Aug 15

The Beijing Olympics: East-West Confrontation and East-East Conciliation

Written by bianxiangbianqiao on Friday, August 15th, 2008 at 11:41 pm
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Before the commencement of the Olympic Games in Beijing, some Japanese were concerned about anti-Japanese sentiments among the Chinese, that their athletes might be booed and taunted in the competitions, and that the Chinese audience might refuse to pay proper respect to their national flag and anthem.

None of these problems has materialized. Instead, the Chinese-Japanese interaction during the Olympics is dotted with symbols of conciliation.

During the opening ceremony, in the March of the Nations, each member of the Japanese team waved a Japanese flag and a Chinese flag in one hand, pressed together, at the audience. Fukuhara Ai (福原愛) was the flag bearer of the Hinomaru. Ai-Chian spent a significant part of her formulating years in the Northeastern city of Shenyang (in the heart of the old Manchuria) for Ping Pong training, and acquired native-level mandarin with a sweet Northeastern accent. She played in Chinese provincial and national tournaments and has a significant Chinese fan base. Did anyone hear her Chinese fans chanting “小爱加油” during her matches?

In the artistic performance of the opening ceremony, the giant Chinese character harmony (和) was displayed with human formation covering the entire floor of the National Stadium. How did the Japanese instinctively react to this Kanji at the subconscious level? Harmony (和) is in the Kanji representation of Yamato (大和), which is embedded deep in the core of the Japanese identity, historically, anthropologically, and mythologically. Director Zhang Yimou had not designed this part of the show with the Japanese in mind; harmony within the Chinese society and with the rest of the world was the show’s key message. Still, harmony (和) is a conflation of shared values of the two East Asian cultures.

Ai-Chian Gambari!Gambari Nippon!

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29 Responses to “The Beijing Olympics: East-West Confrontation and East-East Conciliation”

  1. Daniel Says:

    Nice to see.

  2. MoneyBall Says:

    old chinese saying is one drop water’s favor should be repaid by a spring.

    chinese ppl is very easy to concile. I dont think that’s neccessarily a good thing.

  3. MutantJedi Says:

    For the future of the Far East, I am happy to see the effort, on both sides, to bury this old ax.

  4. Chops Says:

    “Japan marked the 63rd anniversary of the end of World War II on Friday, with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda apologizing for Japan’s attacks on Asian countries during the war.”


  5. FOARP Says:

    @Chops – In the same way as they have apologised before – is there any difference?

    @BXBQ – Is not East/west and East/East a false dichotomy? On what grounds (other than racial) do you make this division? If you still believe that it is ‘westerners’ who have caused the division between Japan and China, then why has this pressure disappeared? Finally, I note that you do not say anything whatsoever to back up your headline “East-West Confrontation” in your article – you merely presume it exists whilst offering no evidence.

  6. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    The East versus the West is a cultural division, based on values, beliefs and characteristics of social institutions.

    I have never said that the division between China and Japan has been caused exclusively by the West. However, the Western-dominated geopolitics since WII plays a role in the Sino-Japanese relations. The presence of the US military in East Asia is a big factor in the security arrangements in the area. The ideological struggle between China and the West coupled with Japan’s military alliance with the United States casts a shadow over Sino-Japanese relation. The US position on the Taiwan issue is another factor contributing to the suspicion between China and Japan, as the US military bases in Japan will likely be used in a confrontation with China in the case of conflict across the Taiwan Strait. It is clear that Western, especially US interests and involvements in the Far East complicates the Sino-Japanese relation.

    I do not understand why you are questioning the existence of a East-West confrontation. You must be pulling my legs.

  7. Lime Says:

    “The East versus the West is a cultural division, based on values, beliefs and characteristics of social institutions.”

