August 22, 2006
There was a rather odd, equivocal opinion piece about the Yasukuni Shrine visit controversy today in the Standard. At its heart is the well-worn sentiment that China is diverting domestic and regional attention from more recent national atrocities but continuing to make an issue out of shrine visits by the Japanese leadership.
While there is some truth to that, there is also truth to the fact that many segment of Japanese society live in a complete bubble, insouciantly ignorant of any past atrocities, and an influential minority that prefer to distort history by outright denying it. The power of history is strong, and nationalist leaders in Japan feel they must pander to these revisionists to carry their votes.
It is therefore regrettable, in an article about revisionism of history, that the author himself commits one of the greatest journalistic mis-statements of all time: "Will also pointed out a few things Beijing would never admit. Most Chinese resistance during the war was by Chiang Kai-shek's forces. "
This is actually a farcical claim when Chiang Kai-Shek's generals spent most of their time fighting pointless little battles with each other and running from any armed confrontation with the Japanese, and bilking America out of such amounts in the name of fighting Japan as to make the Iraq Oil-for-food scam look like a child's hand in the cookie jar. While the average nationalist soldier fought hard, this was in spite of the total incompetence and craven-ness of their generals with regard to the Japanese. Chiang had no desire to fight Japan at all and only used the possibility of fighting them throughout the war as a lever from which to extract more pork for him to distribute amongst his corrupt coterie of handers-on and yes men. The Communists, on the other hand, cut a much more noble figure, and were also far more effective as guerilla fighters against the Japanese.
Careful what you say there, Mr. Liu Kin-Ming. History is power, and if we are going to criticize distortions turn about is fair play.posted by HK Dave on 08.22.06 at 04:03 PM in the China history, education & culture category.
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I'm not sure if you're right, but I've always heard the nationalist Chinese forces did most of the fighting against the Japanese. They certainly received most of the massive military and economic aid that the United States sent to China. Anyway, here's what wikipedia(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Sino-Japanese_War) says:
# The Kuomintang fought in 22 major engagements, most of which involved more than 100,000 troops on both sides, 1,171 minor engagements most of which involved more than 50,000 troops on both sides, and 38,931 skirmishes.
A little guerilla war might seem more noble, but I'm guessing that the hundreds of thousands of nationalist troops who fought and died in major battles would be considered more resistance than anything the communists did in their guerilla campaign. Chiang Kai-Shek's intentions may not have been noble, but it seems like his forces did provide "most Chinese resistance" in the Second Sino-Japanese war.posted by: James on 08.22.06 at 04:32 PM [permalink]
Your post doesn't address anything at all about the statement that the nationalists did most of the fighting.
All you say is that the nationalists' intentions were not as "noble" and less effective than the communists' guerilla tactics. These two arguments in no way refute the fact that the nationalists provided most of the resistance against the Japanese.posted by: Rip on 08.22.06 at 04:41 PM [permalink]
Hi James, you are right, the KMT did do most of the fighting that was done, but to say that the KMT were the heroes against Japan while the Communists did nothing, which was the implication of the author, would be a terrible injustice.
Furthermore, almost all the fighting that was done by the KMT happened early in the war (37 and 38) when they still held onto the nominal concept that they were the government representing all authority throughout China, and then right at the end when Japan was already practically defeated.
I highly recommend the book by Barbara Tuchman, Stilwell and the American Experience in China, for a very realistic assessment of the efforts made by the KMT throughout most of World War II against Japan. While as I mentioned the average Nationalist soldier fought and died bravely, he did so at the behest of uncaring generals that really had no regard for his own fighting men or their welfare. The KMT retreated so incredibly quickly in 1942-3 that the Japanese did not have time to catch up. It was in great contrast then, that the Communists, after having survived their near-annihilation during the long march, began truly fighting against the Japanese effectively.posted by: HK Dave on 08.22.06 at 04:44 PM [permalink]
The author of that article does not say that the KMT were the heroes of the war. Your perception of the implication of the article is relative and completely irrelevant.
The exact quote was, "Will also pointed out a few things Beijing would never admit. Most Chinese resistance during the war was by Chiang Kai-shek's forces." You then attempted to claim that a revision of history is necessary, when no such thing is needed when you yourself admit that the KMT did do most of the fighting. You claimed that that quote was a farcical claim and a mis-statement, and then backtrack and admit that the KMT did indeed do most of the fighting.
