As a follow-up to my blog about the Chinese people’s serious lack of interest in international relations, I’d like discuss an exception to that: Chinese people always have a very definite response to and opinion for questions about Taiwan or Japan.
Once I casually suggested my Taiwanese friend as coming from a different country than China and I was met with some serious furry from my Mainland friend who insisted the two of them were from the same country.Â In Mainland China its a well-known fact that Taiwan is part of China.Â It is not even possible to argue with a Mainlander (especially one who has never left China) that Taiwan is a separate country.Â But then I ask, how can Taiwan citizens and Hong Kong people and residents of Macau have different passports than those of Mainland China?Â (Of course, the HK & Macau situation is much different than that of Taiwan, but its still an interesting thought…) As was discussed with the confiscating of the Lonely Planet-China books, China bans any news or materials that might suggest something other than Taiwan firmly being a part of China.Â Because of this, it’s impossible to question a Mainlander about the country status of Taiwan.Â To some extent, the Chinese people have again been brainwashed into believing that Taiwan is unquestionably a part of China.Â It’s taught in schools, it’s reinforced through censorship and media, and it’s asserted daily through Mainlanders telling any Taiwanese they encounter, ‘No, you’re not Taiwanese.Â You’re Chinese.Â You’re one of us.’Â In fact, just yesterday, I read something in English that said Taiwan is the largest island of China.Â If, to Mainlander’s knowledge, Taiwan were to suddenly become an independent country one day, I believe all hell would break lose.Â Either it would become painfully obvious to all Mainlanders the government had been lying to them for years and would seriously destabilize the government or China would move very quickly to reassert its authority over Taiwan to prevent western Chinese provinces from making moves similar to Taiwan’s.Â Let’s just hope this situation can all be managed smoothly without daft action on anyone’s part: Mainlanders can remain in naive nationalistc bliss and Taiwan can remain (mostly) independent.
Mention Japan to a Mainland Chinese and get ready for an earful.Â They’ll spout off opinions ranging from blatant hatred to uncomfortable distrust to honest admiration.Â The official party line is that Japan perpetuated war crimes against Chinese people (during the Second World War, for example the Rape of Nanking), but the more problematic issues are that Japan is trying to revise its history book, and (until the election of Japan’s new Prime Minister) Japan’s leaders were still visiting a war shrine erected to honor those who committed the crimes against Chinese people.Â This last part, of course, requires its own separate condemnation, but can the Chinese government really continue to pollute the heads of its children into thinking all Japanese are bad?Â How do you encourage positive relations with one of your neighbors when you are leading your children to be racist on the grounds of something that happened more than 50 years ago?Â Let’s consider one of the worst episodes of genocide recorded in modern Western history: that of Nazis over the Jews in Germany.Â You don’t see the Jews telling each other all Germans or anyone of German descent is bad, do you?Â You don’t seem them creating propaganda to teach hatred of an entire race of people.Â What about the Turks and the Armenians? Well, maybe that’s not a good example.Â Destructive periods of history are meant to be learned from, not carried throughout generations to continue to perpetuate hate.Â When, through the school system, the Chinese teach the youngest members of their society to hate, what are they hoping for? Retribution? Prejudice?Â Whatever the government seeks (mostly an apology and for Japanese govt officials to stop visiting the war shrine, as well as its destruction), won’t come through teaching their children hatred.Â Fortunately, many better educated Mainlanders have been able to see beyond their narrow-minded education; they understand the importance of tolerance, respect, and communication with their largest trading partner.
It is interesting to consider the strong feelings Chinese have toward the Japanese in light of the success of and affinity for Japanese products.Â Everything from electronics to cars to anime to clothing styles to Japanese food is very popular in China.Â Obviously, or else how would Japan be China’s biggest trading partner?Â However, purchasing or enjoying Japanese-made items is not without its consequences.Â For example, my roommate owns a Honda and some of her friends criticize her for owning a Japanese product, scowling at her for supporting the evil-doer.Â And in the end, they refuse to ride in the car.Â Although my roommate is well-educated and open-minded enough to be willing to buy Japanese products (she also has a Sony laptop), she still has no friendly comments for Japan.Â She understands what’s history, versus what are well-made goods but I believe she too, has been too indoctrinated in the Chinese education system, and so she does at some level still seem to hold a grudge against the Japanese.Â (Love you Jocelyn, nothing personal, just commenting on the education system.)Â It is interesting to note that if you ask anyone who has traveled outside of Mainland China, the most often visited location after Hong Kong is Japan.Â Many school trips travel to Japan each year.Â I wonder what they tell the students on the trip?Â Here are the savages who killed 30million Chinese during World War II?…Â It is also a curious fact that the 2nd most common foreign language taught in China (after English) is Japanese.
Over the weekend, I was chatting with a couple of Japanese ladies who live in Shanghai.Â One commented (with only a slight hint of humor) that China is a dangerous place for Japanese.Â And I responded that I could see that.Â The other Japanese lady, however, disagreed.Â She said that Chinese people were smart enough to know that what the Japanese government (did) does is not a reflection of Japanese individuals.Â Based on my conversations with Mainlanders about Japan, I would say they may be smart enough to separate the government from the people in their mind, but too much education and govt propaganda has overruled rationality.
As Japan seeks to alter its textbooks to indicate it was the true victim of World War II, there has been a Chinese out-lash against Japan.Â Perhaps, its just that I’ve arrived in China during a turbulent time, when tensions between the two nations are running high and emotions are readily converted into opinion, but it seems both sides are going down the wrong path.Â Teaching hatred in school will never turn out well, neither will paying homage to a violent past.Â Unfortunately, I can’t control what is taught in schools in China or in Japan, but only hope that influential leaders in both of those countries will see the error in teaching hatred or false victimization and instead teach open-mindedness so that their children can build a better, more cooperative future with their important neighbor across the Japan Straight / East China Sea.
(I wonder how long I can keep writing these types of blogs about China’s censorship and other issues before I get my website blocked in China.)