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“they hate the Japanese”

Recently I visited Japan on business, and on my way to the airport, I heard some comments that gave me some real pause for thought.  There were three of us sharing the airport shuttle; a Canadian woman of European decent who works for Siemens in R&D,  an African American man who is a sales executive, and myself.  Upon learning the woman was from Canada, the African American man tells her that he traveled to Canada frequently, and he was in Toronto a lot to fix a “mess.”  In a nutshell, he had to force a sales manager who was originally from Hong Kong into early retirement, because the company was struggling in their sales numbers.  He faulted the fact that the sales force based in Japan were reporting into the Toronto based sales manager.  The Canadian woman blurted out, “they (the Chinese) hate the Japanese.”

“Wow!”  I thought to myself.  Perhaps, brutal honesty on what she is thinking.  I jumped in to correct her, “you mean there is a cultural difference.”  She agreed and then went on to assure me she was talking about cultural differences, further saying that even in Quebec, Siemens would make sure all the sales representatives are completely fluent in French.

While in Japan, I thought about what this woman said.  As a Chinese, I certainly do not hate the Japanese.  I have many great Japanese friends, including colleagues whom I work with on a daily basis.  If anything, Chinese and Japanese culture are closer to each other which enables them to more easily relate.

What did she mean exactly?  To try to understand her, I had this thought experiment for myself.  Would I ever use “hate” to characterize the feelings between American Blacks and Whites?  Absolutely not, and that’s because I understand the history of the U.S. in slavery and then in more modern times the civil rights struggles.  Despite the difficulties, tremendous progress has been made thus far, and America as a whole deserves credit for it.  To abruptly describe Blacks in America “hate” Whites either means utter ignorance for the situation or lack of respect for the two races (or both).

She and I continued this topic a bit further as we both headed into the International terminal.  I explained to her that relationship between China and Japan have dramatically improved over the last few decades.  It was the Cold War that stalled the reconciliation process between the two countries.  Japan’s WWII past has yet to be reconciled with her Asian neighbors.  Despite this, trade is flourishing, and leaders in Asia, including the Chinese leaders are willing to put differences aside and promote activities which build trust.

Even on a personal level, my grandparents home was destroyed by Japanese bombers and I know they deeply resented Japan’s WW2 invasion.  For their generation, I’d think “hate” is the right word characterizing their views towards the Japanese.  For my parents generation, they understand great miseries were brought by foreigners, but they also understand disastrous domestic policies could wreck havoc on peoples lives.  This generation lived through the effects of WWII during their growing years and heard first account from their parents.

For my generation of Chinese, we empathize with the hardship our parents and grandparents generations endured.  With respect to Japan, the WWII history was a recent past.  We understand the need for peace in the Asia region.

The difference in feelings between the Chinese and the Japanese is really not that different than the Germans and the French for each other few decades ago. Those French who lived through WWII Germany’s invasion “hate” the Germans. Those born post-WWII feels differently. Those born post-E.U. have the WWII history largely behind them now. Again, China and Japan’s reconciliation was stalled by the Cold War.

For me personally, I think it is with normalization, trade, and contact and friendship between the Chinese and the Japanese could there then be needed trust to allow this history question be reconciled.  Some say the history question needs to be answered first before everything else.  I think that is backwards, and I am glad to see the two government doing their parts to try to normalize. (Here is a recent development: “Blueprint for cooperation among China, Japan and South Korea is an indicator of peace and booming trade.”)

I reject this “hate” view, because I think it is utterly ignorant or lack of respect for the two people (or both). I reject this “hate” view, because if we apply it to the case of the French and the Germans, we know it is unfair to the French to say they “hate” the Germans – even couple of decades ago.

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  1. Rhan
    June 1st, 2010 at 21:08 | #1

    I think the “hate” here referring to a general emotion, not relate to physical interaction. I would dare say Polish hate German as well.

  2. C Chang
    June 2nd, 2010 at 14:51 | #2

    I am Chinese and I do not hate Japanese! Generally Chinese are friendly people towards any race including Japanese despite the evils carried out by the Japanese in recent past. There are good and bad people in every race!

  3. Rhan
    June 2nd, 2010 at 17:32 | #3

    I have many friends that work in Japanese corporation, I am not sure if “hate” is the right word but most of us feel there is zilch trust between Japanese and Chinese. Of course during partying time, we can drink and chat like buddy, that is all. You may call it cultural difference or anything but the guarded feeling is always there.

