Japan from the inside out


Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, October 3, 2012

REPORTS are starting to surface on the damage resulting from the recent spasm of national hooliganism in China following a Japanese real estate transaction. Even some Chinese are rankled:

On their way back to the company (Honda), they saw black smoke rising above their office. The fire blazed until the next day and the company’s car shop, office, dormitories and vehicles were all destroyed.

The staff said the demonstrations were premeditated and organized riots that were carried out under the disguise of patriotism. The protesters have destroyed their livelihood, they said….

They also accused the local government of turning a blind eye to the violence. “We called the police many times but did not receive any help,” a staff member said, adding the fire was burning for more than three hours, but not a single police car or fire truck showed up to help.


A Japanese department store chain said Thursday it suffered US$6.4 million worth of damage at three shops in China when violent protests erupted this month over a disputed island chain.

Heiwado president Hirakazu Natsuhara told reporters that mobs had wrecked the buildings in southwest Hunan province and stolen stock, putting the total cost of the losses at 500 million yen, according to broadcaster NHK.

The estimate could more than double to 1.3 billion yen, if the three stores were to remain closed until Dec. 1, he added, according to NHK.

More details are likely to emerge over the next few weeks about the destruction caused by the Rude Boys. Somebody’s going to have to pay for the damage. Do you think it will be anyone in China?

The Japanese government said last week it will ask Beijing to pay for damage caused to Japanese diplomatic missions, adding that private businesses should decide how they would seek redress.

I suspect the only people to reimburse Japanese private-sector companies will be their insurance companies. It might happen that the Chinese government would pay for damages to Japanese embassy and consulate property, but that’s by no means certain. We’re also unlikely to find out about it if they do. I doubt that the Chinese would want that information to be made public.

Then again, considering the state of international journalism, no information that does become public will be reliable. One Chinese newspaper said that Prime Minister Noda already asked for compensation, but Mr. Noda avoided an answer last week at the UN when directly asked if he would.

Meanwhile, little anti-Chinese activity is occurring in Japan. A group of about 100 people demonstrated at the Chinese consulate in Osaka on the 29th. After everyone went home, two men came back to spray the exterior walls and shutters of the consulate with fire extinguishers and throw PET bottles filled with some black liquid. They were arrested by Osaka police for defacing property.

The contrast between Japan and China is striking not only in their behavior at demonstrations, but also in the response to those demonstrations. We’ve already seen that the Chinese authorities permitted the rampage. Now, here’s this:

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Friday responded to media reports of threatening mail sent to the Chinese embassy in Tokyo by saying that China requires Japan to protect the safety of Chinese embassies and personnel within its territory.

Hong Lei said that China had expressed grave concern over the embassy’s receipt on Thursday of a bullet in the post, adding that China has asked Japan to take effective measures to guarantee safety for Chinese embassies and personnel in Japan in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Not that any Chinese officials in Japan should have any grave concern for their safety. The bullet was sent by mail to mess with their heads. If the sender was intent on causing serious harm, he would have delivered it by firearm instead.

Would the Chinese government have taken effective measures to guarantee the safety of any Japanese in that country had they ventured out in public a couple of weeks ago? Would they have even tried? They couldn’t guarantee the safety of a Chinese man whose only crime was to drive by in a Japanese car in the wrong place at the wrong time. He’s still paralyzed.

This article from Xinhua provides a hint for the motivation behind the Chinese response:

China was outraged by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s remarks to reporters at the UN General Assembly, and has urged Japan to cease immediately all actions that infringe China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

“China is strongly disappointed and sternly opposes the Japanese leader’s obstinacy regarding his wrong position on the Diaoyu Islands issue,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a written statement on Thursday.

Qin’s remarks came following Noda’s insistence when responding to reporter’s questions at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that the Diaoyu Islands “are an integral part” of Japan’s territory in light of history and of international law.

Note that their complaint is not merely about Japanese behavior regarding what they consider to be disputed territory. It is that they consider Japanese behavior with land that Japan possesses and that the Chinese admitted was Japanese until 40 years ago to be a territorial infringement today.

Note also the wording in the first sentence of the second paragraph: Mr. Noda was “wrong” and he was being “obstinate” about it. That’s more important than it might seem from a cursory reading.

Last week in a post about Korean han, I quoted the observations of Tsukuba University Prof. Furuta Hiroshi. His field of specialty is East Asian political thought. Just as han is the prism through which the Korean attitude toward Japan should be viewed, there is also a prism through which the Chinese attitude toward Japan — and everyone else — should be viewed. Here’s more from Prof. Furuta, written in 2005.

