Tangent: Newsweek column on “rising ugly nationalism towards foreign residents” in China. Hm, how about an eye on Japan?


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Hi Blog.  As a tangent, here’s an article looking at issues of race and ethnicity in China through a veil of vignettes.  A lot of the issues raised can be (and have been) applied to Japan.  Just not as harshly.   I’ve made the point before about how the Western media seems to give Japan a free pass regarding racism as a “friendly” state.  Yet, as per the Newsweek article below, Western media couches racism more as representative of the spectre of Chinese nationalism and bad treatment of expats.  Compare:  When we had the ultimate example of racism in Japan during the Otaru Onsens Case (1999-2005), the overseas press took it up handily, but we also had oodles of apologists rise up en masse to dismiss or defend it.  Including Western toadies like Gregory Clark (see how clumsily Clark took up this USA Today article of March 8, 2000 by Peter Hadfield on racism in Japan back in the day), who defended it as Japanese cultural uniqueness and exceptionalism to “global standards” (said pundit even went so far as to claim “antiforeigner discrimination is a right for Japanese people” — while in the process getting even the exclusionary onsen’s name wrong).  But I digress.

Again, I’m not sure why Japan is so seductive to the Western media (Dower would perhaps claim it’s part of the GOJ’s media savviness, starting with the Imperial duck hunt charm offensive of SCAP that saved the Imperial system (Embracing Defeat, p. 299-301)), while China keeps getting treated as devious.  The only theory I can come up is geopolitics (and the fear that the future of democracy and economic growth will have Chinese uniparty characteristics).  What say you, Readers?  Arudou Debito


China Grapples With Issues of Race and Ethnicity
Jul 30, 2012 Newsweek Magazine
By Duncan Hewitt
Courtesy of the Daily Beast and CD
SUBTITLE:  As China grapples with rising nationalism and an influx of foreign residents, the country’s long and contradictory relationship with outsiders is coming to the fore—and it’s turning ugly.

Beijing’s Sanlitun Village mall is the very image of cosmopolitan, modern China. Its quirky and colorful glass-fronted modern buildings are filled with top international name-brand stores. In its paved plaza, smart young Chinese shoppers rub shoulders with foreign residents and visitors of every age and nationality. Groups of young foreign students mix with smartly dressed professionals and diplomats. It’s a scene that seems to embody the “inclusiveness” that, according to an official slogan on the street nearby, is now part of the “Beijing spirit.”

But there’s a seamier side to the neighborhood too—on the small street just behind the village, several stores have sprung up with signs proclaiming, in English, the words “Sex Shop.” Pictures of attractive young women try to tempt passersby into nearby nightclubs. And over the years, local residents have complained about noise and drunkenness from the area’s bars and clubs, which attract a sizable proportion of foreigners among their clientele.

In recent months, tensions over the unsavory behavior of some of Beijing’s foreign residents have come to the fore. In May there was a furious public reaction after footage was posted online showing the aftermath of an alleged attempted sexual assault on a young Beijing woman by a drunken British man. The pictures showed angry locals beating up the supposed perpetrator. This was soon followed by film of an incident on a train in which a Russian cellist from the Beijing Symphony Orchestra insulted a Chinese passenger who asked him to take his feet off the back of her chair. The cellist eventually made a public apology, but still had to resign his post.

Amid a mood of public anger, at least in online forums, the Beijing police announced a three-month campaign to crack down on “foreigners illegally staying in the capital”—including those who had jobs but no work permit or who had overstayed their visas. They also set up a hotline and encouraged locals to “report such violations,” according to Chinese media. Several other cities, including Shanghai, also stepped up spot-checks on the documents of foreigners, in the most visible campaign of its type since the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

All this caused some anxiety, notably among foreign residents in Beijing. And tension was stirred up further by a post on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, by Yang Rui, host of one of China Central Television’s main English-language programs. The show Yang fronts is called Dialogue, and its stated aim is to promote intercultural understanding. But that appeared to be the last thing on Yang’s mind when he tweeted, in response to the two incidents, that China should kick out “foreign trash.” He also warned of foreign “spies” shacking up with Chinese women as a cover while they tried to steal state secrets, and he gloated over the expulsion from China in May of Melissa Chan, the Beijing correspondent for Al Jazeera TV’s English channel.

Yang later sought to cool the controversy, emphasizing that he thought there were many good foreigners in China, and arguing that he had not called Chan a bitch, as had been widely reported—but rather, in his own translation, a “shrew.” And he received some criticism online, as well as from China’s official English-language newspaper, Global Times, which said his comments were “too harsh” and had “caused misunderstanding,” though it rejected calls for him to be sacked.

Yet while the paper sought to reassure readers that what it described as “the anti-foreigner campaigns seen in some Western countries will not be staged in China,” a column in another official paper, China Daily, put Yang’s comments in the context of the Opium Wars and past foreign humiliation of China. And with the nation in the midst of a sensitive political transition and anxieties about social stability growing, some observers have suggested that a more nationalistic mood is quite likely over the coming months. Chan’s expulsion (the first of a foreign journalist in more than a decade) and recent threats to other foreign journalists that their visas might be canceled if they report on sensitive subjects were seen as further evidence of a changing mood.

Not everyone thinks that China is witnessing an upsurge of xenophobia: Daniel Bell, a specialist in Chinese philosophy and values at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, says Yang’s “nationalistic” remarks are “unrepresentative” of a society that has, he says, historically welcomed outsiders who accept its values—indeed, he notes, even some of the country’s more hawkish commentators have argued that China’s current economic strength provides a prime opportunity to “compete with the U.S. to hire foreign talent,” citing the example of China’s “golden age” in the Tang dynasty when foreigners are said to have served in official posts.

Hu Xingdou, an outspoken social critic and professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, believes that nationalism has risen in China in recent years, partly in step with the nation’s growing economic strength. Consequently, he says, “if foreigners are seen to be behaving inappropriately, this may prompt some extreme comments.” But he suggests that overall, Chinese people are welcoming to outsiders—the country’s problem, he suggests, is not so much one of “racial prejudice,” but rather of putting too much emphasis on “differentiating people by race.” Since the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949, he notes, it has made a point of identifying people by their ethnicity—the identity cards carried by all Chinese citizens specify which of the country’s ethnic groups they belong to. In these circumstances, he say, “it’s more likely that people who don’t have so much experience of the world will see an outsider and say, ‘Oh, there’s a foreigner,’ or ‘There’s a black person.’?”

That the use of such phrases is seen as acceptable in China was highlighted by the fact that even when TV host Yang tried to play down the controversy over his remarks, he appeared quite happy to go on record as calling Chan a “foreign shrew” and did not seek to distance himself from the phrase “foreign trash”—words that in many societies would be considered highly inflammatory.

