Anti-Japanese bumper sticker, Qingdao, China

Anti-Japanese stuff, usually bumper stickers, aren’t uncommon in Qingdao, but neither are they something we see often.
We’ve come across similar ones before: “Japanese and dog no nearing”

And then of course there’s also Our neighbourhood’s anti-Japanese restaurant.

Our neighbourhood’s anti-Japanese restaurant

I ducked my head in this restaurant to see if they served dog. Turns out they don’t serve Japanese. And they totally weren’t seeing the slogan possibility with serving dog but not Japanese. Anyway:

“Diaoyu Islands are inherently China’s territory,
this restaurant will not receive Japanese people!”

Interestingly enough, the restaurant right next door is also very patriotic, with “Comrade Mao Zedong” posters on the wall.

For more about popular Chinese hatred for Japan:

“Japanese and dog no nearing”

The Chinese government is allowing irate Chinese to protest publicly against Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute (though things are getting out of hand and they’ve had to use tear gas and water cannons on some mobs, among other means of trying to put a lid on it.). Here’s a photo a friend in Tianjin took the other day:

“Japanese and dog no nearing” 日本人和狗不得靠近

There are two things you need to know about to have the most basic understanding of the photo above and why so many Mainland Chinese are freaking out over a couple of rocks in the Pacific: the Japanese invasion of China during WWII and the legacy of Western colonialism in China. (For now I’m skipping the psychological angle regarding repression, anger, anxiety, and stress due to current societal pressures in China that are unrelated to Japan, though no doubt that’s just as relevant.)

WWII and anti-Japan sentiment.
Any dispute with Japan, no matter how small, is automatically super-charged, waiting for a spark. When the Japanese invaded during WWII, they committed such atrocities that the Nanjing Massacre (aka The Rape of Nanking) is one of the few events in modern history that people dare to consider in the same league as the German Holocaust. However Japan has never made anything close to a satisfactory official apology (though some individual Japanese do), and victimhood is cemented into the Chinese psyche via their patriotic education. (See Why they hate the Japanese and Japanese apologies for more about this.) The anniversary of the Manchurian Incident, the staged even used as a pretext by the Japanese for launching their invasion of northern China in 1931, is September 18.

In WWII, real Chinese patriots destroyed their own Japanese-made vehicles, unlike the current crop of frustrated Chinese, who I’m representing with the photo above. Never mind that the “Japanese and dogs no nearing” sign is attached to a Japanese-made motorcycle. And never mind that it’s parked outside of a luxury Japanese shopping mall (Isetan – according to my friend who took the photo). This kind of irony is not uncommon. And this anti-Japanese sentiment is drawing on more than the Japanese WWII invasion; it’s also fueled by anti-colonial feelings. The “No dogs or ____” thing pops up whenever there’s a heated dispute with another country/race.

Colonialism and Anti-Western/Foreign Sentiment

“No dogs and Chinese allowed” 狗与华人不得入內

It’s debated whether or not the “No Dogs or Chinese” sign outside a Shanghai park in pre-Liberation China actually ever existed, but the truth of the matter is moot because it’s now a legendary part of the cultural fabric. The sign in the photo was famously smashed to bits by Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury, and it serves a symbol of national/racial/civilizational victimhood and humiliation. It’s automatically remembered in conflicts with foreign nations. Hence the license plate above, and this taxi sign below:

“Refuse to carry frenchmen and dogs” 不载法国人和狗

This was taken during the 2008 Olympic torch anti-French protests after some yahoo tried to steal the torch from a disabled Chinese athlete. The Olympics were such an emotionally charged event for the Chinese, and the protestor was protesting T!bet (another super-sensitive issue), so it sparked some popular resentment that drew on the “No Dogs or Chinese” legacy.

This “no dogs or peasants” signage is from a high-end shopping mall:

I assume it’s unintentionally ironic.

And finally, here’s a cute cartoon I found depicting the sensitivity of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Island dispute and the propensity of some (not all) Mainland Chinese to trash other people’s Japanese property. Japanese touching the islands is like pushing a “flip car button” in China:

“Flip car button” 翻车键

Click the image for the source.

Related stuff:

Japanese apologies

Unremarkable at first glance, this is a photo of a Japanese colleague who serves in the charity org we’re connected with in China. She’s placing flowers at the memorial to Eric Liddell (the “Chariots of Fire” guy) in the Japanese internment camp where he died during the brutal Japanese invasion of China during WWII.

Of the Japanese I’ve met in China, it’s been the three Japanese Christians (two more plus the one pictured, all serving in the same NGO) who’ve gone out of their ways to personally and symbolically apologize for the actions of their country during WWII. On another occasion, an older Japanese couple hosted a special dinner for their Chinese colleagues and language teachers at which they personally and formally apologized on behalf of their nation.

