Sunday, June 11, 2006

Asian Politics Jamboree!

Staying with the Asian politics theme, Angelica has some insights as to why Taiwan's DPP is busy trying to unseat an unpopular president. If I understand correctly, it has more to do with inter-party rivalries within the opposition Pan-Blues than anything else.

A thousand miles northeast, there seems to be some glimmering signs of hope with the relationship between Japan and China. Basically, the Chinese seem to be saying that they're willing to let bygones be bygones when Japanese PM Koizumi leaves office. Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni shrine have been only the most public of his policy of appealing to conservative Japanese nationalists, and have made him persona non grata in Beijing (and, it should be said, other Asian capitals.)

There aren't a lot of areas where I'm willing to side unequivocally with Beijing, but Koizumi's actions have been provocative, and knowingly so. To be absolutely clear, the Yasukuni shrine exists as an embodied form of revisionist history, a kind of physical delusion on the same moral plane as holocaust denial. The shrine's museum proclaims that Japan was "forced" in to war in the 1930s to protect all of Asia from the depredations of western imperialism.

In the course of "protecting" Asia, over 15 million Chinese civilians were killed. The most horrific incident was the Rape of Nanking, something the Governor of Tokyo says was made up by the Chinese. Somehow, I think if the Mayor of Berlin was a holocaust denier, we'd be paying more attention. Just look at the reaction the west had when Austria's governing party brought Joerg Haider (who had praised the SS) in to government.

This isn't to say that reaction was particularly effective, only that when prominent Japanese politicians say noxious things, western politicians should at least not be silent. Instead, there seems to be an expression of the usual media convention - give both views equal time, and don't explitly call one crap.

I'm not pinning all of this on Koizumi by any means. Indeed, Koizumi seems to have both slyly encouraged, and ridden, a new wave a Japanese nationalism that predates his term as PM. There's an increasing sense in Japan that it needs to be a "regular" nation again, with an officially-sanctioned military among other things. Being a "regular" nation also seems to mean that Japan needs to leave behind any war guilt, for Japanese conservatives.

And if you're not repelled by right-wing denials of war crimes, it's worth remembering that Japanese claims of innocence keep ruining the relationship between Japan and China, Asia's two biggest economies. Whatever American interests in Asia are, they aren't well-served by tensions between these two countries.

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