It’s evidence of what many of China’s foreign residents and visitors know well—that it’s not uncommon to be defined, even to one’s face, by one’s ethnicity: “When I’m taking my child for a walk in the lanes near our house in Beijing, people will often point and say, look, a laowai—a foreigner,” says Bell. It is, he suggests, something one gets used to, and he adds that the best solution is often to make a joke of the situation: “Sometimes I just turn round and look behind me, as if to see where they’re pointing,” he adds, “and then everyone starts laughing.”

Cultural commentator Hung Huang, a prominent writer and editor who lived for many years in the U.S., says that for most Chinese people, the use of phrases such as laowai “carries no intention of discrimination.” China, she says, “is more claustrophobic than xenophobic—many people are still not used to foreigners and just feel awkward around them.” Still, she acknowledges that such comments highlight the fact that China has never had a public debate on how to deal with issues of race and ethnicity. “People are not so aware of ideas like political correctness. It’s not like in the U.S.,” she says. “And in fact they tend to make comments about all aspects of people’s appearance—you’re so fat, you’re not pretty—there are few taboos.”

As a result, it’s not uncommon, for example, to hear commentators on Shanghai television’s coverage of European soccer matches pointing out that a certain player is “black.” Times may have moved on from the late 1980s, when students at a university in Nanjing besieged a group of African students in their dormitory, following tensions over their relationships with local women. But a few years ago, when a Shanghai TV reality show featured a young Chinese woman whose father was black, the girl and her mother received a significant amount of abuse online.

According to Professor Hu, it’s evidence that there is still some lingering “folk prejudice towards black people” in Chinese society. Yiyi Lu, a Beijing-based sociologist, argues, however, that “Chinese people are not so much racist as snobbish—they tend to think of Africans, for example, as coming from poor countries.” Contact with wealthier Africans or African-Americans, she believes, will gradually break down such attitudes.

But not everyone is convinced. Frank Dikötter, Chair Professor of Humanities at Hong Kong University and a specialist in Chinese attitudes to race, argues that China remains “permeated with racial stereotypes—there’s an obsession with skin color and a deep-rooted fixation with blackness,” he said, adding, “When I was a kid, if I stared at someone, I got a slap. In China, staring at foreigners is allowed, sometimes even encouraged.” It is, he suggests, “completely unacceptable in the 21st century—and I’m tired of the double standards people use in their attempts to find excuses for such attitudes in China.”

Indeed, Dikötter argues that Chinese government policy has enshrined the notion of foreigners being separate since its earliest days: in the first decades of communism, he notes, foreigners were either denounced as capitalists, or, if considered friendly and therefore permitted to visit China, they were treated “as a special case and were given guides or mentors when they visited the country—so the whole idea of foreigners was loaded with all sorts of meaning.”

Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that foreigners have often been seen in China not just as individuals, but also as representatives of their countries—or, indeed, of the entire outside world. Some have argued that this applies particularly if they have done something bad—not least because of the emphasis on the crimes visited upon China by foreigners during and after the Opium Wars of the 19th century, which have formed a major part of China’s “patriotic education” curriculum over the past two decades. Thus the alleged British assailant in Beijing and the Russian cellist on the train were widely depicted not just as individuals doing something wrong, but as symbols of how bad foreigners could be and the threat they could pose.

But sociologist Yiyi says such attitudes work the other way, too—she notes that Chinese media recently also played up incidents where foreigners had rescued Chinese citizens from drowning and from attacks. “Suddenly the media were saying that foreigners were more public-spirited than Chinese people,” she says. “We’re still just too quick to generalize,” she adds, pointing out that “Chinese society as a whole remains quite isolated—we’re just not cosmopolitan enough to know how to interact with foreigners.”

It’s an apparently contradictory attitude summed up in the phrase “beautiful imperialist,” famously used by American academic David Shambaugh to describe China’s view of the U.S. And Hung, the cultural commentator, feels that the radical shifts in official perceptions of foreigners over the past half century have left a legacy of both confusion and some bitterness among the Chinese public. After denouncing them in the Cultural Revolution, she says, China suddenly “elevated foreigners to special-guest status” when economic reforms got underway in the 1980s: “We had hotels and shops that were only open to foreigners back then,” she recalls, “so for a long time Chinese people were artificially made to feel second class.”

As a result, she suggests, there’s still a tendency to treat foreigners as VIPs: if a foreigner commits a traffic violation, for example, she says, “the police are less likely to do anything about it—they think it’s too much trouble.” Yet now, in a nation that has grown wealthier, many people feel they deserve equal status to foreigners, she believes. “So people are very sensitive about this.” Add to this the fact that China’s growing wealth gap has given many ordinary people “a sense of resentment towards all privileged classes,” and the continuing perception that most foreigners in China are well off, and it’s hardly surprising that people have reacted angrily to the recent incidents of foreigners behaving badly, she argues. “The forced hospitality we had to show to foreigners in the past has actually been detrimental to our relations with them,” she says.

The number of foreigners in China is still relatively low, at about 1 million, but they are becoming more common in most of the country’s major cities—and farther afield, too. As numbers grow, and China’s economy attracts more and more such people, its citizens may have to get used to dealing with foreigners of all kinds—not just the “beautiful” and respected VIPs of past decades, but the arrogant or even downright criminal. It’s clearly still a steep learning curve for both sides—with foreigners’ understanding of China’s historical sensitivities often under scrutiny and Chinese attitudes toward race facing new challenges. China does not recognize dual nationality, and many people regard foreign nationals of Chinese ethnicity as basically still “Chinese.” So how will the country cope with the growing number of mixed children being born? In Shanghai alone, there are currently around 27,000 Chinese citizens married to foreign spouses, yet the offspring of such marriages are still referred to by many people as being “mixed blood” (though this also now appears to be seen as increasingly desirable by some—it’s not uncommon to hear people commenting that such children are “more intelligent” or “more beautiful”).

As China’s interaction with the outside world grows, there’s clearly going to be a lot to get used to. Some believe the outlook remains optimistic, however—Professor Hu says relations between Chinese people and foreigners “should get better … We need to look at this with an inclusive attitude,” he adds, “but I think society will become more mature and more welcoming.” Still, he says, an antiracism law would help, too. Or perhaps the authorities could simply start by telling Yang, as the host of one of China’s multibillion-dollar attempts to improve the nation’s global image by expanding its English-language media internationally, that he might try to avoid using phrases such as “foreign trash” in the future.

Duncan Hewitt, a former BBC China correspondent, writes for Newsweek and other publications from Shanghai. His book China: Getting Rich First: A Modern Social History (published in the U.K. as Getting Rich First: Life in a Changing China) focuses on social change in the country and its impact on ordinary people’s lives.


