China was saved by America during World War II

by Dr. Kitaoka Shinichi

The original Japanese manuscript appeared with minor changes in Chuo Koron, June 2005. The translation into German was done by the Embassy of Japan; it is based on the English version of the article in Japan Echo, special edition 2005. (The views in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of the Government of Japan.)

At the end of March this year, a large-scale Internet campaign was launched in China to collect signatures against Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. On April 9, a series of violent anti-Japanese demonstrations began in several Chinese cities. Around the same time, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun openly stated that he was against Japan's permanent seat on the Security Council. How are these events to be assessed? How serious are you And how should Japan react to that? These are the questions I want to cover in this article, focusing on the situation in China.

Any change in the composition of the Security Council, as Japan is now striving for, results in a change in the UN Charter, for which the approval of two thirds of the member states in the General Assembly is required. The resolution on this change must then be ratified by two thirds of the member states, including all permanent members of the Security Council including China. So if China (or any of the other four permanent members of the current Security Council - France, Great Britain, Russia and the United States) rejects an amendment, it cannot go into effect.

Background of the protests
An important factor to consider when analyzing these developments in China is the recent success of the so-called Group of Four (G4) - Brazil, Germany, India and Japan - in preparing the groundwork for Security Council reform.

In September 2004, the G4 began actively campaigning for a reform of the Security Council that would include increasing the number of permanent and non-permanent members. In the course of the open debate in the General Assembly, they received the support of around 120 states. That number dwarfs the twenty or so members of the group known as the "Coffee Club," including Italy and Pakistan, which are only looking to increase the number of non-permanent members.

In November 2004, the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change appointed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented a report outlining two possible models for Security Council reform. According to model A, the number of permanent members would be increased by six and the number of non-permanent members by three, while model B provides for eight quasi-permanent seats with a four-year term of office, with several consecutive terms of office being possible. Another temporary seat would be added to this model. During the general discussion, the G4 declared their support for model A, with the support of more than sixty states, while only about ten states supported model B. There are several reasons for this significantly lower support for the G4. First of all, the member states act more cautiously the closer they get to the possibility of a decision. Second, Model A included other elements that raised contradictions, such as changes to the regional distribution of temporary seats. Third, numerous African countries held back because the African Union (AU) was preparing its own position. However, we (the Japanese government and especially my colleagues and I in the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN) felt at the time that with appropriate changes to Model A and patient lobbying it was entirely possible to achieve a two-thirds majority To reach member states in the General Assembly for a corresponding resolution. At the beginning of March 2005, the AU adopted a uniform position on the expansion of the Security Council, which was based on Model A and thus further strengthened the position of the G4.

However, in an organization made up of sovereign states, there is a tendency to seek consensus and avoid majority decisions. The Coffee Club now suggested that not one state or a group of states should push through its own proposal, but that the UN should take the time to reach a consensus. Around mid-February this group took on the name “United for Consensus” and decided to hold a meeting on April 11th under the chairmanship of the Italian Foreign Minister. The response from the G4 was that after twelve years of debate on expanding the Security Council, one could not expect further discussions to lead to a consensus. It is now time to vote on the matter.

On March 21, the Secretary General published his report on the matter. He called for the decision to reform the Security Council to be taken in September this year, stating: “It would be advantageous for the member states to be able to take this important decision by consensus; however, if consensus is not possible, it must not be an excuse for delays. ”This was exactly what we expected and was a serious setback for the consensus group. In all likelihood, this also prompted China, which has spoken out against a permanent seat for Japan, to draw up and implement plans against Tokyo's aspirations. This is now the background of the Internet campaign and the anti-Japanese demonstrations in China in the spring of this year.

Let's take a closer look at these developments. In the investigation of the Internet campaign, individual names regularly appeared many times in a row - some up to forty times a second. Obviously, the names were typed in to manipulate the results.

