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Knowledge Co-Creation - Profiles of researchers

The Diplomatic History of China-Japan "Opposition and Cooperation"
- Towards a mutual understanding which surpasses our history

Liu Jie, Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, Waseda University

The complex duality of the China-Japan relationship

I have been involved in research into China-Japan diplomacy from the Meiji era onwards ever since coming from China to Japan through a student exchange program at age twenty, and I wrote my doctoral dissertation on diplomacy during the Second Sino-Japanese War. It was later published under the title "Diplomacy During the Second Sino-Japanese War". Normally, countries that are at war with each other do not engage in diplomacy. In the Second Sino-Japanese War, however, diplomacy was conducted while war was waged. Dualities such as this actually illustrate the complexity of the China-Japan relationship itself. The uniqueness of my research lies in its focus on the peculiarity in the China-Japan relationship, where contradictions such as "war and diplomacy", or "opposition and cooperation", coexist.

In reality, up until the First Sino-Japanese War, personal exchange between Japan and China was carried out only among a severely limited group of people. To Japan, China was a subject to be studied through classical Chinese literature. However, while they may have been able to read the Chinese classics, exchange carried out in normal, conversational Chinese was very rare, and the other's national character was something they did not really understand.

It was through the First Sino-Japanese War that they first began to understand the actual circumstances of the other country. Japan thought that they could not possibly win against Manchurian China, but win they did. In one stroke, Japan's way of looking at China changed. At the time, Japan was rapidly taking in modern Western ways of thought, and, in contrast, they began to think that "China isn't really advancing, it isn't all that impressive". Ever since the First Sino-Japanese War, while there is adoration for ancient Chinese culture in Japan, there has also been the idea that China is lagging behind in this era of Western modernity. These two images twine together intricately, becoming ever more contradictory.

After that, while the great powers of the world repeatedly trespassed upon China's sovereignty, a victim mentality spread among the Chinese. During the first World War, as if to strike a final, unnecessary blow, Japan set some very drastic demands called "The Twenty-One Demands" before the Chinese. This quite decisively turned the impressions the Chinese held of Japan into bad ones. In short, these two affairs - the First Sino-Japanese War and The Twenty-One Demands - threw a very dark shadow over both countries' future diplomatic relations and their awareness of each other.

The international symposium held at Waseda University in 2003
Poster for "Between Opposition and Cooperation - China-Japan Relations across a Century"

When China-Japan diplomacy is examined from the aspect of personal exchange, we find that, in Japan from the 1920s onward, there were groups of so-called "China colluders" in the military, among politicians, or formed of bureaucrats or civilians. They had a good understanding of Chinese history and many Chinese connections, and held great power and influenced policy towards China.

The influence of people such as these continued unbroken even after the war. In 1972, China-Japan diplomatic relations were normalized; among those active in the preparatory stages were not a few former bureaucrats and politicians who'd been dispatched to the continent before the war. By former value judgments, these men would have been called "invaders of China", but, in a complete reversal, they worked hard for China-Japan friendship. Fukuda Takeo, the father of former Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo, was a bureaucrat who worked in China before the war as an economic advisor for the national government of the Republic of China (Wang Zhaoming administration). It was in the era in which Fukuda Takeo held authority that the China-Japan Treaty of Peace and Friendship was concluded. This history, its "contradictions" tangled by the China colluders, forms the background of the complexity of China-Japan diplomacy.

The Rise of a New Nationalism

After entering the 1990s, the Chinese economy emerged remarkably. At the same time, Japan bore down on its own independence as a great economic power, and a new form of China-Japan conflict began to materialize. It was felt that it would be a good thing, a welcome thing, for Japan to provide economic support to China, and to support China's modernization of its routes. In the meantime, however, after support for China had continued for ten years, China suddenly went through rapid growth, and in that interval, both countries locked horns numerous times on various aspects.

From the 1980s onward, and particularly upon entering the 1990s, Japan began to rethink what path it should take towards the future. It had grown able to stand on equal economic footing with America and had raised its status in international society. The Japanese had run out of models to study. In the midst of that situation, people began to realize that problems hinging on historical awareness, which should have been resolved in the joint declarations of 1972, had not, in fact, been resolved. In 1982 there was the problem with textbooks, in '85 the issue of Yasukuni shrine, and the aspect of China-Japan opposition began to grow conspicuous. Furthermore, after entering the '90s, as the Chinese economy grew, they began to lock horns over territorial issues as well.

The "Japanese and Chinese Young Historical Researchers' Conference" held at Waseda University (March 2006)

This trend towards growing nationalism in both countries is one that should be watched. To China, Japan was once an invading country; China holds serious fears that Japan may once again become a militaristic nation, and its wariness towards Japan has grown extraordinarily strong. Whenever issues crop up between China and Japan, people crying for the economic relationship between Japan and China to be condemned as a Japanese economic invasion, and for exclusion of Japanese goods (a boycott of Japanese products) appear. The problem there is that Chinese research of Japan has not really advanced, and that understanding of post-war Japan has not penetrated to the citizens. For Japan and China, the problem of how to build a trust relationship looms large, as it always has. I believe it will take time for both countries even to gain a mutual understanding that neither has any intention whatsoever of invading the other.

