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Patriotic Reeducation

In 2017 in a rust-belt city in Northeast China I hopped in a taxi and began chatting with my driver who, when the conversation turned to politics, nonchalantly told me that he wished that the Chinese Government would kill every single Japanese person on the planet. I found this extreme to say the least, so I double-checked just in case my Chinese was failing me, “You mean kill every single Japanese man, woman, and child?”

“Yes, exactly,” he said.

Guessing by his apparent age I wrote my driver off as a fringe extremist whose possibly restricted worldview was likely shaped during the throes of the Cultural Revolution. I presumed that the vast majority of Chinese people today would decisively denounce this kind of violent sentiment of genocide. This presumption was wrong.

Chinese genocidal hatred against the Japanese simply cannot be dismissed as the bigotry of a nationalist fringe movement. Anti-Japanese sentiment is in fact so engrained in Chinese culture that it has become not only a political utility and form of patriotism but even a solid go-to branding opportunity.

The CEO of a major company in Hebei province sets his username on Weibo (China’s Twitter) to “killer of Japanese devils” and likewise a news anchor of a regional TV station sets his Weibo username to “destroy Japanese devils.” Weibo also has hundreds of users with the phrase “bomb Japan” in their username, and after a devastating 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck Osaka in June, the natural disaster began trending on Weibo with a large number of Chinese netizens lamenting that more Japanese people had not been killed. As one user put it, “The whole nation of Japan should perish as soon as possible. It’s an evil race that has infuriated god.”

Certainly not all Chinese hold such genocidal or hateful views. There is a sizeable minority that even frown upon these views and a growing number of more internationally-minded Chinese who have Japanese friends or study in Japan so are at the very least suspicious of this hate.  Some Chinese even see this sentiment, in part, as a product of government propaganda and brainwashing. As The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) manages uncertainty over the future of its leadership, it exploits nationalism to boost its popularity and the painful memories of WWII anti-Japanese sentiment provides a relatively low-cost, high-yield opportunity for this purpose.

Chinese citizens who do openly support Japan in any way, shape, or form also risk being seen as traitors. Another user commenting on the Osaka tragedy remarked, “Any Chinese people in Osaka right now travelling or shopping? They should be buried together with the Japanese”.

In 2017, the China Badminton Super League told their own Lin Dan, the number one badminton champion in the world, that he would be forbidden from competing in the playoffs because he had a sponsorship contract with the Japanese sports brand Yonex.  In 2012, the Chinese actress Li Bingbing refused to travel to Japan to promote her film, Resident Evil 5, saying that she “personally cannot handle it emotionally”.

The origin of China’s anti-Japanese sentiment lies in the Chinese theater of World War II when the Imperial Japanese Army committed scores of harrowing war crimes on Chinese soil including the mass killing of civilians, sexual slavery, human experimentation, and cannibalism that resulted in the deaths of 10 to 20 million Chinese people.

Bodies of victims along Qinhuai River out of Nanjing’s west gate during Nanjing Massacre.

While Chinese consumers punish those that associate themselves with Japan, they reward others that play to their anti-Japanese sentiments.  The nation’s entertainment industry makes a lucrative business out of anti-Japanese war films and television series.  As of 2013, more than 200 anti-Japanese war films were produced each year.

Most Chinese fervently believe that, unlike Germany, Japan has failed to adequately acknowledge and apologize for their WWII war crimes. As an example of a historical insult, a recently edited Japanese history textbook leaves out any mention of the many thousands of brutal killings and rapes of Chinese civilians during the Nanjing Massacre. Chinese people also harbor deep resentment over the Yasukuni Shrine, an elaborate Shinto shrine in Tokyo dedicated to Japan’s war dead, in which a number of Japanese war criminals are still venerated to this day.  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the shrine in 2013 sparked furor in China as well as in South Korea, a country that shares China’s anti-Japanese sentiment.[5]

The Yasukuni Shrine

While China’s anti-Japanese sentiment is clearly the inheritance of a profoundly hideous stretch of history, its current use of that history says a lot about China’s current political situation and how the CCP employs anti-Japanese sentiment as a political tool. For example, when the Japanese government purchased several of the disputed Senkaku Islands (claimed by China) from a private Japanese owner in 2012, Chinese nationalists were infuriated by the move and called for a boycott of all Japanese products.  Demonstrators flaunted portraits of Mao Zedong and held signs reading, “kill all Japanese.”

These protesters may very well have been genuinely furious over the Senkaku dispute and about Japan’s WWII war crimes that resulted in the deaths of 10 to 20 million Chinese, but its hard to escape the fact that after the war the reign of Mao Zedong resulted in the deaths of another 45 to 80 million Chinese citizens.  This of course raises the question: Is this genocidal hatred of the Japanese truly rooted in the historical atrocities committed against the Chinese people or is it simply a cynical form of nationalism built on a conveniently available outrage?

If this were really about brutal violence against the lives of innocent Chinese, the CCP would not only decisively denounce Mao Zedong, but it would direct more attention to his actions than to those of Japan. Instead, far from even denouncing Mao’s rule, the CCP, to this day, treats Mao Zedong as China’s savior and most revered leader. And while the Chinese accuse Japan of not owning its history, Chinese textbooks leave out any mention of the tens of millions of Chinese citizens that died during Mao’s rule.

Following the Senkaku protests The People’s Daily, a mouthpiece of the CCP, published an article on the incident stating, “the patriotic enthusiasm expressed by the people should be protected and taken extra care of.”  The article responded directly to the protests with encouragement, saying, “We should understand, respect, and care for this sentiment, let the masses of people fully express their patriotic enthusiasm, and show the world our love for peace and our fight for justice against invasion.”