24 comments on “Tangent: Newsweek column on “rising ugly nationalism towards foreign residents” in China. Hm, how about an eye on Japan?

  • Well, China is communist, communism is bad so anything unsavory they do has to be criticized harshly. And the Chinese aren’t exactly known for pretending to be ohhh so cute and innocent either.

    The Japanese on the other hand, well they’re soooo cute and innocent with their smiles and bows, how could they ever do anything wrong?? Racism?? No way! Just a “cultural difference”.

  • I have lived in both countries (China and Japan) the same amount of time (3 and half years).
    While I don’t deny Japan has its own issues with racism and discrimination, I can safely say that every race trouble you would encounter in Japan as a non-Asian looking person would be much more extreme in China.

    check recent event in the following link, and let me know whether you think this would happen in Japan while shopping in a popular cloth market. http://english.eastday.com/e/120726/u1a6733114.html

    Also, even living in a big city (Shanghai), the number of stares, comments, scam attempts, unwanted commercial offers while walking the street is much more numerous than anywhere in Japan.
    In smaller cities, its really overwhelming, hundreds of “hallo” a day, generally rude comments especially if walking with an Asian looking female.

    I remember a public park in Guangxi province, free for local residents and 2rmb for everybody else. This is actually a very reasonable policy.. except the way it was enforced: Asian people enter for free, others pay. So as a Caucasian student resident in China, I had to pay the fee, while the Japanese tourist who was with me could enter for free. We pointed it out to the park staff, and they said the Japanese tourist didn’t have to pay because she looked like a local…

    Also in Suzhou, a rather large city, me (white Caucasian) with my Japanese girlfriend walking randomly in the pedestrian street. we got stares and comments: business as usual… then a local started to shout in Chinese : “look everybody, a Chinese prostitute with a foreigner!!”

    Honestly I have never been as much embarrassed or bothered in Japan as I was in China.
    While I think Japan needs you Debito for advertising all the race issues in Japan, I think China would need a thousand Debitos to do the job.

  • I find all of this somewhat akin to religion.

    No one is allowed to criticise religion or regions leaders. Anything in the name of religion, is acceptable. It is never criticised and is often revered, why?

    Cartoons are a thing of fun and often parody and political satire the world over. Yet 12 cartoon published in Denmark, by all that saw them, those that are non-muslim, saw them for what they are…yet religious groups, in this case muslim, reacted badly and caused death and massive outrage.

    So Juxtapose this region with Japan. Japan is treated with the same gloss and “holier than thou” mentality. To speak its name is enough, never criticise and attempt to question it..just accept it, blindly, like faith/religion.

    In the case of region, it seems the “power” it has, not just in their acolytes, but the power to change opinion, despite often being in the minority, is at the heart of the matter. A few believers that become so incensed with what they see/read take matters into their own hands in the name of their religion. Same with the IRA in the UK..using the weapon of fear disguised as religion to achieve their objectives.

    So the amount of power one is able to wield seems to have an influence on how one is taken and represented.

    So, where does Japan have power, real power to affect change??

    Give up….me too. None.

    When there is fighting in Somalia, does Japan take a stand,…nope…when there is a shipping disaster in Italy, does it make comment…nope…when there is a financial disaster, does it make a recommendations for changes…nope. Not only does it not make any comments it does not propose changes either.

    Even in basic humanitarian aids, it is lacking.

    In 2009 or 2010 (cant recall which) it ranked 119 out of 156 countries in those that are “charitable”…even ranked along side despot states!

    When the Tsunami of 2005 occurred, Japan pledged $500m in aid, instantly. However, what did it actually give, behind the smoke and mirrors…didn’t even register. The 20th ranked in aid was Ireland at $2million.

    So, the fact that such events occurring the world over Japan has no say, does not say and doesn’t care to say…is it any wonder that the “rest of the world” seems to treat it like a “oh there’s the funny little kid in the corner that just smiles all the time whatever is going on, and say nothing and does nothing”. Faced with this, I think the lack of “involvement” of western media/criticism etc etc…is simply because no one no longer cares about Japan. No one cares because no matter how you prod it, how you push it is does not react…no matter what is going on, or when others need help and support it does not give it, it does not care.

    Ergo the rest of the world cares little for Japan too.

    — Sources on the charitable contributions claims please.

    Regarding your equivocation with religion: I first brought this up last year on Xmas Eve, in a post entitled “How ‘religious’ treatment of things Japanese allows for Japan to be kid-gloved through international public debate.” FYI.

  • I see a great number of parallels to Japan here, the primary one being a widespread lack of sense of right/wrong regarding respect of all people regardless of race. As with Japan, they balance their negative ignorance with positive ignorance, like where racist comments or exclusion is supposedly balanced by exceptional treatment, like forgiving foreigner ignorance of customs, or giving them other special treatment. They can’t understand why positive discrimination and negative discrimination are two sides to the same coin, because they just can’t wrap their brains around a person being a person (until perhaps they have a relationship or strong friendship with a foreigner). It’s not even in their realm of conception. Until they have a close, long-term relationship with a foreigner, it’s like trying to explain colors to the blind. And even after they have had a long-term relationship, they can develop a split personality, being a great husband or wife one moment, and still calling people foreigners the next moment.

    It is reminiscent of segregation in the south in America 60 years ago, who reasoned that separate but equal was the way it should be. To them, it was simply obvious that we were all different and for some reason needed to maintain a constant awareness of our differences in race.

    Judging by social trends, I doubt China and Japan will follow the same path to equality that America did (at least not in the same way), because their legal system and cultures are different. What allowed it to happen in America was a strong tradition of the rule of law (a law resistant to corruption due to open checks and balances not afforded Asian countries that highly value saving face), a precedent of revolution and standing up and fighting against establishment for what’s right. America’s civil rights revolution will not be duplicated in Asia. The best they can hope for is a very un-satisfying gradual crawl towards a mixed-race society in the distant future where pragmatism, rather than respect and conscientiousness, forces an eventual mootness of the issue.

  • Incidentally, regarding your comments that western media gives special exception to Japan (as compared with China), I’m not sure. I think that primarily, Japan’s ability to charm is what shields them from view.

    Once someone successfully made an enormous issue out of it (like a series of 20/20 hidden camera expose’s or something), I’m sure it would catch fire and be spread around the media. But, by and large, the majority of America don’t even know the difference between different Asian countries, let alone care about how they would view us if we were their next door neighbors in the suburbs. Americans care very much about that kind of stuff when it’s happening in America (think of Arizona’s recent racial controversy), but a lot of Americans (and other people in the world for that matter) probably just assume Asian countries are backwards like that so it doesn’t bother them.