“…These rules for mealtime manners, wedding ceremonies, and clothing for all occasions, have been considered standards for etiquette since ancient times. They are considered to be a matter of proper behavior.

“The reality of courtesy changes over time, even in China, so these rules have not been uniform. Those who do not observe the prevailing standards of behavior, however, are considered barbarians. Their thesis is that the group upholding this etiquette is China (中華), the center of civilization. That is unchanged now from the past.

“Of course, the idea that one is the center of civilization is to be found here and there throughout the world. In Europe, the French are noted for it. But their attitude has not approached, as it always has with the Chinese, the haughty position of invincibility (in the belief that) their manner of eating, of conducting ceremonies, and the outward appearance of their clothing is correct (正しい) and therefore superior…

“It is said that East Asia shares a Confucian culture, and if Confucianism has taken pride in anything since ancient times, it is proper behavior. For the Chinese, this proper behavior is denoted by courteous action and the limits on action. For example, in Confucianism, the dead must not be cremated. But the Japanese cremate their dead. One must not marry within the same clan. But cousins can marry in Japan. Mixed bathing with males and females is out of the question, but it is a matter of recorded history that males and females nonchalantly bathed together at Japanese hot springs. There was even mixed bathing at public baths during the Edo period. This behavior outside the limits of proper behavior demonstrates (to the Chinese) that the Japanese lack morality. Therefore, they call them The Eastern Barbarians.

“The Chinese believe their position is one of moral superiority. They have always had a propensity to think that they can do and say whatever they like to the Japanese. This moral propensity permits them to use it as a weapon to subdue the Japanese, and behave as they find it advantageous in territorial issues or issues of natural resources. Strip away the outer layer of the Yasukuni shrine issue, and it becomes a problem of a ritual at a shrine honoring people who did them harm. The issue of history textbooks is a question of barbarian discourtesy to the “correct history” that has been written with their legitimacy and morality. The issue of Japan attempting to obtain permanent membership in the UN Security Council is rude and barbaric behavior that would place them at the same level as China (中華), and can even be considered impertinence.

“Modern nationalism has been overlaid on this Chinese thought, creating a two-layered structure, and makes the issue even more troublesome. The old layer of Chinese thought resonates with the new layer of nationalism and erupts in cries of “Smash small Japan” and “Patriotism is no crime”. In that sense, anything is allowed patriotic nationalism that would punish Small Japan, which is barbaric as seen from the perspective of Greater China.”


I included the 中華 that Prof. Furuta used for China for a reason. The Chinese use different characters their country when they are talking about the actions of the nation-state itself. They use these characters when talking about the conceptual Greater China in the abstract. Those characters mean “the flower in the center of the world”. Prof. Furuta used the phrase, “the center of civilization”.

Also, the use of “correct” here contains the nuance of proper, right, and true. Thus, any behavior, custom, or thought that does not conform to the contemporary Chinese standard is incorrect, improper, wrong, and false.

Prof. Furuta neglected to mention a third layer in addition to classic Chinese thought and modern nationalism, though he is aware of it. Try this from one of the quoted Xinhua articles:

“The Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation are among the most important anti-fascist achievements and a significant basis for the post-war international order, and were publicly accepted by Japan in the Japanese Instrument of Surrender,” Qin noted.

The only people who think they make a valid point by using the term “anti-fascist” in earnest are the socialists and those farther to the left on one side of what has always been a Cain-and-Abel grudge match. China is still ruled by the Communist Party. They still employ the hammer and sickle symbol.

Another report yesterday revealed that China’s State Oceanic Administration had this to say about the Japanese Coast Guard:

“Right wing personnel from Japan illegally entered our territory near the Diaoyutai…four of our ships are patrolling the area to protect our interests.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei added:

“We are very dissatisfied and firmly oppose to the illegal incursion of these right wing personnel…If (Japan) does not stop this challenging behavior, the situation will become more complex.”

This is the first time the Chinese government has used the phrase “right wing” to describe Japanese behavior in the Senkakus, much less Coast Guard personnel.

So there are three layers to the structure. One is nationalism, and another is nominal communism. The nature of the third in China requires a description that the phonograms of the Roman alphabet cannot express by the word ethnocentrism alone. That requires a logographic element — something along the lines of *E*T*H*N*O*C*E*N*T*R*I*S*M*. It isn’t possible to make the letters iridescent and luminous on the website.

These are the structural components of a nation now flush enough to believe it can at last extract revenge from the barbarians who have defiled the flower in the center of civilization for the past 150 years.