Fanning anti-Japanese sentiment serves a strategic advantage in the party’s promotion of nationalism, particularly when the CCP presents itself as a hero in defending the Chinese nation against Japan in bilateral disputes. Given the strength of lingering resentment, the government need only exert relatively limited effort for substantial patriotic fervor.

This use of nationalism as a tool for regime legitimation is linked with China’s recent political-economic transition (the one that ultimately launched the “Chinese economic miracle”).  When the CCP reduced totalitarian control of Chinese society following the death of Mao Zedong, it had no plans for political liberalization.  In fact, after observing the fate of other communist regimes, China’s reformist leader Deng Xiaoping and others felt that the best way for the CCP to attempt to retain authoritarian political control was to deliver prosperity through economic liberalization.

The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989

However, as the government loosened its grip on the economy and society, it became concerned that the people would soon call for political reform.  These fears were forcefully confirmed when the Tiananmen Square protests erupted in 1989.  The government surmised that its ability to deliver economic prosperity would be insufficient in ensuring the CCP’s political survival.  It then began to focus on fostering nationalism in order to increase its popularity.

The CCP quickly launched a campaign of “patriotic education”, promoting a fiercely nationalistic ideology, in which the CCP is portrayed as integral to the conception of the Chinese nation.  In this way, Chinese citizens are conditioned to believe that opposing or even questioning the CCP is almost synonymous with treason.

As official education incessantly emphasizes China’s history of victimization, it portrays the CCP as the primary defender of the Chinese nation against foreign antagonists.  For example, last year, the CCP extended the official time frame of the war against Japan from 8 to 14 years to inflate the achievements of the CCP.  The Chinese previously marked the beginning of the war with the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident, when full-scale conflict began. Now, it is marked by the Japanese Invasion of Manchuria in 1931, at which time, the CCP engaged in small-scale fights with the Japanese army.  According to the Chinese Ministry of Education, this change is specifically designed to promote patriotism.

This promotion of nationalism has unquestionably been effective in boosting support for the CCP but the country’s recent illiberal trajectory suggests that it hasn’t formed the pillar of legitimacy that it was hoping for. If the CCP were confident that the combination of nationalism and competent governance could secure its future, it is unlikely that it would govern with such repression.  At the same time the CCP is well aware that, apart from a few petro-states, there is not a single case in history of an authoritarian country achieving high-income status (roughly double China’s per capita income today).

If enough people begin to grow tired of the manipulative nature of the official promotion of anti-Japanese nationalism, it may end up doing more harm than good for the CCP. But as things stand, while the CCP projects ever greater strength on the global stage and draws attention to its portfolio of lofty goals, it is rapidly reverting back to totalitarianism at home, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the era of Mao.

 

Nick Taber is a writer and consultant on policy and business in China. He received his Master’s from the London School of Economics in 2016, where he researched the economics of state-capitalism and trade in China and Vietnam.  Follow him on Twitter: @TaberTooth

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48 Comments

  1. Simon Johnson says

    Having lived in China for 5 years, the other factor to consider here is that the Chinese, for all their pragmatism, don’t do rationalism. The extent to which superstition dominates not just their world view but their everyday life cannot be underestimated. Ethnic nationalism dovetails perfectly with this superstition through entrenched mythology. History is easily re-written through mythology.

    • Nationalism and authoritarianism will lead to greater suffering and poverty. China and Russia both can’t shake these with their rulers for life and rampant corruption. After all, faith-based (superstitious included) generally accept nationalism and authority over liberty and global cooperation.

      • “After all, faith-based”

        The United States system is “faith-based”. Rights are ineluctable and derive from the Creator, unlike e.g., the French system where rights are invented and supplied by the State.

      • Freidrich Goatse says

        So “nationalism is bad,” but forcing people who want to kill each other into the same living space competing for the same limited resources of land with its limited carry capacity is somehow a good thing. You can’t make this delusion up. It just has to be seen.

        I only wish that people this delusional would be literally forced to live in the third world colonized regions of the formerly monoracial western countries that they’ve screwed up so they could get their just desserts for what they’ve done.

        • Peter from Oz says

          Friedrich, that is a great comment.
          The strange idea that we have to force different peoples to live together and then overcome the ”racism” this causes is one of those bizarre ideas that only a leftist ”intellectuall” could have.
          The other funny idea that leftists have is that when europeans become a minority in Western countries there will be no more ”racism.”

        • Shalagh McCarthy says

          Some overstatement there – India seems to have chosen democracy, Parliamentary government, and to maintain the railway system. Some colonial rulers did not totally “screw up” their colonies.

  2. A good article, it’s always nice to see some commentary on non-Western current affairs in Quillette.
    While I have no doubt that anti-Japanese sentiment is very strong in China, it would be interesting to know if there is more quantitative material on the subject, e.g opinion polls.

    • Innominata says

      Opinion polls? From the Chinese population?

      Sure, you bet. The Communist People’s Party Central Authority on Freely Expressed Opinion Polls can put together those numbers and have them over to you today.

    • TarsTarkas says

      And if an opinion poll was actually made asking Chinese attitudes towards Japan, would you trust the results? Knowing the Chinese government would likely slant the questions, insist on getting the identity of those answering the questions, and monitor their social media posts before and after?

