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UPDATED: September 14, 2015 No. 38, SEPTEMBER 17, 2015
U.S.-Japan Relations: An Example for China?
By Lan Xinzhen

While China was hosting a military parade to mark the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War in Beijing on September 3, U.S. President Barack Obama published a written statement on the 70th Anniversary Commemorating the End of World War II (WWII) in the Pacific. In the statement, he said, "[The United States and Japan] over the last 70 years stand as a model of the power of reconciliation: Former adversaries who have become steadfast allies and who work together to advance common interests and universal values in Asia and globally. Seventy years ago this partnership was unimaginable."

Obama's praise of U.S.-Japan relations brings to mind the frozen relations between China and Japan. The Chinese Government and people have repeatedly criticized and condemned the right-wing Japanese Government for beautifying Japan's aggression of China 70 years ago.

Obama may be hoping that China and Japan can reconcile with one another; to be more specific, he perhaps wishes China would forgive the Abe administration and the right-wing forces in Japan, even though their behavior has damaged the post-war world peace and injured the people that once suffered from the war.

The war between the United States and Japan 70 years ago was more of a war between the two countries' armies. Nevertheless, the Sino-Japanese war was an outright aggression launched by Japan within Chinese borders. The wartime atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers in China were too numerous to record.

Japan did not violate the dignity of U.S. citizens by drafting sex slaves, nor did it launch a savage germ war on U.S. soil or commit inhuman massacres on the continental U.S. soil like in Nanjing. Therefore, it's easy for the United States to forgive Japan. China, to the contrary, cannot turn a deaf ear to Japan's beautifying of its aggression.

As for the reconciliation between the United States and Japan mentioned by Obama, it's worth discussing whether it's real. Reconciliation should be arrived at on an equal basis, but the reconciliation talked about by Obama is Japan's one-sided compliance to the United States. Post-war Japan-U.S. relations have never been equal. Moreover, Japanese people, especially right-wing politicians, have not forgiven the United States for dropping the two atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki as is shown by Japan's commemoration of the 70 years' anniversary of the bombings. Therefore, Obama's laudation of the two countries as "a model of the power of reconciliation" is ill-founded.

In the 70 years since the end of WWII, China and Japan have both been able to rebuild their countries and revive their economies, creating miracles in social and economic development. In the 1970s, the two countries' leaders made the important decision to normalize bilateral relations with a view to the two peoples' long-term and fundamental interests. In the years that followed, people-to-people exchanges and bilateral trade both thrived. By 2005, 250 pairs of cities in both countries had forged sibling-like relationships. Therefore, the two countries have sound economic and social foundations for reaching a compromise. However, right-wing politicians have damaged the friendly atmosphere created by the older generation leaders of the two countries.

What's the most difficult part for seeking reconciliation? I think it should be whether the Japanese side can correctly face up to historical issues.

As an old Chinese saying goes, one can learn why a country thrives or declines from history. How can a country which dare not admit its past properly face the future? Besides covering up aggression, Japan passed new security legislation in a bid to reestablish its right to collective self-defense back in July. Does this imply that Japan is back on the track of aggression? Such worries represent the most prominent concern of the Chinese people about the incumbent Japanese Government.

The Chinese Government upholds the principle of learning from history and facing up to the future. The Chinese Government and people hope that the Japanese Government can properly deal with historic issues, stick to the path of peaceful development, and win trust from its Asian neighbors and the international community with concrete actions. If Japan fails to properly handle historical issues, reconciliation between the two countries may be impossible.

Copyedited by Kylee McIntyre

Comments to lanxinzhen@bjreview.com

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