Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 09:06:14 +0000
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <H-ASIA@h-net.msu.edu>
From: "Marilyn Levine, H-Asia" <email@example.com>
Subject: H-Asia: Observations on Japan War
To: Multiple recipients of list H-ASIA <H-ASIA@H-NET.MSU.EDU>
Observations on Japan War
A dialog from the H-Asia list
Pardon my inattention, but where is the thread in H-Asia on "Observations on Japan
War"? And exactly at what point did Prof. Campana contribute to this discussion?
What is going on here?
Regardless, John Mensing's gratuitous generosity in posting his message
"per [Campana's] request" is, I suppose, commendable, but the
"arguments" he made in his message strike me as little more than the
reincarnation of Dr. Pangloss.
Speaking only for myself, I am not going to participate in any exchange on this
subject, since frankly I don't know how to.
But for crying out loud, Japan invaded China "not with an expansionist
National mentality" but to "restore order to the [Chinese] kingdom,"
because the Japanese had a "Confucian mind set" that obliged them to
believe that the "Mandate of Heaven" had left the Manchus, presumably
into the hands of Japan? Did I miss something? Was it only China that
What? "Prior to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, there was a Chinese
invasion of Mongolia and Manchuria"? When did that happen? I had always
thought that it was the other way around.
And forgive me if my feeble ability to figure things out is even more
strained now, but how is it that the Nanjing Massacre was undertaken "to
impose the rule of law"? How is it that "It could be argued that such an
action [the Nanjing Massacre] was humanitarian, according to the logic
of overlordship, in that it sparred many lives in what would have been
Wah K. Cheng
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 18:21:32 +0000
From: Bryan R Ross <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> What? "Prior to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, there was a Chinese
> invasion of Mongolia and Manchuria"? When did that happen? I had always
> thought that it was the other way around.
Perhaps what he is referring to here in the massive influx of Han Chinese
into these areas after the Qing government relaxed restrictions on
migration into the Manchu homeland.
University of Hawaii
Date: Thu, 26 Feb 1998 12:02:59 +0000
In his sincere desire to be helpful, John Mensing's post tied several
issues together that have elicited a few replies questioning
several historical premises of his argument. I think perhaps a
constructive way to proceed is to here frame a few of the
questions in a constructive manner, as the original post conflated
1). Can we compare such events as the Taiping Rebellion and the
2). Does the magnitude of any cruelty absolve it
because it is bigger or smaller than another instance of historical
3). Can we objectively explore the cross-influence of
ideologies and philosophies such as Confucianism (i.e., the influence
of the Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese on the Chinese)?
The three replies include one response to John Mensing, one to Bryan
Ross and an excerpted comment and a Self-Introduction, the latter
which was written by John Mensing at my request. Finally, it has been
my policy to not duplicate posts through the "quote argument by quote
argument" framework. I will make an exception in the case of the
second reply as I do not want to misrepresent the argument.
From: Edward Friedman <email@example.com>
Response to Bryan Ross:
After the 1911 revolution, the new government imperialistically claims
Mongolia as part of China. The ROC still does, although by now that is
a matter of demostic politics in Taiwan with no international import.
People from inside the Wall were prodded to migrate to both Manchuria
and Inner Mongolia, overwhelming the local people. The PRC declared
war on their culture. In the cruel and inhuman Cultural Revolution, no
community suffered more than did Mongolians. The slaughter and
torture, both documented in a forthcoming book, were monstrous.
Ed Friedman, University of Wisconsin
From: Wing-kai To <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I find Mr. Mensing's defense of Japanese militarism quite unsettling.
You are entitled to your opinion about the problem of Chinese
"imperialism", but I am disappointed by your discussion of wartime
> It is my belief that the Japanese were laboring under, for lack of a
>definition, a Confucianist mind set. They saw themselves as being
>part of a greater kingdom of heaven. They noted that the mandate of
>heaven seemed to have passed from the Manchus, and was being passed
>around with ever-increasing negative results.
Is this your manifesto of the East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere?!!!
>I believe they thought it was their duty to restore order to the
>kingdom. They marched out, not with an expansionist National
>mentality (although there was quite a bit of that, and it is often
>viewed that way, hence the comparisons to Hitler) but with the
>thought that they were putting their, and their neighbors house, in
>order. One has to admit that they had around them the evidence that
>they had been chosen by heaven to be best equipped to deal with
>modernity, or Western encroachment.
What is the evidence about the heavenly mandate you are talking about?
>I should also note that the Nanjing massacre, which is all the rage
>these days, had 5 or 6 historical precedents; the most recent was the
>Taiping Rebellion. The Southern Capital had been pillaged about a
>half a dozen times before in Chinese History, all as a precedent for
>a takeover of the Dragon Throne, or a transfer of the mantle of
>heaven. The idea was to impose the rule of law there, so that the
>other cities, provinces, etc., would know who was the new boss and
>that they did not have the power to resist the new game plan. It
>could be argued that such an action was humanitarian, according to
>the logic of overlordship, in that it sparred many lives in what
>would have been futile revolt. It was certainly in keeping with a
>tradition which was wholly Chinese, and not simply the act of
>rapacious barbarians who were out for a good time.
It is outrageous to compare the Japanese massacre and torture of the
Chinese people to the Taiping Rebellion. You should take a look at
Iris Chang's _The Rape of Nanking_.
