In This Review

China and Japan: Facing History
China and Japan: Facing History
By Ezra F. Vogel
Harvard University Press, 2019, 536 pp

Vogel uses the powerful lens of the past to frame contemporary Chinese-Japanese relations. He does not begin with the horrors of World War II; instead, he takes the reader back over 1,500 years to examine the contentious dynamics that shaped how these two Asian giants view each other. With scholarly care and an eye on contemporary policy, Vogel suggests that over the centuries—across both the imperial and the modern eras—friction has always dominated their relations. China and Japan are now rich, powerful societies that were transformed both by Western imperialism and by the ravages of war in the twentieth century. But they have struggled to overcome past hostilities, in particular the memory of the Japanese invasion of China between 1937 and 1945. Vogel insists that the Chinese must better understand Japan’s unique strategic challenges and that the Japanese must better address China’s desire to right past wrongs. Asia’s future depends on their ability to build a more forgiving relationship.