From the Archives: Posts on the Military, Japan and Border Disputes

Air force plane
(photo by Selbe B)

It’s funny how real life and current events collide in interesting ways.

Of course, I’ve followed the recent news of protests in China over Japan’s claims on the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. But it felt even more tangible when John and I visited the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio this past weekend, and relived stories of war  through its aircraft on display. Every time we found a plane that was involved in Japan or any border conflict, well, you can imagine what my husband had to say about it… 😉

So, while I’m getting caught up from my weekend away, I thought I’d run a few military/Japan-themed posts from the archives. (And don’t worry — I’ll return this Friday with a fresh helping of new content!)

My Chinese Husband, the Military Fan. Beneath my husband’s compassionate exterior lived a “military fan” — and a story of nostalgia surrounding the anti-Japanese films of his childhood.

My Chinese Husband, My China Border Disputes. The closer I got to China, the more I began to see just how fuzzy those “permanent” borders really were.

How My Anti-Japanese Chinese Husband Changed His Mind About Japan. I never thought my staunchly anti-Japanese Chinese husband would ever call anyone from Japan a friend.

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48 Replies to “From the Archives: Posts on the Military, Japan and Border Disputes”

  1. To understand the Chinese people better, we perhaps have to consider three things:

    1. China is not so much a nation state as a civilisation state
    2. The Chinese largely view themselves as all Han people
    3. The state in China enjoys a special relationship to the society

    That is why the Chinese people often react strongly against those they perceive as their enemies?

    View this interesting Ted Talk

  2. Ordinary malaysian:

    The Japanese and Koreans are not very different from the Chinese in this regard and both Koreans and Chinese will object less to a marriage with a white person than with a Japanese person.

  3. A couple of reasons:
    1. China’s rise requires redefined role in Asia.
    2. WII’s history with Japan is a huge humiliation.
    3. Nationalism is a good diversion for domestic issues. It always legitimizes ruling party.
    4. Most people are so brainwashed.

    In this particular incident, I think China has legal claim to that island – But politics is never black and white, so is history. And the mobs inside china?

  4. Most people in China do not care about the Senakaku islands, most people in China wouldn’t even know they exist if it wasn’t for the media. Most people in China could care less about fishing.

    The only reason they’re protesting is because it’s Japan, and because the media told them so. That’s the only reason.

  5. @ David, maybe. But do the Koreans and the Japanese have the three characteristics of the Chinese nation? The Koreans are very defiant of their leaders and neither of them can be said to be civilisation states.

  6. @ Jason, correct, most of the Chinese people may be ignorant of the islands themselves and others must have told about the islands. And of course it is because the dispute is with the Japanese whom the Chinese consider enemies that they have have reacted strongly. But why do the Chinese always react so strongly with people whom they consider their enemies? I think Martin Jacques has given us something to ponder on the Chinese psyche. I am not saying he is right, but what he said is worth pondering on.

  7. “The state in China enjoys a special relationship to the society”
    That is the difference between many Asian countries comparing to the west. China is huge and complex and requires very high level of maintenance for cohesion. Therefore, it is more inward looking. This theory of strong reaction to aggression is due to Maoism. The concept for citizen is not the same in the west. The state’s relationship to society is essentially saying China is less democratic.

  8. @ Jason What?
    Most Chinese people do not know that theSenakaku islands?
    You learn the history of the United States
    I studied Chinese history
    Chinese people are the most annoying Korean
    Then Japan

  9. Territorial dispute is as old as any living organism on the earth. From plants to animals, living space struggle is genentically imprinted in the survival of fittest.

    Ethnic cleansing is another form of living pace struggle.

  10. It is sensitive topic. I just want to ask one question: will Japan settle the dispute with Russia if Russia offers the same price to buy four northen islands? Kind of interesting to watch, if Russia does that.

  11. Cairo Declaration

    President Roosevelt, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and Prime Minister Mr. Churchill, together with their respective military and diplomatic advisers, have completed a conference in North Africa.

    The following general statement was issued:

    “The several military missions have agreed upon future military operations against Japan. The Three Great Allies expressed their resolve to bring unrelenting pressure against their brutal enemies by sea, land, and air. This pressure is already rising.

    “The Three Great Allies are fighting this war to restrain and punish the aggression of Japan. They covet no gain for themselves and have no thought of territorial expansion. It is their purpose that Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the first World War in 1914, and that all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa, and The Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of China. Japan will also be expelled from all other territories which she has taken by violence and greed. The aforesaid three great powers, mindful of the enslavement of the people of Korea, are determined that in due course Korea shall become free and independent.

