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Joint Historical Research and Textbook Projects

Indeed, cosmopolitanism expanded in the field of the history problem at large because more and more historians and educators joined the transnational network of NGOs supporting cosmopolitan commemoration. In fact, transnational projects by historians in East Asia had already begun to emerge in the early 1980s. After the 1982 textbook controversy, Japanese historians had formed the Comparative History and History Education Research Group (Hikakushi Hikaku Rekishi Kyoiku Kenkyukai) in Tokyo in December 1982. Since August 1984, the research group had organized the East Asia History Education Symposium every five years by inviting South Korean and Chinese historians to exchange interpretations of historical events in the region.65 Moreover, in December 1997, the Japan History Education Research Group (Rekishi Kyoiku Kenkyukai) and the South Korea History Textbook Research Group began holding joint symposiums on Japanese and South Korean history textbooks. They tried to understand how Japanese and South Korean historians interpreted the history of relations between the two countries differently, as well as explore the possibility of creating common teaching materials. Then, in June 2000, the Japanese and South Korean research groups jointly published Perspectives on Japanese and South Korean History Textbooks (Nihon to Kankoku no rekishi kyokasho wo yomu shiten), a collection of research reports by symposium participants. In addition, professors of history and history education from Japan and South Korea organized a joint symposium in Tokyo in December 2001, criticizing JSHTR’s history textbook as “inappropriate as a history textbook that should seek historical truths and facilitate mutual understanding and peaceful cooperation.”66

In contrast, it was difficult for historians in Japan and China to organize similar joint projects given the Chinese government’s policy. In 1994, Murayama Tomiichi’s government tried to start joint historical research with the Chinese government, but in fall 1995, the Communist Party’s propaganda department, the State Education Commission, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences reportedly issued a secret directive to ban Chinese historians from participating in research projects sponsored by the Japanese government. Although the Chinese side later retracted the directive, it still demanded that the Japanese side “should not engage in free exchange with Chinese research institutes and scholars. . . . Since Japan’s aggression toward China is an objective historical fact, there is no need for joint historical research to create a new historical understanding or reevaluate existing ones. . . . The problem is that Japanese people do not sufficiently acknowledge and feel remorse [for Japan’s past aggression].”67

In July 2001, however, a small but important development occurred in Beijing. At the international symposium on Japan’s militarism organized by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Japanese participants proposed creating a forum for exchanging historical views and collaborating on historical education through the nongovernmental channel. The Chinese Academy welcomed the proposal and organized the Forum on Historical Understanding and Peace in East Asia in Nanjing in March 2002. At the forum, participants from Japan, South Korea, and China agreed to jointly produce a history textbook.68

To implement the joint history textbook project, participants from the three countries held the first editorial meeting in Seoul in August 2002. The Japanese side consisted of university professors, high school history teachers, and members of Children and Textbooks Japan Network 21 and the Asian Network for History Education in Japan—NGOs that had been demanding more extensive coverage of Japan’s past wrongdoings in Japanese history textbooks. The South Korean side consisted mostly of university professors and high school teachers affiliated with NGOs that had investigated historical facts about Japan’s wartime atrocities; for example, the Council for Correcting Japanese Textbooks (1 ater renamed Solidarity for Peace in Asia and History Education) and the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan. The Chinese side consisted of members of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, university professors and doctoral students in history and history education, and researchers at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, who specialized in the Second Sino-Japanese War and Japan’s wartime atrocities in China.69

Throughout the duration of the project, participants critically examined their textbook drafts. Their discussions became heated at times because the participants had different educational backgrounds and understandings of what historical research should be.70 Given these differences, the participants strongly disagreed with one another over the section on the Nanjing Massacre. The Chinese side originally submitted a draft that contained graphic pictures and descriptions of rapes, looting, and atrocities to illustrate how three hundred thousand people had been massacred. The Japanese side argued that students could not properly understand both the massacre and the Second Sino-Japanese War unless the textbook described the sequence of events that had led the Japanese military to Nanjing in the first place. Eventually, the editorial board decided that it was more constructive to develop a comprehensive picture of the Nanjing Massacre based on historical evidence than to pass down the Chinese government’s official commemoration to the next generation. The editorial board therefore decided not to present three hundred thousand as the correct number of dead, but to cite the various numbers of dead estimated at the Nanjing Military Tribunal and the Tokyo Trial and to provide detailed descriptions of historical contexts that had led to the massacre.71