    This is rather well put. ‘East’, in the post 19th century sense has meant Russia and its socialist satellite states, and it was the values, beliefs and social institutions that separated the socialist world from American dominated ‘West’- and of course created the conflict with it. But I don’t get how Japan can be called ‘Eastern’. They certainly have had strong leftist workers’ and students’ movements in the post-World War II era, but then so has everyone else. Unless we are viewing it from the perspective of a 18th century Portuguese sailor (telling tales of the mysterious orient), anyway you slice it, Japan is definitely ‘western’, and a lot more western than much of Europe.

  8. Chops Says:

    “In the same way as they have apologised before – is there any difference?”

    Fukuda’s current apology in Tokyo does’nt break any new ground, and appears partly to offset that he’s attending a ceremony which also offers a prayer for the war dead.

  9. FOARP Says:

    @BXBQ – What I believe you said is: “I have always had a feeling that the negativity is hyped and trumped up by elements in the West (especially the United States) with clear calculation and deliberation.”. What you’re saying now is that the confrontation between Japan and China was incidental to the need to guard against communist aggression in Asia – so which is it?

    Cultural division does not make a ‘confrontation’, and a few token gestures at a sporting event does not equal real ‘conciliation’. My guess is that should Japan try again for a security council seat (which it has as much right to as any other nation outside the council) then the antagonisms of 2005 will be dredged up again.

  10. Hongkonger Says:

    “We have two distinguished guests today. They come from different backgrounds and have held different positions. But because of one common goal, they got close to each other and eventually became friends. That common goal is to bring the Olympic Games to China.” China Central TV International – Up Close

    I watched the show this morning and was very impressed. These two elderly gentlemen’s testimonials are living proof that the West & East could work very well together. Listening to them compliment and interact with each other together with their mutual sincere mannerisms, these two global peace-makers obviously have much for us all to take serious notes from.

    At one point, during the show, Mr. Samaranch told the audience something that very few people knew about his Chinese colleague, Mr. He Zhenliang. Samaranch revealed that under that calm exterior and wisdom, Mr. He would not hesitate to show emotion to defend the good name of his country. He even yelled at members of the IOC committee for, in Mr. He’s own words, “talking nonsense about China.”

    Mr. Samaranch when asked to use a sentence to describe his colleague and friend of 30 years, said, “He is wise and is my Chinese brother.” When it was Mr. He’s turn to do the same, he told the audience that, and I am paraphrasing here, the Chinese people have much to thank Mr. Samaranch because of his unreserved love for China and the Chinese people — which by his actions have well proved, and concluded by saying, “He is my mentor and my brother.”

    What I got out of watching the program was the importance of the tone of voice — written or spoken in communication. The other thing was how little non Chinese understand our culture, and vice versa, I’m sure. This was made clear when Mr. He told the audience that he was considered as a poet and a philosopher by many foreigners, when in fact like almost all Chinese, he has the common — very Chinese tendency to quote old sayings and common Chinese clichés, a lot. In fact, Mr. Samaranch said the same of Mr. He., and they’ve been friends and colleagues for along time. This goes to show, people of different cultures and backgrounds don’t have to have an in-depth understanding of the others culture, to be able to be great friends or have a healthy working relationship. Show of mutual respect, open mindedness and humility — not perceived facts or insistence in a certain set of world view — but the aforementioned attitude expressed in good manners, over time, with patience and quiet contributive efforts, will move mountains, in order for the light of truth and understanding to shine through. As they say, change must begin with oneself.

    So, folks, the dragon can’t change its scales any more than the leopard its spots, and neither need to, either. If only we all will or choose to adopt the right attitude and practice good manners; as the Chinese has a saying, “礼多人不怪,” No one ever gets blamed for being too polite. We all know exactly what and how to do this because the truth is, everything we need to learn about life, we’ve already learned them in Kindergarten — they are not complicated, especially when the cure for the disease of arrogance and narrow mindedness is ministered.

  11. Pete Briquette Says:

    Representatives of the offending nation held aloft the flags of both countries.

    Let us see the representatives of the offended nation wave the flags of both nations, and then we can speak of Rapprochement

    Otherwise, there is not much noteworthy to remark.