    “With these objects in view the three Allies, in harmony with those of the United Nations at war with Japan, will continue to persevere in the serious and prolonged operations necessary to procure the unconditional surrender of Japan.”

    The problem is that Japan never feel China win the war. It is only USA defeated Japan. In Japanese mindset, only winners deserve spoil. So justice does not work. So war between two countries seems inevitable. Japanese only respect people who defeat them. On this aspect, primitive barbaric psychology is at core. If USA used nuke to justify the end on Japan, China might choose the same. Japan might become waste land and not exist as a nation any more in future after USA nuke, nuke plant meltdown, possible Chinese nuke attack. If I were Japanese, I would rather give up piece of symbolic rock to preserve the right to live on this planet. Unless, kamikaze is their way to paradise. Then major screw up.

  12. I’m a Chinese American and I can understand their hatred. The Japanese could’ve apologized for what they did in Nanjing. My parents were born in China in early 1900’s and they did not hold a grudge against the Japanese. I think they hated Mao a lot more because my wealthy grandfather was shot during Cultural Revolution. This whole island dispute is getting way out of hand. I think the Chinese just want to get back at Japan.

  13. After 89, any protest is backed by the government. Angry youth in China are like the old red guards.
    People in US would mistaken me as Japanese. You can’t talk about racism and become racists at the same time. Irish used to hate the English, and Jewish hated the Germans. That does not stop people from marrying each other. Nobody will side with a communist government when conflicts arise.

  14. “Nobody will side with a communist government when conflicts arise.”

    Do not underestimate communist ideology appeal to under-privilaged people and intellectual elites. This far left wing ideology advocates equality among races and people, attacks rich minority. As matter of fact, most people in this world will be those poor who would not like to believe their misfortune as fault of their own. Rich people exploitation is to blame. Is communist correct? Hell, no. But it will be very appealing to the majority of underclass.

    In west, ruling class successfully demonized communist by repeating calling communist `evil’. Underclass are actually pretty dumb since they really do not know what communism is about. Dumb people are easily manipulated. No, I do not believe communism since it is agains human selfish nature and doomed to failure. But simple people do believe robin hood style of redistribution of wealth. If simple people figured out communism=robin hood, then you will have big problem.

    Moasit believers are popular in Chinese underclass. You will notice that if you travel in China. Losers like to blame winners as cheater, curruptors and exploiters. Those people hate current ruling communist party rulers but they will support `true moaist’ like boxilai. If boxilai survived, he might have chance rising up again as `true moaist communist’. True moaists are most aggressive, violent types who often thrive in violence against rich ruling class and international conflicts. Psychopath moaists love such violence.

  15. I get the underclass and the poor supports the party. People in rural areas are dealing with rampant corruption and wishes maoist style of redistribution and shoot the sinner. If you see educated youth match and become violent, that is a different matter.
    My point was no international support would be on China’s side if engaging in conflicts in Asia. Not to mention Japan’s own capabilities and US backing. How hard it is for Japan to make a bomb when your civil nuclear energy is well developed? Who is richer country to support a war? The leaders know about this too.
    One area people overlook is military’s own political power. Party will have to follow the gun sometimes and not the other way around. And true maoists are dictators.

  16. “How hard it is for Japan to make a bomb when your civil nuclear energy is well developed? ”

    That is why China should wipe Japan out before it even can make a bomb. First strike advantage. Only fools wait for enemy to get ready.

  17. From military point of view, China is not capable of defeating Japan today, the same during WII. Hawks inside the country won’t think so. Who pays the prices other than people matched on the streets? Nukes? Are you crazy?
    If you learn all your history inside China, there is not much to discuss.

  18. This recent row has little to do with historical grievances, but more to do with Chinese youth trying to instill meaning into their uneventful, meaningless lives by playing “fantasy patriots”. Imagine that you spend your entire life doing nothing but study 24/7 to compete for the limited academic & employment opportunities, leaving you with no social lives. For them, this conflict is an escape from this gray, gloomy reality. That they could inmitate those TV (the only life outside of books & work) heros in those (rehashed ad nauseam) WWII dramas & movies.

  19. There won’t be WWIII :(. It’s just a stupid island once owed by a Japanese but recently sold to the Japanese Gov’t . Just sell back to another Japanese man then it’s okay again but no Japanese Gov’t involved okay. China can defeat Japan! Why not? China was not prepared during WWII but Japan was prepared since late 1800’s with Germany and Italy.Nowadays it’s very complicated to start a war because the U.S and Great Britain or Russia will be pulled into this matter. This island has nothing to do with the people of China or Japan. It’s all about security and politics. It’s just a very very small problem regarding an islands..