    • Conducting polls in China without prior authorization from relevant government bureau is a serious crime (Chinese term of felony). Such a authorization is almost impossible for foreigner to obtain, and even application would likely to incite government suspicion for doing espionage

  3. “From all the assumptions, consolidations and calculations made, the overall Japanese democide in World War II can now be estimated (lines 381-384), and Japanese democide in China included (line 386). This gives a total democide of 3,056,000 to 10,595,000 with a likely mid-total of 5,964,000 people killed.” From the link you provide under “10 to 20 million chinese” in your article.
    The number (up to 10 millions) seems to comprise about 6 million chinese, the rest are from other countries, such as Indonesia or Korea.
    I have no peculiar knowledge about the source you provide (Rummel), but accuracy would be nice.

    • ga gamba says

      I don’t know why Korea of gets lumped in with China and others in the tally. Very little military action, by either the Korean guerillas or the Allies, took place on the peninsula. In the pre-war and war years of 1925 to 1944 Korea’s population increased by more than 6m – a greater than 31% increase. Hard to find that happening elsewhere in the Pacific theatre where military action occurred. Hundreds of thousands of Koreans served in the Japanese military from the lowliest private to as high as a lieutenant general. Koreans volunteered to be be kamikaze pilots and several former officers in the Japanese military were to attain prominent post-War positions, which includes Park Chung-Hee, who would become president, and Kim Chang-Gyu, who served as the president of the state-owned Korea Tungsten Company, which accounted for 60% of Korea’s vital export revenue in the ’60 and early ’70s. Others, such as Chang Do-Young, who led the 1961 coup but was later purged, were university students in Japan during the war. In the aftermath of WWII several dozen Koreans were convicted of war crimes, mostly perpetrated against Allied POWs – the Korean gov’t would later unilaterally absolve them of these crimes. Prior to the war organisations such as the pro-Japan Iljinhoe, established in the first decade of the 20th century and having estimated 800,000 members in a nation then of about 12m, even aided the Japanese military during the Japan-Russian War, much of which was fought in peninsular Korea.

      If you’re looking for a nation other than China that the Japanese really roughed up look to the Philippines, who today have very little palpable malice aimed at Japan.

      • “I don’t know why Korea of gets lumped in with China and others in the tally.”

        For someone who is usually very thorough in their research, it seems you have missed the rather obvious Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910-1945. Many and more of the same crimes the Chinese suffered were also perpetrated against the Koreans during this time; genocide, sexual slavery, prison camps etc. it should be no surprise that the Korean puppet government under the Japanese produced Koreans willing to fight for Japan in WWII. The history of animosity between all three of these Asian nations goes back thousands of years. It is obvious to anyone familiar with the region that Koreans have no love for the Japanese.

        • I’m sure Mr Ga can respond if he wishes, but his point is well-taken. Because Korea was a colony of Japan, and one whose response to colonial domination was far more ambivalent and diverse than modern South Koreans like to admit, there was very little “military action” on the peninsula during the Great Pacific War.

          Koreans were more likely to be taking part in the various “democides” undertaken by the Japanese than victims of such. When Koreans did fight the Japanese during the war it was usually under the auspices of the Chinese and usually took place on Chinese soil. Ask any fan of the ruling Kim family about the heroic resistance fighters whose families still predominate in the ruling class of the DPRK.

          Korean dislike of Japan and the Japanese is generally not as vicious nor as visceral as that which often colors extremes of Chinese nationalism. During the 90s there was a “youth culture” push to allow Japanese cultural products into the South Korean market that resulted in a gradual relaxation of restrictions on manga, film and music. That said, older Koreans still trot out the “yellow dwarf” label that marks the Japanese tendency to have darker skin and shorter legs than the ideal leggy Koreans we see in K-pop videos. Much Korean prejudice against the Japanese has more to do with envy and denial of “Japanification” than the hot-button issues left over from the war. Now that Korean pop culture has clearly outperformed the Japanese equivalent in every Asian market, there is a more relaxed attitude to the defeated competition.

          As to how the Japanese “think” about the Koreans and Chinese, friends of mine in their 40s are unanimous is answering bluntly “We don’t”.

        • ga gamba says

          … missed the rather obvious Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910-1945.

          Golly, how would you conclude I missed that when I even provided the population growth from 1925 to 1944? BTW, it goes back earlier than 1910; the Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895 ended Korea’s tributary relationship with the Qing Dynasty. A decade later Japan knocked the Russians off the peninsula. Korean restiveness occurred for a few years prior to and after annexation, and it was handled as harshly as police and military handled uprisings including those by striking workers, socialists, anarchists around world at the same time. Skulls were cracked and people shot. Such was the way of rulers.

          No, I think you’ve fallen for the propaganda. Much of this is due to how Koreans wrote their history to put themselves in the central role of their independence and marginalise the far more important role of the Allies in actually making that aspiration come to be. They prove very skilled practitioners of victimology, and in the Western world that matters. Sure, there were sex slaves, and some weren’t slaves, but the Japanese pulled these from Japan, the Philippines, China, and elsewhere too. Even Dutch nurses in Indonesia. The Japanese exploited women including their own because women didn’t count for much. And the same continued in Korea after WWII where the South’s government used sex tourism to entice Japanese visitors and also to entertain Japanese engineers who’d fly in for the weekend to work part-time for Korean companies eager to acquire Japanese technology. Sure, prisons existed. These existed everywhere. Even the British had them and jailed those who struggled and fought against their rule.