Has anyone else seen or heard of individual Japanese making apologetic gestures in China?
I assume it’s not just Japanese Christians who do this (though with the three I’ve mentioned, their Christianity has a lot to do with it). But I’m also assuming that these kinds of apologies are exceptional, since, as at least one scholar points out, “in Japan there’s almost a dramatic lack of any sense of responsibility.”

I’d love to know more about the dynamics of apology and forgiveness in honour-oriented, Confucian-heritage cultures like China and Japan. I’m also curious about the ways Mainlanders are likely to perceive these types of gestures.

And I wonder: Should Europeans and Americans do the same for the Opium Wars?

More on Eric Liddell and the Japanese invasion:

P.S. – For some info about official Japanese acknowledgment of WWII atrocities in China, see this comment.

Eric Liddell: McSaint

Remember the movie Chariots of Fire, with the Vangelis music and everyone running on the beach in slow motion, where the Scottish guy refused to run his best event in the 1924 Olympics because the heats were scheduled on a Sunday, but ended up winning an Olympic gold medal in a different event? He was born in Tianjin, lived and served in Tianjin, has memorials in Tianjin, and died of an undiagnosed brain tumour as a P.O.W. in a Japanese internment camp near the end of World War II. We’ve been to his house, which is apparently finally being partly restored.

My only beef with Eric Liddell: Pure Gold, the latest Eric Liddell biography, is that I couldn’t get a feel for what kind of guy he was – what it might have been like to interact with him – until near the end of the book after he’d already died. The author desires to present Liddell as an inspirational Christian role model, and this becomes the book’s tragic flaw. Instead of letting Liddell’s inspiring life and character speak for themselves, the author coats the narrative in an artificial layer of Evangelical-ese, going out his way to over-emphasize and massage the aspects of Liddell’s spirituality that resonate in the popular Evangelical market. In the end, the Evangelical gene pool misses out on some potentially beneficial diversity, and the author produces a biography that reads a little too much like hagiography.*

Liddell comes across as so virtually perfect that he doesn’t seem real. The few token flaws mentioned are so minor and forgivable that they just reinforce the impression of an impossibly high degree of saintliness. It chaps my hide all the more because Eric Liddell’s life doesn’t need an author to compensate for it; his story is plenty inspiring and admirable in and of itself. Being able to see that this was a real man with whom we can relate and connect would make the story all the more compelling.

I finally found a pulse on this book’s Eric Liddell near the end, when the author quotes from an unnamed internee’s personal diary, written soon after Liddell’s unexpected passing in 1945:

Liddellhouse2small.JPGHe was not particularly clever, and not conspicuously able, but he was good. He was naturally reserved and tended to live in a world of his own, but he gave of himself unstintedly. His reserve did not prevent him from mixing with everybody and being known by everybody, but he always shrank from revealing his deepest needs and distresses, so that whilst he bore the burdens of many, very few could help to bear his.

His fame as an athlete helped him a good deal. He certainly didn’t look like a great runner, but the fact that he had been one gave him a self-confidence that men of his type don’t often have. He wasn’t a great leader, or an inspired thinker, but he knew what he ought to do, and he did it. He was a true disciple of the Master and worthy of the highest of places amongst the saints gathered in the Church triumphant. We have lost of our best, but we have gained a fragrant memory. (285)

This entry, for me, put some flesh and bones on the Eric Liddell of history, and in a way salvaged the whole book for me. I can look back at the stories and imagine a real, living and breathing brother, teammate, teacher, co-worker, husband, and father, rather than merely seeing a stock Evangelical archetype labeled “Eric Liddell.”

Liddellhouse1small.JPGHistorically, this book opens a window into the lives of missionary families of the day, how family members were often separated by oceans for long periods of time, dependent on written letters for news in an unstable time of civil and world war. The book offers only minimum detail regarding the larger, momentously consequential historical setting of aggressive Western economic imperialism (Liddell lived in Tianjin’s British ‘concession area’) and the brutal Japanese occupation of China. The Chinese people and culture of the time period, and Liddell’s interaction with them, also receive minimal attention. The bibliography is quite impressive; the author obviously did his homework. I just wish he’d backed off a bit and let us hear the story speak for itself.

Rumour has it that there’s an old man who sometimes attends one of the local churches here who actually remembers Eric Liddell, and who likes to give tours to all the related places of interest. Friends of ours did this a couple years ago. We just might hunt that guy down.


*(hagiography – an idealized, overly romanticized, and usually partially-fictionalized pseudo-biography intending to present the subject as worthy of admiration and imitation.)

