Monday, April 23, 2007

Asia's Glass Houses

Asia observer Phil Deans, formerly of SOAS at London University, discusses Asia's glass houses in Newsweek. For those us who have noticed the irony of the CCP or the KMT complaining about Japanese murders, the article's theme will be a familiar one:
These attempts, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's prevarications on the comfort-women question, have understandably made Japan's neighbors nervous. But few of Tokyo's Asian critics have impeccable records themselves. The governments of China, both Koreas and, to a lesser extent, Taiwan have all glossed over the dark blots on their own histories.

Of Taiwan, he notes:

Of all Japan's neighbors, Taiwan has been the most open in confronting its past, though even there history has been politicized. When martial law was lifted in 1987, there was an explosion of efforts to address the abuses of early Kuomintang rule, especially the "2/28 Incident" of 1947, when up to 20,000 people were killed in intercommunal violence and in a subsequent crackdown by Gen. Chiang Kai-shek. As part of the democratization process that began 20 years ago, the brutalities of the martial-law period have been widely and publicly debated. Yet many pro-independence Taiwanese have begun to challenge the anti-Japanese history promulgated by the KMT and deny Japanese atrocities such as the forced conscription of prostitutes.
Do "many pro-independence Taiwanese" deny Japanese atrocities? There are no doubt revisionists out there -- but a substantial portion of pro-independence types? I'd need some serious evidence for that, Professor Dean.



20 comments:

mark said...

For the record, Phil left SOAS last year, and he wasn't head of it.

Michael Turton said...

Ah, several things on the net described him as the Chairman.

Correction made.

Michael

Anonymous said...

Why don't you write to Dean and challenge him for his evidence?

That way the broad church of independence supporters won't be tarred with the same brush, and we can find out what fools (if any) were responsible for the purported comments.

channing said...

I can picture an odd pro-Japan here and there trying to whitewash Japan's militarist history, but I can't picture any significant portion of the DPP, and especially not any of the candidates for presidency nomination.

Prince Roy said...

well, the attempt by some to reclassify the Japanese occupation from 日劇 to 日治 is a pretty big step down that road.

Anonymous said...

Prince Roy, surely you mean 日據?

And please name the people who are doing this.

macca said...

I was taught by Phil Deans at SOAS a few years ago.
He's a very interesting guy and is pretty knowledgeable on East Asian politics. He speaks Chinese and Japanese well.
However, I was left with the deep impression that he thought very little of the greens in Taiwan. In fact, during lectures he would never actually use the name Lee Teng-hui, instead referring to him as the 'devious scumbag'.

Anonymous said...

That's the wrong "ju4," Prince Roy. And you might also want to think about the meanings of the English word "occupation." The Japanese did not hold Taiwan by seizure. The Qing Empire ceded it to them.

Michael Turton said...

Thanks, macca. That explains many things about his comments.

Michael

Prince Roy said...

yeah, you're right, it should be 日據, my bad, google IME got the best of me.

however you want to view the means by which Japan acquired Taiwan, it doesn't change the nature of its occupation.

Joanna said...

I don't understand why the taiwanese hates KMT so much, while they love Japan even after having been occupied by Japan, and in the midst of Japan's denial of the Comfort Women situation. I am enraged over Primer Minister's denial, and am boycotting buying Japanese cars, going to Japanese resturants, or taking a Japanese vacation. I am writing letters to the Prime Minister, CEOs of Toyota and Honda, local japanese restaurant owners and the Japanese embassy.

Michael, do you know how the Taiwnese are responding to the Comfort Women situation???????

Michael Turton said...

Joanna, probably because, while the Japanese were brutal, they wiped out disease, instituted rule of law, and developed Taiwan. The police and judges were not corrupt. Plus, the Japanese killed many aborigines, but few Han.

The KMT was opposite. The Taiwanese experienced a massive regression in their living standards when the KMT arrived, and by some calculations the Taiwanese did not return to their 1937 per capita income levels until the mid 1960s. The police routinely kidnapped businessmen and extorted cash from them (the Japanese never did that) and the KMT totally destroyed rule of law. And they killed tens of thousands of people. Consequently, when Taiwanese looked back and compared the KMT to the Japanese, what did they see?

Michael

Anonymous said...

Wow Joanna, I'm sure them there Japanese car companies, restaurants and hotels are all sweating over the loss of gittin their hands on yer disposable income, and are on the horn right now to Abe, trying their darndest to have him apologize to all those people wronged sixty years ago.

Actually, Joanna, isn't taking out your rage on every Japanese person and item you come across because of a few right-wingers bordering on racism?

While you're at it, Joanna, are you going to boycott buying Taiwanese scooters, going to Taiwanese restaurants, or taking a vacation in Taiwan because of what the KMT did in the past (228, White Terror etc.)? Are you going to be writing letters to the PM of China, CEOs of large Chinese companies, local Chinese restaurant owners and the nearest Chinese embassy over Tibet and Xinjiang?