          President Chun Doo Hwan was the leader who amplified anti-Japanese sentiment as a means to redirect hatred off his regime and the Kwangju Massacre. Further, the North Koreans were very successful inculcating anti-Japanese feelings as a way to discredit Seoul’s political class as lackeys; Kim Il-Sung himself was a guerilla in China, and his regime used this history to push aside anti-North feelings held by the Southerners arising from the Korean War. A foundational text in this effort was Reminiscences of the Anti-Japanese Guerillas published in 1959 and printed unground later in the South. Over time the North became more adroit in this agitprop, as documented in Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-Sung, a former Nork propagandist who fabricated anti-South/Japan/USA narratives written from a South Korean perspective. This recasting of Japan as the chief villain rather than Pyongyang found fertile ground in the minds of those South Koreans coming of age in the ’80s and ’90s. Student organisations such as Jeondaehyop and its successor Hanchongryun, both of which were nurtured by North Korea, proved skilled at using anti-Japanese propaganda to smear the government and the ROKUS alliance. The rise of Korean nationalist historiographies, with their ever more outlandish claims, also went a long way to establish these present myths. The result is Seoul is caught in a debilitating national legitimacy contest with North Korea where it even squanders opportunities to improve cooperation with Japan, such as intelligence sharing, at the expense of existential defence. South Korea uses Japan against which to prove its nationalist bona fides in its national legitimacy competition with the North. Prof Victor Cha of Georgetown, himself an ethnic Korean, calls this phenomenon ‘anti-Japanism, where the myths of the Japanese occupation have become an identity for people who never experienced the occupation firsthand and some of whom are generations removed from the period.

          You know how many more people claim to have attended Woodstock than actually did? The same goes for many Koreans claiming to be independence fighters or their descendants. There’s esteem to be gained and possibly money too. Heck, even Kim Dae Jung lied about his anti-Japanese credentials.

          The history of animosity between all three of these Asian nations goes back thousands of years. It is obvious to anyone familiar with the region that Koreans have no love for the Japanese.

          I’m not claiming that the Koreans have love for the Japanese or vice versa. Animosity going back thousands of years may be a stretch insofar as the Japanese are concerned. Other than Hideyoshi’s invasion of Korea in the late 16th century (Imjin War) other Japanese violence in the region was perpetrated by pirates, but piracy was not unique to Japan. Meanwhile, the Koreans were invaded by the Chinese several times, the Mongols, the Jurchens, and the Manchus. Accounts of the Manchu invasion of Ming China are blood curdling.

          Chinese and Korean antipathy is also connected to their histories of seeing the Japanese as inferior barbarian dwarfs.

          … it should be no surprise that the Korean puppet government under the Japanese produced Koreans willing to fight for Japan in WWII.

          If anti-Japanese feeling was as strong as you suspect during the period of annexation, why would the Japanese put weapons in their hands and train them in military tactics? Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Where’s the history of uprisings by Korean soldiers in the Japanese Imperial Army? Anything akin to India’s Sepoy Revolt against the British? No.

          Japan’s rule was not warm and fuzzy in Korea, but the same can be said the both the Japanese and Korean rulers treatment of their own people for much of their histories, yet when we compare it to the Japanese actions in China and the Philippines, in particular the violence perpetrated and the bodies stacked up, it pales in comparison.

          • martti_s says

            Thank you, ga gamba, for your postings.
            There are always more truths than one in political questions. Today’s murderer is tomorrow’s freedom fighter and vice versa. My only personal experience from China is a ten-day tourist trip to Guangzhou. I saw the Big Brother watching me everywhere. You do not step on the lawn! Going to Metro you pass through an airport-type security gate, your bags x-rayed.

            I saw healthy kids playing under the eyes of their your retired grandparents. I saw a massive waste of materials, half-finished projects and houses falling apart from lack of maintenance and bad materials. I met people who spoke English, who wore Western clothes, long black shoes and who walked with a purpose.

            Google and YouTube were mostly out of order and I do not master Chinese. The locals did not mind, they got what they needed from their Xiaomis and Huaweis.
            So did we: Weibo Translate works. Guangzhou Police is there to protect and to serve. We had been told that they are unfriendly but our experience was different.

            We noticed how much smaller the grandparents were compared to their offspring.
            They did not seem to mind the oppressive regime, well fed and warmly clad.
            When they were young a couple of decades back, people did not eat every day.
            An egg was a feast.

            What I really understood was that our Western social democrat liberal values and norms are not at all self evident to people who have survived the humiliation of colonialism and the rage of the idealist mobs, the destruction, the piles of corpses and now the era of the New Truth.
            President Xi Jinping does not need my advice running his country.
            Probably most of his critics would only make the situation worse if they had their way.
            There has never been a China like that, ever. Nobody knows how it should be run.
            They seem to be doing OK, though, for themselves.

          • ga gamba,

            I’m not sure why you accuse me of falling for propaganda when you yourself state the relevant facts that answer your question; Koreans are in the tally because the crimes against them are the same as those against the Chinese in this case. You admit as much but post a flowery rationale of seeming disagreement. Quibbling about a lack of rebellion under Japanese rule does not make the Koreans somehow complicit, nor does it make them allies of the Japanese, which your original post implies.

            The origin of anti-Japanese sentiment is likewise irrelevant, as your original post cast doubt on the existence of anti-Japanese sentiment. It obviously exists, and I would wager a decent amount of money that the majority of Koreans feel negatively toward the Japanese.

  4. Mark Wright says

    Good article. One point: “apart from a few petro-states, there is not a single case in history of an authoritarian country achieving high-income status” — Singapore?

    • Well, like China, they also embraced freer trade and capitalism. And authority can work for some time, if the ruler happens to be good. But Singapore is way too young to suggest it’s sustainable, just a flick in time as leadership will turnover as time goes by, so one poor leader can ruin it all.

