of people have died in the Nanjing Massacre, millions have died during the Great Famine of 1958 to 1961 as well as the Cultural Revolution of 1966. He replied that the difference between these events are that the Nanjing Massacre was an act of a foreign nation upon China and that the Japanese has still not apologized for it. Yet, I am not sure if the government of China has ever recognized the TianAnMeng Square Protest of 1989 and apologized for it as well.
Thirdly, coincidentally, the Straits Times published an article differentiating the cultural difference between the German’s apology for the Holocaust and Japan’s apology for their act in WWII. For the German’s, the article states, it was a personal regret by each and every of the German people and a personal moment of apology. Thus, when the German Chancellor, Willy Brandt, dropped to his knees in 1969, no words were necessary as the Germans feel what he felt. For the Japanese, a people who are more distanced from their Emperor and government, the people may feel the shame and are apologetic to the Chinese, but it may be, in their mind, an act of the government and soldier, that caused the war, not them.
History and the current geo-political landscape must be seen in each of the people’s different lens as they do not see things the same way. I suspect also that the Japan-China’s history baggage are also caused, in no small part, by America’s post-war handling of Japan.