  12. Karma Says:

    @Pete Briquette

    Representatives of the offending nation held aloft the flags of both countries.

    Let us see the representatives of the offended nation wave the flags of both nations, and then we can speak of Rapprochement

    That would be shallow indeed.

    This is a slow symbolic action. It does not erase what the Japanese did in WWII.

    It’s a nice gesture, that’s all…

    Much more would have to happen. Genuine apology at the existentialist level would have to occur on the Japanese front. Genuine feeling closure would have to be felt by the Chinese at the existentialist level would have to also occur on the Chinese front for this chapter to close.

    My feeling however is that the change on the Japanese front is happening very very slowly (if at all). Much more will have to happen. It would be great if the Olympics symbolize a real beginning. Only time will tell…

  13. FOARP Says:

    @Karma – I see no change on the Japanese side, they still refuse, for example, to properly apologise for their treatment of British and Commonwealth POWs, or for their treatment of ‘comfort women’, and many more of their war criminals were allowed to get away with their crimes than the Germans were, they still refuse to engage directly with WWII through their education system, none of these things has changed or will change. Ten years ago action in these matters might have mattered, but now most of the people concerned are dead or senile.

    One last thing though – whilst 27% of western POWs held by the Japanese died in captivity, more than half of western POWs captured by the communists in the Korean war died, something for which no apology of any kind has been made, or compensation of any kind paid.

  14. bianxiangbianqiao Says:


    “…more than half of western POWs captured by the communists in the Korean war died.”

    Where did you get that information? According to my informants that the Chinese treated the American POWs so well that many of them became commies themselves. Of course, the Americans say those poor souls had been brainwashed by the Chinese commies.

  15. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Pete Briquette # 11
    You have not paid much attention to the latest developments in the Sino-Japanese relation. Wang Yi has recently been promoted to the position of vice Foreign Minister. It is the first time in PRC history for a professional diplomat with his entire career devoted to Sino-Japanese relation to take such a senior position. If you watch his interaction with Japanese politicians (his demeanor and mannerism, which is all important in both countries), you know that he knows the Japanese and how to talk with them. His command of the Japanese language is much better than the English proficiency of any Chinese Ambassador to the US, including our most vocal diplomat on Western TV of all times, peasant ambassador Li Zhaoxing. At the same time, you notice the shift in the Chinese position toward the Japanese during Hu Jitao’s visit to Japan, and in the negotiation over the joint development of the Chunxiao gas-field in the East China Sea, and the Japanese secure personnel in Sichuan earthquake zones, and the downplay of Yasuguni. The wind of change is in the air.

  16. FOARP Says:

    @BXBQ – It would seem that your ‘informants’ are handing you pure propaganda. Of roughly ten thousand UN prisoners, more than 5,000 died in the prison camps, mainly due to starvation and disease, but also due to beatings and shootings. The indoctrination campaign was largely ineffective, with only 21 UN prisoners opting to stay with the communists (twenty Americans and one Brit), the majority of whom were already communists before they joined the army. Approximately 21,400 Chinese ‘volunteers’ were taken prisoner during the war, of whom 14,000 preferred to be settled in Taiwan rather than be repatriated,

  17. BMY Says:

    @BXBQ #14 and FOARP #16

    Could be both of your ‘informants’ are handing you pure propaganda ?:-)

  18. FOARP Says:

    @BMY – I am afraid not, the Red Cross was notified by the communist authorities when someone was taken prisoner, and when someone died in prison – there is no doubt about the figures. They are also backed up by the testimony of the POWs themselves, who talk about regular beatings, torture, forced ‘confessions’ to war crimes, POWs being forced into making propaganda broadcasts through withholding of rations, denial of medical treatment as well as a whole load of other things that count as war crimes. I myself worked beside a man who had been a POW in North Korea, and spoke of how he was mistreated in the camps – including starvation and beatings for not going along with indoctrination.