    • Singapore is not authoritarian, just less liberal than most Western democracies. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit index, Singapore is classified as a flawed democracy and China as an autocracy. Freedom House classifies Singapore as “partly free” whereas China is “not free”. In rule of law, the World Justice Project ranks Singapore as 13th in the world (ahead of the United States) whereas China is 75th.

  5. Barracoder says

    Leader for life? State-directed economy? Single party? Nationalism? Massive concentration camps? Huge rearmament?

    It’s impossible to deny any longer that China is a fascist state.

    • peterschaeffer says

      B, China is not a fascist state, not by a long shot. The Chinese government is not an American-style democracy to be sure and many of the rights Americans take for granted do not exist. However, calling China ‘fascist’ is an appalling misuse of the language. Indeed, China is rather far from fascism. A few points.

      1. China spends 2% of GDP on defense. That is less than the USA. A serious fascist state would spend vastly more on the military. China doesn’t.

      2. China does not persecute ethnic minorities in China to any extent that would justify a claim of ‘fascism’. Of course, China’s handling of minority issues is not perfect. However, China is not exactly building death camps to kill them. Back when the ‘one child per family’ policy was a major issue, minority groups were exempt. That’s about as far from ‘fascism’ as you can get.

      3. A key characteristic of a ‘fascist’ state is corporatism. In other words, a government that deals with its own population as a set of state-promoted groups. Think of the European guilds for an example. China is much closer to the one-party state model, than any example of ‘fascism’.

      4. China makes no effort to promote its system outside of China. One key reason is that China doesn’t have a ‘system’ (much less a ‘fascist’ system) to promote.

      5. China does not scapegoat internal ethnic groups for social problems.

      6. China does not proclaim the Chinese people to be the “master race”.

      Any comparison of modern China and Nazi Germany is absurd and a whitewash of the Nazis.

      • With regards to your arguments:

        1. It might look like China spends about 2% or less of its GDP on defense, but there are hidden defense-related costs that the government spends a large amount of money on without wanting you to know, e.g. on social stability maintenance (or “weiwen, 维稳” in Chinese). These costs used to be categorized into “national defense expense”, but now they are no longer disclosed on government websites.

        2. China does make effort to indirectly promote its system or its means of governance and surveillance outside of China, which has encouraged authoritarian regimes to use their power against their own people (take a look at Africa and Iran).

        3. China uses its media control extensively to scapegoat internal ethnic groups for social problems, to the point that authorities consider those who goes to a mosque or does not drink alcohol are terrorist suspects, and that a substantial number of ordinary Chinese people are extremely anti-muslim, thinking muslims are one of the biggest threats to China’s social stability.

        I do agree China is not a fascist state. Nonetheless it is one of the best examples of totalitarianism of our time.

        • peterschaeffer says

          ZL, China has problems with Uyghur Muslims. However, the Hui (who are ethnically Han) seem well accepted. That suggests that the issue may be one of separatism, not religion. I do not accept the assertion that China (the current PRC) is ‘totalitarian’. Modern China is authoritarian, but not totalitarian by a long stretch.

          Germany under Hitler was totalitarian. The USSR under Stalin was totalitarian. China under Mao was totalitarian. Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge was totalitarian. China these days is far from totalitarian. Under any of the regimes I just mentioned, a wrong word (or just the false allegation of a wrong word) could put you in a death camp. China today? Not exactly.

          Is the PRC a perfect democracy? No. Is it Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s USSR? No.

          • ga gamba says

            A single-party state, one that’s presently using ‘social credit’ (all encompassing ‘algorithmic surveillance’) to keep a running tally of the people’s actions and scores these to the end of dispensing rewards and punishments, it is not totalitarian? Would running hundreds or thousands of unacknowledged re-education camps make it totalitarian? Or must it be death camps and only death camps that make it totalitarian?

            It appears many, from across the political spectrum, disagree with your assessment. They may be wrong and you right, but they make a more persuasive case than you.

            www(dot)thediplomat(dot)com/2018/03/in-xinjiang-chinas-neo-totalitarian-turn-is-already-a-reality/

            Neo-totalitarianism,” Shambaugh suggested, could be triggered by a combination of a sudden crisis and/or the assertion of “hard-line leaders and their coercive bureaucracies” and become manifest through not only the reassertion of the institutions and instruments of social control of the Maoist era but their augmentation via 21st century technological innovations.

            That such a “neo-totalitarian” turn is in fact not only possible but already underway can be seen through an examination of the “security state” the Party has erected over the past decade in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

            www(dot)economist(dot)com/briefing/2018/05/31/china-has-turned-xinjiang-into-a-police-state-like-no-other

            The government is building hundreds or thousands of unacknowledged re-education camps to which Uighurs can be sent for any reason or for none. In some of them day-to-day conditions do not appear to be physically abusive as much as creepy. One released prisoner has said he was not permitted to eat until he had thanked Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, and the Communist Party. But there have been reports of torture at others. In January, 82-year-old Muhammad Salih Hajim, a respected religious scholar, died in detention in Urumqi.

