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An Alternative Explanation for Anti-Japanese Sentiment in China: Shifting State-Society Interaction in China's Japan Policy

  • Zhou, Min
  • Published : 2012.10.31

Abstract

The historical turbulence between China and Japan started from the First Sino-Japanese War in 1895, and culminated in Japan's invasion of China during World War Two (the Second Sino-Japanese War) between 1937 and 1945. A series of wars caused huge human and material losses in both countries, and both experienced comprehensive transformations during and after the wars. The impact of this historical turbulence is so long-lasting that it still influences both countries' social psyche. Moreover, it continues casting a long shadow upon the current Sino-Japanese relations. The recent turbulence in Sino-Japanese relations partly stems from the historical turbulence. It is much less violent but can also be emotional and worrisome. It started from the early 1980s (the Japanese history textbook controversy in 1982 and the 1985 anti-Japanese student protests in China), and culminated in the anti-Japanese mass demonstrations in multiple Chinese cities in 2005 (Bush 2010; Gries 2005; Reilly 2012; Stockmann 2010; Weiss 2008). In addition to dramatic demonstrations on streets, there are also other forms of movements, such as war reparations movements, in which Chinese war victims demand reparations from the Japanese state and companies (Rose 2005; Xu and Fine 2010; Xu and Pu 2010). Although the tension has existed for many years and surfaced from time to time, the eruption of the nationwide anti-Japanese movements in China in 2005 still shocked many outside observers. Many scholars have tried to explain the anti-Japanese sentiment within current Chinese society that underlies and drives these social movements. Through careful reexamination of the existing literature, this article proposes an explanation for the anti-Japanese sentiment from a perspective that stresses the shifting state-society interaction in China's Japan policy. Specifically, the totalitarian Chinese state's neglect and suppression of genuine social concerns regarding Japan in earlier years, followed by a relatively liberalized state that tolerates societal participation in Sino-Japanese relations, are an importance source of the anti-Japanese sentiment recently observed in China.

Keywords

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