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Anti-Japanese sentiment refers to the view of the Japanese people or of the Japanese nation with suspicion or hostility. As will all anti-ethnic terms, important distinctions must be made between sentiments in opposition to the people and culture, versus those against the government or its policies.
Sentiments against Japanese are viewed by some as commonplace in parts of East Asia, but found elsewhere (notably, in the United States in the 1980s), It ranges from animosity towards the Japanese government's actions and disdain for Japanese culture to out-and-out racism against Japanese people, sometimes culminating in acts of violence.
Much anti-Japanese sentiment may be attributed to Japanese military aggression in the early 20th century and the subsequent atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army during and before World War II. While passions have settled somewhat since Japan's defeat, tempers continue to flare over the perception on the part of some critics that the Japanese government has made insufficient penance for the Pacific War, or has sought to whitewash the history of these events.
Periodically, individuals within Japan spur external criticism. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been criticized for annually paying his respects to the war dead at the Yasukuni Shrine, which has made controversial statements about the war. Right-wing nationalist groups have produced history textbooks that critics claim whitewash Japanese atrocities; the recurring controversies over these books occasionally attract hostile foreign attention. Others, particularly Japanese, believe that much regional anti-Japanese sentiment stems from ethnocentrism, government-run propaganda campaigns (particularly in the PRC), and economic jealousy.
The origins of anti-Japanese sentiment in China is most directly traced to the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), which was one theatre of World War II. As a direct consequence of the war, China suffered a total of 20.75 million deaths, of which 3.22 million were military personnel. In addition, the war inflicted an $383.3 billion USD of damage on China, and created 95 million refugees. Manchuria came under Japanese control in 1931 as a puppet state named Manchukuo. Many major cities thereafter, including Nanjing, Shanghai, and Beijing were occupied in 1937. Notable atrocities committed by the invading Japanese forces included the Nanjing Massacre, which refers to the first three months of the Japanese occupation of Nanjing. During these months, an estimated 260,000 to 350,000 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the ensuing wave of violence committed by Japanese troops. In Japan itself, Unit 731, a medical unit of the Japanese army, researched biological warfare using Chinese civilians as test subjects, exposing many to deliberate infection with disease and performed vivisection on them. In addition, comfort women from many Asian countries, including China and Korea, were forced to serve in military brothels under Japanese occupation. Though such war-time atrocities have been well documented, some nationalistic elements in Japan to this day deny that they had ever taken place, leading to further post-war resentment against Japan.
There is also a perception among some Chinese that the United States, Japan, and Taiwan are attempting to contain China. Anti-Japanese sentiment in China is also highlighted by the branding of several prominent Taiwanese politicians (especially those who support Taiwan independence) as "Japanese running dogs " by the state-run media. From the opposite side, some critics of China in the U.S. and elsewhere have accused the PRC of exploiting anti-Japanese sentiment in order to redirect criticism of the Communist Party into criticism of Japan. As one blogger observed during the April 2005 protests: "...Tiananmen Square is only 16 years in the past, and I think someone in Beijing, someone who is all too familiar with both The Prince and The Art of War, has been working to divert frustration to a more acceptable target."
Continued visits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine, and the recent approval of a textbook that describes the Nanjing Massacre as an incident and downplays the role of comfort women in the Japanese Army have further exasperated Chinese people, especially those with personal experience of suffering during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Japan's campaign to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council has met with stiff opposition among most Chinese people, and the Diaoyu Islands / Senkaku Islands, controlled by Japan but claimed by China, continue to be a sticking point and a symbolic focus of anti-Japanese sentiment in China.
In Spring 2005, anti-Japanese demonstrations broke out in several cities across China. Tens of thousands of demonstrators took part to protest against Japan, many calling for a boycott of all Japanese products.
Traditional role of China in East Asia
China had been a regional superpower for thousands of years before the emergence of Japan. Chinese philosophy figured prominently in development of East Asia. As such, China saw itself as the center of civilization, hence the Chinese people's name for their country, the "Middle Kingdom". Many now-independent countries were tributary states to China, including Japan. During the Tang Dynasty, Japan sent emissaries to China (遣唐使; literally "Messengers to Tang", see Imperial embassies to China) and Korea to learn Chinese and Korean culture, technology, and theology. Much of Japanese culture and society subsequently was heavily influenced by imperial Chinese models.
