Sino Japanese Relations in the 20th Century Relations between China and Japan are contradictory; they both rely heavily on each other economically, but they are distrustful of each other and there are huge cultural and political tensions between them. Japan helped provide infrastructure that allowed for the rapid industrialization of China, and if it were not for all of the foreign trade opportunities in China, Japan’s economy could have collapsed. At the same time however, China is still offended by the massive massacres and inhumane acts committed by the Japanese.
Japan’s government is also very weary, and almost threatened, by China’s continuing growth economically, politically, and militarily. Despite the fact that China and Japan rely on each other economically and are so similar culturally, relations remain tense because of unresolved historical issues. The relationship between China and Japan really began to sour after Japan became industrial and imperialistic during the mid nineteenth century. This period, known as the Meiji restoration, changed Japan from a feudal society to a more capitalist one.
Japan’s military was also greatly strengthened during this time, and taking after the British and other western ideas, began to occupy China. This led to the First Sino-Japanese war in 1894. At the time, China was still relatively weak and a very primitive country compared to the new imperial Japan. This war was fought mainly over control of the Korean peninsula and was easily won by the powerful Japanese military. This wasn’t a particularly bloody or violent war, but it was the first incident that caused China to think negatively of Japan.
Japan’s imperialism continued throughout the twentieth century, but never turned into a full out war until the Second Sino-Japanese war in 1937. The Second Sino-Japanese war was one of the most brutal wars in Asian history, and it is a significant root cause for the bad relations between China and Japan. This is mostly due to The Rape of Nanking, which was a gruesome mass murder and war rape committed by the Japanese in 1937. The Rape of Nanking occurred during a six-week period after the Japanese took over the city of Nanking (the capital of China at the time).
During this time, the Japanese military proceeded to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians, and rape tens of thousands of innocent women. In fact, the acts of violence were so unnecessary and horrid, that this is also known as the “forgotten holocaust of world war two”. Pregnant women were often a target of murder, and they would often be bayoneted in the stomach, sometimes after rape. Tang Junshan, a survivor and witness to one of the Japanese army’s systematic mass killings, testified: The seventh and last person in the first row was a pregnant woman.
The soldier thought he might as well rape her before killing her, so he pulled her out of the group to a spot about ten meters away. As he was trying to rape her, the woman resisted fiercely … The soldier abruptly stabbed her in the belly with a bayonet. She gave a final scream as her intestines spilled out. Then the soldier stabbed the fetus, with its umbilical cord clearly visible, and tossed it aside What has really caused the Rape of Nanking to be such a pressing issue though, is that Japan has done almost nothing to apologize to China. What’s worse, is that some Japanese scholars and officials claim the entire incident to be a hoax.
Members of the Prime Minister’s Party state the “no evidence to prove the mass killings by Japanese soldiers in the captured [Nanking] and they even accused Beijing of using the alleged incident as a “political advertisement. ” Of course, the Chinese government is very offended by these claims and since then, relations have deteriorated greatly. China also does nothing to try to forget about the unpleasant incident, and many Chinese textbooks horrifically describe the acts of the Japanese, which darkens the image of Japan to the Chinese populace even further.
The brutal occupation of China was finally over after Japan was defeated at the end of World War Two. China and Japan then entered a brief period where relations remained stable; this was mostly due to the Japanese military being dismantled. The establishment of The People’s Republic of China also made Japan feel more respect towards them because China was becoming a “civilized” nation like themselves. During this short period, Japan assisted China through its first years as a newly developed, struggling nation. Many trade policies were agreed upon and Japan and China started to cooperate and coordinate on many levels.
This helped both countries thrive culturally and their economies, especially Japan’s, boomed. Without these trade agreements, China never would have developed so quickly, and Japan wouldn’t have been able to come out of the devastation they suffered from World War Two as strongly. But even though the Japanese military was disbanded, China still viewed Japan as a threat because of the numerous atrocities that Japan had committed. China was worried about a remilitarization of Japan, as Japan’s army was slowly recovering from World War Two.
But Japan remained peaceful, probably due to the increasing amount of business happening between the two countries. During the next few decades, Sino- Japanese diplomatic relations slowly improved, while economic ties increased exponentially. In the 70’s and 80’s, negotiations took place for a peace and friendship treaty between the two countries. There were also many VIP visits between the countries involving high ranking government officials, at even the Prime Minister of Japan visited China in 1984. After long term trade agreements and Chinese economic reform, bilateral trade rapidly increased.
This is also known as the “golden age” of Sino- Japanese relations, as they made significant progress during the 70’s and 80’s. But a lot of these visits and treaties were mostly for show, and today, we realize that although it seemed like the two countries were finally starting to cooperate with each other, there were still many problems surrounding Sino-Japanese relations. Because of this purely economic relationship, China and Japan’s economies have become closely intertwined. They are almost completely dependent on each other economically, and wouldn’t be the powerful countries that they are today without each other.