On April 4, China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya, who recently held the monthly chairmanship of the Security Council, took the unusual step of giving a press conference in his capacity as President of the Security Council to express his position on the matter. Regarding the expansion of the Security Council, Wang stressed that it is very important to reach consensus. This came in response to questions from a Hong Kong television station and a Pakistani newspaper, which clearly suggests that China had allied itself with the consensus group.

The General Assembly debate on the Secretary-General's report began on April 6th. On that occasion, too, Ambassador Wang stressed the need for consensus, and the next day the United States followed suit, opposing an "artificial" time limit. While the United States had not coordinated its statement with China or the consensus group, Washington was clearly dissatisfied that the debate on reform had gained momentum without much US involvement. In any event, the opposition of two permanent members of the Security Council was bound to have a significant impact on the Secretary-General's timetable.

Anti-Japanese riots broke out in China on April 9, and on April 11, 119 states attended the consensus group meeting. The number of participants came close to the number of countries that had attended a G4 meeting on March 31 (134 countries). With that, the prospects for the G4's efforts suddenly seemed to have worsened. In fact, it is by no means unusual for 119 states to attend the meeting of the consensus group. “Consensus” is a term that is highly valued within the UN. If several important states hold a meeting and invite foreign ministers to attend, smaller states can hardly refuse. Many of the 119 countries had already informed the G4 in advance that they would be attending this meeting. The Consensus Group's campaign, China's action, and the lack of US support are indeed major obstacles to Japan's quest for a permanent seat on the Security Council. Smaller states are easily influenced by the great powers. However, this development was not a shock. If I were part of the Chinese government, I would probably have acted similarly. The key is that I believe these hurdles can be overcome.

What qualifies a country for the Security Council?
In my opinion, the most important qualifications for any country wishing to become a permanent member of the Security Council, regardless of the qualifications or lack of qualifications of current members, are the will and ability to contribute to world peace and security.

Japan's accomplishments over the past sixty years as a nation committed to peace are unparalleled. Japan has not participated in a war once since the end of the war and has no weapons of mass destruction whatsoever. China, on the other hand, has been involved in some armed conflicts. It is in possession of nuclear weapons and actually aimed a certain number of missiles at Japan. So it is really ironic when China expresses its "fear of the reawakening of Japanese militarism".

Japan has also been very active in the field of economic cooperation, particularly in East Asia. About 20% of all development aid over the past decade has come from Japan. Undoubtedly, the massive Japanese aid contributed greatly to the remarkable pace of economic growth and development in China, South Korea, Taiwan and Southeast Asia during this period.

In the case of China, the key to economic development was infrastructure. Without substantial investments in this area, the economic vitality that we are experiencing in this country today would not have been possible. Japanese aid was an important source of funding for the construction of Beijing and Shanghai airports and numerous highways.

In recent years, Japan has been forced to cut its foreign aid programs somewhat as it seeks to reduce its high national debt, which continued to grow during the economic downturn in the 1990s. Nonetheless, Japan continues to provide efficient and generous assistance, ranging from providing emergency aid to the victims of the Indian Ocean flood a few months ago to delivering large quantities of mosquito nets to Africa to fight malaria. In the 1990s, Japan began to focus its foreign aid on both Africa and East Asia. Numerous African heads of state have taken part in the various meetings of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), thus showing their great appreciation for this forum and Japan's African initiatives.

With Japan adopting a stance that demonstrates its great commitment to peace, the government has long hesitated to send troops abroad. Japan was initially unable to overcome the concept of achieving peace simply by clinging to the ideals of pacifism. Eventually, however, the people of Japan realized that this approach was not necessarily effective in promoting peace. Since sending troops to Cambodia in 1992 as part of the UN peacekeeping mission there, Japan has been actively involved in these peacekeeping operations. Overall, Japan's accomplishments as a highly peace-loving nation over the past sixty years are difficult to replicate.