  20. @ Bruce
    China does not have the kind of Navy to win warfare with Japan. You can’t win by shooting missiles. Russia won’t do any real thing. UK’s glory days have past. Taiwan and Korea won’t side with China.
    For comparison, America’s navy power is a few times more than other top 7 countries combined.
    These islands do not matter that much. International relations do not all based on rational calculations either. It is a “face” thing.

  21. I would have answered yesterday, but I’m back from no Internet land. My Korean ex told me of horror stories of Japan and Korean, I even watched a Korean drama that focused on those horrors. Not fun.

  22. @ Henry Yeh, so, it all boils down to bored youths? Very interesting, expect quite incredible. But don’t tell that to the Chinese youths in their face. They may decide to do a Nanjing on you. Hope not though.

    @ Reactionary, what has losers who like to blame winners as “cheater” (sic), curruptors” (sic) and “exploiters” got to do with the Chinese people’s dislike of the Japanese and their often overarching reaction to the Japanese at the slightest slight?

    @ askdsk, the islands may not just be about “face”. How about the purported huge oil and gas reserves in the seas surrounding? Of course, the Chinese reaction to the Japanese move is more than just that. It is much more deep-rooted than that. And it is not a question that China cannot defeat Japan militarily today, it is a question whether China would even want to do it. Without America’s backing, honestly, nobody is going to bet on China being unable to defeat Japan today.

    As for China’s navy strength, you will be quite surprised to know what China has today and is SECRETLY developing. Of course, compared to America’s, China’s navy may be years behind in terms of numbers and technology but they are catching up fast and at a rate a little too uncomfortable even for America; as it is, the Chinese navy packs enough punch to do damage. This shouldn’t be so surprising if you consider the Chinese’s government annual provision for the military sector. I have forgotten the percentage in terms of China’s GDP, but an unusually high figure that even got America complaining.

    Fellows, I don’t think China would go to war with Japan over the islands. It will much depend on the Japanese’s further response. And even than it will take more than a little for China to want to go to war.

    China is now the world’s second largest economy and would, in about a decade, according to the experts, the way things go today, become the world’s largest economy, surpassing America’s. Why would China want to risk all this. And as to the claims here that nobody is going to support China in the dispute, you may be a little surprised, and so would I.

    People may not come up openly to support China for wanting to appear politically correct or to hedge their interests, but when shove comes to push you know lah, self-interests, including national ones of course, always triumph over political niceties.

    But if China does decide to go to war with Japan, there is not much America can do militarily, unless you want to risk a nuclear war. And then I am sorry for the world. America is so preoccupied and weakened now, that it couldn’t lead even in Libya, it can’t do anything in Syria and it is unable to do anything with Iran. So, it can only keep on talking about international sanctions on Iran and hope that that will dissuade Iran from their nuclear ambitions, knowing very well that that won’t be enough and that Iran will continue to play along and before you could say “Obama”, Iran will shout “Obama. you stupid!” It is so weakened that it can’t even risk standing on the side of their long-time partner Israel!

    What are the Diaoyu islands to the rest of the world, if you guys are saying there are just tiny rocks anyway? I am not saying they are and I am not saying they aren’t either, but they must represent more than just big egos?

  23. If you are interested in this kind of thing, read about Falkland islands. US provided military support for UK there too. See who get what at the end.
    The problem is if PLA commits to the conflicts, it almost has to win in order for the party to survive. Remember the last two defeats with Japan. In 1895, Manchu government was overthrown after defeat. In 1949, Nationalist government was overthrown after defeat. When you have stake that high, any government is not going to be foolish. Certainly not the Chinese either.

  24. @ askdsk, the Falkland islands saga was almost in another age now where the military and economic equations were quite different in favour of the west. Nowadays if you tried something like that with the Diaoyu islands, do you honestly think it is a steal for America or their allies? I said China would not likely want to go to war with Japan over the disputed islands, unless shove comes to a push. And of course if China commits this time, it won’t be with outdated and militarily inferior firearms and poor or non existent command structure. And as a last resort, do you think their nuclear might is just there for widow dressing and is just mickey mouse if the alternative is the extermination of the PLA and the Party as you postulate? I do hope so too for the sake of us all. But let me repeat, China is very unlikely to go to war over the islands.

  25. I’d like to believe what you said about the military is true. It is totally different way of war on the water. PLA has never been tested. You think a few war ships and planes will do the trick? Manchu government built an Armada and lost badly. Japan used to have great navy. That kind of knowledge does not go away.
    Falklands is a conflict that is controversial in terms of real gains.