As I said before, China never would have developed so quickly if it weren’t for the early investments and trade from Japan. On the other hand, after Japan’s economic bubble popped in the 90’s, many investors needed to find new places to invest and trade, and China was filled with such opportunities. The continuous growth of China’s economy could not be sustained if it weren’t for the steady stream of investments and trade coming from Japan, but on the other hand, Japan’s economy would be in shambles if it weren’t for all of the financial opportunities in China.
But even a close trading relationship can’t fix a relationship stained with violence and distrust. Japan, for example, is worried that China is becoming too strong of a rising power in today’s society. As of just this last year, China has overtaken Japan as the worlds second biggest economy, trailing only behind the United States. China’s military is also quickly becoming modernized as the Chinese government gradually spends more and more on their national defense budget. As of today, there has been billions of dollars spent on advanced missiles and submarines. The rest of the world doesn’t event know the full extent of he power of the Chinese military, and China could posses more weapons than even the United States. This is not only concerning to Japan, but also other developed countries as well. Although Japan is worried about the continuous growth of China, Japan is still in the lead developmentally and has been for the last century. China has been influenced greatly by Japan’s actions and took their development as a model for their own. When Japan first industrialized, it showed China that industrialization was a reachable goal that would make them more powerful. And until recent years, China has just been slightly behind Japan developmentally.
In fact, China is very similar to what Japan was just 40 years ago. Just like China today, Japan was a rising Asian power that many westerners feared would become too powerful. Many indicators of a growing economy are also evident in China; literacy rates, infant mortality rates, and GDP (gross domestic product) are all on the rise, similar to what Japan’s were four decades ago. It’s no coincidence that China hosted the Beijing Olympics 44 years after Tokyo, and they hosted the world expo 40 years after Osaka. China has a unique opportunity though, they can learn from Japan, and not make the same mistakes that Japan did.
Japan doesn’t want China to leap frog over them though, and has started to invest less into China, causing trade between the countries to decrease in the last decade. Japan has been deliberately putting less business into China, mostly because they don’t want to contribute to the growth of a country that they view as a threat. But at China’s current rate of expansion and technological development, they could soon be losing their dependence on Japan. And it seems as though the only thing supporting a stable relationship right now is economics, and if that is gone then what will come of their already volatile relationship?
Without the economic dependence that China and Japan have for each other, their relationship would almost certainly crumble. Having bad relations between these two countries is not only detrimental for China and Japan, but also damaging for world politics, and the world economy as a whole. Creating healthier relations between them would allow for collaboration and cooperation which would help push Japan out of recession and let Japan help guide China in the right direction. It would also benefit the many Japanese investors who have billions invested in China to have improved communication with the country.
Better relations between them would also greatly impact the outside world, especially the US. The United States has had a huge impact on the shaping Sino- Japanese relations. Having trusting political relations would allow the United States to become a more prominent contributor to Asian politics without having to choose sides on any touchy, historical issues. We wouldn’t have to worry about starting a political flame war and we could focus more on building stronger relations with each other, making it easier to come to agreements and make decisions on major issues.
It seems like China and Japan are both going to have to put in more effort to improve Sino- Japanese relations in the long term. Both Japan and China are going to have to try much harder to establish relations that are built on something more than just trade. Due to this, it is advisable for them to make an effort to construct a new and healthier relationship that is not reliant on their economic structures. But how should they approach fixing a relationship that is stained with hatred and tension? First, Japan should focus on making sure that China forgives them for their past actions.
It is important that China believes that this is a sincere gesture, as it has been attempted many times before. Japan should make sure to take full responsibility instead of just loosely apologizing as they have done in the past. They should also not view each other as threats, and become more trusting of each other’s intentions. China could make this easier for Japan by being more open about their military intentions. China and Japan should also be public about their diplomatic relations to keep their people informed about what state their countries are in.
Fixing Sino-Japanese relations is going to be a long journey for both countries. Because of such a complicated and violent past things aren’t going to be easy, but their economies and cultures are so intertwined; it would be beneficial to them and the rest of the world to repair their broken relationship. But only once we look back at the history between these two countries can we understand how to look to the future. Bibliography: Anonymous “KEIDANREN : JAPAN-CHINA RELATIONS IN THE 21ST CENTURY (2001-02-20). ” Nippon Keidanren. 20 Feb. 2001. Web. 1 Mar. 2011. <http://www. keidanren. or. jp/english/policy/2001/006. html>. Anonymous “Nanking Massacre. ” Nanking Massacre. Web. 8 May 2011. <http://nanking-massacre. co. tv/>. “China and Japan, Rival Giants”, BBC, http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/shared/spl/hi/asia_pac/05/china_japan/html/history. stm (accessed February 21, 2011) “The China-Japan Economic Relationship (sidebar). ” Issues & Controversies. Facts On File News Services, 20 Dec. 2010. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. <http://faculty. college-prep. org:2074/article/ib150683>.
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