China, on the other hand, has shown the world its true intentions with its recent actions. The images of police officers idly watching demonstrators throw stones at Japanese diplomatic missions could be seen around the world. Beijing's refusal to respond and apologize to Tokyo's protests is contrary to standard diplomatic practice. In reporting on the meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing and Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, the Chinese media ignored Tokyo's protest and cited an earlier statement by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama by Foreign Minister Machimura. They gave the impression that Tokyo had apologized for the first time. Some may have viewed this as a benevolent effort by the Chinese government to allay anti-Japanese sentiments in their own country. The fact remains, however, that Beijing could have reported the protest without further ado and should not have had to mention the apology (in fact, this has been the usual practice in China up to now). This is the type of government that rules China, and the recent series of events has brought that fact to the attention of people around the world. Sentiment is beginning to change in the West and a number of newspapers have labeled the protests as "attacks".

Over time, the scantiness of the consensus group's arguments will become apparent. Very few of the really important decisions in world history have been made by consensus; China's admission to the UN was decided in 1971 with 76 votes to 35. For a country with veto power (in other words, with the ability to break consensus) it seems ironic to stress the importance of consensus. The assertion of the consensus group that the admission of additional permanent members to the Security Council is undemocratic also appears paradoxical in view of some of the governments that exist in some of the states of this group.

Has Japan evaded responsibility for the war?
However, much of the media commentary on the dispute between China and Japan has been based on the notion that China's complaints about Japan's treatment of the past are partially justified. But are they really? I would like to examine this assumption more closely.

Let's start with the criticism that Japan never really apologized for its aggression against China or for its role in World War II.

War has been a scourge of humanity since time immemorial that we may never properly exterminate. But once a war has broken out, it has to be brought to an end. This typically includes firstly territorial concessions, secondly the punishment of those responsible and thirdly the payment of reparations.

After World War II, Japan surrendered Taiwan, Korea, Sakhalin, the Kuril Islands and other territories. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East, commonly known as the Tokyo Trial, convicted numerous Japanese military men of war crimes (other soldiers with minor offenses were tried in other Asian countries). The Japanese government made reparations to Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam and also paid reparations to Thailand, with which Japan was never at war.

Let us now turn to Japan's relationship with China after World War II. In 1952, Japan signed a peace treaty with the Republic of China. At that time, the Japanese government would have preferred to limit the scope of the treaty to the territory actually controlled by the Republic of China, i.e. Taiwan, to be the gateway for establishing official relations with the People's Republic of China, which was established on the mainland in 1949, to leave open. Ultimately, however, Tokyo bowed to pressure from Washington, recognized the government in Taipei as the legitimate government of all of China and signed a corresponding treaty. At the time, reparations were also discussed, but Taipei abandoned its demands for compensation as Chiang Kai-shek placed greater emphasis on seeing his government recognized by China as the legitimate government. In other words, he put political benefit over economic benefit.

Tokyo and Beijing established diplomatic relations in 1972; the People's Republic also waived reparations.Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai said that a small group of militarists was responsible for the war and not ordinary people in Japan. They did not want to punish these people by imposing reparations on them. The Japanese were impressed by this generous attitude, and Beijing was recognized as the legitimate government of China. This is another example of foregoing economic advantages in favor of political advantages.

Although Japan has made no reparations to China, it has provided more than three trillion yen in economic aid since the bilateral peace and friendship treaty was signed in 1978. This is not the same as war reparations, but neither is it normal foreign aid. It was the first time Japan had given aid to a military power in possession of nuclear weapons, and not everyone in Japan was happy to be supporting a communist country. Such a program would have been difficult to implement if the people of Japan had not been aware of the need for atonement.

Japan's aid to China has been extremely effective in promoting the country's economic development. The Chinese economy today is driven by foreign investment; but without the appropriate infrastructure, foreign companies would not invest. A large part of this infrastructure was created with Japanese money.

