Wednesday, September 2, 2015

China and Japan

Even a casual observer of world affairs must have noticed the tensions, rivalry, and sometimes antagonism, between Japan and China. 

Not many decades ago, Japan enjoyed the limelight as THE wonder economy, with world beating brands like Sony and Toyota. This fueled its ever-present sense of destiny and desire to rank among world class leaders. Its industrialists enjoyed treatment in apartheid South Africa as 'honorary whites' and some of its thinkers and leaders wrote of The Japan that Can Say No (1989).  

The twenty-first century, however, seemed prepared to accept another Asian nation in the front ranks of nations. But the rivalry has deep historical roots. Current arguments over whether or not holocaust-like atrocities were committed and who is to be master of a handful of rocky islands date only to the end of the late nineteenth centuries. Apropos the latter question, I found the following map which also appears in The Ninja and the Diplomat (to be released in a week or two). It is by Maximilian D√∂rrbecker (Chumwa) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons, and shows the Air Defense Identification Zone as defined by China (CADIZ), Japan (JADIZ), and Korea (KADIZ). The islands in dispute, called Senkaku by the Japanese and Diaoyu by the Chinese, are located very close to the northeast of Taipeh.

I should make clear that The Ninja (short title), volume 2 in The Chinese Spymaster series, is not devoted to geopolitical considerations. There are two or three dialogues given over to that. But it explores also a very personal facet of the complicated feelings the Japanese and the Chinese have for each other. Here is an extract:

I apologize for my disobedience, Revered Father, and make no excuses for myself. I do not regret what I did. But it pains me, really and truly, to have caused you grief and anger. Yes, I know that you threw me out of the family business in a rage over my choice to marry my Sakura because you thought I was betraying you. Yes, I married a Chinese woman. You did not care that she came from Taiwan and not the mainland, that she and I had met at a Japanese university, or that she became more Japanese than any woman I have ever met.

She was meant to be only a plaything at college. Who could have foretold that we would fall in love? When I hinted at her existence, you and Mother refused to listen any further. You made me pay court to numerous daughters of your esteemed business colleagues. You sent me away on long trips to learn the business, so you said. You and Mother warned me of your implacable refusal to consider a Chinese daughter-in-law, even though I pledged to you my unquenchable hatred for China. 

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