China Perspectives 2013/4


Chinese Visions of Japan:

Official narratives of a troubled relationship

Buy this issue
China Perspectives 2013/4

Special Feature

Editorial Page 3

Edward Vickers

A resurgent China nowadays looms ever larger in the public consciousness of its East Asian neighbours, with implications not just for their external relationships, but also for their domestic political dynamics. However, Japan still supplies, as it has for over a century, the benchmark of successful “catch-up” modernisation for states, including China, that see themselves as still “catching up.” For authoritarian governments keen to minimise “spiritual pollution,” Japan has also long provided a model for the selective preservation of native “essence” alongside imported modern “technology,” even while attracting condemnation for the nationalistic excesses associated with this enterprise: colonialism, invasion, and associated brutality. And at the popular level, the impact of Japanese culture – high-brow, low-brow, literary, or visual – on the societies of the region has been manifold and profound.

Download this PDF

Forty Years in Paradox: Post-normalisation Sino-Japanese relations Page 7

Yinan He

ABSTRACT: Post-normalisation Sino-Japanese relations have been fraught with contradictions. In particular, three paradoxes stand out over the past 40 years. First, despite many shared geopolitical and economic interests, China and Japan have never developed genuine strategic cooperation, and since the 2000s have even evinced a trend towards thinly-veiled or open rivalry. Second, time, rather than healing the wounds of past wars, has since the mid-1980s yielded only a more vivid and bitter recollection of history that has bedevilled both official and popular relations. Third, diplomatic and commercial ties as well as “thick” societal contacts developed since normalisation have failed to bridge a significant gap in values. This article reviews Sino-Japanese relations since 1972, with a special focus on internal politics on both sides. It considers the influence of their conflicting historical narratives and political systems, and of the broader international geopolitical context, on the evolution of their delicate, paradoxical bilateral relationship. It concludes that a healthier bilateral relationship may depend on the development in both countries of a genuine, robust civil society that is relatively free from political interference.
KEYWORDS: Sino-Japanese relations, Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands disputes, historical memory and nationalism.

Download this PDF

Transcending Victimhood: Japan in the public historical museums of Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China Page 17

Edward Vickers

ABSRACT: This article looks at how the major national (or pseudo-national) historical museums in China and Taiwan interpret and display very different “new rememberings” of Japan. The main focus is on the permanent exhibitions of the modern history wing of the National Museum of China (NMC; formerly the Museum of the Chinese Revolution), which finally reopened in 2011 after almost a decade of refurbishment, and of the National Museum of Taiwan History (NMTH), which opened in the same year. It discusses how museum portrayals of Japan reflect divergent public discourses on national identity. Through examining the relationship between museums and the apparatus of the Chinese state (ROC and PRC), the first section locates the NMC and NMTH in their bureaucratic and political contexts. A typology of approaches to the construction of national identity is then offered, considering the implications of different conceptions of identity for portrayals of Japan and its relationship with China or Taiwan. The remainder of the article looks in turn at the NMC and NMTH, outlining the history of each before examining how Japan is represented in their permanent exhibitions. It concludes by considering what can be learnt from this about the evolving relationship between official historical discourse and the broader political context on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.
KEYWORDS: China, Taiwan, museums, history, Japan, identity.

Download this PDF

Shanghai’s History Curriculum Reforms and Shifting Textbook Portrayals of Japan Page 29

Yang BiaoEdward Vickers

ABSTRACT: This article examines the coverage of Japan in Shanghai’s senior high history textbooks since the early 1990s – a period when the city’s status as China’s “showpiece for the global era” has been widely touted. Uniquely among cities on the Chinese mainland, Shanghai has throughout this period enjoyed the right to publish and prescribe its own textbooks for use in local schools (a right extended to most other regions only since the early 2000s). The portrayal of Japan in local texts thus offers a window onto the way in which a self-avowedly “global” Chinese metropolis has balanced an outward-looking and internationalist vision with the requirement for history to serve patriotic education. It also sheds light on the meaning and extent of local curricular “autonomy” in contemporary China.
KEYWORDS: Shanghai, China, Japan, history, education, identity, autonomy, war, modernity.

Download this PDF

Wartime Enemy or “Asian” Model? An examination of the role of Japan in history textbooks in Hong Kong and Singapore Page 39

Christine Han

ABSTRACT: This article compares the history curricula of Hong Kong and Singapore since the 1980s with respect to their treatment of Japan, particularly its involvement in World War II. It examines the role played by Japan as one significant “Other” against which its former victims define themselves. As well as being cast as a wartime aggressor and agent of local “victimhood,” Japan has also been hailed as an economic and military model worthy of emulation. By comparing portrayals in school history textbooks and their shifts over time, the author shows how images of Japan have been used by state elites in these two former British colonies to construct significantly divergent official visions of “postcolonial” identity.
KEYWORDS: history, images, “Other,” textbooks, war, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore.

Download this PDF

Territorial Disputes, Trade and Diplomacy: Examining the repercussions of the Sino-Japanese territorial dispute on bilateral trade Page 49

Stephen Robert Nagy

ABSTRACT: This paper will examine the repercussions of the Sino-Japanese territorial dispute for bilateral trade. Using interviews with businesses, scholars, and government officials in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Tokyo, and data gathered from policy papers and businesses, this paper argues that the traditional seikei bunri (separation of politics and economics) relationship that existed between Japan and China in the post-World War II period has given way to a more confrontational relationship in which economic pressure can be and has been applied as a means to press Japan on bilateral issues. It argues that understanding the way in which frictions arising from territorial disputes have affected the Sino-Japanese trading relationship may hold implications for the handling of similar disputes across North- and South-East Asia.
KEYWORDS: Sino-Japanese relations, territorial disputes, trade, integration.

Download this PDF


The Banality of Singing Red: Secondary production of everyday life in Chongqing’s Red culture campaign Page 59

Xiao Mei

ABSTRACT: This paper examines the interaction between Chongqing’s Red culture programme (2008-2012) and the practices of Singing Red by retiree participants during the campaign. Drawing on ethnographic data collected during fieldwork in Chongqing, this paper argues that the community practices of retirees constitute a distinctive structure that is less powerful but more durable than that of the official Red culture programme. The practice of Singing Red by the retirees in their daily life did not subvert, but exercised tactical effect on the official programme.
KEYWORDS: Singing Red, Chongqing, Chinese politics, practices of everyday life.

Download this PDF

Current Affairs

CEFC News Analysis Debating Constitutionalism in China: Dreaming of a liberal turn? Page 67

Samson Yuen

China Analysis What Impact will the Opening of two-way Investments in the Service Sector have on Cross-strait Cultural Exchanges? Page 74

Tanguy Le Pesant

China Analysis Risking one’s Life to Petition the Authorities: The black jail industry in China Page 76

Hugo Winckler

Book Reviews

Book Reviews (PDF version) Page 77

Gail Hershatter, The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past Page 78

Wu Weiyi

Marie-Claire Bergère, Chine: le nouveau capitalisme d’État (China: The New State Capitalism) Page 79

Nathan Sperber

Françoise Mengin, Fragments d’une guerre inachevée. Les entrepreneurs taiwanais et la partition de la Chine (Fragments of an unfinished war: Taiwanese entrepreneurs and China’s partition) Page 81

Tanguy Le Pesant

Bianca Bosker, Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China, Hong Kong Page 83

Martin Minost

Vivian P.Y. Lee (ed), East Asian Cinemas: Regional Flows and Global Transformations Page 84

Vanessa Frangville



























Back to top