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 of Chinese revolutionaries, was her military intervention in China between 1937 and 1945 in order to suppress by force the Chinese anti-imperialist nationalist movement-a savage crucible in which the Chinese Communist Party obtained a mass following as a result of its championing resistance to Japan.

Of these three elements, perhaps the first is of the greatest long-term significance. Pre-modern China and pre-modern Japan were sociologically quite different societies, and Western imperialist pressure impinged upon each of them in different ways. None the less both were similar enough- common Sinitic civilization, closed to foreign intercourse since the seventeenth century, and forced open by the West in the 1840s and 1850s-to cause members of each society to make invidious comparisons about the performance of the other in the face of common challenges. The Chinese, supremely confident of the superiority of their own culture, reacted with various anti-foreign movements until the end of the century, while the Japanese, after a brief experiment with anti-foreignisrn, gave it up as a lost cause and quickly modernized along Western lines.

Among the humiliations suffered by the Chinese, none was more galling than the defeat in 1895 of the "Celestial Empire" (China) by the "Wa dwarfs" (Japanese, as seen by the Chinese), a defeat that resulted in the annexation of Taiwan into the Japanese Empire. The initial Chinese reaction to this defeat, which brought the first true Chinese revolutionary movements into being, was to blame their own inept government; and after 1895, thousands of Chinese students flocked to Japan to learn about the modern world. Over time and in light of Japan's subsequent development as an imperialist power in her own right, Chinese admiration of the Japanese modernization effort changed to a hatred of Japan, the quintessential imperialist villain who kept China weak in order to suck her dry.

China and Japan offer two of the clearest archetypes in the so-called third world of alternative responses to Western imperialism. Japan adopted the reformist strategy, grafting Western institutions onto her essentially feudal social structure, changing in subtle ways but at the same time maintaining a distinctive national identity and continuity with the past. China rejected reform, since it seemed to imply an unacceptable accommodation of Confucian culture with barbarian (uncivilized) mores, and was ultimately forced by implacable imperialist pressure to revolution-a revolution in which the traditional culture was to be totally dismantled and replaced with a new culture that could prevent the incessant foreign "humiliations" and restore a sense of national dignity. Reform and revolution remain the two broad alternatives open to the so-called "modernizing" nations; and Japan and China, the one perhaps the most reformist nation in modern history and the other the most revolutionary, exemplify the strengths and weaknesses of each strategy to other nations around the world and to each other.

The attitudes that grew up along with these divergent histories persist to the present time and will have an important influence on any future process of Sino-Japanese reconciliation. To the Chinese the Japanese "economic miracle" is not only a threat; it is also an insult. Today the Chinese trade more with Japan than with any other nation, but they do not praise Japan for her economic success, nor do they appear willing to put Sino- Japanese economic coöperation on a stable long-term footing. For that matter, the Chinese do not display much in the way of understanding as to why Japan's economy continues to grow as fast as it does. Premier Chou En- lai argues that Japan's economic power is an inevitable precursor of remilitarization and imperialism, and the Chinese have not thus far shown the slightest willingness to adjust to the fact that Japan's GNP is infinitely greater than China's and will continue to be so for the indefinite future. By hammering away at the inevitability of "revived Japanese militarism" the Chinese may be setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Japanese, on the other hand, seem to be befogged by an equally long- standing inability to take the Chinese seriously. It is perhaps not too far- fetched to describe Japanese attitudes toward their continental neighbors as somewhat comparable to the English or German industrialist's attitude toward an Italian or Spanish aristocrat recently gone into commerce. He admires, and is slightly intimidated by, the ancient cultural achievements to which his modern counterpart is heir, but he finds it almost impossible in the company board room to suggest seriously that the new boy might become a competitor or a threat. Japan today is interested in doing business with China but her interest in the China business is only a slight fraction of her interest in business generally, and Japanese commercial representatives seem quite willing to sign humiliating Chinese communiqués or other anti-Japanese pronouncements drafted by Peking in order to get what trade there is-presumably because Japanese do not take these Chinese pronouncements very seriously. The Japanese are much more concerned about the possibility that another nation might get ahead of them in the China trade than that the Chinese might compete with them successfully in the rest of Asia.

Even Chinese nuclear weapons do not appear to have caused the Japanese to see China as a potential threat, even though the Japanese dislike atomic testing by anybody. One sign of this Japanese self-confidence vis-à-vis China is the underdeveloped state of Japanese research and training about the Chinese Revolution in the postwar era. Japan's academic and governmental specialists on Chinese communist developments are among the most knowledgeable in the world, but all of them complain of the relatively slight interest in scholarship on China among students and the Japanese public. Even when Chinese events reach the headlines, they are likely to be regarded as mere "news," and not as developments that might vitally affect Japan as a nation.