There is nothing factually wrong with the coherent statement, "Most Chinese resistance during the war was by Chiang Kai-shek's forces." No revision is necessary for this statement when it is easily understood and easily verifiable. You yourself admit that it is true.posted by: Rip on 08.22.06 at 04:56 PM [permalink]
Regardless of whether the nationalist resistance petered-out after a few years of the war, they still provided the majority of resistance against the Japanese. The Japanese suffered much higher than expected losses in the opening years of the war, and while the nationalists, having suffered massive losses against the Japanese, retreated to the interior of China, that didn't change the fact that they were still providing the majority of resistance against the Japanese. The author merely stated that Beijing would not admit that "Most Chinese resistance during the war was by Chiang Kai-shek's forces." How exactly does this statement, which many people would consider true, qualify as "one of the greatest journalistic mis-statements of all time"? You said it yourself: the KMT did do most of the fighting that was done. The author didn't call them heroes, nor did he claim the Communists did nothing.posted by: James on 08.22.06 at 05:02 PM [permalink]
"While there is some truth to that, there is also truth to the fact that many segment of Japanese society live in a complete bubble, insouciantly ignorant of any past atrocities, and an influential minority that prefer to distort history by outright denying it. The power of history is strong, and nationalist leaders in Japan feel they must pander to these revisionists to carry their votes."
The issue of what citizens in both Japan and the PRC know about their own countries and about the relations between the two is different from the issue Liu raises. Liu is discussing international relations. Since both Japan and the PRC are one-party states (does anyone care who could be the next DPJ-nominated premier?) where popular will is minimized, how this knowledge affects relations is rahter unimportant. Opposition in both governments is expressed by factional fighting. Factional identification is more important even than votes, because elections are decided in the nomination process and by the support given by a politican's faction. Koizumi belongs to the nationalist, conservative faction with a history extending back to Nobusuke Kishi. He does not to pander, especially to voters, because he believes in the factional line. Without it, he would not be premier. He can rebel against certain parts of the program, such as privatization, but he cannot sacrifice his identity within the faction.
However, judging from protests against textbooks and yasukuni, many Japanese citizens do know their history. For them, this is a Japanese matter, and Beijing's protests only incite resentment.
Koizumi has also clearly stated that he cannot believe beijing would hold up negotiations on important issues, just because of the history issue. It's at least possible Beijing's rhetoric is self-serving, because those issues are not easy to discuss or resolve for a Coomunist party held together with nationalist sentiment. Beijing probably wants cash for concessions on irrdentist claims, energy, and taiwan, like Tokyo has given before. But Japanese conservatives want the concessions before they consider handing cash over. So, Beijing is trying to shame Tokyo. The only difference between Aso and Abe is, that Aso would bring the cash to the meeting waiting for the deal, whereas Abe would make Beijing beg and wait for it. That is Koizumi's game, too.
I would also be willing to bet Rep. Hyde is in hock to pro-PRC lobbies. The Gray Lady's support for Beijing doesn't even need explaining. In lieu of a policy, American blue and red teams just spar, with hisotry as a tool. When dealing with some of the best spin artists in the world, history is just a whore.posted by: Joseph Steinberg on 08.22.06 at 05:37 PM [permalink]
Look, Chiang did his best not to win the war against Japan, and nearly succeeded. He avoided fighting with the Japanese at every opportunity, and refused to fight them even when America gave the KMT the ability to do so. He was a totally hopeless battlefield commander that basically relied on the Aamericans to come in and save his skin.
The implication in Liu's piece clearly is that the Communists have something to be ashamed about, whereas the Nationalists have something to be proud about.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
And as to history being a whore, yes some versions may be. But except for the inconvenient fact that there is truth, and there is fiction. The versions of history sold by both China and Beijing are prostitutes but the truth remains about both Chinese and Japanese atrocities against Chinese citizens (and other Asian citizens in the case of Japan) over the past century and nothing they say now is going to change this. Both countries will have these histories come back to haunt them. It appears in the next decade that Japan's turn is first.posted by: HK Dave on 08.22.06 at 05:46 PM [permalink]
Don't try to shift the argument. This isn't about whether Chiang Kai-shek's willingness to engage the Japanese in battle, it is about whether his forces can be considered as providing more resistance against the Japanese than the communist guerillas.
Your original post clearly states that you regard the statement: "Will also pointed out a few things Beijing would never admit. Most Chinese resistance during the war was by Chiang Kai-shek's forces. " as one of the greatest journalistic mistatements of all time, and you directly call this a "farcical claim", which implies that the author's statement that Chiang Kai-shek's forces didn't did not account for most Chinese resistance to the Japanese.
While it's true that Chiang Kai-shek avoided fights with the Japanese, how exactly does it change the fact that his troops engaged in many large conventional battles with the Japanese in which hundreds of thousands of nationalist troops were killed as well as tens of thousands of Japanese? The communists, whose forces were small in comparison, could never be considered most of China's resistance against Japan. Regardless of whether most of the large battles Chiang Kai-shek fought against the Japanese were early in the conflict or whether or not he was aggressive later in the war, most people can look at the cold hard facts and see that the nationalists provided a bigger overall contribution in the struggle against the Japanese.