Most of the Japanese aid to China was in the form of loans (although Tokyo also provided approximately 140 billion yen in interest-free, non-repayment grants). However, the fact that the aid consists of credit does not diminish its value. Everyone knows the importance of low-interest loans when buying a car or house. This is the kind of aid that Japan has given China, and China has always duly serviced its debts in return. The success of an aid program is evident from the fact that it contributes to the economic development of the recipient country and that the repayments are made within a reasonable time frame. According to both criteria, Japan's economic aid to China is a complete success.

The UN is currently calling on the leading industrialized countries to increase the level of their official development aid to 0.7% of GDP. I question the basis of this request. It is extremely difficult to achieve consistent results through economic aid; but when it comes to aid that leads to economic development, few countries can show better results than Japan.

Did Japan fail to apologize?
China regularly complains that Japan never sincerely apologized for its behavior during or before World War II. Let's take a closer look at this question.

First of all, it seems to me that Japan's acceptance of the Tokyo trial judgments and its substantial economic aid to China in the years after World War II are, in and of themselves, a kind of apology. However, Japan has also explicitly apologized on several occasions: in the framework of the Joint Sino-Japanese Declaration of September 1972, in the aforementioned treaty of 1978 and in the Joint Sino-Japanese Declaration of 1998 - China always accepted these apologies at the time. In addition, on the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the war in 1995, Prime Minister Murayama said:

For a period in the not-too-distant past, Japan has erred in its policies; it has embarked on the path to war and thereby jeopardized the existence of its people and, through its colonial rule and aggression, inflicted severe damage and tremendous suffering on the people in numerous countries, especially in neighboring Asian countries. Hoping that such a mistake will not recur in the future, I sincerely honor this undoubted fact of history, and take this opportunity to once again express my deep regrets and my heartfelt apologies. At the same time, I express my condolences to all of the victims who this fact of history has claimed at home and abroad.

If this isn't a straightforward excuse, what is it? (Editor's note: On April 22nd of this year, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi expressed an apology of the same content in a speech to representatives of more than eighty countries on the occasion of the Asia-Africa summit in Bandung, Indonesia.)

Some complain that Japan's apologies are not as straightforward as Germany's apologies. But how can you compare these two countries? Germany has apologized for the Holocaust, the attempt to wipe out an entire race, an unprecedented crime in human history. Not even the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the system of the Soviet penal camps under Stalin or the mass murders of Pol Pot can be compared with the Holocaust.

And what about other states? Has China apologized for invading Vietnam in 1979? Has the United States or Britain apologized for their past attacks and wars? Certainly, powerful winners are not exempt from the obligation to apologize for past aggression. It is not my intention to criticize these states, but only to emphasize the nature of the war. In any event, the claim that Japan did not apologize is manifestly false, nor is it true that it did not apologize in a manner expected of an aggressor.

Is Japan Distorting History?
Let us next turn to the accusation that Japan is not presenting history correctly - the so-called textbook problem.

In Japan, there is a process whereby textbooks used in public schools are checked by the government. Japan chose this process because it believes that there is nothing more important than freedom of expression. The main reason Japan embarked on the path of aggression and expansion in the 1930s was the lack of freedom of expression. Taking this into account, the government does not produce its own textbooks, but allows editors to write them according to their own ideas. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology then examines these books impartially for possible errors. The process approved eight different textbooks for teaching history in middle schools and eleven textbooks for teaching Japanese history in high school classes alone. Which of these books is used is at the discretion of each school. (Unfortunately, many people in China don't understand this. Just recently I was surprised that a senior Chinese diplomat believed that Japanese schools use government-published history textbooks.)

The textbook, which recently sparked the most severe criticism from China and South Korea, is published by Fusosha. Nowhere in this textbook does it deny that Japan engaged in aggression against other countries. It recognizes that Manchukuo was a puppet state, that Japan's colonial rule over Korea was brutal, and that Japanese soldiers massacred many Chinese soldiers and civilians in Nanjing. As a scholar, I admit that I have some reservations about the contents of this textbook. But the charge that it glorifies Japanese aggression is wholly unjustified.