    As for the Chinese who opted to go to Taiwan, the majority were, as I’m sure you know, not ‘volunteers’, but former KMT troops who wanted nothing but to escape communist rule. Their arrival in Taiwan is still officially celebrated as ‘World Freedom Day’, there is also no doubt about their numbers, the exchange was organised by neutral countries through the Red Cross.

  19. FOARP Says:

    @BMY – Look, this is one of the reasons why I say that if there really was a conspiracy in the west to stir up hatred of China, this kind of thing would be in the news every day. Instead the fate of the POWs during the war is almost completely forgotten, I myself only really looked into it after working next to a former POW.

  20. CLC Says:


    Could you please provide some links on this?

    As far as I know, POW camps run by Chinese or North Koreans were of quite different conditions. On the other hand, American run prison camps were also rampant with regular beatings, torture and forced “denouncement” of communism. There was even a riot that the POWs held US Brigadier General Dodd hostage to protest camp conditions. Many Chinese POWs were coerced to go to Taiwan, but I have to say it was good for them.

  21. FOARP Says:

    @CLC – Read Max Hasting’s “The Korean War”, which has an entire chapter on the conditions in camps on both sides, and the relative loss of lives on both sides. Conditions in the Koje-Do camps was also far from ideal, but there was not nearly the rate of death found in the Yalu camps, or the kind of efforts at extracting false confessions. The decision not to return was taken freely – observers from neutral countries made sure of this (look at the North Korean prisoners, the majority of whom decided to return to North Korea). Yes, the majority of UN deaths occurred at North Korean-run camps in the first yer of the war, it is partly for this reason that of the 1,000-odd British prisoners taken, only 50 died in the camps – most of the British POWs were captured after the entry of Chinese forces. This does not mean that conditions at Chinese camps were great either, beatings were common, and false confessions were extracted – see the totally groundless accusations levelled at the United States of using biological warfare.

    I do not understand why any of this should comes as a surprise – exactly the same practices were used in China at the time, and were later used in Vietnam. Do you think that someone like John McCain, for example, would freely confess to ‘war crimes’ and broadcast propaganda messages for the communists? Why do you think the vast majority of deaths among the Dien Bien Phu garrison occurred after their surrender?

  22. CLC Says:


    Now we are dragging Vietnam into this…

    The problem I have with your line of argument is that you conflate everything together as if they were one piece. Chinese communists did not run North Korean camps, nor did they run Vietnamese camps. Were the British responsible for the Abu Ghraib prison because they are part of the coalition of the willing? It should also be noted that logistical failures do not equal to intentional mistreatment. Large number of Chinese soldiers died due to lack of food, shelter and medicine.

    It is well known that there were numerous KMT agents to assist Americans in POW camps and to say that there was no coercion involved is just wishful thinking ( http://www.centurychina.com/history/faq6.shtml ). And what an understatement to say things are far from ideal when tanks and machine guns were used to attack a POW camp.

  23. FOARP Says:

    @CLC – There are also reports of cadres being infiltrated into the camps to stir up revolt and convince the soldiers to repatriate – Hastings ascribes the comments of the NNRC to exactly this. For myself, I know that 55 years later I have not heard of one of the ‘volunteers’ settled in Taiwan coming forward to accuse the UN of exerting undue pressure being on them, or to express regret at their choice.

    I do not conflate anything, the Chinese were allies of both the North Koreans and the Vietnamese, and sent ‘volunteers’ to both conflicts, and were involved in the interrogation of prisoners alongside the Soviets, similar methods were used in all cases. The starvation of prisoners in the camps was part of this, otherwise the establishment of camps with better rations and medical treatment for those who co-operated makes no sense. The North Koreans went further than most with this, and did not recognise the propaganda value of treating the prisoners well. I’m sure you’re also familiar with the sentiment amongst WWII POWs, and the population of the Asian nation which were occupied by the Japanese army during WWII, that the Korean soldiers were the worst – I certainly heard this said in Nanjing. No doubt some of these men found their way into the DPRK army.