Just wonderin' :)

macca said...

Michael,
Not sure if you are already aware of this but the European Association of Taiwan Studies had its annual conference a few days ago.
You can read around 30 papers from the conference here:

http://www.soas.ac.uk/departments/departmentinfo.cfm?navid=817

Phil Deans was a speaker. Unfortunately, his paper on Taiwanese nationalism and Japan doesn't appear to be available.

Joanna said...

Thanks, Michael for the clarification. Just another question, if I may. Is it the current sentiment (and is it historically accurate) to say that the KMT did nothing good since its arrival in Taiwan except murdering the taiwanese? Did the KMT not build schools, hospitals, roads, etc also? This is a very sincere question, and I am really interested to hear your opinions.

Anonymous: I find that your passimism about individual's citizen activism unhelpful. I suspect that you don't do much with regards to bettering the world when it comes to politics except going around and telling people, "It's useless. Don't bother."

Well, I disagree with you. Having been a business owner, I can tell you that my cohorts and I absolutely cared about public opinions. That's why we spend money on conducting opinion polls, building public relationships, and sharpen our public image. Public sentiments can make or break our livelihood, especially when alternative or competitor's products are readily available.

And the other thing that we do very well as business people is this: we send politicians to represent us, and we only vote for them when they look out for our interests. If they don't help in that way, and worse that they might actually drive customers away, we get these politicans out of the office.

Aside from having been in business, I have worked on Capitol Hill and have seen how lobbying works, in the context of constituents' loyalty, lobby money, and special interest. I don't know what your experience has been in politics, but it sounds like yours is different from mine. I have seen that if enough people are outraged about something for long enough, and that they actually flex their economic and political muscles to do something about it, things will change.

What you were tyring to point out is obvious. No. No one citizen's writing letters or boycotting the Japanese goods and services would stop the world. But that is how democracy works. One person's vote may not seem like anything, but one person's vote times many could result in change. In fact, the more passionate you feel about something, and the more hopeless the issue seems, the more you need to cast your vote, because if you don't, then there is even a less chance that things will change in the way you would like them to. If every person who is outraged at the Japanese Prime Minister's stupid statement does something, and more importantly, is willing to make lifestyle changes accordingly, it could translate to a tangible message to those who are at stake.

At least it will get the conversation going and sustain the debate. If enough people care about this and actually do something about it, Prime Minister Abe will be informed that his statement is not helping his countrymen and women who had put him there in power.
But if nobody makes a stink about it, then history will surely go down the way he wants it to. I don't care if he is a right-wing nut or that he may not represent all of Japan. The fact that he is Prime Minister of Japan, he is currently representing Japan as a country. Racism has nothing to do with my action. I am not boycotting Japanese people. I am boycotting Abe's statement. To boycott Japanese businesses is simply a way to send a message to boycot Abe's statement, in telling Abe that he was wrong in thinking that his message could win him future elections.

China and Korea have already taken steps to actively work on this issue. And in writing this message, I am pleased to find that some Taiwanese women are already paying attention to this issue as well. I just don't know how Taiwanese women are reconciling their love for hello-kitty and all things Japanese and their anti-japanases govnerment sentiments, and that is what I meant to ask Michael.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4342797.stm

Anonymous, since you were "just wondering," and doing that with a smiley face, let me state my position clearly regarding the other "anaologies" that you tried to make. Aside from the faulty logic that presents in those analogies, I have an even easier explantion: I simply am not interested in boycotting all Taiwanese goods (because of KMT's past), or Chinese goods because of its human right policy because these issues don't offend me to the degree that this issue does, which is not to say that those issues are not as important or deserving of attention. It is to say that the issue about the Japanese position on the Comfort Women history bothers me. And, it bothers me to the point that I have already asked 100 people to sign a petition to their US congress people to pass the House resolution. I am also diverting my $25,000 fund to buy a Korean car instead of a Japanese at the end of this year. And, instead of spending $10,000 on my vacation this year in Japan, I will not go to Japan, which used to be my dream destination, but instead I will go to Tibet instead. And this is just one person's activity. Of course, I will reverse all these decisions once Abe takes back his statement. But in the meantime, I will not patron those fancy Japanese sushi places that I love so much. And hell, maybe I should write to Oprah, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo Di Caprio so that they don't eat at Nobu or Koi either. The stack of letters on my desk is ready to go. Somebody bought me a present from a Japanese tea shop in Japan, and the present will be sent back to the shop in NYC, with a letter. The issue of the Comfort Women goes beyond Japan, and trascends time. Who cares if this happened more than 60 years ago? If somebody raped you in the ass (I assume you are a guy, given that you signed your name with a smiley face), killed your parents when they tried to protect you, and sent you to slavery camp to inflict physical torture on you on a daily basis during the best years of your life, believe me, you will want justice or at least acknolwedgment even if it happened 100 years ago. The issue goes beyond Abe and Japan. The issue involves a reaction against war time atrocities that were committed, have been committed, are being committed, and will be committed against women and children. The issue goes to talking about governments and nations taking responsibility and acknowledging their actiions. Otherwise, a whole generation of Japanese youngsters will grow up and learn history as their Prime Minister teaches them.