    Furthermore, even if the issue gained international momentum, we all know how pathetically little good that does at putting pressure on the country itself. They are sovereign nations, and gracefully control their media and population quite completely, just like North Korea. In fact, it’s more dangerous than North Korea, because it’s less obvious. Japan and China appear to have open communication and debate, which fools their people into thinking that they are reasonable and internationally-connected, whereas at least the North Koreans know how screwed they are — and that knowledge is power (at least power of the mind).

    Japanese behave the way they do because they think it is normal to be xenophobic and discriminatory in the way they are. If they didn’t think it was normal, there would be more dissent.

  • What is really interesting about all this is the last bit about mixed children. I find it funny because ‘China’ is even more made up than ‘Japan’ as one unit. There are Chinese people who aren’t the Han Chinese that people are accustomed to thinking of as ‘Chinese’ and they’re already there and not treated well. What makes that professor think that things would change just because they’re not from neighboring ethnic groups? I’d like to hear someone try to define what ‘Chinese’ is in the first place. Likewise for ‘Japanese’.

  • With regard to racism, my own view from living there is that China is better.

    China of course, is also a multi-lingual nation in meaningful ways, and Japan is not.

    China is also a muti-ethnic nation, in ways that Japan is not.

    In Yunnan or Hainan, for example, or in Urumqi, there are clearly multiple ethnicities.

    Which is not to suggest that the Han majority do not oppress others, they do.

    Tibetans, Uighurs, Miao are all oppressed, but they are never denied as being Chinese.

    China is also a far far poorer nation in many parts than Japan.

    My view is that the cognitive dissonance that I at times feel in Japan is due to the fact that J are at times so profoundly racist, and yet they are not profoundly maleducated and poor.

    As such, racism in Japan cannot be dismissed as the rant of the ignorant dispossessed.

    In contrast, China has hundreds of millions of people who are maleducated, functionally illiterate, and very poor.

    And, China has a Party that rewards sycophancy, making even the actions of the well-educated subject to question regarding their authenticity.

    I think what is intriguing about Japan is that it seems to be voluntarily electing a mild form of fascist thinking.

    In contrast, China is very chaotic and turbulent, with the heavy fist of the Party restraining voluntary choices, so one is uncertain what an unfettered Chinese people might do.

    — Re: “Tibetans, Uighurs, Miao are all oppressed, but they are never denied as being Chinese.” My Tibetan neighbor would beg to differ. When I asked her why she thought we have separate systems (and Olympic teams) for, say, Hong Kong, yet not for Tibet, she said that it was an issue of Hong Kongers being seen as Han Chinese and therefore treated differently (i.e., better), but Tibetans are citizens of China (by fiat) but not Han Chinese. I don’t know enough about that issue to form an opinion of my own, but just saying your assertion there doesn’t quite jibe with the opinion of an actual minority from there.

  • Debito:

    I think to your point as to why China has “ave separate systems (and Olympic teams) for, say, Hong Kong, yet not for Tibet” it is because the Hong Kong government is a very weak government with no ability or pretensions for any type of separate national sovereignty.

    Tibet — in contrast — does offer a viable claim as to why Tibetans are NOT Chinese, and should be a separate sovereignty.

    Indeed, the whole issue that divides is whether Tibetans are Chinese, or whether they are by rights a separate nation.

    Of course, ethnicity ties into this, but Chinese do not commonly say that Tibetans are NOT Chinese, rather they accuse Tibetans of being “splittists” e.g. of seeking to be not Chinese.

    Tibetans whom I have met typically acknowledge that in an ideal world they would not be Chinese, but rather a separate nation.

    True, China does not offer Tibetans enhanced autonomy, such as Hong Kongers enjoy, but that is probably because the Chinese government believes that enhanced autonomy would be but an intermediate step towards full autonomy and nationhood.

    In many cases, Tibetans are forced to be Chinese, and they do not want to be Chinese.

    Many Tibetans want cultural, linguistic, and territorial autonomy.

    In contrast, non-Yamato J seek none of these things in Japan.

    Non-Yamato J want to be more deeply accepted as elements within and parts of Japan.

    Many Tibetans want to be accepted as not mere elements or parts of China, but rather as a separate nation, apart from China.

    — Thanks for clarifying! End of our tangent.

  • giantpanda says:

    Chinese history weighs heavy in all of this. Every Chinese school child is indoctrinated from a young age about how China was the first and greatest civilization in the world (probably true on many levels) but was then invaded, degraded and humiliated, first by the Western nations, and then by Japan and Russia. So you have enormous national pride, with a bleeding raw wound that is constantly picked at to keep it painful and fresh and people are never allowed to forget it. Hey – it stops them from dwelling on the fact that the greatest damage to China was done by the Chinese themselves, and that mass murderer otherwise known as the great Chairman – but I digress.

    Chinese have from ancient times regarded themselves as racially superior.These old attitudes are simply rising again. Foreigners are tolerated as long as they pay appropriate tribute, but any perceived slight will be seen as a loss of face to the entire nation, and will result in swift and violent retribution. There is an emotional immaturity (and lack of personal insight) in the Chinese pysche that seems to render it incapable of slow reflection and careful reaction when it comes to these issues.

    — Thanks for the feedback. But let’s make the comparison with Japan as well, as is the point of this blog entry.

  • @Charuzu

    I can’t believe you’re just tossing away the word oppressed as if it has so little meaning. ‘Oh, the people are oppressed but at least China wants them to be Chinese.’ I’ve never heard something so ridiculous. Racism is racism, and in China it is *currently* resulting in countless suffering.

    For example, just spend a minute on YouTube and do some searches for Han Uyghur Violence.

    Here’s a relevant video:

    “Q: And what are [the Uyghur] grievances?”
    A: Their grievances are essentially that their identity is not recognized by the Chinese state. Although the Chinese state says that it recognizes ethnic minority autonomy, what they’ve actually done is to bury the local people, the Uyghurs, in this influx of Han Chinese from the rest of China. And their strategy is to develop the region economically, but the Uyghurs are in the backwater of that development. They’re ghettoized. They’re not getting ahead economically. Their religion is not respected, so they feel that they are not respected.”

    So essentially what you’re saying is that since the Japanese are educated and should know better, their racism is worse than a place where people are systematically arrested or murdered BECAUSE of their ethnicity? And that actual violence against minorities is forgivable because the people in China are undereducated and/or controlled a Communist government?

    Message loud and clear to Uyghur rioters in Urumqi

    Japan definitely has its problems with racism, but your comments are simply laughable. I wonder if you were a minority forced into a ghetto slum and threatened with violence because of your ethnic background if you’d be saying the same thing.

    Stories from a Small Planet (PBS)

    And just for the record, what exactly is a “mild form of fascist thinking”? Is that like “he’s only kind of a Nazi”?