None of this is to suggest that the major sources of tension between China and Japan are attitudinal and that there are no real problems. It is rather to point out that the Chinese tend to regard Japan, for good historical reasons, with the utmost suspicion, remembering how quickly the old samurai of the nineteenth century armed themselves with Western weapons and turned these against China. China's stereotypes of Japan seem to preclude a realistic Chinese assessment of how Japan has changed and of the ways in which she may change in the future, always coming back to the undertone of suspicion that Japan's achievements are likely to be at China's expense. Conversely, the Japanese regard the Chinese as still struggling with their interminable revolutions and are inclined to take the Chinese deadly seriously only when it looks as if the Chinese are about to form an alliance with a non-Asian power, say the Soviet Union or the United States, for that might greatly restrict Japan's freedom of access and maneuver in international commerce.

The other two main historical influences affecting Sino-Japanese relations- Japan's erstwhile role as model and leader of an "Asian renaissance," and the second Sino-Japanese war-reinforce and provide sustenance for the deeper suspicions arising out of the two nations' differing responses to the West. From approximately 1895 down to the Treaty of Versailles, and persisting in an attenuated form until Japan's seizure of Manchuria in 1931, Chinese and Asian nationalists of many different political hues traveled to Tokyo to learn modern scientific culture and modern political ideas. During this period, Japan herself was wrestling with the problem of what kind of foreign policy she might appropriately pursue in the world. Should she use her newly acquired power to lead the rest of Asia toward independence and modernity? Or should she, having achieved the industrial underpinnings of great-power status, join the imperialists? Despite what one may think with the benefit of hindsight, the answer was not a foregone conclusion.

Prior to the First World War (and Japan's discovery of how easy it was to step into the enclaves vacated by the then-distracted European imperialists), some Japanese gave considerable aid and assistance to Chinese revolutionaries such as Sun Yat-sen. Equally important, Japan herself provided the climate for political discussion and ideological exploration that was so essential to the education of revolutionary leaders. In fact, much of the contemporary Chinese vocabulary of politics- terms like anarchism, socialism, communism, nationalism, and so forth- entered the Chinese language from Japanese renderings of these European words. Even when the Japanese began to lean toward an imperialist rather than an Asian role, many Chinese tried to continue to work with them.

Japan's progressive development from the Twenty-one Demands on China in 1915 to the seizure of Manchuria in 1931 ultimately filled all Chinese nationalists with enmity against Japan, a sentiment bolstered by fury against Japan's parvenu imperialism and betrayal of her fellow Asians. When, in the 1930s, the Japanese militarists tried to revive an anti- Western Asian nationalism led by Japan, they were too late. In Chinese eyes Japan was no longer Asian; it was imperialist, pure and simple.

The Sino-Japanese War itself bred further animosities and hatreds that continue to influence perceptions today, but it would be wrong to interpret the war's influence solely in terms of its brutalities. The war's more lasting contribution was its cognitive or ideological structure. Virtually all adult Japanese acknowledge and wish to atone for Japan's military actions on the continent, but many fewer will agree that Japan was fighting for a totally worthless national cause. They recall that in the depression era of "economic nationalism" every area of East Asia from India to the Philippines, with the exception of China and Thailand, was a European or American colony and that Japan was threatened with being frozen out in each of these territories. When China, the last country open to Japanese economic activity, began to develop a powerful, quasi-Marxist, anti- imperialist, anti-Japanese social movement-one enjoying the sympathy and sometimes the encouragement of the United States-Japan reacted with panic. Fears of international isolation and of alliances that work against Japan's needs as a resource-poor, overpopulated, insular, industrial economy lay very close to the surface of the Japanese mind, as they still do today. It is one reason why the mentality of "Japan, Inc." and protectionism remain so powerful despite Japan's present global economic outreach.

On the Chinese side, World War II tended irresistibly to recommend Marxist and especially Leninist modes of thought to Chinese nationalists, since the progress of Japan from feudalism to capitalism to imperialism seemed to be a compelling confirmation of Marxist-Leninist ideology. Even today, with the decline of ideological rigidity in the communist world and the Sino- Soviet schism, China continues to believe that there is something economically inevitable about Japan's being a menace to China, regardless of what Japanese (or representatives of other economically advanced nations) profess. Needless to say, Japan's postwar alliance with the United States and America's own deep postwar antagonism to the Chinese Communists did nothing to lessen the hold of this ideological cast of mind.

Chinese communist ideology is a complex subject, and no suggestion is intended that Chinese ideology is unchanged or that it is the sole or primary influence on Chinese behavior in the world. Instead, I wish to stress that the heritage of World War II in Sino-Japanese relations has an ideological dimension-in addition to the legacy of war and killing-and that such set patterns of thinking may be more important in future contacts between China and Japan than other wartime memories. For example, Japan today has a vested interest in international stability, this being a prerequisite for the global commerce on which Japan depends and thrives. In order to secure this stability Japan is increasingly making available foreign aid to the established governments of such countries as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand; and is opposed to revolutionary movements. How does China interpret these Japanese activities-say, economic aid to South Korea or to Thailand? Inevitably, the Chinese explain Japan's posture in ideological terms, as a reflection of the "capitalist-imperalist- reactionary syndrome." China does not and probably will not soon accept the legitimacy of Japan's close commercial and aid ties with the other nations of Asia.