Do you think Chinese geopolitical behavior is only about the Eastern Barbarians of Small Japan?

You’d better think again.


Here’s a further example of new/old Chinese behavior.

Several big Chinese banks say they’ve canceled participation in the high-profile annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund–to be held in Tokyo next week–as well as in the constellation of events taking place alongside. Some of the banks say they’ve also pulled out of another big financial-industry conference scheduled to take place in the western Japanese city of Osaka at the end of the month…

…”Quite frankly, it’s Japan-China relations,” said an official at the Tokyo branch of the Agricultural Bank of China, explaining why the bank was pulling out of both IMF-related events and the Osaka conference, which is sponsored by Belgium-based SWIFT, a group set up by financial institutions to handle transactions….

…The annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank is the largest single gathering of finance and economic officials, non-governmental organizations and bankers. Organizers estimate some 20,000 delegates will be in Tokyo for a range of meetings and seminars, taking place Oct. 9-Oct. 14…

…”The point is really about China being a global player,” said Fraser Howie, a Singapore-based co-author of “Red Capitalism,” a book on China’s financial system. “China may rightly demand a seat at the head table, but what signal does it send when they go off in a huff over these types of issues. Such boycotts are pointless. They only harm China and make China out to be a unstable and unreliable partner.”

But here’s the question: Will the modern suzerain care, or are they reverting to their traditional worldview?

From the Chinese perspective, East Asia was the entire world. When China engaged with other nations, it was in the context of its ever-expanding world, at whose centre was the Chinese emperor. The Qing government broadly grouped the countries it dealt with into ‘tributary states’ and ‘mutual trading states’. A tributary state was a Chinese ‘vassal state’ or ‘subject state’, that paid tributes at regular intervals. Mutual trading states were actually foreign, from Western Europe and America. They were not expected to pay tributes, but the Qing government still treated them as vassal states, referring to them as a ‘group of subjects’ or siyi. Mutual trading states were also perceived as inferior to China. Their trading and commercial activities were limited to one port in Guangdong province. In the Qing view, ‘In the Eastern field of political economy, there are two types of state—those that give and those that receive tribute.’ Distant countries that were interested in establishing relations with China would also be categorized as tributary states and seen as ‘subjects’. Ships from abroad were consequently viewed as ‘tributary vessels’, gifts as ‘tributary goods’, letters as ‘tributary lists’, and people as ‘tributary envoys’. In the Qing emperor’s letters of response to tributes he always wrote ‘Zhen (the emperor’s form of self-address, namely, I) have received er (the mode adopted by a superior addressing an inferior, namely, you or your, a term strongly imbued with contempt,) tributary goods’; whether receiving goods or unexpectedly rewarding an inferior, the emperor would always write ‘Zhen remembers the er tributes, and therefore bestows this reward upon you and your country.’

The Qing government had no specialized diplomatic agency that handled foreign affairs until 1861. From the perspective of the Qing ruler: ‘We are a sovereign and superior nation; all lands are subject to us; we have no diplomacy; only tributary affairs.’ From this standpoint, there seemed no need for a specialized diplomatic agency.

That started much earlier than the Qing dynasty. (The emphasis in the following is mine.):

The Qing inherited, along with geographical and civilizational self-centredness, the value system known as huayiguan. It essentially means ‘Chinese superior, others inferior’. The term hua means China, and the Han nation in particular; yi refers to the various minority groups that inhabited regions on the four perimeters of the Middle Kingdom [hence, siyi, si meaning four]. The siyi concept, in which the Han people are perceived as the only non-barbarians on earth, existed as early as the Spring–Autumn Period (722–481 BC), according to historical documentation. At that time, the distinction between the Han and ‘other’ people had tribal as well as cultural and geographical connotations.

As China’s central area was generally regarded as the seat of its civilization and the peripheral regions as habitat of barbarians, the minorities living on the periphery suffered scathing discrimination. ‘China has ceremony and propriety, so it is called xia; China has beautiful apparel and customs, so it is called hua. Hua [China] regards itself as knowing ceremony and propriety and therefore as civilized, but regards other nations not knowing ceremony or propriety as uncivilized or barbaric’…The Han History – Story of the Huns (Xiongnu), states: ‘All people on the periphery are greedy, long haired and only half clothed, with human faces and savage hearts; so the Sage-King [of China] treats them as animals, not entering into oaths with them or fighting or chastising them … leaving them outside, not inviting them in, not governing or educating them, not recognizing their national status’.

Thus we see the start of China withdrawing its recognition of Japan’s national status.