  • Baudrillard says:

    Comment #8 “I think what is intriguing about Japan is that it seems to be voluntarily electing a mild form of fascist thinking.In contrast, China is very chaotic and turbulent, with the heavy fist of the Party restraining voluntary choices”

    Yes, it is intriguing. Japan sells itself to the western media as “mysterious”. It is the rebranding, for better or worse, (probably worse) of the stereotype of “Inscrutable Orientals”.

    China and Chinese are trying hard to “rebrand” as “non Communist”- I ve had a Beijing boss come and feel he had to tell us all that “China is not Communist” in a training meeting. An ex GF get insulted when I used the term “Communist China” and say “How would you feel if I said “Communist France?”. Actually I would agree with them that CHina is just one messed up capitalist dictatorship with some minor socialist characterics.Lots of conflicting identities and words laden with meaning there. But at least they are tring to do it themselves, it is home grown. Mao said his main concern was “to save the dismemberment of China from foreign powers” (E.Snow).

    Japan on the other hand, had their rebranding as a “western” country imposed on them by American occupation. People from both sides of the political spectrum went along with it, though the objective was the withdrawal of GHQ and MacArthur. Since then we have witnessed (under the LDP- ) the rolling back of civil freedoms in favor of the obligations of the citizen to the state. America still backed the LDP and kept it in power in the face of massive anti American demonstrations in the 60s.
    “From the 1950s through the 1970s, the United States Central Intelligence Agency spent millions of dollars attempting to influence elections in Japan to favor the LDP against more leftist parties such as the Socialists and the Communists,[1][2] although this was not revealed until the mid-1990s when it was exposed by The New York Times.[3]” Wikipedia.

    So we have a post facist, Confucian influenced state with western style imagery and buzzwords. Soft fascism legacies meet Disneyland. Yasukuni for kiddies.Buy your identity here. Not good looking enough to get that part time hostess GF (wthout paying)? Well, there is always the group, the sense of belonging, the patriotism of the underemployed, to make you feel better.

    Some people buy into the idea that they have individual freedoms; well, until Ojisan at the office tells them off and the Confucianism kicks in.The tension resulting is the daily battle we see in Japan, the grind and tear. The old getting onto the young.

    I read somewhere else something poignant; Japan had democracy given to them but it is not used- its seen as ‘rude”. China does not have it, but people surprisingly use it, they are more outspoken-to a point (there are boundaries).

  • Baudrillard says:

    @ Icarus,

    We are concerned with reform in Japan at this website, so we focus on democratic debate and change as it is something stifled in Japan in recent history by (in order) 1. The Kempeitai 2. The CIA backed LDP and 3. Right wing revisionists like Ishihara.

    China’s atrocities do not excuse Japan for backpeddling on democracy. Japan should know better. We expect more from them as they want to be in the G7 “club”. China isnt, so and as it is treated with suspicion accordingly.

    -“So essentially what you’re saying is that since the Japanese are educated and should know better”

    Yes, they should. They are not peasants living in caves so black van drivers should stop acting as if they had just got jobs as taxi drivers in Shanghai.Or thugs in the pay of local officials.

    -“Japan definitely has its problems with racism, but your comments are simply laughable. I wonder if you were a minority forced into a ghetto slum and threatened with violence because of your ethnic background if you’d be saying the same thing.”

    Sure, the Chinese scale of atrocities is staggering. We all like Japan and were told, were sold, were SPUN a story that Japan is a western democracy, “one of us” and “different from China”.

    So it shocks and surprises us here at this website when a minority is forced onto a plane and killed while being deported. That is, to Japan’s shame, Japanese agents acting remarkedly like Chinese agents of a totalitarian state.

    -And just for the record, what exactly is a “mild form of fascist thinking”? Is that like “he’s only kind of a Nazi”?

    Thank for the question. Yes, thats right. “fascism with a human face” if you like, or with the face of Mickey Mouse. Or shall we be nice and call it “Authoritarianism”? Which is a kind of mild fascism. Ie. no elections or rare changes of Govt, but freedom of speech allowed if not a threat to Govt. Safe and clean Singapore would have fitted into this category, as well as some more progressive but still non elected Govts in Africa.

    “Welcome to Japan! Enjoy your stay, but make sure you obey the RULES!” (Sign at Immigration in Narita, I always thought this was a bit ominous and heavy handed but maybe you are going to excuse this as “lost in translation” or even “cultural differences?”

    Quote from guide book of British Embassy on Japan in the 80s “Please consider that Japanese society is somewhat more authoritarian than British society, and act accordingly”!!!. No sh#t.

  • Icarus #11:

    Where to start?

    China is fundamentally different than Japan, because China is a dictatorship and Japan is not.

    That understanding is critical to any discussion of 2 such fundamentally different places.

    As such, the views of Chinese people need not be those of their government, and the 2 views may be diametrically opposed at times.

    Japan is more complex, but I believe that one can say generally that the J government reflects the views of many J, and Japan is not a dictatorship.

    That is important to my understanding of racism, because you say:

    “Racism is racism” — whereas I disagree.

    Governmentally imposed and directed racism, such as in WW2 Japan, apartheid South Africa, and the like is different than non-governmentally imposed and directed racism.

    China murders its own citizens at horrific levels, for example see: http://www.laogai.org/

    Yet I believe it to be incorrect to say that all racist expressions are equal.

    The petty racism of an insensitive remark is different than a governmental official shooting someone solely because of racism.

    And, my own experiences visiting Urumqi suggest that there are several factors at play there.

    As a dictatorship that is highly corrupt, in China there are widespread problems because even minor Party or State officials can use governmental power to cause someone’s death, especially if the victim is marginalised, such as through poverty.

    That is true everywhere in China, and in Han ethnic areas as well.

    What is true is that Uyghurs are also, due to their ethnicity, generally a marginalised group, meaning that they can be killed by officials for no reason or petty reasons.

    And such violence occurs regularly.

    But, my own perception is that the average Han Chinese person is not as racist in thinking and attitudes as the average J.

    My experience has been that most Han do freely acknowledge that China is not a unilingual, uni-ethnic nation, and do not expect or strive for total unity, or think that all non-Han are a foreign pathogen to be eliminated.

    And, Japan is different, in my experience, in that regard.

    You say:

    ” essentially what you’re saying is that since the Japanese are educated and should know better, their racism is worse than a place where people are systematically arrested or murdered BECAUSE of their ethnicity? And that actual violence against minorities is forgivable because the people in China are undereducated and/or controlled a Communist government?”

    Again, let me say that Japanese are fundamentally in control of their government, Chinese are not. China is a dictatorship.

    The murders of Uyghurs etc. in China are conducted by their government and I do view governmental actions as qualitatively different than private actions.