On the other hand, China's efforts to promote revolution throughout the third world strike Japanese as evidence of China's continuing communist- based hostility to nations such as Japan. China is not-yet-a stability- promoting force in the world, and this stance of China's directly conflicts with a basic Japanese national interest. The Japanese recall what happened to their important prewar China market under revolutionary conditions, and they are not the least bit reassured by the continued virulence of communist ideology on the mainland. In short, both China and Japan have good reasons to fear a recurrence of international conditions similar to those that existed in the 1930s; both nations' perceptions of such a possible recurrence are, however, colored by their respective ideological explanations of why such conditions ever came about in the first place.


China and Japan have been interacting with each other and misunderstanding each other for a century, during which both underwent the most dramatic changes. There is little evidence today that either country "understands" the other any better than it did in the past. For example, China has been trying for the past two decades to conduct "people-to-people" diplomacy in Japan and to influence Japanese elections. However, despite large expenditures of money and propaganda efforts, the Chinese have never had the kind of sensitivity or insight into Japanese society that might have helped some of their subversive activities to succeed. Instead, Tokyo reporters quip that Peking's heavy-handed propaganda must be a secret weapon of the conservative party, since every time China meddles in a Japanese election its net effect is to increase the conservatives' margin of victory.

A peculiar aspect of China's inability to win large numbers of friends in Japan is that, at least on the surface, it would appear so easy for China to do so. The Japanese press is filled with protestations of friendship for China, and every major political leader has said that he is in favor of improving Sino-Japanese relations. There seem to be two reasons why nothing very much has happened. The first relates to the covert reality of the Japanese political process and the second to the fact that China does not want Japanese friendship unless the Japanese adopt virtually a neutralist foreign policy.

What Japanese politicians say on the substantive issues of politics must always be leavened with an appreciation of the role that issues play in relations between factions of the dominant Liberal Democratic Party. Positions on issues are often developed first and foremost with an eye to distinguishing an aspiring faction leader from the current administration, perhaps thereby enhancing his future prospects to enter or form a government, or in order to embarrass the ruling faction and to make it harder for it to capitalize politically on its current-and in all likelihood widely supported-policies. Thus, opposition faction leaders wrere quick to cry that Prime Minister Sato had been irretrievably disgraced and weakened when President Nixon launched his new China policy without consulting Sato in advance. Sato may have been weakened-many of his opponents hoped so-but this did not mean that, aside from wanting to replace him in office, his critics necessarily wanted to change his policies on China. The clearest example of this covert political infighting occurred during the 1960 crisis over the Japanese-American security treaty. A casual observer might have thought that the Japanese were deeply opposed to continuing friendly relations with the United States. What they were really opposed to was the way Prime Minister Kishi had handled the treaty in the Diet and the fact that he was likely to get enormous political credit for having renegotiated it. Once Kishi had been forced from office, none of his inner-party opponents said anything more about changing the treaty.

The second problem standing in the way of improved Chinese-Japanese relations is that China is not likely to accept a "normalization" of relations until Japan has met China's political requirements. In the terms of the Sino-American communiqué of February 28, 1972, the Chinese People's Republic "firmly opposes the revival and outward expansion of Japanese militarism and firmly supports the Japanese people's desire to build an independent, democratic, peaceful and neutral Japan." Japanese deeply resent this particular choice of words by the Chinese because, since they themselves criticize any signs of a "revival and outward expansion of Japanese militarism," they understand Chinese propaganda on this theme to mean that China opposes Japan's regaining control over Okinawa and objects to Japan's close economic ties with the rimland states of East Asia.

The Chinese demand that Japan cut her economic ties with South Korea and Taiwan, end her alliance with the United States, renegotiate a new peace treaty with China, and adhere strictly to the disarmament provisions of the present Japanese Constitution. And even if Japan did all of these things, the Chinese would still claim the right to specify which Japanese political leaders they would or would not deal with. What Japan would obtain from China in return is never made clear. Japan is unlikely to acquiesce fully to China's terms for state-to-state relations (they are the harshest terms China has asked from any nation, including the United States) unless China's tactics of playing off the United States against Japan force the Japanese to agree. Under those circumstances a Sino-Japanese rapprochement is likely to be extremely fragile and short-lived.