I'll let others to respond to other radical opinions of Mr. Mensing.
Bridgewater State College
John Mensing <email@example.com>
An excerpt from a response by John Mensing to Professor Cheng's
post and a Self-Introduction:
> Did I miss something? Was it only China that Japan invaded?
Yes and No. The original Confucian-inspired imperial vision of the
Dragon Throne, as recorded in "The Mirror of Government" and taught
today in PLA classrooms, places all those nations invaded by Japan as
legitimate tributary states of The Middle Kingdom. Indeed, a glance
at an official PRC map shows boundary lines far in excess of those
unilaterally, or bilaterally, agreed to. . . . I wanted to
point out the extreme likelihood that the Japanese occupations were
occurring within the same mind set, not that the mind set itself was
either justifiable or historically accurate. I wanted to go on to
indicate that, as this mind set is alive and kicking -- witness the
recent PLA arms sales to Burma and Nepal, and the influx of Chinese
military advisors to Burma -- any attempt to deal with the Japanese
imperial mind set within a regionally appropriate historical context
would have contemporary implications.
MEMBER SELF-INTRODUCTION: JOHN MENSING
I now live in Hiroshima, Japan, where I work teaching privately,
writing articles and book reviews, and organizing conferences. My
research interests include East-West studies, Asian studies, and
Sinology. I welcome the opportunity H-Asia affords to interact with
My background includes book publishing (Associate Editor for Shocken
Books), community organizing (housing, local economic development and
environmental issues), several years in China (which I detail below),
and journalism. I lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and had
a variety of cross-cultural experiences; indeed, I felt privileged to
live there at a time when it was a mix of many distinct cultures, and
to have been given the opportunity to see what a realized
multicultural community could be.
After a much delayed stint in graduate school (Emory, Theology),
China. During my first two years in the Middle Kingdom -- spent in a
remote area bereft of ex-patriots -- I changed many language and
cultural perceptions. When I returned to the States for a visit, I
stopped in at an old friend of mine, he thought I had become a
racist. As he had instructed me on the intricacies of cultural
relativity years ago, and I had tried to embody his wisdom, this was
no simple observation. But as he knew me to be anything but, and my
perceptions were genuine and heartfelt (I hesitate to say, "and I had
many Chinese friends", but it was partly on their behalf, as I was
sharing with an outside world they were denied contact with _their_
version of the truth. People with dissenting viewpoints in China are
not often allowed to leave, and boundaries prevent getting to know
people closely unless the duration of the stay is lengthy, the
geography remote, and the language colloquial).
My friend went on to explain that most of his understanding of China
came from reading Joseph Needham. In addition, China had been
elevated to a status of idealization, particularly in Marxist circles,
where its existence as an ideal state served as an effective
counterpoint to capitalist corruption. (Lately I have been exploring
the role Theodore White played as a propagandist for China in the
1930's, and that of Charlie Soong and others in formulating a version
of Sun Yat-sen's imperial vision acceptable to the Western public.)
I began looking for a way of communicating my perceptions with others
which would serve the purpose of general enlightenment. As I searched
through volumes of scholarly research on China, I began to find
general agreement with my perceptions, but only among scholars steeped
in the country's lore and current realities.
My interest in H-Asia is to observe some of the things which fellow
Asian scholars discuss, to become aware of professional opportunities,
and also to exchange views with others who have similar research
interests. From the above, you might guess that I am looking for a
reappraisal of the way China is viewed. China is viewed in a variety
of ways, all with some degree of accuracy. I am specifically looking
for those populist perceptions, and the process of their generation,
which affect public policy. This is a long semantic chain, and its
exploration is not a static process in my mind
Date: Sun, 1 Mar 1998 13:20:35 +0000
From: LEE JOHN # HISTORY <John.Lee@StMarys.ca>
Those who follow the current debate might be interested in taking a
look at a slim book titled _Toyo ni okeru sobokushugi no
minzoku to bunmeishugi no shakai_, published in the 1930s by
Miyazaki Ichisada (1901-1995), arguably among the greatest Japanese
historians of China. The thesis of the book is, simply put,
"Civilizations corrupt, and great civilizations corrupt mightily".
Miyazaki saw the history of East Asia as a dichotomy between the
civilized core of China and primitive peripheries. Since civilization
ultimately corrupts, Miyazaki reasoned, whenever that happened in
China, it needed to be rescued and rejuvenated by the fresh energy of
the primitive neighbours. Hence, China was destined to be invaded
from time to time, for the sake of the survival of its own
civilization. Mongols, Manchus, and a host of others did the job in
the past, and now, you guessed, it was Japan's turn. I bet Miyazaki
regretted having ever published the book, but it does help us
understand better the "mind-set" of the Japanese. What Japan did and
what the Japanese thought they were doing are still two different
things, and the issue is certainly worth pursuing. The book itself
has long been out of print, but it should be available in Miyazaki's
complete works, _Miyazaki Ichisada zenshu_ (Iwanami Shoten). It is
also included in the 3-volume selection of his works, titled
_Miyazaki Ichisada Ajia shi ronko_ (Asahi Shinbun Sha).
Check volume one.
Department of History
St. Mary's University
Halifax, NS, Canada