But listen, my friend, if issues like KMT atrocities and China's human rights violations (those anaologies that you quoted to shut me down) bother you (and it sounds like they bother you a lot), then why don't you think of a ways to deal with them and let your voice be heard. Whether it is blogging, handing out brochures, writing your government, deciding how to spend your disposable income, voting, speaking, etc, it's all good. If you believe in an issue, why defeat yourself even before you start?

Anonymous said...

OK, so let me see if I got this straight...you're going to punish all Japanese because of something that happened sixty years ago, under a different government than the one that is currently running the show. Now I may not be as all informed about such stuff as you, but reading what Abe said, even with my third-grade readin' ability, it seems to me that he didn't deny the Comfort Women situation, only that the Imperial Japanese military wasn't directly involved in their forced recruitment (which ain't true, of course). And the government over there in Tokio has apologized a number of times already for the comfort women. Why, Abe himself said he stands by the official apology made back in '93. And there was the Asian Women's Fund set up to compensate the women. So I'm thinkin' there's a little misplaced outrage going on here. And I'm sorry, but you are being racist by holding all of Japan responsible 'cause you're PO'd by the PM.

For yer information, I have done work with the cause of Tibetan refugees in India. So your comment that the destruction of Tibet's culture, and the suffering of the Tibetan people (including women) since 1951 just doesn't offend you as much as a remark by a conservative Japanese politician really makes me sick. The fact that you would rather spend yer cash in Tibet, propping up the Chinese government's efforts to finalize their control over the country at the expense of the local people and their dreams of freedom and self-determination just shows that you ain't quite the moral high priestess you see when you look in the mirror every morning.

How about showing your outrage at Japan by going to Myanmar on yer next holiday? Or is that another situation that doesn't outrage you?

M.W.

Anonymous said...

OK, so let me see if I got this straight...you're going to punish all Japanese because of something that happened sixty years ago, under a different government than the one that is currently running the show. Now I may not be as all informed about such stuff as you, but reading what Abe said, even with my third-grade readin' ability, it seems to me that he didn't deny the Comfort Women situation, only that the Imperial Japanese military wasn't directly involved in their forced recruitment (which ain't true, of course). And the government over there in Tokio has apologized a number of times already for the comfort women. Why, Abe himself said he stands by the official apology made back in '93. And there was the Asian Women's Fund set up to compensate the women. So I'm thinkin' there's a little misplaced outrage going on here. And I'm sorry, but you are being racist by holding all of Japan responsible 'cause you're PO'd by the PM.

For yer information, I have done work with the cause of Tibetan refugees in India. So your comment that the destruction of Tibet's culture, and the suffering of the Tibetan people (including women) since 1951 just doesn't offend you as much as a remark by a conservative Japanese politician really makes me sick. The fact that you would rather spend yer cash in Tibet, propping up the Chinese government's efforts to finalize their control over the country at the expense of the local people and their dreams of freedom and self-determination just shows that you ain't quite the moral high priestess you see when you look in the mirror every morning.

How about showing your outrage at Japan by going to Myanmar on yer next holiday? Or is that another situation that doesn't outrage you?

M.W.

Anonymous said...

Joanna asked: "Did the KMT not build schools, hospitals, roads, etc also?"
Hitler, Mao and Stalin also built schools, hospitals, roads etc. also. That doesn't excuse the terrible things the KMT did to the Taiwanese people.

Roger-usa said...

In this article in Newsweek, the point is made that "While the governments of China, the two Koreas and Taiwan may be guilty of trying to obscure negative events in their past, they are mostly dealing with domestic affairs."

In the case of Taiwan, it is very important to point out that the events of Feb. 28, 1947, are not a "domestic affair" of China, because Taiwan ceased to be Chinese territory upon the cession to Japan in 1895.

The surrender of Japanese troops in Taipei on Oct. 25, 1945, only marked the beginning of the military occupation of Taiwan. Then in the post war San Francisco Peace Treaty of April 28, 1952, Japan ceded the sovereignty of Taiwan, but China was not designated as the "receiving country."

The recognition of Taiwan's correct international legal status is important both for coming to grips with the negative events in Taiwan's post-WWII history, and for dealing with Taiwan's current international recognition problem. The facts of the matter are that under international law Taiwan is not Chinese territory.

Anonymous said...

Roger, I don't think the article implied in any at all that 228 was a domestic affair of China.