The question thus becomes whether the American démarche on China policy, combined with the presidential visit to China, has enhanced or damaged the possibilities of improved Sino-Japanese relations. Even though Japanese pride was somewhat wounded by the way in which the Chinese and Americans got together, and despite the fact that Tokyo is disappointed to see its long-envisioned role as intermediary between China and America go up in smoke, virtually all Japanese political leaders hope that Chinese friendliness toward the Americans applies to them too. The Japanese are prepared to make concessions to China in order to find out. Japan has already abrogated the so-called "Yoshida Letter," which pledged to Chiang Kai-shek that Japan would not provide long-term credits for Chinese communist purchases in Japan, and has made Export-Import Bank financing available to China. Many of Japan's largest firms have also accepted Chou En-lai's "four principles" of April 19, 1970, for trade with China-i.e. that firms trading with China must not: (1) carry on trade with South Korea or Taiwan, (2) invest in South Korea or Taiwan, (3) export weapons for American use in Indochina, or (4) affiliate as joint ventures or subsidiaries of American firms in Japan.

Nevertheless, many of the best-informed Japanese doubt that Japan can ever concede enough to win Chinese approval. Japanese leaders have hunches-the Japanese Ambassador to the United States publicly expressed his-that at least part of the Chinese motivation in inviting the American President to China was to damage the friendly relations that exist between Japan and the United States. The Japanese think that China warmed up to the United States only partly because of the growing threat posed to China by the Soviet Union and China's consequent need to complicate Soviet decision-making by ending her international isolation. Another Chinese fear, they argue, is the possibility that Japan may fill the vacuum created in East Asia as the United States scales down its presence in accordance with the Nixon Doctrine. One way to prevent the latter from happening would be for China to try to isolate Japan and to pressure her into a quick accommodation with China on Chinese terms.

In addition to the heritage of hostilities and misperceptions between the two countries, there are two other obstacles to a speedy rapprochement between China and Japan: Taiwan and Japan's defense requirements. Taiwan poses a major dilemma for Japanese policy. Despite the fact that Japanese trade with Taiwan during 1970 was worth $127 million more than Japanese trade with the mainland, the Japanese appear willing to compromise on Taiwan-but only if it produces a genuine improvement in relations with Peking. The Japanese have large investments on the island, and they are aware that a majority of the Taiwanese would prefer independence to being ruled by either the present group of mainlanders that sits in Taipei (the Kuomintang exiles) or by a new group of mainlanders. The Japanese also know that Taiwanese sentiment for independence has been muted in the past because the Taiwanese believed that time was working in their favor: the Kuomintang leaders who arrived between 1945 and 1949 are old and must pass from the scene before long. Ironically, the American acknowledgment in the communiqué of February 1972 that "Taiwan is a part of China" may finally bring a Taiwanese independence movement into being, since time is no longer on the side of the indigenous population.

The Japanese regard Taiwan as "independent" economically right now, and they have strong historical, cultural and economic interests in seeing it become independent politically. However, for them to support Taiwanese independence would eliminate any possibility of friendly relations with the present government on the mainland. Therefore, they see no other course than to follow the American lead and acknowledge Peking's sovereignty over the island. On the other hand, if relations with the mainland are likely to remain unchanged or to worsen in the future, then the Japanese think that it would be foolish to liquidate their Taiwanese holdings for nothing.

One reason why Sino-Japanese relations might worsen is because of Japan's security problems. Japan may be the world's third-ranking economy in terms of industrial production, but China is the world's fifth nuclear power. Japan is dependent upon, and committed to, maintaining her defense against China's growing nuclear strength via the American "nuclear umbrella." However, to the extent that the Japanese-American security treaty becomes less credible in Japanese eyes, the Japanese government will be forced to find some other way to provide for the security of a non-nuclear nation in a nuclear world. One way would be for the Japanese themselves to become a nuclear power. The Japanese do not want this; they know that to do so would alarm many of their trading partners and would ruin their chances for a détente with China. But it is something that Japanese planners must consider particularly in light of the "unravelling" of the Japanese- American relationship that has become evident over the past year.

For the time being the Japanese are seeking to display their independence of the United States in the hope that this posture will make the Chinese more willing to negotiate with them over outstanding issues. During early 1972, for example, the Japanese sent a Foreign Ministry mission to Hanoi, recognized Bangladesh and the Mongolian People's Republic, made overtures to Pyongyang, and accepted Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko's overtures for improved relations and for joint Soviet-Japanese ventures in the development of Siberia. These disparate moves were not so much signs of a new Japanese policy as evidence that one did not yet exist. If China will coexist with Japan only on Chinese terms, then the Japanese position is once again likely to stiffen and tensions between the two countries will grow. If China is prepared to compromise her differences with Japan through government-to-government negotiations, then the Japanese will surely make major concessions in order to see that the negotiations succeed. But even if negotiations can remove the immediate obstacles to improved relations, the long-standing rivalries between the two nations are likely to persist.

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