Another point of contention was how to describe civilian victims of the Asia-Pacific War. At first, the Japanese side presented a draft chapter that discussed the bombings of Chongqing by Japan and the atomic and fire bombings of Japanese cities by the Allied powers as examples of large-scale damages to civilian populations. The South Korean and Chinese sides responded by expressing the following concerns: first, it might not be appropriate to categorize Chinese and Japanese victims as the same type of victims of indiscriminate bombings; second, in countries that had suffered from Japan’s aggression, some people might think positively of the atomic bombings as bringing an end to the war; third, the Japanese side, for its part, might risk downplaying Japan’s war responsibility by emphasizing the inhumane aspects of the atomic bombings. In the end, the editorial board decided not to use the pictures of dead bodies that the Japanese side had originally submitted, but to focus on detailed descriptions of the capabilities of the atomic and fire bombs, and print Japanese survivors’ testimonies of the bombings.72

After three years of discussion, the editorial board published the joint history textbook, A History to Open the Future, in May 2005, in three different languages and countries. The editorial board noted that the textbook was meant to offer a counterpoint to the nationalist commemoration of the Asia-Pacific War in Japan—specifically, JSHTR’s history textbook that “justifies Japan’s war of aggression and colonial rule, distorts historical facts, look down on Asia from a Japan-centered xenophobic perspective, and promotes narrow-minded nationalism.”73 Between 2005 and 2007, about 79,000 copies of the joint history textbook were sold in Japan, 65,000 in South Korea, and 130,000 in China.74 After the publication of A History to Open the Future, the project continued and published the second and expanded edition of the textbook in September 2012.

In addition to A History to Open the Future, other joint history textbooks and teaching materials came out of similar collaborative activities by Japanese and South Korean NGOs in the mid-2000s: for example, Gender in the Modern History of Japan and Korea (Jenda no shiten kara miru Nikkan kingendaishi) by the Japan-South Korea Joint Commission for History Teaching Materials in 2005; Confrontation of Japanese and Korean Histories (Mukaiau Nihon to Kankoku no rekishi) by the History Educationalist Conference of Japan and the South Korea National Associations of History Teachers in 2006 and 2015; A History of Japan-Korea Relations (Nikkan koryU no rekishi) by the Japan History Education Research Group and the South Korea History Textbook Research Group in 2007; and Learn and Connect: A Modern and Contemporary History of Japan and South Korea (Manabu tsu- nagaru Nihon to Kankoku no kingendaishi) by Japan-South Korea Team for the Production of Common History Teaching Materials in 2013.75

Along with these joint projects by NGOs, the governments of Japan, South Korea, and China also began to organize joint historical research projects in response to the escalating history problem. First, the Japanese and

South Korean governments launched the Joint Historical Research Project in May 2002, based on the agreement that Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichiro and President Kim Dae Jung had made during their summit meeting in October 2001. Between May 2002 and March 2005, the members of the project had meetings in both Japan and South Korea and published a final report in June 2006.76

Mitani Taichiro, cochair of the project and professor of Japanese politics and diplomacy at the University of Tokyo, explained that they hoped to create “an academic community of historians that transcends national borders through the joint historical research project [because] the problem of history textbooks is rooted ultimately in various controversies over the history of relations between Japan and South Korea.” At the same time, however, he recognized that the creation of such a transnational academic community was difficult, “particularly in the discipline of history because every country has a tradition of national history . . . [and] the discipline of history contributed to the formation of nationalism.”77 Bearing this out, several South Korean members expressed their frustration with the Japanese side in the final report. In particular, they questioned why the Japanese side refused to discuss the issue of history textbooks even when it had motivated the joint historical research project in the first place. They also noted that both the Japanese and South Korean sides failed to adequately address nationalist biases in their own versions of history. Jeong Jae Jeong, a history professor at Seoul City University, observed, “Every commission member felt pressured to speak on behalf of his government . . . and this increased distrust and misunderstanding between the two sides.” Kim Hyeon Gu, a professor of history education at Korea University, was also disappointed that “neither side could move away from self-centered nationalism in any signifi-


