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Message-Id: <199802231726.MAA14310@h-net.msu.edu>
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" <mlevine@lcsc.edu>
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
February 1998

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 Japan invaded?

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 futile revolt"?

Wah K. Cheng
Hofstra University

Message-Id: <199802240222.VAA159248@h-net.msu.edu>
Date: Mon, 23 Feb 1998 18:21:32 +0000
From: Bryan R Ross <bross@hawaii.edu>

> 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.

Bryan Ross
University of Hawaii

Message-Id: <199802262005.PAA153422@h-net.msu.edu>
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 several issues:

1). Can we compare such events as the Taiping Rebellion and the Nanjing Massacre?

2). Does the magnitude of any cruelty absolve it because it is bigger or smaller than another instance of historical brutality?

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 <friedman@polisci.wisc.edu>

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 <wto@bridgew.edu>

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 Japan.

> It is my belief that the Japanese were laboring under, for lack of a
> better
>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.

Wing-kai To
Bridgewater State College

John Mensing <101301.2532@compuserve.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.


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 other scholars.

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

John Mensing
Hiroshima Happens

Message-Id: <199803021328.IAA148202@h-net.msu.edu>
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.

John Lee
Department of History
St. Mary's University
Halifax, NS, Canada

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