    So, in China the government regularly murders people for many reasons, and ethnicity can be and certainly is one.

    In Japan, the government is not regularly murdering people.

    In China, private citizens are not permitted to regularly murder people for any reason, and that is also true in Japan.

    It is true that in China, being highly corrupt, murders by private citizens who are rich will generally receive different treatment than murders by the poor, but there is no general right by private citizens in China to murder.

    Now, regarding private racist actions, I do believe that “since the Japanese are educated and should know better, their racism is worse” than those of illiterate, maleducated Chinese.

    The purpose of education is to not merely convey abstract knowledge, but to alter opinions and attitudes, including attitudes on intolerance.

    So, I do believe that racism by a Chinese peasant with a total of 6 years of lifetime instruction living in a poor, deeply corrupt dictatorship is not as problematic as racism by a Japanese industrial worker, with twice as many years of education, who is literate, and has access by internet, etc. to an uncensored view of reality.

    Racism by the hundreds of millions of China’s rural, poor is an inevitable consequence of maleducation amongst very poor people in a dictatorship, whose greatest concern is physical survival.

    You talk about violence being forgivable, when I never referred to that term.

    I do believe that governmental violence though is different than privately directed violence, which is why Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa was a useful way to deal with governmental violence and why it would be inappropriate to use such commissions as mechanisms to deal with a neighbour murdering his neighbour.

    You ask whether if I were “minority forced into a ghetto slum and threatened with violence because of your ethnic background if you’d be saying the same thing”

    and I would say that I do not know, perhaps not.

    Nevertheless, I do believe that the case of Elizabeth Fritzl —


    as an act of private violence must be thought of differently than the case of victims of governmental violence, such as women in NS Germany or in Taliban regions of Afghanistan, who were also confined in their homes for years and repeatedly abused.

    An evil governmental system is different than evil individuals, I believe.

    I agree though that someone abused may only see the trauma of the abuse and find the underlying factors to be irrelevant.

    Finally, you ask:

    “what exactly is a “mild form of fascist thinking”? Is that like “he’s only kind of a Nazi”?”

    No, fascism is at times different than Nazism.

    I was thinking of a very interesting and rewarding book by Dan Vittorio Segre “Herinneringen van een gelukkige jood”

    that describes his own participation as a fascist in an organisation in which one might not think he would be able to participate as a member.

    Mild fascism I think of as a political ideology that places group political goals above individual political goals, and apotheosises state actions, even when individual political goals suffer.

    Japan, I think has many examples of political parties that emphasise united political actions, even when the bulk of all members in such parties, if individually queried, might agree that the actions are nonsensical.

    Nazism is, essentially, a racist doctrine and promotes racist actions and racist violence, both at the governmental and at the individual level.

  • @Baudrillard

    First of all, where has Japan backpedaled on democracy? Last time I checked, elections are held on a regular basis, and with each and every election people vote for candidates they think will bring change only to get their hopes squashed over and over and over because a) the entrenched party officials control newly elected Diet members, b) the elected officials aren’t interested in hurting their own personal ability to make money, and c) the unelected bureaucracy makes all the decisions for them anyway. So yes, if you were spun that Japanese democracy is like Western democracy — you’re exactly right. It’s just as flawed an broken as most democracies around the world nowadays.

    As for your use of Fascism, Totalitarianism, and Authoritarianism here’s how the Economist sees it:

    Japan ranks just slightly below the UK and the US.

    However, it’s clear that the people in Japan are completely disgusted with their own government. Approval ratings for most parties start to drop immediately after an election, and if you talk to anyone they’ll tell you that there simply isn’t a better alternative. This recent poll shows that 32% of responders don’t support any party; the highest in the history of the country:


    This disapproval is also reflected in the sudden surge in popularity of Mayor Hashimoto in Osaka. He hasn’t moved to a national level yet, but a lot of people are again hoping that he can bring change to the government. Also, since you seem to unaware that it is happening, protests against nuclear power have been growing on a regular basis for weeks now — the July 29th protest attracting tens of thousands of people to surround the Diet building. This is all happening within the confines of a democracy. If this was an Authoritarian state, those protestors would have been arrested or ‘disappeared’ before they could even start causing trouble.

    “As such, the views of Chinese people need not be those of their government, and the 2 views may be diametrically opposed at times.
    Japan is more complex, but I believe that one can say generally that the J government reflects the views of many J, and Japan is not a dictatorship.”

    For this to be true, you would have to first look at approval ratings of the current administration in Japan and also understand that the unelected bureaucracy in Japan makes most of the decisions for the government. Even former PM Kan, who gained popularity for his anti-bureaucrat stance, almost immediately started toeing the Kasumigaseki line after he was elected. The Japanese government has for years been completely fragmented from what the people want. It took 50 years to throw out the CIA-backed LDP only to get stuck with an equally corrupt and disliked DPJ. The DPJ had slightly more liberal views, but the party is a joke run by imbeciles.

    You say:
    “But, my own perception is that the average Han Chinese person is not as racist in thinking and attitudes as the average J.”

    So how do you quantify this statement? I linked several videos in my previous post of Han Chinese mobs running around beating (sometimes to death) Uyghurs, but I’m certainly not going to say that all Han Chinese in China are like that and would do something so racist and horrific. I also apply the same logic to the Japanese, there are certainly racist people out there, but not everyone is. I certainly don’t remember any time in the past two decades where mobs of Japanese ran into towns heavily populated by Brazilians attacking and murdering them. There are cases as Baudrillard pointed out where sometimes racism can be deadly in Japan like with the death of Mubenga while he was being deported.

    Also, you accurately point out that the People’s Republic of China is a dictatorship, but you also say:

    “In China, private citizens are not permitted to regularly murder people for any reason”

    The situation in Xinjiang with the Uyghurs was done so with the implicit approval of the government. Civil unrest is clamped down by the Chinese government as a matter of course because it destabilizes the government’s control of the region. So when civil unrest occurs and continues, you better believe that it’s being allowed from up above. It’s very telling that after those riots that many of the Uyghur protestors were abducted by the military and as my last link shows, they were silenced when trying to tell their story to the foreign press.

    This is exactly what government sponsored support of racism looks like. The people themselves set the kindling and start the fire, and the government simply watches it burn. We saw something similar in the Great Kanto earthquake when mob violence was allowed and supported by the police and military against Koreans.

    As for your reading of ‘mild fascism’, it’s just wrong. Fascism is a radical right-wing government that unifies a proletariat under a supreme leader who serves as a dictator for all government organizations and institutions. It attempts to raise the nation using a unified identity such as culture or race through rigid adherence to a set of doctrine while also expelling foreign elements considered as impurities to the national goal. Also, since the government thrives off of a unified proletariat, the rich (or bourgeois) are rejected.