  26. People who talks about nukes should visit Hiroshima. It does not matter they deserve it or not. You never what to see that s* used again.

  27. @ askdsk, China’s navy is not just a few war ships. Have you heard of their subs (and nuclear ones too) now; what both of us do not know about their navy’s true strength? I do not know and the Americans too don’t. China don’t advertise what they do to the world. And who says war is about the navy? Did I even ever mentioned about the navy in the first place? It was you guys who talked about China’s supposedly no threat, inexperienced, non-existent navy to start with. War nowadays is not a one-dimensional thing. You have to look at the totality of a country’s military wherewithal. I don’t say about the use of nuclear arsenal being a beautiful thing, nobody likes it, and that was why I said that China won’t likely want to go to war with Japan over the Diaoyu islands. And if you want to really argue, do you think the US of A would also want to risk a military conflict with China, their sissy navy notwithstanding.? Forget about talking about war over the Diaoyu islands. I did not start it and I do not believe that war break out over them.

  28. oops, “Did I even ever mention about..” not “mentioned”. And “I do not believe that war would break out..” And in the previous comment, “The Falkland islands saga is almost in another age now ” not “was”.

  29. @Ordinary
    We are not attacking you.

    Japan will always be a soft spot for China. There are certainly many government led misunderstandings toward Japan in China. That is legacy from history. China will always be a world power. That is also the fact.
    Regional rivalry is common. Europe is a better example of that.

  30. after reviewing above comments , I centainly felt its very much laughble, don’t judge my English, beacuse I don’t really want to wast time to change grammars or spellings and such. since I am from Mainland and 100% full blood Chinese who is not living in overseas, who doesn’t try to sounds professional way to know my country much to those people who have no clues what they try to talk about on first place. long story short, there are 3 major issues about the country, history and political play as following:
    1. From history Diao Yu island (Senkaku ) and Okinawa Prefecture belonged to China before WW2, after WW2 America took DiaoYu island and Okinawas but during Korean war 1950-1953 US, gave Japan the Diao Yu Island Administrative jurisdiction, please pay attention here, its only Administrative jurisdiction but not sovereignty, so US using this Fuzzy policy since 1953, part of reason is that Anti-soviet Unions and communism, further Anti- China. meanwhile, in its Fuzzy Policy, US goverment doesn’t admit Japan owns Senkaku island, by that China built up relation with Japan since 1973, for more economic corporations both political parties decided using “Putting aside disputes” strategy until now, 2. politically, Japan’s nationalism party rise up, they have big influence to Japan’s current goverment, and they don’t think ww2 Japan was invasion of other countries… which they require to rebuild their forces agian which aginist “The defeated Nations Treaty” from UN. so they try to purchase Diaoyu Island then eventually require the sovereignty. this behavior was breaking the Tacit understanding between Japan and CHina in past 40 years, thats why China starts to use some tough ways to react which is perfectly understandable. same for South China sea disputes, all these south eastern asian countries were the one break Tacit understanding rules, who try to require entire of sovereignty from CHina, meanwhile its pretty easy to see behind of all these China related disputes, there is a shadow behind of it, which is Unite states. since obama govermet, is using Return to Asia Pacific Policy to get back the american influnce to Control China’s rising by building up many military bases around China, and building up TMD system and X-channel radars around China, sending marines to austrila and Japan. such and such……………….
    meanwhile there wouldn’t be a war in the region, beacuse US wants just a bility of influnce so Japan can provoke China, but US didn’t allow Japan to use military conflicts agianist CHina yet, also for Japan economically was down for decades, Japanese economics most replied to China, and CHinese markets, othervise Japan will collapse. so in certian lower level of intense between CHina Taiwan and Japan is happening but not a war. Japan’s behavior only will improve China and Taiwan coroprate together and unity, which is US doesn’t want to see.. but the fact was that in Diaoyu Island issue CHina and Taiwan on same side. 3, for Chinese, since most Chinese don’t know all the insights between countries and politically play cetain games, then they have no clue what happened, but by watching news or TV, since Chinese still try hard to improve their own hard life living standards, just like people in other countries, we are all experiencing the ecomony downplays, food price and qualitys, still very much higher than it was supposed to be, air pollutions, crroputions, lower salary still the cause for social ecomomic gaps, rich and poor classes have more and more gaps than ever, so stop thinking so la la land and how China great it was, there is totally disappointing moments for those ” asian guy/girls lovers” wonder, realistically, Chinese people are still struggling for lives every single day, and China is still very hard and tough for those non- CHinese love seeking people in gerenal.