            Kashgar, the largest Uighur city, has four camps, of which the largest is in Number 5 Middle School. A local security chief said in 2017 that “approximately 120,000” people were being held in the city. In Korla, in the middle of the province, a security official recently said the camps are so full that officials in them are begging the police to stop bringing people.

            www(dot)dailykos(dot)com/stories/2018/2/3/1738528/-China-Moves-To-Create-The-Perfect-Totalitarian-Dystopia

            The stated goal of all of these measures, like the stated goal of any Dictatorship, is to prevent “crime.” In reality what it does is cement the absolute authority of the Party in perpetuity and to intimidate and prevent any type of dissent. Who would dream of expressing any criticism of any government action when that criticism was absolutely known to the government, would result in either arrest or unemployability, and would certainly destroy one’s social mobility and taint that of one’s family? The answer is: No One.

            www(dot)theatlantic(dot)com/international/archive/2018/02/china-surveillance/552203/

            While the Chinese government has long scrutinized individual citizens for evidence of disloyalty to the regime, only now is it beginning to develop comprehensive, constantly updated, and granular records on each citizen’s political persuasions, comments, associations, and even consumer habits. The new social credit system under development will consolidate reams of records from private companies and government bureaucracies into a single “citizen score” for each Chinese citizen.

            www(dot)privateinternetaccess(dot)com/blog/2015/10/in-china-your-credit-score-is-now-affected-by-your-political-opinions-and-your-friends-political-opinions/

            The KGB and the Stasi’s method of preventing dissent from taking hold was to plant so-called agents provocateurs in the general population, people who tried to make people agree with dissent, but who actually were after arresting them as soon as they agreed with such dissent. As a result, nobody would dare agree that the government did anything bad, and this was very effective in preventing any large-scale resistance from taking hold. The Chinese way here is much more subtle, but probably more effective still.

            This system becomes mandatory in 2020.

          • To use an analogy, should we ask: is advanced testicular cancer better than advanced brain cancer? They’re both terrible.

            So Peter, have you lost your marbles? China not a perfect democracy? A few problems with Uyghurs? I mean, are you saying you really trust what the CPC puts out through its official propaganda channels? Have you drunk the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era koolaid? China may not have death camps, but it absolutely does have concentration camps. Just research Xinjiang reeducation camps for yourself, making sure to use reputable sources.

            In China today, you absolutely can face indefinite prison and oppressive treatment for saying the wrong words. And if that’s not a literal death sentence of the totalitarians of yesteryear, is it really much better? The CPC is not so foolish, they learned some lessons at Tiananmen and by watching the fate of other totalitarian states.

            *50 fen have been deposited in your People’s State Bank of China savings account, Mr.Schaeffer Peter, The CPC says Xie Xie!*

      • “Any comparison of modern China and Nazi Germany is absurd and a whitewash of the Nazis.”

        He wasnt comparing modern China to Nazi Germany. He compared mordern China with (small f) fascism, of which Nazi Germany was only one example (often considered not even the best example since fascism was ultimatly Bennito’s pet project). Most of your points are Nazi specific without taking into account how Fascist Italy and Spain were different.

        Thats not to say that modern China is fascist, but there is a better argument to be made other than “well, they are not like Nazi Germany.”

    • Innominata says

      Nah brah. I’m American (the edge kind, not the middle kind thank god) and I live in, like, a fascist country with a fascist president who tweets fascisms. Let me lay knowledge on you. The Chinese can’t be fascist because:

      The Chinese are not white (unless applying to Harvard or job-seeking at Google);

      The Chinese do not buy tiki torches in 12-packs at Cosco;

      The Chinese do not watch Fox News;

      Jimmy Kimmel and Bill Maher don’t ever talk about how bad the Chinese are, and Kimmel and Maher are fascism experts who totally called out our fascist president;

      The Chinese do not discriminate based on race at all (I wrote the CCP and asked them);

      The Chinese are fighting with our fascist president, and that wouldn’t make sense if they were fascist;

      The Chinese president doesn’t say the mainstream media are the enemy of the people–in fact, the Chinese mainstream media and the government and president all get along really, really well and say awesome things about each other every day;

      The Chinese make Nikes, and Nike is bankrolling Colin Kaepernick, who has the most anti-fascist hair ever and is standing up to our fascist president by not standing up.

      I could go on. The Chinese aren’t fascist. They aren’t even Republicans. You just don’t understand their feelings. They’re different from us, and you need to respect that and check your colonialist mindset.

      • “…who has the most anti-fascist hair ever and is standing up to our fascist president by not standing up.”

        I loled

      • peterschaeffer says

        I, Pretty funny and mostly true. However, Harvard doesn’t treat the Chinese as white when they apply for admission. That would be a big improvement that isn’t about to happen. They are treated as ‘worse than white’ by far. Quote

        “How much harder is it for an Asian-American applicant? Mr. Zhao and the complaint cite 2009 research by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade that found an Asian-American student must earn an SAT score 140 points higher than a white student, 270 points higher than a Hispanic and 450 points higher than an African-American, all else being equal. So if a white applicant scored 2160 on the SAT — lower than last year’s Harvard average — an Asian-American would need to hit 2300, well into the 99% percentile, to have an equal chance at getting in.”

        Type ‘Harvard Asian Admissions’ into Google for a great many articles on this subject. Unlike Harvard, Google does appear to treat the Chinese as ‘white’. In other words, Google does not treat Chinese employees as minorities for ‘diversity quota’ purposes. Converse, I don’t think Google actively discriminates against Chinese applicants (as Harvard clearly does).

      • @Innominata
        Thank you! I’m reading this comment while waiting to pick my son up from middle school and laughing hysterically. (Oh, yes, totally in fascist middle America in my fascist Jeep in the burbs! Sigh, fascism.

      • Mark Beal says

        Hallelujah! Satire is not dead – it’s just not coming anywhere near an MSM outlet near you any time soon.

  6. peterschaeffer says

    Nick Taber, Mark Wright beat me to it.

    Good article. One point: “apart from a few petro-states, there is not a single case in history of an authoritarian country achieving high-income status” — Singapore?

    That is exactly what I meant to write.