The sinocentrism that characterized ancient China pitted her against other groups in ancient times, as they were regarded as uncultivated people. All foreign groups, from fellow Asians like Koreans and Japanese, to people from other parts of the world, such as Europe, were subject to cultural chauvinism. This can be observed through China's referring of foreigners as barbarians throughout history.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, this sentiment became magnified by Japan's aggressive conduct in China, leading many Chinese to regard the Japanese invasions as her betrayal of Chinese tutelage. Some Japanese now view anti-Japanese sentiment in China as a continuation of Chinese cultural chauvinism.
Asian Cup 2004
During the Asian Cup 2004, a soccer championship held in China, Chinese fans booed the Japanese team during the playing of the Japanese national anthem not only during the match with China, but even during the matches with Bahrain and Thailand. Except for the match against Bahrain, supporters of the Japanese team were ordered by the local police not to use "banners, flags, musical instruments, or wear team uniforms" and were asked to refrain from cheering. The flight to Beijing, the place of the final match against China, was delayed by two hours due to complications caused by Chinese protesters in Beijing International Airport. After defending champion Japan defeated China in the final, the Japanese ambassador's car was severely damaged.
Anti-Japanese sentiment in the Korean Peninsula is often traced to Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945, during which time Korea was savagely exploited. In addition, some historians indicate that anti-Japanese sentiments in Korea also exist due to the Japanese government's attempts to play down or even deny its alleged historical wrongdoings. Many Korean people believe that Japan has tried to conceal its imperial past, in contrast with Germany's policy of fully trying to acknowledge its atrocities including the Holocaust; and believe that Korean people should play a key role in revealing the negative aspects of Japanese rule.
Many Koreans believe that the only way that true reconciliation can be reached between Japan and Korea is for Japan to fully admit her wrongdoings in the past. Koreans much like the Chinese just feel betrayed by the Japanese. According to the chronicles of Japan II (續日本紀), Emperor Kammu of Japan's mother was a descendant of King Muryeong of Baekje, Korea. Emperor Akihito of Japan, acknowledged and said that he has feeling of kinship to Korea due to this fact. Japan sent emissaries to Korea to learn of Korean and Chinese intellectual and cultural achievements from the Korean peninsula. This historical relationship adds to the sense of betrayal.
Pre Twentieth Century
In the United States, anti-Japanese sentiment had its beginnings well before World War II. As early as the late 1800's, Asian immigrants were being discriminated against in the United States. Laws were passed that openly discriminated against Japanese, as well as Chinese, Korean, and Filipinos. Many of these laws stated that Asians could not become citizens of the United States and could not hold basic rights, such as owning land, which was greatly detrimental, since many of the immigrants were farmers and had little choice but to become migrant workers. Some cite the formation of the Asiatic Exclusion League as the start of the anti-Japanese movement in California.
Early Twentieth Century
In the twentieth century many Americans regarded Japan as an enlightened country in the Far East that had success in emulating the West and exerting itself as a colonial power, much like many powerful European countries at the time. However, this perception began to change as more reports of Japanese brutalities in its conquered territories began to pour into the American press and helped change public opinion on Japan. Its invasion of China in 1931 and subsequent annexation of Manchuria certainly did not do much to reverse this trend. In addition, efforts by the China lobby to plea the United States to help strengthen China to push Japan out of China also played a role in shaping American foreign policy. As more and more unfavorable reports of Japan came to the attention of American government, embargoes on oil and other supplies were placed on Japan, partly out of genuine concern for the Chinese populace and partly of American interest in the Pacific. Furthermore, the American population became very pro-China and anti-Japan, an example being a grass-roots campaign for women to stop buying nylon stockings, because the material was procured from Japan through its colonies. When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, American public opinion was decidedly pro-China, with witness reports by Western journalists on various atrocities committed against Chinese civilians further strengthening anti-Japanese emotion.
During World War II
The most immediate cause of anti-Japanese sentiment had its beginning in the Attack on Pearl Harbor, which propelled the country into World War II. Many Americans regarded the Sunday-morning surprise attack as an exhibition of cowardice. Japanese conduct during the war did little to quell anti-Japanese sentiment; fanning the flames of outrage were the treatment of American and other western POWs (use of POWs as slave labor for Japanese industries and the Bataan Death March). Kamikaze attacks on American ships, and atrocities committed on Wake Island and elsewhere.
Since World War II
In the 1970s and 1980s, the waning fortunes of heavy industry in the United States prompted layoffs and hiring slowdowns just as counterpart businesses in Japan were making major inroads into U.S. markets. Nowhere was this more visible than in the automobile industry, where the lethargic Big Three automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler), whose former customers turned out in droves for Japanese imports from Toyota and Nissan, in light of the 1973 oil crisis. The anti-Japanese sentiment manifested itself in occasional public destruction of Japanese cars and, most shockingly, in the 1983 murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American beaten to death when he was mistaken to be Japanese.
