Peace between China and Japan

EDITORIAL, 27 Feb 2017

#470 | Johan Galtung - TRANSCEND Media Service

Keynote: New Vision of Peace in East Asia – Sino-Japanese Peace Dialogue
Nanjing, 22-23 Feb 2017

As Buddhist philosophy teaches, peace, like violence and conflict, is a relation; not an attribute of China or Japan. As Daoist philosophy teaches, in a holon like East Asia there are forces and counterforces, yin/yang, with yin and yang in both, &c.

Negative peace would relate the two without violence or threats; positive peace would relate them with good things flowing.  Reality?

Past: the “Nanjing massacre”. Present: threats between China and USA-Japan “collective self-defense” also for Senkaku-Diaoyu, de facto US occupation of Japan.  Future: no vision beyond balance of threats.

Hence, peace between China and Japan has to be created: visions of peaceful futures, solving present conflicts, conciling past trauma.  Peace does not flow from the past. But peace may flow from the future.

Geographically the two countries are close, yet very different.

Japan, ethnically homogeneous, had 125 Emperors since -659(?), succeeding by blood lineage.  The Emperor was spiritual, praying for peace and welfare of people and country.  But since Meiji 1868, Taisho and Showa up to the 1945 defeat Emperors, modeled on European Kings, were military commanders-in-chief in uniform. Then back to the old; the present Heisei era standing for creating peace within and without.

Japanese military used to be high up in terms of social status.

China, ethnically very diverse, has had a number of dynasties, some short, some long, with usually very bloody successions. The Chin dynasty from -221 unified. Han became a powerful source of identity, also in what after the last Ching dynasty 1644-1910 was called China. Chinese military used to be low down, run by warlords known for cruel massive killing, sexual violence and looting. Like in Japan, (–Nara-Kyoto-Tokyo) the capital changed (–Xi’an-Nanjing-Beijing); unlike Japan, China as a state in the state system is only a century old, from 1911; more similar to Europe in history than to states in Europe.

Future: Can countries with conflict (incompatible goals) and trauma (wounds from past violence) live together? Potentially yes, eg. in a Northeast Asian Community-NEAC–learning from EC–or Association of Northeast Asian Nations-ANEAN–learning from ASEAN. The other part of One China, the two Koreas, Mongolia and Russia Far East might join.

And by trade for mutual and equal benefits, also for common people; but not at the expense of local productive capacity.

Present: Can countries split by the dilemma of mutually exclusive ownership of Senkaku-Diaoyu find a solution?  Yes, by learning from Buddhist wisdom the tetralemma: Chinese, Japanese, neither-nor–back to family private ownership before Japan nationalized–or both-and; going beyond, transcending to joint ownership, dividing net benefits from EEZ navigation rights, fish and seafood, what is on and below the ocean floor, like fossil fuels.  The simplest division is by equality; like 40-40-20; 20 for administration-maintenance. Thailand-Malaysia did 50-50 for their contested maritime sector (Tun Mahathir).

Past: Can countries traumatized over the Nanjing December 1937+ massacre, including the trauma of having traumatized, live in peace?

That the Japanese Army committed atrocities is not contested even if much alleged evidence is not authenticated. It became an issue with Japanese publications in the 1960-70s and Chinese later, in the 1980s.

Confrontations escalated from 1931. The national Kuomintang army under Chiang Kaishek, supported by USA, Nazi Germany and European colonial powers, attacked the Japanese Shanghai enclave in 1937. The Japanese army pursued to the capital Nanjing the retreating national army that failed to protect civilians, fled, shed their uniforms, and was infiltrated by Communists-Komintern-USSR.  Many were killed, by whom? Could four Nanjing massacres 1913-1927-1937-1949 with skeletons literally and as metaphors, tell more about Nanjing than about Japan? Was there an agreement among parties concerned to blame all on Japan?

Questions for an International Fact-finding Commission?

A focus on only one narrative about a massacre does not make Nanjing a peace city, but at best an anti-war city.  Not the same.

For a peace city, the three proposals might serve as examples: joining in a Northeast Asian Community, joint ownership of disputed islands sharing benefits and costs, an international commission to sort out conflicting narratives about the third Nanjing massacre.

