Academic journal article The Journal of Psychohistory

Psychohistorical Hypotheses on Japan's History of Hostility towards China

Academic journal article The Journal of Psychohistory

Psychohistorical Hypotheses on Japan's History of Hostility towards China

Article excerpt


Since 2012, the world has been reading on a weekly basis of accelerating tensions between Japan and China (e.g. Blodget, 2014; Schiavenza, 2013; Tisdale, 2012). The causes of this conflict are usually seen as arising from East Asian geopolitics including: a) the U.S. "pivot" to confront China in the Asia Pacific region, inducing Japan and other allies to take hostile postures (Martina & Blanchard, 2014); b) territorial disputes over uninhabited islands 130 km northeast of Taiwan (called Diaoyu Islands by China, Senkaku Islands by Japan, and Tiaoyutai Islands by Korea); and c) Japan's reluctance to show remorse for WWII atrocities in China.

If tensions and military preparations continue to accelerate, the outcome might be a mutually destructive war between Japan and China, perhaps leading to nuclear war. The staid Business Monitor International (2014) reported that China has been Japan's largest trading partner since 2009, accounting for 20% of Japan's commerce. Nevertheless, the national government of Japan seems to have decided to provoke conflict with China. First, Japan in 2012 unilaterally nationalized the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Second, Japan's Prime Minister Abe in 2013 visited the Yasukuni shrine honoring war dead including officers convicted of war crimes in China. Third, Japan in 2014 initiated changes to Article 9 of the Japanese constitution "to enable Japan to take military action overseas even if it is not under attack" (Business Monitor International, 2014, p. 8). Japan also increased its military budget in 2013, 2014, and 2015 to an historic record high of $42 billion (McCurry, 2015). Japanese leadership knew, or should have known, that any one of these actions would provoke defensive response by China and might damage Japan's commercial relationship with China.

Japan's actions apparently have the support of much of the Japanese population. In full knowledge of Abe's attitudes and actions, Japanese voters re-elected the Abe government in 2014 (Martin, 2014). A 2014 survey by the Cabinet Office found that only 4% of Japanese reported themselves friendly towards China and that 83% reported feeling hostile towards China (Mourdoukoutas, 2014). Other polling results from 2014 show that 93% of Japanese had negative views of China and 29% expected war before 2020; while, 87% of Chinese had negative views of Japan and 53% expected war before 2020 (Business Monitor International, 2014). The current crisis between Japan and China is very real, and very dangerous.


Over the last two millennia, Japan has repeatedly attacked China, even though China never attacked Japan. Japan's hostility is not reactive against Chinese aggression and is not defensive in its origins. Some might argue that the Mongol invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1281 could be considered to be attacks on Japan since Kublai Khan had conquered China and installed himself as the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty. But the Japanese themselves label those invasions as "Mongol", using a special historical term (Genkö) (Tokugawa, 1911, p. 84), which literally means "Mongol invasion". Historically Japanese have referred to Mongols as "Tatars" (Dattan) or as "Barbarians from the North" (Hokuteki Beidi), distinguishing them from the Chinese (Fröhlich, 2011, 2013). The historic Japanese encyclopedia Kinmö zui, published by Nakamura Tekisai in 1666, says: "Mongols also called Tatars. When they attacked Japan, the divine winds (jinpu) destroyed [them]..." (Fröhlich, 2013, p. 2). However, recent Japanese marine archeological examinations of the sunken Mongol ships show that Chinese boat builders impaired the invasion of Japan by providing the Mongols with substandard ships and anchors (Delgado, 2008). Delgado (2008) concluded that it was not the Divine Wind of a timely typhoon that defeated the Mongols, but 1) effective Japanese tactics and 2) poorly built ships in the Mongol armada that could not withstand a storm. …

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