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Wounds and Hatred

A newspaper article (South China Morning Post, Hong Kong) sent by a friend piques my interest in Chinese spies and the traitor government during the Second Sino-Japanese War. More than 70 years after Japan marched into large swathes of China, hatred of the invading nation remains strong. Whether it is an attempt to heal old wounds or to establish new ground to sustain this hatred, historians and academics never fail to find ways to remember the horrible tragedy the scale of the Holocaust that took place in Nanjing. In 1937 the Japanese invaded China and set up puppet governments across the country. Many historians have blamed the actions of these spies, or hanjian, which literally translates to Han evil, helped justify torture, murder and oppression on a scale that changed the collective personality of the country, creating hatred and mistrust for Japan that persists today. One of the most well-known traitors is Wang Jingwei, as portrayed in Lust, Caution, who advocated peace negotiation during the Second Sino-Japanese War and set up the Nanjing “Nationalist Government” puppet state with the assistance of Japanese Army. It’s difficult to judge if someone was really a traitor–maybe ambition or sense of public service prompted him to step forward and assert leadership in troubled times.

I read an article that discussed why China loves to hate Japan during my stay in Hong Kong. The problem is that just as Japanese soldiers once dehumanized Chinese, Beijing’s propaganda often paints Japanese as pure monsters. And indeed this is still the case in mainland. You don’t have to look far to see why Chinese grow up learning to hate Japan..Grade school textbooks recount the callous brutality of Japanese soldiers in graphic detail, and credit the Communist Party with defeating Japan.Why keep up the propaganda onslaught 60 years after Japan’s surrender? Many suspect (my father included) China’s unelected leaders hope to use anti-Japan sentiment to buttress their own legitimacy. Ever since the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989, support for the Communist Party has rested on the shaky foundation of economic growth. Nationalism, by contrast, could prove more enduring. Until China’s leaders have some new pillar of legitimacy, I think the Japanese will remain the devils for China.

I’m looking forward to reading this book, the third non-fiction on the roll.