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Foreign Correspondent
by international syndicated columnist & broadcaster Eric Margolis


Copyright: Eric S. Margolis, 2005

May 2, 2005

NEW YORK - Chinese usually rank among the worldís more intelligent people, but lately the red mandarins who run the Peopleís Republic have been doing some seriously un-intelligent things.

First came a Peopleís Congress last March that declared any move by Taiwan to full independence would be deemed an act of war. This broadside was fired just as the European Union was about to end its arms embargo against China, which urgently seeks new, high-tech weapons.

The EU, threatened by painful US retaliation if it sold arms to China, seized on Beijingís threat to postpone ending the embargo until Chinaís human rights record improved. So Beijing shot itself in the foot.

On the heels of this fiasco came the annual fracas over Japanís Yasukuni Shrine. The Tokyo shrine commemorates Japanís 2.5 million war dead since 1853, including remains of Japanese leaders executed as war criminals by US occupation authorities.

Each year, Japanís prime minister visits Yasukuni to pay respect to the fallen. On separate occasions, so do rightwing legislators. These visits always produces an annual outpouring of fury from China, the Philippines, North and South Korea (just about the only thing the two Koreas agree on), all of whom accuse Japan of war crimes and militarism.

This year, Chinaís ritualized protests spread to students and turned into an explosion of anti-Japanese nationalism. Pouring fuel onto the fire, Japanís high court denied compensation to Chinese victims of wartime atrocities.

At first, Beijing encouraged anti-Japanese demonstrations as a useful way of trying to block Japanís quest for a UN Security Council seat, and making the unloved Japanese lose face. As Chinese officials hurled insults at Tokyo, Japan-China relations hit their lowest point in 20 years.

China indeed suffered terribly from Japanese invasion during WWII. From the 1937-1945, China lost an estimated 11.6 million dead: 3.2 million soldiers and 8.4 million civilians. Some 95 million Chinese became internal refugees.

Japanís Imperial Army, imbued by the samurai code of Bushido, believed all captured soldiers deserved death and enemy civilians were scum. The Imperial Army behaved with maximum savagery in China, Korea and the Philippines.

But that was 1930 and 40ís Japan. Modern Japan bears little resemblance to that era and is ardently anti-militaristic. But by continuing Japan-bashing, China and the Koreas risk reigniting Japanese rightwing nationalism, and destabilizing North Asia.

Chinese and Korean victims of medical experiments and forced prostitution should receive compensation from Japan. China is right to complain about Japanese textbooks that whitewash the war.

But so do American, British, German, Canadian, and French textbooks. Try finding references in US textbooks about how B-29ís killed over 100,000 Japanese civilians during fire bomb raids on Tokyo on one single night.

Chinese textbooks fail to mention 2 million `bourgeoisí executed by communists, millions jailed in Chinaís gulag, or the 30 million Chinese that perished in Maoís demented Great leap Forward.

If you add up those megadeaths, and throw in millions more from Chinaís 20-year civil war between Nationalists and Communists, Chinese appear to have killed far more of their own people than did the hated Japanese.

While one fully understands and sympathizes with the rancor felt by China, Japanís current generation had nothing at all to do with the 20thís centuryís crimes. Instead of raking up old coals, China and Japan need to find a way to share North Asia and deepen economic cooperation.

Japan deserves and should have a seat on the UN Security Council. So should Germany, and India Ė when it settles the bloody Kashmir dispute. Chinaís opposition to Japanís rightful UN seat is short-sighted and counter-productive.

If more proof of this were needed, the government-encouraged anti-Japanese demonstrations that raged across China quickly ran out of control. Beijing became badly frightened, fearing the nationalist protests might develop into demands for democracy, or turn into a wide scale uprising against the Communist Party.

The state press ended up denouncing the student protests as an `evil plot.í The protests were suppressed. Chinaís restive students and Japan, Chinaís biggest investor, were left enraged. Fiasco number two.

If the 20th century teaches one lesson, itís that nationalism ranks among mankindís greatest evils. Those who whip it up often reap the whirlwind.

Itís time to end using World War II as a political weapon or a means of extorting money and trade or political concessions from the vanquished. In WWII, no oneís hands were clean. Forgive and forget.

Published at Bigeye.com since 1995 with permission, as a courtesy and in appreciation.

To read previous columns by Mr. Margolis: Click here

  • WWW: http://bigeye.com/foreignc.htm
  • Email: margolis@foreigncorrespondent.com
  • FAX: (416) 960-1769
  • Smail:
    Eric Margolis
    c/o Editorial Department
    The Toronto Sun
    333 King St. East
    Toronto Ontario Canada
    M5A 3X5

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