It should be added that after the previous version of the Fusosha text was approved, just 0.1% of middle schools in Japan selected it as a textbook. That is the full extent of his influence. However, as protests from China and South Korea have brought this book to the fore, interest in Japan has increased, and more schools are likely to use it.

A particular subject of the dispute over the disputed textbooks is the "Nanjing Massacre". Chinese and South Korean critics complain that although the books cover this event, it is not adequately portrayed, such as the number of victims. So that there is no misunderstanding, let me be very clear: I am not denying that there was a massacre in Nanjing. But the reason the number is not given is because that number is not known. Some say that between 200,000 and 300,000 Chinese were massacred, but those numbers were already questioned during the Tokyo trial. Since then, researchers have repeatedly questioned these numbers. I would like to elaborate on a few points made by researchers.

1. In December 1937, just before the Japanese army marched into Nanjing, the population in the city center was estimated at 200,000 to 250,000 people. However, about a month after the fighting, after order was restored, the number of people in the area was higher. How can this be reconciled with the estimate of 200,000-300,000 killed?

2. In 1940, Japan established Wang Jingwei's government in Nanjing. Would it have actually been possible for the Japanese to entrust a puppet government with the administration after a massacre of the alleged extent?

3. Among the testimony during the Tokyo trial was that of a man who claimed he had barely escaped the attack by Japanese soldiers hid in a cave and from there saw the Japanese kill 57,418 Chinese. Is such a witness credible?

4. At the Tokyo trial, the testimony of twelve people who claimed they disposed of 2,600 bodies a day was also recorded. Given what we saw during the war in Iraq and on the occasion of the tsunami disaster a few months ago, is this possible in such a situation without the use of machines? Even so, this statement is considered a fact.

The Japanese commander in chief Ishine Matsui wrote in his diary that he cried when he heard that Japanese soldiers had attacked, looted and raped. This entry proves that such acts of violence did indeed occur, but it also shows that they were not planned. Matsui was sentenced to death in the Tokyo trial for his role in Nanjing.

Others are also responsible for the massacre. Chiang Kai-shek had ordered Tang Shengzhi, commander in chief of the Nanjing garrison, to defend the city, even though he knew very well that it could not be defended. Chiang himself fled just before the city fell. Ordinarily, a commander will surrender when defeat is inevitable to avoid unnecessary casualties among soldiers and civilians. And if the commander-in-chief flees, chaos is sure to ensue. If he surrenders he can be executed himself, but the lives of soldiers and civilians will be saved. In 1945 civilians were killed during the battle for Okinawa because the Japanese military did not surrender when it should have. The military should never drag civilians into pointless resistance. To a certain extent, the same must be said about Chiang Kai-shek and Nanjing.

It is true that new documents have surfaced about the massacre, such as John Rabe's diary. But Rabe's statements need to be checked carefully, as much of it is hearsay. It seems to me that both countries should participate in this research.

The problem of the Yasukuni shrine
As evidence that Japan is glossing over its militaristic past, critics point to the visits by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to the Yasukuni Shrine, where the fallen of the country are honored. About 2.3 million fallen soldiers are honored in this shrine, which was founded in the 19th century. Many nations honor those who died for their country, as China itself recognizes. The controversy surrounding the Yasukuni Shrine revolves around the Category A war criminals who are honored here.

Article 11 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty states that Japan must recognize the judgments of the Tokyo process. Japan accepted the verdicts on political grounds, but it would be difficult to find a scholar who believed the trial was fair. First of all, it was extremely problematic from a procedural point of view, as there was no adequate examination of the evidence, no cross-examination and no higher appellate body. And how many real historians believe that this process presented an accurate picture of history? The first decisive step in the course of the Japanese aggression was the occupation of Manchuria by Japanese troops. Even so, General Kanji Ishihara, the central figure in the event, was never charged. The reason for this was that Ishihara later fell out with General Hideki Tojo, Japan's prime minister during the war.

