Is a deep reconciliation between Japan and China possible? In the fall of 2010, Japan and China experienced one of the most brutal confrontations in their interstate relation since the World War was over – the Diaoyu crisis. Not only the sovereignty disputes are hindering the bilateral relationship but the historical memories also pose an insurmountable obstacle that these two countries have to overcome. This paper addresses the question that: Is it possible for Japan and China to achieve a deep reconciliation? Since the bilateral relationship of China and Japan forms the backbone of regional stability of East Asia in particular and Asia in general (Tiberghien, 2010), a glaringly institutionalized relationship between them is required to stabilize the regional security. In the present paper, it is hypothesized that China and Japan can eventually achieve a deep reconciliation after they successfully nurture a common understanding of history. These following literature review attempt to help demonstrate and support this hypothesis.
In the journal article by Yinan He (2011), she argued that the harmonisation of national memories is the key factor to facilitates genuine interstate reconciliation, while memory divergence resulting from national mythmaking hampers long term prospects of reconciliation among former enemy countries. According to He, “reconciliation” is defined by the concept of deep interstate reconciliation, which means former enemy countries share a sustainable mutual understanding and trust, and the public hold warm feeling towards each other in general. Yinan He formed a theory of national mythmaking to capture the influence of historical memory on interstate reconciliation. Her theory argues that ruling elites tend to build historical myths that blame other former enemies for the trauma in the past and self-justify their own country’s actions, and sharp divergence was caused in terms of historical interpretation therefore two former enemy countries hold cold feeling and hostile intention towards each other.
Yinan He demonstrated three stages of interstate reconciliation: non-reconciliation, shallow reconciliation, deep reconciliation and used three indicators to determine the measurements of the official international relationship. The first and also the most decisive one is the mutual expectation of war, the second is national recognition, since the satisfaction of each party’s fundamental aspirations should begin the reconciliation. The third indicator is the state of economic interaction between the post-conflict states which indicates the level of mutual trust.
Sino-Japanese reconciliation falls in the stage of shallow reconciliation, wherein the expectation of war is moderate, but no harmony is compromised that there would be no use of military forces. In spite of normalised diplomatic relations, territorial conflicts remain a concern. This is enhanced by the fact that the sovereignty dispute over Senkaku/Diaoyu islands was spreading the fear of escalating tension that would harm the regional security (BBC News, 2014). Furthermore, Japanese – Chinese economic interaction is still restrained, and although there has been a decrease in public tension, it still appears.
By comparing the two cases of Sino-Japanese and German-Polish postwar reconciliation, Yinan He emphasised the importance of a mutual understanding of constructed wartime memory. If the memories diverge, the myths can fuel the victim’s country’s grievance and stimulate the feeling of the irresponsible perpetrator, or worse, the fear of the perpetrator’s rearmament. In addition to mutual acknowledgement of historical memories, in the article Yinan He demonstrated that deep reconciliation also demanded the invader’s apology and the victim’s forgiveness.
An apology should be a declaration of wrongdoing, admit responsibility, give expression of remorse. In addition to that, the way in which an apology is delivered also matters. Consistent messages of apology stated publicly or announced officially by government can ensure a long-term peaceful intention. Only after all these legal accountability has been met, the victim shall forgive. Forgiveness has the value of relieving the burdens created by the dreadful past of the perpetrator and presenting the opportunity to reestablish a morally equal relationship between the sufferer and the offender (Digeser, 2001). In conclusion, Yinan He implied that ideational factors such as historical memory played a major role in international relations. Although gestures of friendly disposition to kindness were officially issued, Japan and China still lack a mutual understanding and a feeling of closeness, which was resulted by the historical construction legacy. To achieve a deep reconciliation in the long run, these two countries need to settle a common fundamental historical acknowledgement.
In the next article by Suisheng Zhao, an unsettled historical memories and Chinese anti-Japanese nationalism was presented, followed by examination of how a superficial friendship was maintained by Chinese pragmatism for several decades after the normalization of the diplomatic relationship. However this present paper will focus on reviewing the unsettled historical issues. Japan and China shared a mutual Confucian cultural traditions, therefore elucidating the impression that these two countries flourished an interstate relationship for centuries before the Sino-Japanese war of 1954-1985. The wound was inflicted even more seriously by the Japanese invasion of China in the 1930s – 1940s. The Chinese anti – Japanese nationalism was strongly reinforced by the inhuman treatment by the Japanese invaders during the war and the fact that China repeatedly endured humiliation.
Although the Sino-Japanese war ended with Japanese defeat and surrender, these traumatic historical memories caused a wound that has not been healed and was kept alive as a scapegoat by the Chinese Communist government. Chinese leaders were exeptionally aware of Japan’s rearmament, concerning Japan as a regional security threat. In 1972 there was a sudden normalization between these two former enemy countries, and neither of them was prepared to resolving the historical issues. Because of the “Nixon Shock” (Nixon’s unexpected visit to Beijing), Japan virtually had to rush to a solution in order to accommodate themselves to the China-US rapprochement (Zhao, 2016). On the Chinese side, although the past Japanese wartime atrocities could pose obstacles, Chinese elites made the decision of not pushing Japanese guilt of aggressive wrongdoing in the past expecting sustainable Japanese economic would assist its modernization program. Moreover, Fisher (2013) stated that the Communist revolution would never have succeeded if Japanese had not invaded China, as the Communist party came to a large power based on Chinese nationalism during the anti-Japanese war. A joint comuniqué signed in 1972 declared the normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations.