As far as historical issues are concerned, up until now, the countries have tried only to make the other party understand a single interpretation, and there have been no efforts to bounce ideas off each other. For Japan and China to undo the misunderstandings between them, they must first overcome historical issues. As one attempt to that end, a "Japanese and Chinese Young Historical Researchers Council" geared toward those in their thirties and early forties was started a few years ago, and holds regular assemblies. This attempt of ours is the first step towards that mutual understanding, and I believe it is a necessary step in the improvement of the relationship.

Specifically, we look back at the key events between Japan and China, then, having located the point of contention, try to throw the differences between the Japanese and Chinese interpretations into relief. For example, even with something such as the Rape of Nanking, we work at firmly analyzing and understanding why such a thing happened, and how the event itself was interpreted from various viewpoints. A series of the results of our research has been compiled into a book titled "Historical Awareness Beyond Borders". We interpret why China-Japan historical interpretations differ, and include differences in historical research methodology, in a way easily understandable to university students.

The national feelings of both Japan and China

Recently, great changes in China's interpretation of modern history have become visible. To begin with, the basic question of what exactly constituted recent Chinese history has begun to be questioned. Where, up until now, the aspect of interpreting its history as one of opposition against foreign invasions has been strong, research examining history as a means of modern nation-building, or concentrating on its basic essence as human history, is becoming mainstream.

When looked at from a new viewpoint, it is possible to interpret many of the efforts of historical persons as efforts toward modern nation-building, not solely as efforts to oppose invasions. For example, one thing told of in China-Japan history which we must not overlook is the history of the so-called Japan colluders among the Chinese, who took a cooperative stance towards Japan at various times. In China, they were called "kankan" (betrayers, traitors), a word with an extremely harsh meaning, and have been held to be absolutely unforgivable. However, by looking at things from a new historical viewpoint, even among those people once known as "kankan", we discover people who can be reevaluated by the fact that they contributed to the modernization of China. Also, several people are researching the Japan colluders from the basic essence of humans and society.

Japan as a Multiethnic Nation and Chinese Living in Japan

In spring of the year 2008, I published a new book titled "New Overseas Chinese, Old Overseas Chinese - Japan's Changing Chinese Society". Japanese society is entering an era where it will have to coexist with foreigners. While taking up the issue of overseas Chinese, the book advanced a single suggestion to Japanese society. At this moment in time, I believe Japanese society is undergoing a historical transitional phase towards a multiethnic nation. As its progression towards an aging society with fewer children advances, it will have to accept technicians and laborers from other countries of the world.

Just last year, the foreign group with the most members living in Japan switched from the Koreans, who had held it up until that point, to the Chinese. What sort of existence will Chinese become to Japan in the future? Overseas Chinese society developed while possessing a close-knit relationship with Japanese society; however, both the gap between the "old" overseas Chinese (here since before the war) and the new overseas Chinese (who have come to Japan since the 1980s), and the relationship between the Taiwanese overseas Chinese and the continental overseas Chinese, are markedly changing. The trend as a whole seems to be that the Chinese are beginning to integrate more and more into Japanese society.

Professor Liu Jie's representative works (partial list)

Even at this university, I have been amazed at the recent increase of Chinese exchange students. To begin with, our university has historically accepted many Chinese exchange students, under a variety of different circumstances. From a historical perspective, Waseda is a special place for the Chinese, and there are many in both political and academic spheres who have returned home to China from this place and subsequently contributed to China's modernization. If one were to go to China and ask for the most famous Japanese university, there are many people who would first give the name of Waseda University.

However, the number of exchange students from China has now reached several thousands, and the relationship between Waseda and Chinese exchange students may be changing as well. I think that, one day, I would like to look back on this history and write a book on the theme of "Waseda University and Modern China".

Liu Jie, Professor, Waseda University Faculty of Social Sciences

Born in Beijing in 1962, he came to Japan in 1982 through the Beijing Foreign Studies University and entered the University of Tokyo. In 1993, he completed his doctoral course of Graduate School of Humanities, the University of Tokyo. He holds a doctorate in Literature. He has been a special foreign researcher for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, and a part-time lecturer at University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo, Ferris University, and Shukutoku Junior College. In 1996, he became a full-time instructor (Social Sciences) at Waseda University, then an assistant professor in the same, before arriving at his current post. Since 2005, he has also served as a visiting researcher at Columbia University. His major works include "New Overseas Chinese, Old Overseas Chinese - Japan's Changing Chinese Society", "Journal of the 101st Division Commander" (co-compiler), "Historical Awareness Beyond Borders - Attempts Towards China-Japan Dialogue" (co-compiler), "Kankan Trial - The Fate which Befell Japanese Collaborators", "A Chinese Historical Perspective", "Diplomacy During the Second Sino-Japanese War", and others.

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