Saturday, April 16, 2005

Bad History

The Chinese are unhappy after learning that Japan has Americanised one of its history texts:

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of the Chinese city of Shanghai in the latest in a series of anti-Japanese demonstrations.

Protesters carrying Chinese flags surrounded the Japanese consulate throwing stones and other missiles.

They are angry at Japan's approval of school textbooks which they say play down Japanese wartime atrocities.

The protests were condemned as "extremely regrettable" by the Japanese foreign minister, who is due to visit.

Nobutaka Machimura said he would "strongly protest" against the anti-Japanese protests when he arrives in Beijing on Sunday, in a visit aimed at defusing the tensions.


Japan's decision to approve eight school textbooks - which critics say gloss over the country's actions before and during World War II - triggered the current protests.

Among the issues causing outrage is the description of the Japanese army's massacre in Nanjing, referred to in the study books as "an incident".

Some 50,000 to 300,000 Chinese people were killed between December 1937 and March 1938 in one of the worst massacres in modern times.

An incident. Yeah, well, American textbooks used to be like that, especially the "Pageant of History" sorts, until histories like those of Howard Zinn corrected the propaganda and explained, more than "incidentalise," what American did to the Natives, slaves, the Filipinos, Latin Americans, the Indochinese, etc. (Though some wingnut "histories" still provide a template for the world's propagandists -- look no further than the works of Paul "Spanker" Johnson.)

But this is not to say that there isn't something else causing the Chinese angst:

The protests were also directed at Tokyo's bid for a permanent UN Security Council seat.

On Wednesday, Japan further angered China by issuing drilling rights for oil and gas in a disputed area of the East China Sea.

Right. Though neo-liberal nutballs who love sending our jobs to China don't like to admit it, China is still a totalitarian society. Sure, you can own some property now (which is the only right that matters to free-traders), but otherwise China has not changed a bit since 1989. There is not true freedom to protest in China; there is only the "freedom" to protest what the Chinese government wants protested. The only reason these events are happening is because the Chinese government wants to scare Japan for reasons that have nothing to do with history and everything to do with resource wars and geopolitical strategy. Pay no attention to official Chinese "we can't control our people's indignation!" rhetoric; it's a sham.