  4. Baobei
    June 9th, 2010 at 00:37 | #4

    While teaching English in China I used to play games like “if you could do anything you want today, what would it be” to practice some basic sentences and get an insight into what students think. About 60% in a class I taught in Nanjing answered something along the lines “I wanna kill as may Japanese as I can”. Now I know that was in an area of China where emotions run deep, but even in other places that I have been in the last decade I heard a lot of “我真的恨日本人“/”I really hate Japanese”. Why would so many people use that word if it is merely “cultural differences”? I would like to stress that the people I’m talking about all belong to the younger generation and were in their twenties or thirties…

  5. June 10th, 2010 at 02:03 | #5

    Thank you all for chiming in.

    Rhan – I am curious which part of the world you live and in what industries your friends work in. I hope to understand a bit more.

    Baobei – Can you help clarify a bit more? How do you know your students (60% of them) all harbor such feelings and not simply because one student said it and the rest are mimicking to practice saying the same thing in English? Can you recount for us the lessons for that day and the conversations with your students which ultimately lead to your conclusion?

  6. Rhan
    June 10th, 2010 at 04:04 | #6

    Hi yinyang,

    I would not use the word “hate” and in real life, I am very sure there is a lack of trust between Chinese and Japanese, perhaps I shall say we become more defensive and protective while dealing with each other.

    The reason and cause is comprehensible, just do a random check how many series, books and movie from China and Hong Kong talk about World War 2 and eight years war of resistance, plus the non-stop political gesture between leaders of the two countries intensify the unpleasant memory. However, I would gladly say that the emphasized of media/publisher toward patriotism and nationalism is getting lesser and lesser along the years. And the latest war series talk more about the personal emotion and action toward war and less stressing on the right and wrong.

    During a dinner, I and my colleague toast the Japanese until he drunk, and my colleague whisper to me: “time of Chinese revenge, we lack weapon but we have crowd, we can now make use of what Chairman Mao taught us, the huge-crowd strategy (人海战术), sure win” and we are not even mainland Chinese! I think that part of history may need another few generations to fade away.

    We mostly work in electrical and electronic industry. I am from Malaysia.

    PS/ I don’t believe Chinese would simply say 我真的恨日本人 unless being provoke.

  7. raffiaflower
    June 11th, 2010 at 06:33 | #7

    The reactions are more variegated than can be summed up with a generationalisation as “hate”. As you point out, it has to do with generational outlook and also personal attitudes.
    The antagonism and scorn on both sides has, imo, more to with the different paths of development since the 19th century rather than cultural differences.
    The reason for the Chinese distaste is obvious. Wen Jiabao himself told the Japanese Diet that the brutal war has left deep wounds on the Chinese psyche which will take long to heal.
    It isn’t just the education policy that keeps the memories alive.
    My late 20something housemate is from the Dongbei. Although he had Japanese frens, he told me he “taoyan” (detests?) the Japanese for “something they did long ago”, after I told him that my partner is from the old enemy country.
    This line of thought is baffling; any rightwing Japanese attempt at historic revisionism should be resisted, but one should also separate issues from people?
    The Japanese attitude towards China (or Chinese) maybe is a hangover from the imperialist age when Japan modernised rapidly while China struggled, and Chinese were looked down as backward, weak and undisciplined, especially after the 1894 war.
    This old image, too, needs to be erased. Given China’s current dynamism, no reason it can’t be done soon. I think the Japanese view of China is one of grudging admiration (for the cultural borrowing), shame (for the war), anger (for constantly being held responsible) and fear, of the future when China is again the dominant power of East Asia.
    Eventually, both may reach an entente cordiale in the way that England and France came to in the 19th century.
    Both have a long history of medieval conflict and modern dispute, but are neighbours that agree to disagree and respect the differences.

  8. June 11th, 2010 at 14:04 | #8

    @raffiaflower

    You are always full of insights. Well said.

    A bit of aside:

    I recently heard about Tatsuru Uchida – a professor at the Kobe College in Japan.
    http://www.fccj.or.jp/node/5468

    I saw a snippet of an interview conducted by an English-language Japanese program where he tried to explain the Japanese psyche.

    So, adding to your list – Uchida said the Japanese people also have a subdued feeling towards the Americans because of the military occupation.

    During the Yuan dynasty, Japan was saved by the “divine wind” from invasion. Uchida also said Japan has always succeeded in repelling outside forces. (He contradicted himself obviously, for Japan is today occupied.)