    So because Japan has a national narrative and right-wing elements in its government it is mildly fascist? I’d like to remind you that even in the case of Ishihara he can be reelected because there are too many damn old people in Japan:

  • “…If this was an Authoritarian state, those protesters would have been arrested or ‘disappeared’ before they could even start causing trouble….”

    Guarantee you if they were 100,000 NJ’s they would have been!

    I think the point is, there could have been 1 or 10million protesting, so what? In most democracies, the Govt is elected by the will of the people to support the people and based upon its manifesto for change, not the other way around. Trouble is the Govt and industry is so tightly woven, there is no “I am for the people” politicians anymore. Thus Joe Blogs, or Tanaka-san on the street, is not listened to nor represented. Since if the Govt abides by the will of the people, which elected it, the protest would be listened to and acted upon for the good of the people and their wishes. Do we see any evidence of this…I sure don’t, do you?

    For once the Govt releases the black hole the economy is in, and needs to raise money via taxes, the VAT. What occurs when this went to a vote,….pathetic. Blocking the vote….so how is Ozawa going to reduce the huge black hole…..he doesn’t care. He, like them all, only care about themselves and their “interest groups” that support them.

    “WE”, the citizens, are mere pawns and have no say. So, whilst it may rank and be regarded as a democracy…i see little evidence of true democracy here. Just cronyism and back door secret deals to keep all the incumbents in power whilst the country goes to ruin… and what about the electorate, they simply don’t care anymore knowing what occurs and how little influence they realy have!.

  • “Guarantee you if they were 100,000 NJ’s they would have been!”

    Can you please lay off the fallacies for once and just try to have an honest debate? You know this statement is complete nonsense.

    John, most democracies have their leaders answering to special interests, lobbyists, or entrenched bureaucrats. Governments ‘of the people, for the people’ are very rare in most cases these days. They all like to say they’ll change things before an election, but they never do once elected. This is the way it is in Japan, and the way it is around the world.

    Do I see any evidence that things are changing in Japan? Absolutely. Just look at shape of the dialog regarding nuclear power.
    Would the politicians be having discussions about the future of nuclear power in Japan without pressure from the people? No…
    Would they have given two shits about restarting all the nuclear power plants after Fukushima? No…
    Would they have tightened contamination limits for food without criticism? No…

    As for raising taxes I sympathize with your frustration, but do you actually believe something like that could be passed without resistance. The US government almost completely collapsed arguing over raising the debt ceiling. If a bunch of children politicians can’t even do something that should be considered routine, you know it’s going to be like pulling teeth to raise taxes. And for the record, the VAT was established in Japan in 1989 (at 3%) and has only been raised once since then to 5%. Do you honestly think that doubling it would pass without issue?

    These changes don’t happen overnight, and they certainly don’t happen when things are as poorly run as they are in Japan, but change pushed for by the people is indicative of a democracy. The people are sick of this bullshit and just in the past year we’ve seen been seeing a lot of changes being made. Can you name any other country that isn’t drowning in its own political system?

    “and what about the electorate, they simply don’t care anymore knowing what occurs and how little influence they really have!”
    People are very concerned about the government, but I agree that they are sick of how little influence they have.

  • Icarus #15

    You offer the view that my statement:

    “I believe that one can say generally that the J government reflects the views of many J, and Japan is not a dictatorship.”

    is incorrect because J has a government with many policies that individually are not favoured, and a permanent civil service that is unchanging.

    I still offer the view that the J government reflects the views of many J, which includes elements of autocracy.

    You ask:

    “You say:
    “But, my own perception is that the average Han Chinese person is not as racist in thinking and attitudes as the average J.”

    So how do you quantify this statement?”

    I do not quantify the statement — I have no numerical data, it is my own perception.

    As to the mob violence towards Uyghurs, the Chinese governmet at times acts through plainclothes officers, and at times incites those who it knows have a propensity for violence when it wishes to mete violence. Of course, the government can and often does also lose control of such citizens with a propensity for violence, once they have been incited. But, generally, the Chinese government has at least started large-scale violence where it occurs.

    This is redolent of other dictatorships that engage in similar activities, and then also often lose control of these violent elements.

    As to the point “I certainly don’t remember any time in the past two decades where mobs of Japanese ran into towns heavily populated by Brazilians attacking and murdering them.” yes, of course that is true.

    The Chinese government instigates large-scale murders, whereas the J government does not do so. I do not think that shows that median J are more or less murderous, it does show that the J government is far less murderous.

    You say:

    “As for your reading of ‘mild fascism’, it’s just wrong.”

    Read the book by Mr. Segre — he was after all a member of Italian Fascist Party organisations; surely he has some basis in knowledge as to the nature of fascism at the individual level.

    You ask:

    “So because Japan has a national narrative and right-wing elements in its government it is mildly fascist?”

    I would say, it is because many J hold a political ideology that places group political goals above individual political goals, and apotheosises state actions, even when individual political goals suffer.

    An example is that even in the face of non-responsive governments, J often continue to support them, and that there is an apotheosis by many of state actions, placing state actions beyond meaningful question or debate.

  • Baudrillard says:

    @ Icarus, a quick riposte as I am going out for dinner. Japan backpeddling on democracy-

    1. Resurgence of nationalism since 2000, Ishihara’s speech ( I concur with debito here).

    2. Rolling back of individual rights imposed by USA and first post war administration by subsequent LDP governments in favor of “Citizens obligations to the state”.

    3. De facto one party state (with CIA funding in 60s) by LDP until comparatively recently.
    I concede the peaceful transition of power from this de facto one party state in recent times to the DPJ is a positive move for democracy, subsequently derailed by the Obama administration’s refusal to negotiate over Okinawa leading to the resignation of PM Hatoyama (Debito concurred this damaged Japan’s fledgling democracy).

    4. NJ rights. Do we have any? Did we ever? Fingerprinting is just one case of backpeddling.

    5. Noda and the restarting of nuclear power. Despite massive demonstrations. It reminds of Bliar in the UK and the hugest anti war demo ever, and yet he still went to war in Iraq.
    “What part of no war (or no nukes) didnt you understand?”

    I agree with you up to a point in that Japan, like some other USA client states, is a flawed democracy but having the same party in power since 1955 is quite different from the UK or any other European country you care to name. Japanese political development is more akin to Singapore or India and the Congress Party- sure Indira Ghandi was elected time and time again, but did this give her the right to force sterilization on Sikhs? I ve digressed, and now its dinnertime.

    — I’d really prefer if we didn’t expand this topic with throwaway points. Eat your dinner first next time and give more measured responses, please.

