Zhao on Yin, 'Chunichi Senso Baisho Mondai--Chogoku kokuminseifu no senji/sengo tainichiseisaku wo chushin ni'

Author: 
Yan-Jun Yin
Reviewer: 
Jing Zhao

Yan-Jun Yin. Chunichi Senso Baisho Mondai--Chogoku kokuminseifu no senji/sengo tainichiseisaku wo chushin ni. Japan: Ochanomizu shobo, 1996. 467 pp. 8,240 yen (cloth), ISBN 978-4-275-01639-3.

Reviewed by Jing Zhao (Department of Political Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison.)
Published on H-Japan (April, 1997)

Sino-Japanese political relations have been hurt a great deal since the "normalization" in 1972 by many issues: China's nuclear tests (and Japan's consequent decision to freeze the 1995 financial year's nonprofit assistance), the Japanese textbooks' censorship, Japan's cabinet members' worship at the Yasukuni Shrine, the new guideline of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty, the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute, and so on. This timely book deals with an underlying problem of Sino-Japanese relations: Japan's failure to pay war reparations to China. This created an atmosphere of distrust among Chinese people toward Japan and made other problems difficult to solve. As the author indicates, "The payment of war reparations is an important expression of taking the responsibility for the war. By shirking this responsibility, Japan lost the most important chance for a really national reconciliation between the two nations. This is the resource of various historical disputes until today" (Preface, p. v).

Until now, the issue of reparations for the fifteen-year Sino-Japanese war has been studied mainly from the perspective of the U.S.-led Alliance's reparation policy toward Japan; seldom have studies been done from China's perspective. Actually, "although the Republic of China (ROC)'s reparation policy was meanwhile a part of the Alliance's Japan policy, it had its own characteristics from the beginning, and developed independently from the Alliance's policy. Contrary to the current Cold War perspective, this book does not concentrate on the U.S.'s Japan policy; rather, it deals with the reparation policy and the changing process from the point of view of the Republic of China (ROC), which fought against Japan's aggression for 15 years. This book discusses this reparation issue from new perspectives such as the peculiar circumstances of Sino-Japanese historical relations, the experiences of reparations, and China's war loss situation" (Preface, i). Taking the reparation issue as ROC's central wartime and postwar policy toward Japan, in this book, the author tries to clarify the historical process of the planning, the implementation and the change of this issue, from ROC's plans to demand reparations in the Cairo Summit Conference of 1943 to a final agreement to drop this claim in the Japan-ROC Peace Treaty of 1952.

Today, concerning the Sino-Japanese war reparations in general, the Japanese seem to consider that the ROC government took a generous (kandai) policy toward Japan and Chiang Kaishek (Jiang Jieshi) renounced the right for war reparations from the beginning. However, by researching various "enigmas" on this issue, this book tells us that the truth is completely different from the above "common sense," which was actually created by the Japanese government intentionally. On the contrary, the ROC government had taken a consistently tough policy of requesting reparations even after it fled to Taiwan, i.e., after it had lost the legitimacy to represent China. The reparation issue was the most important issue of ROC's Japan policy from the beginning to the last stage of the negotiation to sign the Japan-ROC peace treaty. In the draft prepared by ROC's Military Committee Council Office for the Cairo Summit Conference in November 1943, clause eleven reads, "Japan should compensate China's all public and private losses since the September 18th Incident of 1937" ("The wartime ROC government's reparation policy planning and the U.S.," pp. 25-26).

On August 14, 1945, just one day before Japan's surrender, Jiang stated ROC's Japan policy. In May 1948, when the ROC regime began to lose the civil war against the communists, Jiang issued a further generous statement toward Japan. Both statements of Jiang's "generous policy" are widely considered as being for the purpose of his fight against the communists ("The development of ROC's reparation policy in the early postwar stage," p. 110). However, even in such a situation, "the contents of this generous policy are mainly on the aspects of: 1) respecting the Japanese people's will to decide the status of the Tenno institution, and 2) immediately repatriating more than two million Japanese war prisons and other Japanese left in China" (p. 109). Clearly, though not taking a vindictive punishment policy toward Japan, the ROC did not take a non-reparations policy at all. It could not. However, with the collapse of the ROC regime in the mainland China, the U.S.--the principal power in postwar East Asia--began to revise its China policy and Japan policy. The original two axes of China policy, i.e., aiding China directly from the U.S. and pressing Japan to compensate China, had lost its former meaning of supporting a strong pro-U.S. China (p. 154). "With the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in October 1949, the U.S. began to consider changing its Japan policy not to compensate China.