  9. Pawel
    July 29th, 2010 at 12:44 | #9

    C Chang: yeah Chinese are friendly as hell… I know something about their “friendlyness”. Maybe particular YOU are friendly, but I wouldn’t say that about your nation, sorry.
    However, people tend to have negative and xenophobic feelings everywhere, and as it is most correct NOT to judge people by their nationality, it is really hard to obey this rule, ale people are who they are, and cultural differences can not be put aside anytime…

  10. george sibley
    August 4th, 2010 at 06:41 | #10

    the question surely is why don’t the chinese hate the japanese. The attrocities committed by the japanese on chinese in it’s time of occupation were horrific to any civilised person. it was not just unit 731 that practiced this barbarism but the japanese army and it its teachers. Obviously not all of a nation can be condemmed but it is feasible to ssay that about a nation especially when their education system was so brutal that it desentiised oridinary citizens and where even today it fails to admit it’s crimes whilst teaching about the horoshima and nagasaki. Although i bet it forgets to tell that hiroshima was a major source of poisons and chemicals used in unit 731.
    one has to admire the chinese for their forbearance but no one should ever forget or forgive japan for what they did whilst their victims still live.

  11. August 4th, 2010 at 10:30 | #11

    @george sibley

    You said:

    one has to admire the chinese for their forbearance but no one should ever forget or forgive japan for what they did whilst their victims still live.

    I agree with you. I too admire the Chinese general public for their forbearance. This is additional reason why the Canadian woman’s “hate” comment is so out of place and inappropriate.

    The thing that troubled me the most is why was this woman so ignorant.

    But “hate” is not the solution, because it only would lead to a possible perpetuation of the past. The long term solution is really integration – similar to what the Europeans have done with E.U. to lower the incentives for member nations to want to invade one another.

  12. LOL
    August 18th, 2010 at 21:47 | #12

    Imperial Japanese Army murdered, raped, mutilated, and tested biology on countless of innocent Chinese and Korean civilians.

    Don’t worry. Come WW3, we all know what is going to happen to Japan.

  13. LOL
    August 18th, 2010 at 21:50 | #13

    Imperial Japanese aggression was SO BAD, that America had to strip Japan of her military.

    Yes, Imperial Japanese militarism was so bad, it had to be constitutionally pacified and shamefully stripped of her military status to a ‘self-defense’ force.

    What does she have to be defensive about? Korean and Chinese invasion of Japan?

    Like Chinese and Korea aren’t itching to fight Japan and obliterate this threat once and for all. haha.

  14. Monie 129
    January 7th, 2012 at 13:24 | #14

    I am a Chinese, and I do hate Japan. It’s not a shame to tell anybody around me for that. I told all my colleagues (most of them are Europeans and Americans) I will never drive a Japanese car in my life, I will never ever have a Japanese friend (I can treat them friendly , but i don’t want to be friend with any of them), i will never travel to Japane until they apologized deeply for what they do during WWII instead of trying to cover it, I will not let my kids to marry a Japanese or having a Japanese as boyfriend or girlfriend. My grandpa witnessed his best friend’s death in front of him under Japanese occupying power, no more to say, why in this world we need to like everybody? There is no reason, at least for me, to love or embrace them…

  15. January 7th, 2012 at 19:41 | #15

    @Monie 129

    The problem is that the Japanese you meet may have little if anything to do with any of the atrocities committed in China. He may not even be aware of it, much less condone it. His personal propensity for violence for future may be just the same as any average Chinese today.

    So why hold such attitude against him / her?

    The problem between Japan and China should not be that between people and people at the personal level. In my view, just as people have a tendency to anthropomorphize inanimate objects, we may also have a tendency to anthropomorphize history – which is useless and senseless.

    History is history. We Chinese should know where we stand. But to let that sense of history thwart culture exchanges between what are really similar peoples with similar cultures, traditions, heritages – that’s self-defeating. That’s like a Jew saying I’d never allow my daughter to marry a Muslim even though both probably ultimately believe in the same God. It’s allowing one particular strain of ideology dominate the whole of human experience – which is much broader than just politics – or religion – much less politics about a certain period in time.

    Being aware of one’s national identities should liberate us – make us stronger and more understanding of our experience in life – not hamper our ability to reach out to others…

  16. Yuki Takahashi
    January 23rd, 2012 at 18:08 | #16

    I’m Chinese but I don’t the Japanese at all. My grandfather fought in the second world war. I don’t care if I married a Japanese and I will not hate them. I had watched movies about what has happened. I looked and searched online for the history of their hatred and wars. I’ve seen photos taken by the Japanese during their killing sprees. I loved how their culture is so special and interesting. I don’t understand why people have to think we hate them.

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