Since then a superficial relationship between China and Japan has been demonstrated. Sensitive sovereignty disputes such as Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands conflict were put off and postponed to settle the normalization. However, the superficial relationship was consistently preoccupied by the unsettled historical issues. As China and Japan had never officially settle the historical memory conflict to the entire extent, many Chinese people still beared in their mind that Japan had not wholeheartedly apologized and sufficiently compensated for it wartime crimes. Although Chinese leaders attempted to conceal the wartime memories in order to push the relationship, the Chinese public could still not overcome past historical issues. The denial of Japanese atrocities by right wing Japanese politicians, in conjunction with the visiting of Japanese Prime Ministers to Yasukuni Shrine where enshrined 14 class A war criminals, fuels and sustains Chinese angry responses to Japan, and conjointly poison the image of Japan. As a consequence, countless apologies and Japan’s bounteous economic aids were overshadowed by Chinese emotional nationalism reactions. As ideational factors such as domestic norms, values and interests are the key to formulate state identities and shaping interstate foreign policy legacy (Lawson and Tanaka, 2010), Chinese government started to allow its people’s protests against Japan without any opposing and even fostered large scale anti-Japanese flame.
In conclusion, Zhao brought about the statement that the unsettled memories over Japanese wartime atrocities have created dramatic confrontation and precluded the reconciliation progress. The followed article written by Sebastian Conrad (2003) correspondingly compared the two cases of West German and Japan in terms of historical interpretation of “entangled memories”. The term “entanglement” emphasized the asymmetrical relations and interactions that constructed contradictory interpretations of the past. The article focused on contextualizing and situating the postwar situation in both these defeated countries by analyzing the entangled historical memories.
This perspective suggests that memory plays a central role in defining the national identity. He argued that memory remembering and forgetting are the most direct means of indicating national ability “to mourn, to learn and to mature”. Additionally, the article also stressed the key role of international factors in interpreting the past memories, for example the United States’ interventions. These interventions of the occupation force sustained and contributed to similarities in Japanese and German recent historical interpretations. In both countries, the restrictive measures by the occupation authorities lead to the central objects of national commemoration of censorship. To sum up, Conrad concluded that “entangled memory” may serve as a essential complement.
Considering confrontations and obstacles posed in interstate relations between Japan and China, is it possible for these two past enemy countries to achieve a deep reconciliation? It is hypothesized in this present paper is that a deep reconciliation is achievable in conditions of acquiring a mutual trust and constructing a shared interpretation of historical memories. Along with improved international structural incentives which play apparently important role in contributing to the reconciliation process of two countries, a fundamental historical settlement is instrumental. A history of conflict should not ruin interstate relation into future opposition. On the contrary, the conciliation should be built based on collectively constructed and contributed memories. He (2011) argued that the trend of initiating a joint historical settlement would strengthen resilient even when structural conditions deteriorate the relationship between two countries and flourishing a long term wave of deep reconciliation. In the contrary, in spite of advantageous international structural opportunities granted for further and warm reconciliation, some countries still adhere to their national myths and their relationship remains constrain, as the divergent historical memories can generate the mistrust and animosity, moreover it can exacerbate mutual security concerns (He, 2011). The Chinese and Japanese government might be successful in producing a pleasant interstate relationship for the sake of economic cooperation and political expediency, but deep reconciliation was lacking because of existing national myths. To sum up, the engagement of national de-mythification and the harmonisation of national memories is a crucial step in the process of deep reconciliation.
National myth-making is a process of manipulating historical memories that differentiates the interpretation of history in two countries. Historical memories tend to follow interests of the ruling elites (He, 2011), and the more different acknowledgement is, the harder it is for former enemies to establish a deep reconciliation. According to Yinan He (2011), there are three types of myths about former external conflict. The first is self-glorifying myths, which explicitly incorporate inflated or falsely self-justify national competence. This also includes myths of victimisation that confer moral superiority upon a nation (Orr, 2001). The second type is self-whitewashing myths, which deny or refuse responsibilities or rationalize a nation’s past crime to other countries. The last type is other-maligning myths, which falsely charge other states as villain, inferior, or blameworthy (Jacopsen, 1993).
These myths lead to divergent historical narratives, which would lead to the victim country’s grievances towards the perpetrator, the invader’s lack of sympathy for the victim country, which will in turn arise the frustration with the perpetrator. Comparing two cases of Sino-Japanese and German-Polish process of reconciliation, the importance of accomplishing a shared historical memories is highly stressed. Both Japan and German have made numerous official apologies. West Germany began to explore their country’s atrocities in the past in 1960s (Lind, 2008). Holocaust perpetrators were executed, billions of dollars of compensation was paid, the victims were memorialized, the atrocities and aggression of Nazi were detailed and the exploration of wartime histories was encouraged (Lind, 2008). Germany’s apology was considered unambiguous and complete, and “is viewed as an attempt to evade full responsibility” (Nobles, 2008). German Chancellor Willy Brandt’s historic gesture of falling to his knees in front of the Warsaw Ghetto monument in 1970 was strongly appreciated by Germany’s former enemies and victims (Vink, 2016).
They value German acknowledgement of it past crimes (Lind, 2008) and willingly offering forgiveness. By forgiving, the victim nation begins to “see the offender and itself in a new light” (Grisworld, 2007) and be ready for a deep reconciliation.In the Sino-Japanese case, the situation is completely different.
National myths was widespread in both countries. The Japanese conservative elites settle three main national myths (He, 2009). The myth of the military clique separated a small group of military leaders from the Japanese people and blamed them for launching the war, the Western centric myth admitted Japanese responsibility in holding hostilities against the Allies but denied its aggression and atrocities