Especially, after the break-out of the Korean War and PRC's participating in the war, there was no possibility that the U.S. would take the same policy toward the PRC that it previously had toward the ROC. The U.S. decided to publish its non-reparations policy as the Alliance's Japan policy" ("The ROC's reparation policy in the transition period," p. 176). In December 1951, during the Korean War period, J. F. Dulles went to Tokyo to press Yoshida to negotiate the peace treaty with the ROC regime, not with the PRC government ("The unilateral peace treaty: ROC's Japan policy and the Yoshida letter," p. 224). At last, for the purposes of being recognized as China's representative by Japan and attending the peace treaty conference as China's representative, the ROC regime was forced to renounce war reparations, at the last negotiation stage (p. 229).

Meanwhile, in conjunction with the changes of China's situation and the U.S.'s Japan policy, the Japanese government began to consider not compensating China and signing a treaty to terminate the issue of reparations' request right. Japan did so even before Dulles published the U.S.'s new Japan policy of the seven non-reparations principles (p. 187). "In conjunction with the reparation issue, the Japanese government refused to write Japan's war responsibility into the peace treaty, thus to keep the issue of responsibility for the war ambiguous, until today. During the long postwar period, all the historical issues, such of the textbooks' censorship, the Yasukuni Shrine worship, are connected to this result" (p. 190). To escape taking the responsibility for the war, the Yoshida government further suggested that Japan would offer its military bases to the U.S. (p. 191). As commented by Aburai, this choice "tried to utilize the emergent Far East situation to restore Japan's sovereignty. It thus made Japan's unilateral peace' unavoidable. This dangerous choice was yet another cause of the deteriorating situation in East Asia, especially in the time just before the Korean War's breakout" (p. 191).

Today, the Japanese government and many Japanese people claim that Japan has lawfully settled all accounts of the war (including reparations) with China by the 1952 Japan-ROC Peace Treaty. However, the author clarifies that this is a "deceitful fabrication" (kyoko). "There is no lawful evidence supporting this saying" (Preface, iii). The ROC regime in 1952 had lost 98% of the territory over which it claimed sovereignty. The treaty itself stated that its effective range is limited to "the current territory under ROC's domination" and "the territory which the ROC will dominate in the future." This clearly shows that the treaty has no effective force on the mainland China governed by the PRC. The Japanese government itself had taken a negative attitude to recognizing ROC's legitimacy as China's representative during the whole negotiation process with the ROC regime. On January 17, 1952, the same day when the Yoshida letter was published, Japan's Foreign Affairs Ministry stated that Japan does not recognize the ROC regime as the representative of all of China ("The status of the reparation issue in the negotiation to establish the Japan-ROC Peace Treaty," p. 307). While not recognizing ROC's sovereignty over the mainland China, the Japanese government utilized ROC's weak position to force the ROC regime to renounce war reparations, which was an issue "mainly of mainland China" -- the word by Japan's plenipotentiary himself (p. 297). Even the U.S. showed a negative attitude on the treaty's effectiveness in mainland China. As expressed by Dulles to Gu Weijun, "It is a deceitful fabrication to state that the treaty is effective in, and can apply to mainland China or the North China territory" (p. 234).

