Lin Lin Chinese Ambassador
World War II is a painful memory for the people of the whole world, but some Japanese leaders have recently insisted on looking back at this history without a slight sense of remorse.Now I would like to take a look back and point out some facts my Japanese counterpart may have overlooked in his article in The Herald (“Nevertheless, we remain hopeful”) on January 28, 2014.
Above all, let’s dig into what the Yasukuni Shrine is really honouring.
In an attempt to brush aside criticism, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe compared his well-planned and well-publicised visit to the Yasukuni Shrine to an American president’s visit to Arlington National Cemetery.
American people immediately expressed disagreement: as Mindy Kotler, director of Asia Policy Point, pointed out in her article “Sorry, Japan: Yasukuni Is Not Arlington”, this analogy is mistaken.
The two memorials share neither the same history nor spirit, and the differences between the two places explain why the PM’s visit is so provocative.
Yasukuni focuses on the idealisation of the Pacific theatre of WWII, while Arlington records the continuing sorrow of a nation, where the bodies or ashes of those who served the country are interred.
Yasukuni — established in 1869 to embed the supremacy of the Shinto faith (the traditional religion of Japan) and the divinity of the Emperor — was once a religious shrine.
However, since 1978 when 14 Class A war criminals were enshrined there, its nature has changed.
Apart from the 14 convicted war criminals who were found responsible for carrying forward the Pacific War, thousands of others who committed war crimes that violated both Japanese and international laws were also enshrined.
There is also a modern museum, Yushukan, glorifying wartime deeds while ignoring the Nanjing Massacre in which over 300 000 Chinese people were killed and many other heinous atrocities during the war of aggression against China, and that is what the Shrine’s website claims as “restored truth of Japanese history”.
Yasukuni is also about rejecting the judgments of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, which is still deemed by many Japanese as the “victor’s justice”.
A visit to Yasukuni has always been a political act.
Its rites, grounds and museum all focus on Japan’s Pacific War, declaring that “the Emperor God was right, the victorious foreigners were wrong”; there, Japan did not lose the war.
Imperial Japan — when Japanese were said to be noble, selfless and brave — is longed for as a better time.
Therefore, it is plain to see that Yasukuni is not simply a cemetery or “another remembrance memorial”, but a spiritual symbol that honours warfare and violence, rejects the post-war international order and longs for a Japan-centred world.
From my point of view, this might explain why the Japanese Emperor quit his annual visits to Yasukuni after 1978, and it is also why since the visits by Japanese government leaders to Yasukuni were first made public in 1985, neighbouring countries, including China, have been strongly condemning these actions.
In terms of whether Abe and the government of Japan “expressed deep remorse and heartfelt apologies”, I believe the truth is evident in a series of statements made by Abe.
As early as in 2006 in his first term as the PM, Abe said to the parliament that the Class A criminals were not really war criminals according to the Japanese domestic laws, and their family members should be provided allowances.
One of them was even awarded a medal afterwards.
In his book published last year, Abe wrote about the “warm feelings” when others called his grandfather “Class A criminal suspect”, and that the “crimes against peace and humanity” during the Tokyo Trials were concepts created only after the war, making it improper to call them “criminals” according to the domestic laws.
Throughout 2013, Abe repeatedly made statements, saying that the WWII was evaluated only by the victors and that since there had not been a clear definition of “aggression”, people of every nation should be allowed to take pride in their history.
Indeed, it is true that every people has the right to respect their history.
However, honouring a distorted version of the history, denying what had truly happened, and lying to the young generation by tampering with their history textbooks is hardly the right way to do it.
China’s military expenditure is another issue hyped up by certain countries.
In his speech at this year’s Davos referring to the tensions between the two countries, Abe called on China to scale back its military
spending, attempting to divert attention from the acts of right-wing militarists in his government.
As is known to all, China is committed to the path of peaceful development, which accords with the basic and long-term interests of China itself, the region and the whole world.
The development of China is a conducive factor for regional and world peace.
With its economic development, China is now capable of spending more on key sectors including safeguarding its national security.
But compared with other major countries, China’s military spending is still low.
In fact, the size of Japan is four percent that of China, and the total Japanese population is only 10 percent that of China, but Japan’s military spending is equivalent to 54 percent that of China.
Each of the 250 000 members of the Japanese “self-defence forces” is spending five times as much as someone in the Chinese military.
The large gap between China and other major countries in military spending actually puts China in a fragile situation that could undermine its peaceful development, so I do not see it justifiable for certain countries to criticise China on this matter.
If any country should cut its military spending, it is definitely not China.
One thing I agree with my Japanese counterpart is that though our bilateral relations have been faced with difficulties, we never lost hope that our two nations can become “friendly neighbours” again, for peace and development are the main theme of today’s world, and to maintain long-term neighbourly friendship is the mutual wish of both our peoples.
We are grateful for the economic and technological contributions Japan provided to China, but it should also be noted that this assistance only came after China suffered over US$600 billion in direct and indirect losses due to the Japanese War of Aggression against China, and the Sino-Japan business co-operation over the years have been mutually beneficial.
We believe that with the trend of the times, the economic ties between our two countries will continue to strengthen.
As the ancient Chinese philosopher Mencius put it, “those who follow heaven’s law will survive and those who disobey will perish.”
History stands as an alarm for those who go against the whole world’s wishes for peace and stability.
As witnesses of history ourselves, we have faith that history does and will tell the truth.
His Excellency Mr Lin Lin is Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Zimbabwe.