    • Singapore is not authoritarian, just less liberal than most Western democracies. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit index, Singapore is classified as a flawed democracy and China as an autocracy. Freedom House classifies Singapore as “partly free” whereas China is “not free”. In rule of law, the World Justice Project ranks Singapore as 13th in the world (ahead of the United States) whereas China is 75th.

      • peterschaeffer says

        ZL, See “Is Singapore an authoritarian government?” (https://www.quora.com/Is-Singapore-an-authoritarian-government) for a reasonable discussion of the subject. Let me say that I was a big fan of LKY and read all of his books. In my opinion, Singapore was (and remains) a model of how a multi-racial, multi-ethnic society should be organized.

        Of course, LKY died years ago. However, the nation that he helped to create lives on. For fun, I sometimes do math problems online. I never cease to be amazed at how many of the competitors are students from Singapore.

        Years ago, I asked a well-known black journalist where a black kid would be better off growing up. In the United States with our culture, or in Singapore? The question left him speechless. He definitely did not say, “in the USA”.

  7. Victoria says

    Telling that while our Puritan betters like Sergey Brin raged against Trump, Google ultimately made peace with developing a Chinese search engine that acquiesces to the demands of its authoritarian government.

  8. It doesn’t excuse the hate but it is mostly true that the atrocities Japan committed in WW 2 particularly against the Chinese has been pretty much whitewashed from history. You hear a ton about the Holocaust, and rightly so, but little about the millions of Chinese the Japanese killed. I was never taught about it in any depth in 16 years of US Schooling from primary to University. A history channel on youtube was demonitized because one of there series focused on it. It was deemed offensive to Japanese.

    • Name any 20th century atrocity you heard about even half as much as the Holocaust. In my 12 years of primary education we were assigned several Holocaust novels. We even read Night in two different grades. Plus, we read a ton of short stories about the Holocaust. I think we spent the better part of a year on The Diary of Anne Frank.

      Conversly I had never heard of the Holodomor or Killing Feilds until I was in University. And even then I didnt learn about them in a classroom.

  9. peterschaeffer says

    KH, “You hear a ton about the Holocaust, and rightly so, but little about the millions of Chinese the Japanese killed.”

    That’s entirely true. However, there is one very big caveat. When the Japanese atrocities were actually happening, they were very big news in the U.S.

    Indeed, U.S. outrage over Japan’s war in China is what actually led to Pearl Harbor.

  10. peterschaeffer says

    KH, Something I wrote some time ago.

    “China Lost 14 Million People in World War II. Why Is This Forgotten?”

    The first point is that Americans have typically forgotten about everything. Why should the war in China be any exception? Americans know very little about the even larger war between Hitler and Stalin. Why would the smaller land war in the Pacific stand out?

    To put this in terms of popular culture, I know of only one popular American movie about the invasion of Russia by Germany. That would be “Enemy at the Gates” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0215750/). There actually is a mainstream movie depicting (to a limited degree) the Japanese invasion of China, “The White Countess” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Countess). However, the focus of the movie is a love affair unrelated to the Japanese invasion.

    However, the bigger point is that while the Japanese invasion of China may be little known now, it was huge news at the time. Indeed, it was America’s largest foreign policy concern before Hitler invaded Poland and the second largest thereafter. It’s not wrong to say, that America’s entire foreign policy in the Pacific before Pearl Harbor was focused on opposing the Japanese invasion of China.

    I finished reading, “Pacific Crucbile”, a few months ago. It’s an account of the U.S. Navy from Pearl Harbor to Midway. The author gives a reasonably detailed history of Japanese foreign and military policy from the Meiji restoration to 12/7/1941. The key point that stands out is that Japan’s assault on China was the issue dividing the U.S. from Japan and leading inexorably to war.

    No less that Isoroku Yamamoto recognized this as the fatal flaw in Japanese foreign policy. Yamamoto is famous as the Japanese admiral who planned and carried out the attack on Pearl Harbor. Less well known, is that he strongly opposed any war with the United States believing that Japan would end up being completely destroyed by the Americans. His opposition to war with the U.S. was so strong that he risked his life to stop it. Specifically, he called for a Japanese withdrawal from China (which put his life very much at risk).

    Many years ago, I had the opportunity to read the entire October 1941 edition of Fortune magazine, cover to cover. It was fascinating at many, many levels. Back then, Fortune has a very high-brow, elite and erudite publication. The articles were long and well written and targeted a more literate audience.

    The impending war in the Pacific was discussed in great detail. The reader is left with no doubt, that war is coming and soon. The decision to continue to supply Japan with scrap iron and oil is explained as part of a well-considered foreign policy. Later (and to this day) it was ridiculed as quasi-treasonous absurdity.

    The situation is China is outlined realistically for the reader. Even though Fortune was published by Henry Luce (who grew up in China as the child of American missionaries), the tone (as I remember it) was as bit more balanced towards China than most of the hagiographies of the time. That said, the conclusion left in the minds of the audience is that of the heroic Chinese resisting the Japanese monsters (not entirely wrong to say the least).

    A prospective $1 billion loan/grant to China is mentioned. Considering that total Federal outlays for 1941 were only $13.653 billion (including rearmament), that was a lot of money back then. Note that China was allocated a total of $1.6 billion in Lend-Lease aid in WWII and roughly $700 million in loans. How much of the aid and loans ever arrived is unclear. There were both transportation problems (Japan controlled all of China’s ports) and systematic sabotage of the China aid program in the U.S. See the sources listed below for some details.

