How the Second World War is plummeting Japan’s Economy

The lobster street in Osaka Dotombori, Japan

Davey Meelker

The Japanese economy shrunk 3.5% on an annual base between July and September. Further, the trade deficit doubled last October to 6.7 billion dollars. A great cause is of this economic downfall is the Chinese boycott on Japanese products. The shipments to China decreased 11.6% last month and the car export even plummeted with 82%. We shouldn’t just look to the islands disputes to know the reason for this boycott, we have to go back 75 years when Japan invaded China and the conflict between the tow countries erupted into a full war.

When Japan invaded China they rapidly claimed many victories. They captured Shanghai and at the end of 1987 they occupied Nanjing, China’s capital back then. In Nanjing the Japanese brutally killed thousands of people one by one and raped many women. China estimates that 300.000 innocent Chinese lost their lives in the event that is described as ‘the rape of Nanjing’ in history books. This massacre and many other Japanese atrocities are not forgotten and forgiven, especially because Japan never apologized. They even don’t recognise a great part of what they did in the pacific war (read more about Japanese perception of the Pacific War here).

This lack of Japanese remorse led to widespread anti Japan sentiment in China. The islands dispute only brings this sentiment to the surface. The dispute itself can be traced back to the wars between the two countries. China claims that Japan took the islands from China in 1895 and therefore the islands are historically part of China. After Japan lost the Pacific War China claimed ownership over the islands.

The fact that Japan never apologized for its atrocities is one reason that the anti Japanese sentiments are not yet dissolved and could erupt with the islands conflict. One simple reason for Japanese behaviour is that they never had to apologize to its Asian victims (by far the majority of the victims). Japan was finally defeated by the United Stated and showed remorse to them. Since then they were focused on the West and became the biggest Asian economy and the most powerful country in region. They could easily ignore other Asian countries.

Now things have changed. China’s economy became the second largest in world replacing Japan as Asia biggest economy. The playing field has changed and Japan is forced to look towards China. The result is a big clash between the highly nationalistic countries.

Hopefully the future will be better, but there are no signs. It seems impossible for both countries to give in. Both cultures and their great nationalism will obstruct the process. It will be seen as the lose of face, something which is impossible to live with. This escalating conflict will be the top priority of the new Chinese and Japanese leaders. Nevertheless, the most important seats of the Chinese Communistic Party are occupied by conservatives: five out of seven. Therefore, it seems unlikely that new leader, Xi Jinping, will lead China into another direction. Japan is preparing itself for new elections and it is likely that the conservative party will win and its leader Shinzo Abe will be the next prime minister. It is unlikely that that the nationalistic and conservative politicians of both countries want to negotiate over the islands. For them it is ‘all or nothing.’

It is fascinating that the war between both countries still lives on till the day of today. If only Japan apologized and both countries had not such a nationalistic and conservative approach. Unfortunately, there seems unlikely that this conflict will be resolved in the upcoming years. When will the two countries finally make peace?

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  1. The war from a Japanese perspective: Yasukuni-jinja « - December 3, 2012

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