  31. It is about time someone from inside China to crash the party. Standard party lines for me. The real difference is that you are the one to decide your own fate. I only talk now.

  32. @ askdsk, you are not attacking, just talking. But what are you saying? You are neither here nor there. Just speaking to your own self? That’s not bad. It is good therapy. Try to sound like you are talking to yourself.

  33. @ China guy, it is not laughable, and it is not about grammar too. I think what Jocelyn is wondering is why is it that the Mainland Chinese tend to over-react toward the Japanese, and not only over the Diaoyu islands. Of course there are underlying reasons why and we know what those are. And probably Martin Jacques has given us further insights to chew on as to the Mainland Chinese people’s psyche. We Malaysians, especially we Chinese Malaysians, also suffered atrociously at the hands of the Japanese during WW2. We had our babies bayoneted to death through the arse or after being tossed into the air like practice pellets. We had Chinese men (and I must sure some women too) given the “whiskey treatment” whereby it was not whiskey they were feted with, but having copious volume of water forced fed into them until their stomachs bloated and the Japanese soldiers then used them as trampoline to jump on! Imagine the excruciating pain that caused! We had our women forced into serving the Japanese soldiers as sex slaves or comfort women. Some of my own relatives too, suffered at the hands of the Japanese soldiers and one of them just disappeared one day without ever been heard of anymore. We Chinese Malaysians have no love lost for the Japanese, but still we don’t over-react toward them.

  34. @Ordinary
    I did not mean it when I say I talk to myself. No offense to you at all.
    It could be lonely if you do not hold the popular opinion. In any political situation, the easiest way is to go with the flow.
    I did my duty to visit the Nanjin memorials and watch some documentaries. Learn my own share of the history and interact with quite a few Japanese.
    This kind of government led hatred is faulty. It does not help the real issues. People will only blame on communist ideology and not focus on things substantial.
    I get what you were saying about ordinary people’s struggle. Take the stories from China with some doubts. We are not simply entertaining here either. But it is easier to access all types of information outside of China. And don’t insult people with that kind of attitude I witness every time I visited. Every time people will start the sentence with “you don’t know China” and ends with “you don’t know China”.

  35. @Ordinary Malaysian,

    What kind of animals can do this to babies? It’s okay to kill the men because it’s war time but how can you do this to babies and women? I’m telling you guys here that as a country you must be militarily sounded and ready ! I saw those pictures where babies were thrown in the air and japanese soldiers chopped them . I still don’t understand until today. I heard during that time Chinese people didn’t have guns to fight back. When you have a weak gov’t, you will be destroyed. Japan’s emperor/gov’t was stabled so its military was stronger. Now you know why chinese don’t like japanese until today. How do you like it if your house is being invaded by intruders and kill all your family members? My own house is always loaded with ammos , rifles and guns all over. You need to have the ability to fight back. This is my mentality. Just like going to war without weapons is like suicide.

  36. @ Bruce, you are right. That is one reason why the Chinese do hate the Japanese and I do understand why the Mainland Chinese do so react strongly toward the Japanese.

    @ askdsk. Too bad you do not talk to yourself. Try it sometimes. And it isn’t about feeling lonely because no one else agrees with you. We all went off the wrong path. The question was what actually motivates the Chinese people to have this strong aversion for the Japanese? The historical reasons are obvious. So much humiliation and pain and brutalities inflicted on the Chinese by the Japanese (or the Japs if you like) and on the Chinese nation. But more than that, is there something in the psyche of the Mainland Chinese that makes them so react toward the Japanese? I sometimes use that word “over-react” in the descriptive and not in the judgemental sense.

    BTW, if the government led hatred is faulty ( according to you, and I may not want to really contradict you here; remember, the Chinese state enjoys a special relation to the society unlike most other nation states per Martin Jacques, one of the blocking blocks that may help us better understand the Chinese psychology), why are you concerned that people would put the blame on communist ideology? Isn’t putting the blame on communist ideology the same as saying that you are not focusing on substantial issues? In olden times the “communist ideology” came wrapped in a different name, but much the same influence it must have had on the Chinese people?

    @ Henry Yeh, you are asking a rhetorical question?

  37. @Ordinary
    I think it helps to understand what I mean if you live in a western country. If more Americans go visit China, they would understand it better. Same would work for Japan.
    I don’t feel lonely lonely. All rhetoric.
    I understand why you care about the issue from what you said. Enjoy your weekend.

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