    “The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia” (http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/L/e/Lend-Lease.htm)
    “The Dragon’s War: Allied Operations and the Fate of China, 1937-1947” (a book)
    “Going to War with Japan, 1937-1941” (a book)

    The books tell a sad tale of allied promises to China far exceeding actual help. Both books agree that FDR strongly backed the aid program only to have it undermined by his staff. One of the books provides evidence that communist agents in the Federal used their influence to stop effective assistance to China. The truth of this is hard for me to judge, however the parties in question were Soviet agents (see the report of the Moynihan Commission).

  11. peterschaeffer says

    Kh, This is from a prior comment of mine.

    “China Lost 14 Million People in World War II. Why Is This Forgotten?”

    The first point is that Americans have typically forgotten about everything. Why should the war in China be any exception? Americans know very little about the even larger war between Hitler and Stalin. Why would the smaller land war in the Pacific stand out?

    To put this in terms of popular culture, I know of only one popular American movie about the invasion of Russia by Germany. That would be “Enemy at the Gates”. There actually is a mainstream movie depicting (to a limited degree) the Japanese invasion of China, “The White Countess”. However, the focus of the movie is a love affair unrelated to the Japanese invasion.

    However, the bigger point is that while the Japanese invasion of China may be little known now, it was huge news at the time. Indeed, it was America’s largest foreign policy concern before Hitler invaded Poland and the second largest thereafter. It’s not wrong to say, that America’s entire foreign policy in the Pacific before Pearl Harbor was focused on opposing the Japanese invasion of China.

    I finished reading, “Pacific Crucbile”, a few months ago. It’s an account of the U.S. Navy from Pearl Harbor to Midway. The author gives a reasonably detailed history of Japanese foreign and military policy from the Meiji restoration to 12/7/1941. The key point that stands out is that Japan’s assault on China was the issue dividing the U.S. from Japan and leading inexorably to war.

    No less that Isoroku Yamamoto recognized this as the fatal flaw in Japanese foreign policy. Yamamoto is famous as the Japanese admiral who planned and carried out the attack on Pearl Harbor. Less well known, is that he strongly opposed any war with the United States believing that Japan would end up being completely destroyed by the Americans. His opposition to war with the U.S. was so strong that he risked his life to stop it. Specifically, he called for a Japanese withdrawal from China (which put his life very much at risk).

    Many years ago, I had the opportunity to read the entire October 1941 edition of Fortune magazine, cover to cover. It was fascinating at many, many levels. Back then, Fortune has a very high-brow, elite and erudite publication. The articles were long and well written and targeted a more literate audience.

    The impending war in the Pacific was discussed in great detail. The reader is left with no doubt, that war is coming and soon. The decision to continue to supply Japan with scrap iron and oil is explained as part of a well-considered foreign policy. Later (and to this day) it was ridiculed as quasi-treasonous absurdity.

    The situation is China is outlined realistically for the reader. Even though Fortune was published by Henry Luce (who grew up in China as the child of American missionaries), the tone (as I remember it) was as bit more balanced towards China than most of the hagiographies of the time. That said, the conclusion left in the minds of the audience is that of the heroic Chinese resisting the Japanese monsters (not entirely wrong to say the least).

    A prospective $1 billion loan/grant to China is mentioned. Considering that total Federal outlays for 1941 were only $13.653 billion (including rearmament), that was a lot of money back then. Note that China was allocated a total of $1.6 billion in Lend-Lease aid in WWII and roughly $700 million in loans. How much of the aid and loans ever arrived is unclear. There were both transportation problems (Japan controlled all of China’s ports) and systematic sabotage of the China aid program in the U.S. See the sources listed below for some details.

    “The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia”
    “The Dragon’s War: Allied Operations and the Fate of China, 1937-1947” (a book)
    “Going to War with Japan, 1937-1941” (a book)

    The books tell a sad tale of allied promises to China far exceeding actual help. Both books agree that FDR strongly backed the aid program only to have it undermined by his staff. One of the books provides evidence that communist agents in the Federal used their influence to stop effective assistance to China. The truth of this is hard for me to judge, however the parties in question were Soviet agents (see the report of the Moynihan Commission)

  12. Victor Ghiga says

    Anti-Japanese sentiment is both an old and a new thing in China. I lived there for a few years at the turn of the century; there were plenty of Japanese students in my university – about a third of all foreign students – and I’ve never witnessed any sort of incident, never heard a Chinese person disparage the Japanese, whether to their face or otherwise. Back then, the US was the official foreign devil, and citizens acted accordingly. I was there on 9/11. Chinese students in my university threw a party that night. Basically, they thought the Americans had it coming and had no issues at all celebrating thousands of deaths. What I’m getting at is that the renewed anti-Japanese hatred might be caused by new propaganda that brings old grievances back to life. The new powers-that-be, definitely more authoritarian, more aggressive and in a far stronger position than 18 years ago, might be aching for a scrap in their immediate vicinity. People on the streets react to what they’re told each and every day, and they only hear what the government needs them to hear. My students in 2001 were quite adamant that the whole thing about Tiananmen 1989 was a bunch of young folk raising trouble and having their assed kicked and/or arrested by the police – that’s the sort of power the Chinese government wields over the media, information and minds. That country never tasted an ounce of political freedom in its entire history (of which there’s an awful lot), and it’s getting ready to become the main global superpower. If that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.

  13. peterschaeffer says

    VG, “it’s getting ready to become the main global superpower”. You would be amazed how few folks get that. Perhaps you wouldn’t be amazed.

  14. Pingback: China’s anti-Japanese attitudes « Quotulatiousness

  15. The new hegemony in asia is now china with the largest 3rd ranking of the biggest military budget of the world. I believe japan would respect it and it is far easier for china to eat japan alive in 2018. if China would.not respect Trumps negotiation
    But of course China is not a mad man …

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