Jin Qiu – Politics of History and Historical Memory in China-Japan
Argues: public perception of history can and should be guided toward more
“While official, economic and cultural relations between the two countries
have experienced an unprecedented and continuous improvement in the
past a few [sic] decades, Chinese and Japanese public perceptions of each
other have been deteriorating.”
− despite criticism of Chinese government's manipulation, historical
issues, particularly those of WWII, are major source of public animosity
toward Japan in China
− when past historical issue is intertwined with current politics, it is
usually public perception of history that is at work
− political interpretation of historical events is subject to change; this
prevents an opportunity to guide public perception towards positive
History: Number One Source For Public Antagonism Against Japan In
“To the Chinese public, awareness of unresolved historical issues is the
number one reason why they feel that they cannot trust the Japanese.”
Relates to current policies, such as textbook revisions, and 'trade
“Unfortunately, the Japanese government often fails to understand the
implications of its interpretation of history for neighbouring
countries,dismissing the problem as attempts by the Chinese government to
play the card of history to force Japan to make compromises.”
History: Facts, Perceptions or Myths?
History is never absolute truth, and always consists of both facts and
Historians seek a variety of perspectives to achieve a balanced view of the
past, whereas mythologizers look for a single pattern as 'the essence' of past reality.
“A national history endorsed by a state and a society is, in most cases, the
product of mythologization, which is usually dominated by one single
politicized interpretation of the nation's past and allows little room for other
In China, views that depart from the orthodox are usually considered
'unofficial,' frivolous, and based on rumours and gossip.
Contrasted to China, which has a long history of a dominating official history,
Japan sees rectification of 'correct' history by both state and societal actors.
“In the collective memory, what is most important about a historical event is
not whether it is historically true, but whether people believe it is true.”
This is perhaps the most important reason why government or societal
groups “try to obtain and maintain the right of interpreting the country's
“This type of manipulation, however, is quite subtle in nature and difficult for
the public to detect.... Few Chinese nowadays would admit that their
perception of history is still under the influence of the Chinese government,
and such an admission would seem an insult to their intelligence.”
How could the author hold that history is a process of interpretation—then
immediately after criticize the Chinese people for an 'incorrect'
Temperging Collective Historical Memory: The Issue of Textbooks in
Following WWII, European countries made compromises over historical
issues, and reached a new level of regional integration, culminating in the
EU. History remains a sensitive problem in East Asia.
To the Koreans and Chinese, who were mo