Today marks 70 years since the imperialist Japanese army entered Nanjing, then capital of China, and began one of the most brutal massacres of the 20th century and has led to harsh friction between the two countries in the years since.
I’ve always liked history, in a purely sofa sort of way. Back when my TV spat out more than CCTVgrime I spent hours of well-wasted time watching documentary after documentary on the History Channel.
So, when I came across The Rape of Nanking while I was hanging out in Northern Thailand a few years ago, it surprised me that I had gone a quarter of a century on this planet and never heard of Nanjing, never mind anyone raping it.
When I ended up moving to China not long after, I was a bit taken aback by the overt hate and racism towards Japan and Japanese. I mean, sure I had only relatively recently heard of the horrors that befell Chinese at the hands of Japanese soldiers – but that was nearly 70 years ago, how could they still be pissed about it?
But I think it’s my ignorance towards this part of history that is largely responsible. We shout the loudest when no one is listening, and for a long time no one was listening to China.
However, now the country is front and centre under the world’s spotlight. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that China is choosing now to air some of their old wounds. Now they have a voice, now people are listening.
And we should listen. Not because China’s hate for modern-day Japanese is justified, as it so obviously isn’t. Not because China deserves any sort of “poor me” sympathy, it’s a big boy and can take care of itself.
We should listen because if we ignore it, ignore it from our text books to our collective consciousness, it will never go away.
Chinese, when speaking of the Nanjing Massacre, often draw parallels of brutality between the Nazis towards the Jews and the Japanese towards the Chinese. These are the desperate comparisons of people who feel they’ve not got the recognition they deserve.
I say “desperate” because no matter how you spin the Nanjing Massacre, which at its highest numbers holds a death-toll of about 300,000 people, can you compare this to the roughly 6 million Jews that were exterminated under the Nazis.
But these drastic comparisons are made in an effort to give the world an analogy they understand, and in that we should be paying attention. The Jews of Europe (and a number of other groups of people slaughtered by the Nazis) suffered an atrocity that in a lot of ways defined the 20th Century.
The fact that the world as a whole sympathize with the Jews and demonize the Nazis has paved the way for the healing that was needed. But that’s where the Sino-Japanese tension hits an awkward wall.
The Nazis were a group that for the most part doesn’t exist in the modern world. They were an evil that was crushed by the powers of good. It all makes for some great TV. And when was the last time you looked at a German and thought “dirty Nazi”? It doesn’t happen, because we don’t connect the two.
However, the Japanese are still the Japanese. So, when the Chinese shout and yell about the evils of the Japanese, they’re not talking about modern Japanese, they’re talking about the brutal invaders of seven decades ago – but it all sounds the same, and in that even the shouters lose sight of what they’re yelling about.
If the situation between Japan and China is ever going to change, I feel three things need to occur.
- China, focus your anger on the past, not the present – and don’t lose perspective on that.
- Japan, stop letting right-wing denying ass hats be the Japanese “expert” voice of this topic, as having a vocal element shouting “it didn’t happen” and timid element whispering “yes it did” is transparent and stupid.
- The world, listen. We’re all going to have PLENTY of opportunity over the next year or so to view an ENDLESS string of movies and articles related to those movies that will paint various pictures of what happened in Nanjing. If we all absorb this event into our consciousness, maybe China wont have to yell so loud for us all to hear and to understand.
Some related links
- Japanese Government’s official stance on the Nanjing Massacre
- China Hails a Good Nazi and Makes Japan Take Notice
- Nanking Massacre made up by Chiang Kai-shek, and Mao Zedong knew: Japanese right-wingers
- Nanjing Massacre Memorial site (lots of disturbing photos)