With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

China and Japan: Seven Decades of Bitterness

"Do you feel guilty about what Japan did to China during the war?" It was a question that I had to translate more than once during a trip to Japan with Haining Liu, a former reporter for China's state broadcaster, CCTV.

It was Haining who posed that question to some of our interviewees - the oldest of whom would have been a child in 1945.

"I feel sorry for what happened," said one man. "There were many regrettable incidents," said another.

"But maybe my regret isn't enough?" added one of them, a Japanese nationalist, who argues that most school textbooks exaggerate the abuses carried out by Japanese soldiers. "No," Haining responded. "It's not enough."

There are some undisputed facts. Japan was the aggressor, occupying Manchuria in northern China in 1931. A wider war began in 1937, and by the time Japan surrendered in 1945, millions of Chinese had died.

A notorious massacre occurred in the city of Nanjing, which was the capital under the Kuomintang government. Atrocities were also carried out in other Asian countries.

But it made me feel uncomfortable every time I had to translate the word "guilt" into Japanese. And none of our Japanese interviewees would use it....

Read entire article at BBC News