  • Baudrillard says:

    @ Icarus,
    ps. We basically agree on Japan and the LDP and flawed democracy. But I still maintain that a postfascist Japan that hadnt been denazified properly (due to start of the Korean war) is the baisc reason why traits of imperialist dogma linger through generations, helped by Confucian respect for elders etc, and is significantly different from postwar Germany.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    @ Icarus #15

    ‘First of all, where has Japan backpedaled on democracy?’

    Read up on the ‘Reverse Course’, and Ikeda’s income doubling policy. That will tell you everything you need to know about Japan’s fake post-war ‘democracy’, and the inability of the ‘modern Japanese’ to understand how democracy is supposed to work.

  • Baudrillard says:

    And sorry Icarus, I must take issue with

    it is utter crap. France and Portugal are flawed democracies but UK and USA arent?? Japan is a full democracy?

    Completely arbitrary definitions, based on traditional thinking rather than postmodern, outside the box thinking that take into account media control, real change, civil rights, people power and demos to repeal bad laws, civil disobedience etc.

    France is a prime example of people power- they dont like it, they take to the streets until a new Republic is declared.Whats more democratic than that? That would never happen in Japan, it never has. Movements like e.g. the Ootomo were crushed.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oomoto not unlike Falun Gong.

    Very contentious. Ignore it, like governments, if you can. If you want change, take to the streets. Forget the politicians as they are a bunch of jobsworths, as John K says above.

  • @Charuzu

    You say:
    “I still offer the view that the J government reflects the views of many J, which includes elements of autocracy.”

    If all you’re going to do is offer opinions with little to back them up, then we’re not going to get very far in this dialog. Approval ratings for government officials have been absolutely abysmal for years. I’ve even shown you that for the first time in Japan’s history there are more people not aligning themselves with any party because they have zero faith in their elected officials. Even Ozawa’s new party has an approval rating of 1%. If this is the case, how does the Japanese government reflect the views of many of its citizens? And where do you get autocracy from? There is one person in Japan with that much power? There are arguably very few leaders in Japan anymore. The whole system is a bunch of headless-chicken politicians being told what to do by the bureaucracy. Knowing this to be true, it’s very easy to see where Japanese people would be very apathetic to the whole political process. No matter whom you elect, there’s some desk worker telling HIM what to do.

    You say:
    “I do not quantify the statement — I have no numerical data, it is my own perception.”

    Again, there is no counter argument to this other than I agree or I disagree. You offer no proof, whereas the original article that started this thread clearly states that there is an uptick in violence in China against foreigners. I actually heard about this on other websites before this article, and the video of the man raping the Chinese women and getting beaten was trending on YouTube. There is clearly something brewing here, but I honestly don’t know to what extent. I do find it disturbing that simply in the past couple of years, videos like this have become much more common on video sites. Also, more than once I’ve seen expats in China mentioning the Boxer Rebellion and commenting on the similarities. We could argue that these kind of events happen in both China and Japan, but it’s the examples where the state is involved in the oppression and murder of minorities where this issue is put in perspective.

    I’m also aware of what police/military do in protest situations to clamp down on demonstrators. But typically plain-clothed cops are designed to start violence so the police can move in to arrest. In Xinjiang (if they were cops) the purpose of starting the violence was to escalate the violence against the Uyghurs.

    “I would say, it is because many J hold a political ideology that places group political goals above individual political goals, and apotheosises state actions, even when individual political goals suffer.”

    I just cannot understand how you could say this if you have been watching the news or reading the newspaper every day. Day after day we are shown endless reports of how horribly the government is being run. It’s even more stunningly apparent after 3/11. The disaster at Fukushima has the government officials afraid of the electorate for the first time in a very long time and protests at the PM’s residence are drawing tens of thousands on a weekly basis. The Japanese are definitely prone to sacrificing themselves to the greater good, but for at least a decade the concept of ‘greater good’ has been questioned enough to the point where even the LDP was thrown to the curb.


    You have to remember that the US has had a tremendous amount of influence on the modern history of Japan. The CIA was funding a single political party to keep Communism and Socialism from gaining ground in the country, the US introduced nuclear power to the Japanese as a way to ‘help’ them get over their fear of nuclear energy, and it’s the US’ strong military presence throughout the country that has basically dictated the course of national defense. If the fledgling democracy was unable to flourish after WWII, don’t you think that the collusion between Japanese officials and the US government have a role in that? Look at Okinawa. The people there have spent decades fighting for control of their home, but the Japanese government has given them little say in the development of the island. This is one example where you could argue that Japan’s democracy contains elements of Authoritarianism, but the situation does not exist in a bubble.

    And as just a couple of follow-up points:
    1. You are more than welcome to take issue with the Democracy Index. It was determined by the Economist, a third party and unbiased source, so I felt it was worth throwing out there. I’m sure it’s full of mistakes, but it’s worth reviewing especially as so many people here have put Japan near the bottom of that list. As for Freedom of Press, Japan scores high on the Reporters without Borders list as well (which I personally take issue with), but all of these independent sources are coming to these conclusions for some reason or another and worth considering:

    2. The resurgence of nationalism is sadly something that happened everywhere in the world around the turn of the millennium. Bush and his neocons in the US, Blair pushing the Labour Party more to the right, Berlusconi in Italy, Sarcozy in France, Koizumi in Japan, etc. Things are arguably worse now then they were then, though. Since then we’ve seen the complete collapse of the global economy, and we’ve seen growth of extremist elements like the Golden Dawn party in Greece, and even the US can barely control it’s more religious elements to fix its government.

    If anything can be said about Japan, it’s extremely important that the people start to get more forceful with their elected officials. I think we’ve seen glimpses of that recently, but the next election is going to be a big one in Japan because it will probably determine the course of the country for at least another decade.

  • #17 Icarus

    Well, i see flaws in your logic, well reasoned though it may sound.

    “..Do I see any evidence that things are changing in Japan? Absolutely. Just look at shape of the dialog regarding nuclear power.
    Would the politicians be having discussions about the future of nuclear power in Japan without pressure from the people? No…

    Just the same pressure from the UN to sign the human rights charter etc? They talk about signing it, like to give the impression of “change”, that they do really care about child abduction etc etc…but in reality one is judged by ones actions not by one’s rhetoric.

    “..John, most democracies have their leaders answering to special interests, lobbyists, or entrenched bureaucrats…”

    I don’t see what this has to do with it? It falling into the…oh the US or EU does X..so its ok to perpetuate that here. Being rotten elsewhere is no excuse!

    Until the whole system of election/Govt is changed in Japan, just like (using your preference for juxtaposition) the US and their congress, unless these institutions are changed the only future is doom and gloom and disaster for the citizens. By chance i mean by real people not those in Ivory towers. Those in power want/must/need to stay there and have sufficient money to ride any storm and do anything to resist change and having their “power” taken away by pesky little Joe Tanaka down the street!!!


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