China Says Japanese Textbooks Distort
How history is written in textbooks and taught in schools is causing a major
rift between two of Asia's most powerful countries.
the weekend, an estimated 20,000 demonstrators hit the streets of China's capital
city Beijing and other smaller cities around the country to protest the approval
of new Japanese junior high school textbooks that critics in both countries say
gloss over Japan's atrocities against the Chinese during World War II, which ended
60 years ago in 1945.
Specifically, the new textbooks play down Japan's
brutal occupation of China from 1931 to 1945, including the 1937-38 Nanking massacre
-- sometimes referred to as the Rape of Nanking -- that resulted in the deaths
of between 250,000 and 300,000 Chinese. Many civilians were hacked to death, and
thousands of women were raped.
One textbook refers to the murders as an
"incident" rather than a massacre. The books also underplay the use
of sex slaves, women brought from all over Asia to service the Japanese military.
On Monday, a survey of
over 1,000 Chinese citizens by the Social Survey Institute of China reported that
most people found Japan's approval of the textbooks insulting.
percent of the respondents said the Japanese government had "distorted history
gravely", and 96 percent of them said "such action had severely hurt
the Chinese people's feelings and constituted an insult to the Chinese people,"
Xinhua news agency quoted the survey results as saying.
Such painful wartime memories led to the violent protests in
China with demonstrators throwing stones at the Japanese embassy
and breaking the windows of some Japanese restaurants -- a rare
occurrence in the tightly controlled Communist regime. There were
also demonstrations in South Korea, a country also invaded by
Japan during the war.
century the aggression war waged by Japan inflicted huge and tremendous
suffering and hardships on people in China, Asia and the world
at large," Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Tuesday.
He urged Japan to take responsibility for its
actions and said the protests should encourage "deep and profound reflections"
by the Japanese.
|| But, in criticizing
Japan's textbooks, China-- a country infamous for smoothing over
its often harsh human rights policies-- should look at its own retelling
of history, according to scholars.
School books in Beijing leave out significant
historical events including the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy demonstrations
in which Chinese troops killed thousands of unarmed protestors,
and the three-year famine between 1958 and 1961 when communist policies led to
the starvation of an estimated 30 million Chinese.
"With rising Chinese
nationalism, the efforts to rewrite history, to reinterpret history according
to the demands of nationalism have become a major national pastime," Maochun
Yu, a history professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. told the Associated
bid for superpower status|
Japanese officials accuse China of capitalizing on the textbook controversy
to discourage Japan's quest for a more dominant global role and a permanent seat
on the United Nations Security Council.
If Japan gains a seat on the Security
Council, it could threaten China's status as Asia's leading political power.
U.N. Security Council is made up of five permanent members including Russia, Britain,
the United States, France and China -- the victors in World War II -- and has
the power to veto policies made by the United Nations as a whole.
Japanese government has been campaigning for a permanent seat on the influential
council, arguing that as the world's second largest economy after the United States,
it should have a say in United Nations decisions.
In order for Japan to
become a permanent member, all five members of the current Security Council would
have to vote to amend the U.N. charter.
On Tuesday the Chinese premier hinted
that China may use its veto power to prevent Japan from joining the council.
a country that respects history, takes responsibility for history and wins over
the trust of peoples in Asia and the world at large can take greater responsibilities
in the international community," he said.
Compiled by Kristina Nwazota for NewsHour Extra