It's great to know that Chiang Kai-shek was a poor commander who wanted to avoid conflict with the Japanese, but that doesn't change the fact that his forces were far larger, and engaged the Japanese in far more battles than the communist guerillas in their little hit and run attacks.
Most Chinese resistance during the war was by Chiang Kai-shek's forces, and Beijing does not admit this fact in its version of Chinese history. The statement in the article is valid.posted by: James on 08.22.06 at 07:21 PM [permalink]
"And as to history being a whore, yes some versions may be. But except for the inconvenient fact that there is truth, and there is fiction. The versions of history sold by both China and Beijing are prostitutes but the truth remains about both Chinese and Japanese atrocities against Chinese citizens (and other Asian citizens in the case of Japan) over the past century and nothing they say now is going to change this. Both countries will have these histories come back to haunt them. It appears in the next decade that Japan's turn is first."
And, even if it did wash, no human has time for such exalted views.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truthposted by: Joseph Steinberg on 08.22.06 at 09:18 PM [permalink]
I've mentioned elsewhere on this site that I'm currently in the middle of Chang and Halliday's biography of Mao. With the caveat that much of the book is hotly disputed, they postulate that Mao was busy avoiding the Japanese at every opportunity and the only significant Communist battle against the Japanese - the "Operation 100 Regiments" (pp. 273 of the paperback edition) - was against Mao's wishes. Chang says Mao's intention was to let the Japanese thrash the KMT to the point the Russians would be forced to intervene, and then the Russians would appoint Mao China's ruler. While Chang doesn't heap praise on the KMT, she contends that the KMT were the only resistance to the Japanese with the one exception being Operation 100 Regiments...which later become the basis of the myth of Communist resistance to Japan.
As for the article Dave mentioned, much of it dwells on American disbelief at how much both Japan and China have vested in the issue of Yasakuni. But it's pretty simple: both sides see the issue as a microcosm of their very different views of history and both are playing to domestic audiences. Both countries, to a greater or lesser extent, are now ruled by parties with little by the way of ideology, as someone said above. Nationalism is about it, patriotism being the last refuge of a scoundrel. So long as the status quo is maintained, everyone is OK on this and all the other issues on the table. The ones that really matter are still being dealt with, such as North Korea or the continuing massive investment by Japanese corporations in China. The op-ed says American politicians believe both Japan and China are big enough to resolve the Yasakuni saga on their own, whereas both countries want some kind of arbiter...like the USA. There's no upside to the USA getting involved (yet), and for both leaderships in China and Japan there's more mileage in Yasakuni than in working it out. When that equation changes, the Yasakuni question will too.posted by: Simon on 08.22.06 at 09:34 PM [permalink]
1) i am actually very puzzled at why so many people bought that "divert attention" theory. china has no need to divert attention on its own history. this has become the biggest myth in western media. because,
2) I agree with Simon's assessment on CKS. The fact is, CKS' army is incompetent and ill-equipped/ill-trained. KMT fought more war simply because it occupied a larger area, with a larger army, and hence more exposure to fighting.
3) Liu kingmin:) this clown is everywher once in a while, but his writing are very predictable. i have some discussion with davesgonechina about his story a couple weeks ago. http://silkworms.chinesetriad.org/?p=331#comments
4) Will's WP essay is just as bad, typical of someone who has no clue about Asia, perhaps he has not even have spent any time in Asia. Howard French was pretty good this time
(the website link was forbidden, so i had to insert 2 "_" there)posted by: sunbin on 08.22.06 at 10:41 PM [permalink]
James said, "Don't try to shift the argument."
That is right. Liu Kinming and apologist should really listen to you. What CCP has done in WWII, or in 1959-70, or in its history book, has really nothing to do with the Yasukuni issue.
Even if Japan did horrible things in WWII, does it mean Japan has no right to ciriticze the Holocaust? Well, this is basically the logic of Liu and his apologists.posted by: sun bin on 08.22.06 at 11:02 PM [permalink]
One careful evaluation of Chang/Halliday's claims (which I'm quite sure are the source of Will's claims) is here. In short, the evaluation of Mao's motives is highly suspect, and their evaluation of the military situation is deeply flawed.posted by: Jonathan Dresner on 08.23.06 at 06:45 AM [permalink]
There has been much criticism of Chang/Halliday's book, and in turn, such criticism has also been attacked.
There was a lively discussion concerning this on the Peking Duck a while back.
http://tinyurl.com/josr9posted by: DanielT on 08.27.06 at 07:32 AM [permalink]
When one considers that at the beginning of the Sino-Japanese War the Comunist Party decreed a Policy of Non-Aggression Against Japan (it's in the archives, you can look up the minutes of the meeting), hoping that Japan and the KMT would wear each other out allowing the CCP to swoop in on whichever was left standing, the word "noble" seems rather inappropriate.