Japanese troops look at the ruins of Shanghai, 1937.

How China and Japan See Each Other

Over the past century the politics of East Asia have been influenced more profoundly by the Sino-Japanese relationship than by any other single factor. Because both the two present-day societies have roots in classical Chinese civilization-only a "heritage" for each today-Chinese and Japanese politicians before World War II often argued that there was a special binding relationship between them. Japan's written language and much of its religious, artistic and moral civilization derive from Chinese culture, while Japan was the primary influence both positively and negatively on whole generations of Chinese revolutionaries, some of whom are still alive and active today. Perhaps because of this common heritage of civilization and mutual influence, the enormous misunderstandings, wars, threats and depredations that have characterized Sino-Japanese relations for a century have tended to take on the ferocity of a family or civil feud. Even though well-educated Chinese and Japanese can learn each other's language rather easily, it is doubtful whether any two peoples in the twentieth century have approached each other with more profoundly misleading stereotypes.

Three specific historical occurrences continue to mold Chinese and Japanese attitudes toward each other, in addition to the broader pressures on the two nations of different ideologies and national interests. First, China and Japan reacted to the influence of Western imperialism in the nineteenth century in almost diametrically opposite ways: within a few decades after the Western intrusion Japan had accommodated herself to and incorporated modern technology, whereas China disintegrated as a social system and required a century before she could begin her own modernization under conditions of national unity. Second, prior to the First World War Japan served as an exemplar and model for many Chinese modernizers, a role that the Soviet Union took over after the Bolshevik Revolution; and just as in the case of the Sino-Soviet conflict, this earlier relationship has tended to color later antagonisms with feelings of ingratitude on the one hand and betrayal on the other. Third, Japan's ultimate betrayal, in the eyes

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