So, why did the Japanese make such great efforts to establish such a peace treaty without applicability? Because it intended to promote the fabrication that China has renounced war reparations; then it can utilize this "fact" to influence the negotiation with the PRC later (p. 298). This is a new form of the previous imperialist dividing policy toward China (p. 306). It caused a definite distrust and an endless antagonism between the two great peoples of China and Japan. Actually, as the author indicates, the Japanese government from the beginning had denied the right of both the ROC and the PRC to request reparations. The central issue of the 1952 peace treaty negotiation was NOT how to structure war reparations, but whether the ROC regime has the right to demand them. Then, Japan repeated the same process in the negotiation of the 1972 Japan-PRC Common Communique. By recognizing the same right to request reparations by the two Chinese governments, Japan gained the actual benefit of having both Chinese regimes acquiesce in its denial of responsibility to pay war reparations. However, even from the lawful view, both the 1952 Japan-ROC Peace Treaty and the 1972 Japan-PRC Common Communique left important faults on the central issue of reparations (Preface, v).

It can be fairly said that the author has successfully reached his claimed goal, as well as developed some new findings. For example, concerning to the Yoshida letter, the author concludes, "If there was no understanding from the ROC regime beforehand on the definition of ROC's sovereignty in this letter, the Yoshida letter itself would not exist" (p. 242). Also, this book is original because it "relies completely on ROC's historical materials" (Prologue, p.4), which became accessible recently. By doing so, however, it will raise some readers' (especially Japanese) suspicions of some statistical figures which should be studied further in detail. For example, "looking only at the period of China's total resistance from 1937 to 1945, 21 million Chinese were injured, and among them 10 million were killed. . . . The Japanese army killed three hundred thousand Chinese in the Nanking Massacre alone. . . . 930 Chinese cities were occupied. Direct economic loss is 63 billion US$, and indirect economic loss comes to 500 billion US$" (Prologue, p.12). This makes it necessary for the governments, especially the Japanese government, to publish all relevant materials for thorough studies. Recently, Japan's Foreign Affairs Ministry published its 23rd time diplomatic documents of the 1950s and 1960s (Yomiuri Shimbun, February 24, 1997), but the sensitive documents related to war reparations are still kept secret.

The book could be organized better. Some repeated expressions in different chapters are redundant. The references occupy too many pages (pp. 337-464). Some of them, such as ROC's first draft for negotiation to establish the Japan-ROC Peace Treaty (in Chinese without translation) and the copies of raw writings may be omitted. Indeed, if this book were still a doctoral dissertation, I would give it a superior mark. As an academic publication, presumably held to a higher standard of merit as indicated by imagination, style, and the ability to convey to readers a sense of the importance of its subject, I found it less satisfying. For me, it is all the more disappointing to read the ending that seems to try to avoid a clear conclusion while such a conclusion has been shown several times through the whole book.

By the author's introduction, there are two meanings of the reparation: 1) the "war reparations" with states as recipients, 2) the "loss compensation" in which states as well as communities and individuals may be recipients (Prologue, p.9). This book deals with only the first aspect of the Sino-Japanese war reparations. While such approach has caused serious conflicts among researchers from China, Japan and the U.S. with their different national backgrounds, this book offers a proper stimulus for further discussions on this issue and general Sino-Japanese relations. Recently, along with the raising of human rights consciousness among Asian people (e.g., the "ianfu" issue), the second approach has received more attention. Among Japanese researchers, Kagami Mitsuyuki has worked in this direction, similar to the Polish style of war loss compensation. His approach to the reparation issue is based on his human rights activity protecting Chinese democratic activists in Japan (See his speech published in The Newsletter of the Association to Protect Chinese People's Human Rights in Kansai Area, Issue 17, pp.16-20, October 1996). Obviously, as have happened in South Korea and Taiwan, China's democratization will continue to make a strong impact upon Sino-Japanese relations. Sensitive as the subject is, this thoughtful book will also have implications for the development of Sino-Japanese relations. Everyone concerned with postwar (and post-Cold War) East Asian politics will find it an excellent reference.

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Citation: Jing Zhao. Review of Yin, Yan-Jun, Chunichi Senso Baisho Mondai--Chogoku kokuminseifu no senji/sengo tainichiseisaku wo chushin ni. H-Japan, H-Net Reviews. April, 1997.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=942

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