International Relations
Online ISSN : 1883-9916
Print ISSN : 0454-2215
ISSN-L : 0454-2215
Foreign Policy and Nationalism in Postwar Japan
A Clash of Historical Perceptions: Japan’s Postwar Disputes with China
Junichiro Shoji
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2012 Volume 2012 Issue 170 Pages 170_125-170_140


It is often the case that when economic ties expand through trade, and the exchange of people expands, diplomacy will also take a favorable turn. However, in terms of the Japan-China relationship, which is symbolized by “cold political relations but hot economical relations,” such progress is not occurring. Because of incidents such as the collision of fishing boats off the coast of the Senkaku Islands, political tensions do not seem to be withering. Both Japan and China admit that the reason for this is the existence of the historical perception issue.
However, until the 1970s, the historical perception issue was a domestic Japanese issue rather than a pending problem between Japan and China; but in 1982, with the textbook incident, it became an international issue. During this process, both the Japanese and Chinese governments have made certain political “compromises,” but this has instead stimulated domestic radical claims and both nations strengthening their nationalism, and this has created the structure of a vicious cycle.
Furthermore, in the background, a composition was made involving the “politicization” of the historical perceptions of both countries and the “asymmetry” of respecting Chinese claims.
Moreover, in recent years, the downturn of Japan and the rise of China have been making the historical perception issue more complex. In other words, the historical situation that Japan and China have never experienced coexistence as great powers, has been promoting a sense of mutual rivalry,which has undeniably led to the historical perception issue becoming more complicated.
The historical perception issue has become a complex phenomenon as a result of its expansion in both countries after the textbook incident, such that the issue spans several dimensions of political diplomacy, academic research,and national sentiment; and it is becoming difficult to discuss it only within the framework of each government’s diplomacy. Therefore, it is necessary to work on the historical perception issue not only by considering diplomacy,but also by keeping watch on the achievements of academic research and on public opinion in both countries.

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© 2012 The Japan Association of International Relations
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