cant way. 78

Although the project members were frustrated, they nonetheless agreed to continue the dialogue. The Japanese and South Korean governments then launched the second round of the joint historical research project in June 2007. This time the governments expanded the project by creating a new subcommittee on history textbooks. This new subcommittee was also the largest, consisting of twelve members.79 They held multiple meetings in Japan and South Korea between June 2007 and November 2009 and published a final report in March 2010. Again, Japanese and South Korean project members had strong disagreements over the interpretation of various historical events. The debates of the subcommittee on history textbooks were so intense that one of the South Korean members later reflected, “Since both sides engaged in criticisms that came close to personal attacks, we could not have scholarly debates,” while another noted that “committee members were unable to have constructive discussion because they lacked mutual trust.”80 Despite these problems, the Japanese and South Korean governments agreed in December 2011 to organize the third round of the joint historical research proj ect.81

Concurrently, the Japanese government started a similar joint project with China. At the height of anti-Japanese sentiments in China in April 2005, Japan’s minister of foreign affairs, Machimura Nobutaka, met with his Chinese counterpart, Li Zhaoxing, in Beijing, and they agreed to pursue a joint historical research project. After Abe Shinzo became prime minister in September 2006, he immediately visited Beijing to repair Japanese relations with China. During the summit meeting, Abe and Chinese president Hu Jintao agreed to proceed with a joint historical research project, and the two governments launched the Japan-China Joint Historical Research Project in December by commissioning a total of twenty historians.82 The project was cochaired by Kitaoka Shin’ichi, a professor of diplomatic history at the University of Tokyo, and Bu Ping, a professor of modern Chinese history at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who had also participated in the production of A History to Open the Future. Between December 2006 and December 2009, project members held multiple meetings to discuss their research papers and exchange comments on the history of Japan-China relations. Then, in January 2010, the Japanese and Chinese governments published a final report of the joint historical research project.83

The final report adopted a “parallel history” format: for each historical event or period, two different papers were presented—one by a Japanese historian and one by a Chinese historian. Despite this parallel-history format, papers written by Japanese and Chinese historians converged on the interpretation that Japan had waged a war of aggression against China. Another convergence was found in the research on the Nanjing Massacre. As Shoji Jun’ichiro, a historian at the Ministry of Defense, recounted, all members of the subcommittee on the modern-contemporary period agreed that it was more important to examine how and why the massacre occurred than to argue over the number of dead.84 In other respects, however, the Japanese and Chinese versions of history remained divergent. The Japanese participants tended to describe Japan’s aggression against China in terms of a nonlinear and contingent sequence of events that resulted from a complex interplay between geopolitical situations and decisions made by Japanese government officials. Their Chinese counterparts, on the other hand, tended to see Japan’s aggression in terms of a linear and deterministic sequence of events originating from the Meiji Restoration.85

Moreover, the final report did not publish two components of the joint project: papers on the contemporary period (after 1945) and comments on all the papers. Originally, the Japanese and Chinese sides agreed to incorporate these two components in the final report. The Chinese government, however, reportedly intervened during the final stages of the project. After the Japanese and Chinese sides had negotiated for over a year, the latter eventually agreed to publish all but the six papers on the post-1945 period and the participants’ comments. Throughout the negotiations, China’s project leader Bu repeatedly told the Japanese side that they wanted to publish all the

outcomes of the joint project, but it was difficult for them to do so because of

« ”86 various pressures. 86

In January 2010, the Japan-China Joint Historical Research Project finally published its report with twenty-four papers on the history of relations between the two countries from the seventh century to 1945. Both Kitaoka and Bu evaluated positively the final outcome of the project because they believed that both Japanese and Chinese members managed to reach “the level of proper scholarship where both sides can say, ‘Even though I cannot agree with the other side’s opinion, I can at least understand how the other side came to such an opinion.’ ”87

Thus, despite their shortcomings, the joint projects promoted the logic of cosmopolitanism: the process of constructing historical narratives incorporated foreign perspectives, and the content of historical narratives focused on transnational interactions. Specifically, the fact that the national governments of Japan, South Korea, and China supported the joint projects demonstrated the degree of institutionalization of cosmopolitanism. Although national governments had previously focused on nation-building, they now began to operate as vehicles for “cosmopolitan nation-building” by combining nationalism and cosmopolitanism.88

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