Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Japan Focus: Article on Taiwan and Japanese Colonial Rule

Japan Focus, which has good essays on a regular basis, serves up several good ones this week. One asks: Whither East Asia? Reflections on Japan's Colonial Experience in Taiwan. After sifting through issues of identity and imperialism, it concludes:

Not surprisingly the commemoration that Nishida describes is as much about contemporary debates over the historical understanding of the modern nation-state as it is about reconciliation. The take-home message, however, is that nineteenth-century debates about whether East Asian states should enter the Western-dominated international system have been superceded by twenty-first-century debates that pit the history of national identity against the history of imperialism. The annual visits of the Japanese Prime Minister to Yasukuni Shrine, and the predictable responses they provoke both inside and outside of Japan, are a good example of how these debates usually play out. The persistence and repetitiveness of the ideological clashes between Japan, China, the Koreas and Taiwan over how to address the legacies of World War II and the Japanese empire suggest that, no matter what nation is dominant in East Asia, debates based on irreconcilable points of view about the history of imperialism and national identity will be a stable, long-term feature of the post-Cold War order.

One interesting theme that has emerged in all the literature on both Left and Right is this optimistic observation and conclusion:

The biggest difference in the geopolitical context, of course, is that all the states in the region, with the possible exception of North Korea, are committed to operating within the international system and they have developed a measure of economic interdependence. These factors will mitigate the possibility of armed conflict in the future.

Apparently no analyst out there in the world has heard the phrase "familiarity breeds contempt." I'll be blogging soon on this problematic bit of optimism, and its oft-heard but never-seen cousin: growing economic integration will lead to peaceful political integration. Economic interdependence is too narrow a gauge of railway to haul the long-term loads that peace requires.

Another essay at Japan Focus this week was a piece that was written quite some time ago, on the Japanese expedition of 1874.

Many of you out there will also enjoy this piece on demonstrations in China:

Almost all Chinese perceive that economic disparities are growing and are aware of the protests, but they do not think that the government is threatened with collapse.

The rising number of protests is a sign of "economic struggles" rather than "political strife." The cause of the demonstrations is public anger over lost economic benefits, such as compensation, that people have not received because of corruption. Because this is the case, if municipal and Communist Party officials provide the expected compensation and punish officials accused of corruption, the protests will subside.

It is thought that many demonstrations grow out of strikes organized by labor unions demanding higher wages and "negotiating" over prices. Just as labor unions demanding higher wages from companies do not seek to topple the companies, people who are calling for compensation from the government are not attempting to bring down the Communist Party.

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