Other highly symbolic deals -- for instance, the sale to Japanese firms of famous American commercial and cultural symbols such as Columbia Records, Columbia Pictures, and the Rockefeller Center building -- further fanned anti-Japanese sentiment. The unease continued well into the early 1990s --- popular literature of the period reflected American's growing distrust of Japan. Author Michael Crichton took a break from science fiction to write Rising Sun, a murder mystery (later made into a feature film) involving Japanese businessmen in the U.S.
The animosity which peaked in the 1980s had largely faded by the late 1990s. Japan's waning fortunes, coupled with an upsurge in the U.S. economy as the Internet took off, largely crowded anti-Japanese sentiment out of the popular media, which has turned its nose for ethnic animosity fueled by economic quibbles to objections to the outsourcing of American service jobs to India.
Many people in countries which were Allies during World War II continue to campaign for compensations for being subject to forced labour, malnutrition, preventable illness and other hardships, as POWs of Japan during World War II.
In Australia, the White Australia Policy was partly inspired by irrational fears in the late 19th century that if large numbers of Asian immigrants were allowed, they would have an severe and adverse effect on wages, the earnings of small business people and other elements of the standard of living. Nevertheless, a significant numbers of Japanese immigrants did arrive in Australia prior to 1900 (perhaps most significantly in the town of Broome). By the late 1930s, Australians feared that Japanese military strength might lead to expansion in South East Asia and the Pacific, perhaps even an invasion of Australia itself. This resulted in the a ban on iron ore exports to Japan, from 1938. During World War II, in common with all Allied forces, word spread rapidly among Australian personnel of atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers and there were reports of acts being committed in revenge by Australians.
After World War I, in Germany Japanese were a target of discrimination along with Jews, as many Germans resented the seizure by Japan of its colonies in the Pacific. In Mein Kampf, Japanese are treated as an inferior people.
The Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine in Tokyo, Japan. It is the resting of place of thousands of Japanese soldiers killed in various wars, including war criminals such as Hideki Tojo and Hirota Koki, who were convicted for their roles in the Japanese invasion of China and other parts of East Asia.
In recent years the Yasukuni Shrine has become a sticking point in the relations of Japan and her neighbours. The very enshrinement of war criminals as martyrs has greatly angered the people of various invaded countries; in addition, the shrine published a pamphlet stating that "[war] was necessary in order for us to protect the independence of Japan and to prosper together with Asian neighbors" and that the war criminals were "cruelly and unjustly tried as war criminals by a sham-like tribunal of the Allied forces". The current prime minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi, has visited the shrine 4 times; every visit causes an uproar in China and Korea.
Japanese politicians have responded by saying that the shrine, as well as visits to it, are protected by the constitutional right of freedom of religion.
China and Korea have a variety of derogatory terms referring to Japan. Many of these terms are viewed as racist. However, these terms do not necessarily refer to the Japanese race as a whole; they can also refer to specific policies, or specific time periods in history.
- 小日本 (xiǎo rìběn) - Literally "Little Japan". This term is so common that it has very little impact left. The term can be used to refer to either Japan or individual Japanese. "小", or the word "little", is usually construed as "puny" or "lowly", not "spunky".
- 日本鬼子 (rì běn guǐ zi) - Literally "Japanese demons". This is used mostly in the context of the Second Sino-Japanese War, when Japan invaded and occupied large areas of China. (There is an analogous term that refers to "American Devils" (美国鬼子) that was used during the Korean War, but this term is rare and would be considered quaint today.)
- 倭 (wō) - This is the term that ancient Japanese used to describe their country. Today, its usage in Chinese is always intended to give a negative connotation. The character is graphically similar to "矮" lit. short in height.
- 倭寇 (wōkòu) - Originally referred to Japanese pirates and armed sea merchants who raided the Chinese coastline during the Ming Dynasty. Qi Jiguang, an admiral who fought against these pirates, is today a national hero. The term has been generalized to refer to all Japanese people in extremely negative contexts.
Especially prevalent during World War II, the word "Jap" has been used in the United States as a derogatory word for Japanese. This is not to be mistaken for "J.A.P." which is a disparaging acronym for "Jewish American Princess", used as a label for Jewish females who are perceived to be spoiled and bratty.
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