As for the word Hua meaning China, you already know how that’s written:

華 hua/hua = flowers, flowery, variegated, glory, splendor, China, Chinese…

4 Responses to “Correctness”

  1. American Kim said

    Bill, thanks for the English-language Chinese sources. I agree with the anger of the Chinese employees of those Japanese companies. Anger at Japan’s encroachment over the Senkaku/Diayou Dao islands should not have been released at Chinese offices and factories of Japanese companies in China employing Chinese people. (I deliberately worded this sentence thusly to make my point – why target Chinese people if you’re angry at somebody offending Chinese people?)

    Can you please link the source about the Chinese man who sustained paralyzing injuries from the assault he suffered?

    You probably saw this, but the Chinese government has released a white paper on why the islands are supposedly Chinese. I haven’t yet read it, but here it is. It is available in Chinese, English, and Japanese; I have not found a Japanese version, but I’m sure you can find one.

    Thanks for the Qing Dynasty pdf file.
    AK: Thanks, and you’re welcome. That part about the paralysis is all over the net in Japanese; I’ve seen it several times. I can’t remember seeing it in English. My first sources for news about this part of the world are Japanese. I have English-language sites on the RSS feed that bring up articles, but I often just glance at the titles without reading any of them, unless there’s something that looks worthwhile. By that I mean Western English-language sources. I’ve been reading more of the English-language editions of Chinese and Taiwanese news sites lately.


  2. toadold said

    There have been numerous articles lately about how the CCP leadership is ticking off various countries. There have been a lot of complaints about their turn the head the other way about their cyber attacks on them. They are getting real bold now:
    Sooner or later they are really going to tick off the wrong people.

  3. Harry said

    Two American carrier strike groups are present. It seems that they already have ticked off the wrong people. In Washington.

    According to Chinese media, the police caught the prime suspect who assaulted the paralyzed man.

    Despite all the talk about a war, Chinese living in Japan work or study as usual.

    What’s going on in this world?
    H: Reprimitivization.

    Don’t have far to go, perhaps. Prof. Furuta argues that the state mechanisms of China and the Korean Peninsula retain, to various degrees, elements of the Middle Ages. China in particular (the importance of connections, bribery, and violence).


  4. rab said

    The world should be more cautious of the expansionism of China.

    It was reported that the Chinese government proposed US government to divide the Pacific Ocean at Hawaii so that China takes the west half while US takes the east half. That is their target, if not the final target, of expansion.
    March 11, 2008, US Senate Committee on Armed Services Hearing
    Admiral Keating: If I could, a very brief anecdote, Senator. While in discussions with a senior Chinese naval officer on our first visit, he with a straight face, so apparently seriously, proposed the following deal to me. He said: As we develop our aircraft carriers, an interesting note to begin with, why don’t we reach an agreement, you and I. You take Hawaii east, we’ll take Hawaii west, we’ll share information, and we’ll save you all the trouble of deploying your naval forces west of Hawaii.
    Even if in jest, it indicates some consideration of the strategic vision that the People’s Liberation Army, Navy, and Air Force might have. While not necessarily hegemonic, they clearly want to expand their areas of influence and those strategic goals of theirs, while not necessarily counter to ours, are at least of concern to us.

    The Chinese government argues that Senkaku is theirs because the islands are mentioned in 順風相送(shun feng xiang song) which is a navigation guide book written in 1430. But if we allow this argument to stand, it will set a very dangerous precedent because Senkaku is not the only island mentioned in the book. The places mentioned in the book include following.

    昆侖山 Pulo Condore Island, Vietnam
    柬埔寨 Cambodia
    暹羅 Siam, Thailand
    吉蘭丹 Kelanan, Malaysia
    龍牙門 Singapore
    順塔 Sunda, Indonesia
    爪哇 Java, Indonesia
    池汶 Timor, East Timor
    覆鼎安 Bataan, The Philippines
    呂宋 Luzon, The Philippines
    琉球 Okinawa, Japan
    長崎 Nagasaki, Japan
    対馬 Tsushima, Japan

    All of these places can be claimed by China.

    Chinese government is also demanding entire Okinawa prefecture from Japan. Major General 金一南 (Jin Yi Nan) of Chinese Navy has written in various Chinese media that Okinawa belongs to China because it was a vassal state to China. Their logic that the land is theirs because it was a vassal state to them is nothing but colonialism and imperialism, which should not be allowed in this democratic century. However China will keep saying so. Tibet, which was a vassal state to China, is the victim of this Chinese logic.

    Senkaku dispute is not just a dispute over small uninhabited islands, but is a dispute over Chinese expansionism and imperialism.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: