East Asia's New Old Cold War
As President Bush tours East Asia this week, the region's online media simmers with palpable resentment between Japan and its neighbors. While Bush seeks closer military relations with Japan, other host countries in the region are preoccupied with animosities against Tokyo rooted in a war that ended 60 years ago.
Sometimes it's the smallest issues that are the most telling.
The opening of the new movie, "Memoirs of a Geisha," for example, has stirred controversy in China because one of the country's best known actresses, Zhang Ziyi, stars in a movie that is essentially about Japan and its culture.
"The debate over Zhang's role in the film first started online, perhaps with a photograph of Sayuri and her lover, The Chairman (Japanese actor Ken Watanabe), cuddling and kissing," reports the China Daily. "That set the tongues, especially in Internet chatrooms, rolling. "
"'Why did Zhang accept the role of a Japanese 'prostitute?' 'Why did she allow a Japanese man on top of her?' These are some of the more common questions asked in the chatrooms. The responses were equally strong, the gist of which would be: 'It's an insult to national pride.'"
On larger issues the political language of normally polite Asia has become unusually blunt.
When Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi last month paid his fifth visit to the Yakasuni shrine where several World War II war criminals are honored, the People's Daily in Beijing ran a story quoting two European analysts describing his move as "stupid."
In response to the continuing controversy over the shrine, Asahi reports that members of the Japanese parliament are proposing a new shrine to the dead from all of Japan's wars that would be less offensive to China and South Korea.
But other Japanese are increasingly unapologetic about past. The granddaughter of Gen. Hideki Tojo, one of the most notorious World War II war criminals, has emerged as an influential Japanese political commentator, notes a piece in the Asia Times.
Yuko Tojo says her grandfather, the man who ordered the Pearl Harbor attack, led a "war of freedom" in Asia. "Essentially he was a kind man who loved peace," she said. "He was defending his country against foreign aggressors. His greatest crime was that he loved his country."
Yuko Tojo, says author David McNeill, "articulates a set of views that resonate in a country floundering since the end of the Cold War and spooked by the rise of China," where the desire for "a more muscular, independent foreign policy backed by a strong military" is growing.
Several Japanese commentators call for moving away from the principles of the country's pacifist constitution. They endorse the Oct. 29 military agreement between Japan and the United States that calls for increased cooperation between the two countries.
"Japan needs to face up to the fact that the Cold War is not yet over in Asia and that new risks are increasing," says the Japan Times. A business leader writes in the Daily Yomiuri that "Chinese military power is undoubtedly a threat that must be squarely faced."
The U.S.-Japan military agreement, replied a commentator for the People's Daily last week, displays a "Cold War mentality that goes against the trend of the times." By mounting "the war chariot of the United States," Japan "will not make itself more secure, but instead will harm its long-term national interests."
After being the target of widespread criticism at the Latin American summit last week, Bush may be glad the Asian media isn't talking about him.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: GaryandAbby | November 15, 2005 11:01 AM
Posted by: Wang | November 15, 2005 11:36 AM
Posted by: suresh | November 15, 2005 01:27 PM
Posted by: P. J. Casey | November 15, 2005 02:17 PM
Posted by: Sully | November 15, 2005 02:34 PM
Posted by: pundit | November 15, 2005 03:44 PM
Posted by: David Patrick, UK | November 15, 2005 05:26 PM
Posted by: Chinese man | November 15, 2005 05:29 PM
Posted by: MacMorrigu | November 15, 2005 05:39 PM
Posted by: HYME | November 15, 2005 05:47 PM
Posted by: Bryce | November 15, 2005 05:50 PM
Posted by: A survivor from Japenese murder | November 15, 2005 06:50 PM
Posted by: hossein | November 15, 2005 06:52 PM
Posted by: Xenophon | November 15, 2005 06:54 PM
Posted by: ende | November 15, 2005 07:33 PM
Posted by: CommonSenseSupporter | November 15, 2005 07:42 PM
Posted by: Chunk | November 15, 2005 08:18 PM
Posted by: MacMorrigu | November 15, 2005 08:24 PM
Posted by: They are no longer war criminals ?! | November 15, 2005 08:35 PM
Posted by: DinMN | November 15, 2005 10:41 PM
Posted by: YWu | November 15, 2005 11:26 PM
Posted by: YWu | November 15, 2005 11:46 PM
Posted by: Beren | November 16, 2005 01:45 AM
Posted by: Chen | November 16, 2005 09:55 AM
Posted by: Brian | November 16, 2005 10:46 AM
Posted by: Johnn | November 16, 2005 12:25 PM
Posted by: David Patrick, UK | November 16, 2005 05:26 PM
Posted by: TP | November 17, 2005 01:55 PM
Posted by: Brian | November 18, 2005 10:51 AM
Posted by: Ramon Hernandez | November 20, 2005 12:01 AM
Posted by: Beren | November 20, 2005 10:00 PM
Posted by: MacMorrigu | November 21, 2005 06:06 AM
Posted by: Ramon Hernandez | November 21, 2005 10:49 PM
Posted by: peacelover | November 21, 2005 11:26 PM
Posted by: Beren | November 22, 2005 04:51 PM
Posted by: Confused | November 22, 2005 04:52 PM
Posted by: MacMorrigu | November 22, 2005 07:11 PM
Posted by: Ramon Hernandez | November 26, 2005 10:35 PM
Posted by: naus | March 2, 2006 02:00 AM
The comments to this entry are closed.