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  • China-Japan Relations in the Twenty-first Century: Creating a Future Past?
  • Lam Peng Er (bio)
China-Japan Relations in the Twenty-first Century: Creating a Future Past? Edited by Michael Heazle and Nick Knight. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, U.K., 2007. xi, 247 pages. $110.00.

The contributors to this volume, most of whom are scholars based at Australian and New Zealand universities, seek to address the following puzzles: Why have rapidly increasing levels of economic interdependence between China and Japan not engendered closer political ties? Why does the bilateral relationship seem to have reached a point where reconciliation will soon become "all but impossible" (p. 1)? The conclusion is: competing historical memories and nationalism are critical factors that have negatively impacted China-Japan relations. Moreover, present perceptions of the past will shape expectations of the future.

The chapters of the book are organized in four parts. The first two examine nationalism in China and Japan, respectively; the third section focuses on threat perceptions and future intentions; and the last deals with regional perceptions of China and Japan. In chapter 2, Jian Zhang argues that "anti-Japanese nationalism in China has increasingly become a society driven movement rather than solely a state-led campaign" (p. 25). The author also notes that many anti-Japanese activists are "simultaneously opponents of the Chinese government" (p. 25). Thus, nationalism is a double-edged sword for Beijing: while it may seek to bolster regime legitimacy by harnessing nationalism, a society-driven movement against Japan can eventually turn against the regime.

In the next chapter, Xia Liping believes that China and Japan should establish an East Asian Community with other Asian countries as an antidote to "extremist nationalism." The author alludes to the East Asian realist aphorism that "two tigers cannot live on the same mountain" and advocates an alternative model of "two horses" pulling the cart of regionalism in the same direction. Although Xia is convinced that multilateralism is the path to a better bilateral relationship in a "new world of global interdependence" (p. 36), it is unclear how competing tigers can be transformed into a team of horses.

Nick Knight's thesis in chapter 4 is that "China's perception of the dichotomies that characterise the modern global world, in which Japan is categorised as developed and capitalist, in contrast to China which is developing and socialist, thus serves to reinforce China's negative perceptions of Japan in other, more concrete, areas of disagreement" (p. 68). However, Knight takes at face value the rhetoric of theorists and propagandists in [End Page 197] the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and fails to note that China, while undoubtedly authoritarian, has enthusiastically embraced the market and done rather well economically. Moreover, Beijing has good working relations with most developed and developing capitalist states; the exception is with Japan. Thus the "crucial ingredient" in the problematic Sino-Japanese relationship is not the ideological perception of an advanced capitalist state exploiting a developing socialist nation but the burden of history and competing nationalisms.

The next three chapters examine nationalism in contemporary Japan. In chapter 5, Rumi Sakamoto examines right-wing Kobayashi Yoshinori's popular manga titled Sensōron (On war), which has sold more than 650,000 copies, and its controversial interpretations of the Nanking Massacre, "comfort women," and Yasukuni Shrine. Sakamoto persuasively concludes that "Sensoron clearly shows that history is important in popular expression of nationalism in contemporary Japan. Popular culture has now become a site for contesting historical truth, and this manga functions as a ground for a political battle over memory and history and promoting nationalism" (p. 88).

In the next chapter, Barbara Hartley examines novels, films, and various cultural reproductions in Japan that strongly challenge the views on history held by Japanese officialdom. She convincingly concludes: "It is evident that the field of cultural production has the capacity to contest strident public positions of denial adopted by Japanese officialdom regarding the military atrocities and civilian human rights violations that occurred on the Asian mainland as a result of the Imperial project" (p. 107).

In chapter 7, Eric Johnston observes: "The increasing influence of Japan's right-wing media and the important role it...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1549-4721
Print ISSN
0095-6848
Pages
pp. 197-200
Launched on MUSE
2009-01-15
Open Access
No
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