    In the end, however, the death toll amongst POWs speaks for itself as far as their treatment is concerned.

    The man I spoke about was himself in a Chinese-run camp, and spoke of what happened once when a radio had been discovered in his block – something he had not been party to – the guards selected someone at random – him – and then beat him until he was unconscious. The next time they found a radio they were cleverer – they called him in, chatted with him for a bit during which time he told them nothing, and then went and took the radio. His fellow POWs all drew the conclusion that he had told the guards where the radio was, and subjected him to a beating of their own. Needless to say this man had little positive to say about the Chinese POW camps.

  24. CLC Says:


    How many “volunteers” have you talked to? 😉

    Seriously, probably many more Chinese POWs would have chosen Taiwan over mainland had they had the foresight to see things 55 years ahead.

    As to how POWs were treated, I’d like to quote from the official US Korean War Commemoration site ( http://korea50.army.mil/history/factsheets/pow.shtml ), ” No cases of physical abuse resulting in the death of American POWs have been proved.” In other words, the Chinese don’t have to make up a story on how CIA agents infiltrated prison camps to commit murder.

    I am sorry for the man who was beaten up twice. But for the second one, I failed to see the communist exerted undue pressure on his fellow coalition POWs.

  25. FOARP Says:

    @CLC – It was a classic tactic, the idea being to turn prisoners against each other, the people running the camp knew exactly what would happen. As for ‘being proved’ – that would require an investigation, which of course has never been allowed. Of course the Chinese do not need to make up stories about CIA infiltration – they made up other stories about biological warfare and starved and tortured prisoners until they confessed to them. The simple presence of KMT translators in the camps is not proof of coercion, and the NNRC report could just as easily be talking about communist influence.

    As I said before, the Chinese who chose to go to Taiwan are celebrated nowadays as symbols of freedom, none of them has come forward to dispel this.

  26. CLC Says:


    Well, if everything has to be investigated by both sides to be proven true. Then none of what you have said is proven. However, it is well known that one side used tanks and machine guns to kill POWs while the Chinese side did not.

    As to KMT agents were there merely as translators, I don’t think you are really politically naive enough to make that statement.

  27. FOARP Says:

    @CLC – This of course following the murder of a few of the guards, in a pitched battle. And as I’ve said, 55 years have passed and not one of the prisoners has come forth to substantiate this story.

    Once again, in one set of camps thousands starved to death, or died due to lack of medical attention, suffered beatings and torture, and were forced to sign false confessions, in the other they did not. If anything else the statistics bear this out.

  28. BMY Says:


    “For myself, I know that 55 years later I have not heard of one of the ‘volunteers’ settled in Taiwan coming forward to accuse the UN of exerting undue pressure being on them, or to express regret at their choice.”

    I haven’t talked to any Chinese POW who went to Taiwan. But I know most of the KMT soldiers and communist soldiers were poor uneducated peasants,who were just grabbed by each side by chance not went by their own political idealism, in 1948 and 1949. So I know most of the Chinese soldiers in Korea war were still poor peasants regardless their status during Chinese civil war. I very much doubt those Chinese POW “volunteered” went to Taiwan and left their family behind in mainland because of their political choice when they had no idea of when they could come back to see Mum,Dad ,wife and kids.

    FOARP said “”As I said before, the Chinese who chose to go to Taiwan are celebrated nowadays as symbols of freedom, none of them has come forward to dispel this”

    I agree there is a celebration after what mainland went through for some of those. But for those who only be able to see the family 30 years later and many of them never got chance to see their family again, I think it’s much more complicated than just celebrate.

  29. CLC Says:

    This of course following the murder of a few of the guards, in a pitched battle.

    That was followed by the release of General Dodd, unharmed, and the promise of no retaliations against POWs.

    As I said before, those who went to Taiwan were better off, but 55 years ago Taiwan was not a land of free, far from it.

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