Why they hate the Japanese

We were in a local history museum when ‘Shine Far’ looked right at me and said, “I hate the Japanese.” It still surprises me how matter-of-fact and unapologetic some of our Chinese acquaintances are about their feelings toward the “little Japanese devils” (小日本鬼子). Some of teachers at our school have requested in the past to not teach the few Japanese students at the school, two of whom are an older couple we’re acquainted with.

In philosophy and ethics classes I heard the joke more than once that everything eventually has to do with the Nazis. In my education, the Nazis were the proof and symbol of evil in the world, and were always finding their way into thought experiments, ethical dilemmas, debates regarding human nature, and arguments over the existence and nature of God. There was also this unspoken rule I grew up with – that perhaps the most un-politically correct thing you can do is treat the Nazi Holocaust as anything but the greatest evil ever committed by humanity, and you sure shouldn’t cheapen it by comparing it to other events.

The Rape of Nanking is the representative historical event for all of Japan’s atrocities in China during WWII. The book by the same the name calls it “the Forgotten Holocaust of WWII,” and then proceeds to make the case for not just holding the brutality of “the Rape” as generally comparable to the Holocaust, but even surpassing it in certain aspects:

“Nothing the Nazis under Hitler would do to disgrace their own victories could rival the atrocities of Japanese soldiers under Gen. Iwane Matsui” (historian Robert Leckie) (p. 7).

…the Japanese treatment of their POW’s surpassed in brutality even that of the Nazi’s. … the Rape of Nanking was not the kind of isolated incident common to all wars. It was deliberate. It was policy. It was known in Tokyo. For that matter, it was front page news in the world press (p. 173).

The events related in the book are beyond brutal; part of you dies inside just from reading it. I don’t know how anyone could make a movie that would be possible to watch. But there is quite a “Schindler’s List”-type story here. In the midst of brutality for which language cannot possibly convey any adequate expression, the oddest assortment of Westerners – Nazis and missionaries – combined forces to form a safety zone within the city and save hundreds of thousands of Chinese lives. These heroes risked their own lives multiple times during the Rape, and suffered physically and psychologically for the rest of their lives; one eventually committed suicide. Ironically, these Westerners originally chose to stay rather than evacuate, thinking that the greatest danger to the civilian population would be the retreating Chinese soldiers, and that the Japanese were more or less trustworthy (as occupying armies go) and would restore order and basic infrastructure once they’d captured the city. Instead, the Japanese military intentionally sunk the warship that was carrying the foreigners who had chosen to evacuate, and then went on to rival and perhaps even surpass the Nazis.

Japan as a nation still refuses to acknowledge what happened* [see comment #4].

Sixty years later the Japanese as a nation are still trying to bury the victims of Nanking — not under the soil, as in 1937, but into historical oblivion. In a disgraceful compounding of the offense, the story of the Nanking massacre is barely known in the West because so few people have tried to document and narrate it systematically to the public (pp. 219-220).

It’s not in their textbooks* [see comment #4]. Germany had to face the music, but some of Japan’s commanding officers went on to lead decorated lives of honour and privilege. Academics in Japan still vigorously deny the charges.

…Germans have incorporated into their postwar political identity the concession that the wartime government itself, not just individual Nazis, was guilty of war crimes. The Japanese government, however, has never forced itself or Japanese society to do the same. As a result … many in Japan continue to treat the war crimes as the isolated acts of individual soldiers or even as events that simply did not occur (p. 200).

Compounding the situation is China’s current administration, which has always spun the war with Japan, and Chinese public sentiment, in beneficial ways, stoking hatred of a common, nationalism-galvanizing enemy when it’s convenient to do so. Museums, like the one we visited with ‘Shine Far,’ play an important role in this:

The first rooms of the spacious museum depict China as a victim of Japanese aggression, but as the visitor moves towards the exit, he is treated to an interpretation of China as almost the lone victor on World War II in Asia.

The two factors widely credited with ending the war get only cursory treatment.

The Soviet invasion of Japanese-occupied Northeast Asia in the summer of 1945 is mentioned in passing, and America’s nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki not at all.

… It’s more promoting the internal unity under the guidance of the party. [Full text]

The older Japanese couple who were in our language school last semester made it a point to host special meals with their Chinese colleagues and closer acquaintances, during which they would personally apologize on behalf of their country for what happened. They still live in China and still do this, though they’ve now moved to a city in the south. Some of our school’s teachers originally requested to not be assigned to them when they first enrolled, solely because they were Japanese. Their request was not granted – in fact, our school’s American administrator confessed to me that his teachers’ requests may have influenced his decision to assign those teachers to the Japanese couple – but after a few weeks the teachers actually thanked him for doing it. One of these teachers recently returned from a trip she’d made just to visit them, and came back talking about how great she thinks they are.

China marked the 70th anniversary of the Rape of Nanking last Thursday.