The court approached all things from an American perspective. It was politically calculated to deal conclusively with Japan's responsibility for the war so that the country could be rehabilitated as a member of the international community. In this context, no reliable historical research could be carried out. Historians today tend to view this period of World War II as a war centered in East Asia; many have suggested that the term "war in the Pacific", which reflects the American perspective, is not entirely appropriate. By contrast, the Tokyo Trial, which reflected the America-centered view of history, placed the conflict between Japan and the United States and Hideki Tojo at the center. It is strange that China and even Korea, which themselves had no direct reference to the convicted Category A war criminals, should believe so much in the historical version of the Tokyo trial.

Today, Yasukuni Shrine is registered as a "religious body" (another fact that the aforementioned Chinese diplomat was not aware of). It would therefore be extremely difficult for the state to interfere in its affairs without violating the freedom of religion guaranteed by the constitution.

Finally, it should be emphasized that every time Prime Minister Koizumi visited the Yasukuni Shrine, he publicly stated that he considered the war to be a mistake and that he visited the shrine not to worship the war criminals but for the unknown To honor soldiers who were forced to go to war and died on the battlefields. These statements can be seen on television every year. So how can these visits be construed as glorifying the Japanese war of aggression? In Japan today, some believe that the prime minister should stop these visits as long as they lead to misunderstandings between the Chinese and South Koreans. But few believe that these visits serve to glorify past aggression.

For a creative dialogue
I serve on both the Sino-Japanese Friendship Committee in the 21st Century and the Japan-South Korean Joint Historical Research Committee. My own perspective on history differs from that of some of the other Japanese on these committees and is consistent with that of some of the Korean members. You can't force people to share the same views. However, it is possible to clarify certain facts that we should all be aware of and to clear up unnecessary misunderstandings. This may not be enough to make a common textbook, but it should be enough to make a common reference work. Therefore, in my opinion, it would be desirable for Japanese and Chinese researchers to participate in a joint historical research project similar to that which Japanese and South Korean researchers have undertaken (although this project has yet to produce the desired results).

However, there are a number of conditions for such a project.An absolutely necessary condition is that the project strictly follows scientific methodology and that the intellectual freedom and independence of the researchers are respected. Participants must be ready to face facts that may cast their own country or their own theories in a bad light. This is the minimum requirement for an academic approach. The second condition is directly related to this: the rapprochement must be mutual. A situation in which the Japanese are willing to change their minds but the Chinese are not is unthinkable.

Chinese and South Korean textbooks also have their own problems. How much do you learn in Chinese schools about the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution? In the memorial hall near the Marco Polo Bridge, which commemorates the Chinese resistance to the Japanese invasion, there is no evidence that the soldiers who fought so heroically were actually Chiang Kai-shek's nationalist troops. When it comes to highlighting the highlights of its history and hiding the downsides, Japan cannot surpass China.

The third condition for such a joint research project would be that researchers from other countries also take part. Researchers from both former colonial powers and former colonies could be invited to participate. France, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, the Netherlands and Vietnam, but also Israel, Germany and the United States would be possible.

Far be it from me to deny the historical truth of Japan's aggression against China and the great suffering it caused. It will undoubtedly take several generations to overcome this story. Nonetheless, we must continue our efforts and clarify the facts regardless of such feelings. Should such an examination prove that my own understanding was flawed, I will willingly change my mind. As Martin Buber said, a true encounter between the self and the other changes both of them forever. This is the kind of face-to-face encounter that Japan and China need. So far, Japan has always hesitated a little before engaging in such direct dialogue, but it has to abandon that attitude. And as a great power with a corresponding responsibility, China should also be able to meet this challenge.

Dr. Shinichi Kitaoka
PhD from Tokyo University. Professor at Rikkyo University and Tokyo University. Currently Deputy Head of the Mission of Japan with the rank of Ambassador to the United Nations in New York. Author of numerous publications on domestic and foreign policy topics.
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