But more is needed, and the proposals for this conference are excellent, like “Peace City Construction”.  What could that mean? A site for conferences is obvious, but beyond that?  Sending missions to other places in the world with similar problems, and there are many (the Congo 10 million-massacre under Belgian King Leopold; in South America 20 million by Spain; in North America 10 million by the USA).  Having an institute of peace studies, not only massacre studies?  A center for mediating conflicts and conciling traumas, for citizens of this marvelous city, and beyond, for the world?  All feasible.

Focusing on “East Asian Peace Building”, with a center for the activities indicated? Maybe sharing with the Okinawa-RyuKyu islands, given their location in-between, geographically and ethnically?

Massive youth participation is essential for all of this.

Working on Memorial in Caen-Normandie-France for the invasion in 1944, visions of future peace were added to the memory of past war.

Being consulted on the Yasukuni shrine, homage to the dead of all kinds–like the Okinawa memorial–and rejection of war, were proposed.

How to avoid World War II 1939-45, and the Pacific War 1931-1945? Alternative futures, and alternative pasts; for visitors to discuss.

The best way of honoring those whose lives were taken from them, including Japanese soldiers, is to work for a solid Never Again. But that is only negative peace; add the positive peace of joint projects.

The future is in our hands.


Postscriptum from Nanjing-PRC 27 Feb 2017

I am standing at the crossing of two avenues, listening to the noiselessness.  Scooters small and big are passing by, noiselessly.  Asking one of the owners, he said, “electric”.  Cars are passing; only noise is from the wheels on the asphalt, no engine noise.  Electric.

Buses are passing, trucks–engine noise, soft, but engine noise.  Not electric but few, unlike the swarms of motorbikes, scooters, cars.

I inhale fresh air in this 8 million city; capital 6 times till the 1949 revolution when Mao moved the capital to polluted Beijing.  I look up, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, early spring.  People walk fast, all differently, and casually, well dressed. So normal!     One senses the tripling of salaries last decade in the industry.

I look at the traffic lights. Huge, countdown in green from 90 seconds in one direction, from 30 for the other, with 3 seconds yellow and the drivers know very well when to get started.  So noiselessly!

I look at the buildings, huge towers and small like in villages, most in-between, all different, with interesting architectures.  Real roofs crown the buildings, not just chimneys and elevator houses. If the roof slants toward the south many large solar heaters. So green!

And there it is: the Yangtze River, meeting the Yellow River.

Both polluted, no doubt.  Quietly they flow, not that huge, among the longest in the world, but not in terms of masses of water. Amazon.

The thoughts revive the first visit in 1973: all in Sun Yatsen blue, no scooters, no cars, millions of bikes. Three revolutions later –completing the Cultural Revolution, Deng Xiaoping economic growth revolution and Xi Jinping distribution revolution lifting villages up–only the geographic location is the same. 1949-1967-1980-2016.

With that dynamism, how about the next 40 years? An economy more than double the USA of course; but revolutions?  Nobody knows.

But this is where the future is unfolding, for our eyes and ears.


Johan Galtung, a professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. Prof. Galtung has published 1670 articles and book chapters, over 450 Editorials for TRANSCEND Media Service, and 167 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

Tags: , , , ,

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 27 Feb 2017.

Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Peace between China and Japan, is included. Thank you.

If you enjoyed this article, please donate to TMS to join the growing list of TMS Supporters.

Share this article:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

One Response to “Peace between China and Japan”

  1. Steve Moort says:

    Brilliant essay! Thought-provoking – the part about re-thinking and re-assessing Nanjing and the events surrounding it, is both intelligent and challenging. No doubt that the Japanese army did commit horrendous crimes, but much of the narrtive has been one-sided and conveniently gloss over other parties responsibilities.

    I may offer another challenge than. What if the assumption that the Chinese economy is “unstoppable” is wrong? The essay is about China and Japan, and I find a plausible that China will end up doing a “Tokyo”. A hard landing followed by years of non or sluggish growth. In that case the whole set of predictions and the conflict scenarios will have to be re-written.