China and Korea share a land boarder while these two countries share a maritime boarder with japan. Despite these countries being very close to each other, they have had very divergent modern evolutional histories: all have very different cultures. China and Korea are close in proximity, culture and evolutionary story. However, these two countries differ with japan in culture and modern history and have had strained recent relations. Outwardly, the countries may seem to have a lot in common including close style of calligraphy, martial arts, architecture, cuisine, religion as well as mythical creatures. However, closely looking into their societies and especially since the recent history, more specifically in the course of industrial revolution, japan took a similar path with European powers becoming the first Asian country to industrialize. This country also maintained this lead in development and became the most industrialized nation in Asia and sometimes the entire world. On the other hand, China and Korea lost their lead in development centuries ago which made the two countries to be viewed as poor developing nations instead of world leaders and a global power as they had been. At some point during colonization, japan colonized and later occupied China and Korea which has strained the relationship between these countries. This paper will seek to find out if japan can have a normal relationship with China and Korea after centuries of strained relationships. The paper will also seek to show that these countries have had very different cultures for centuries which make the chances of reconciling their differences and having a normal relationship very complicated. It is also important to note that the word china in this paper refers to People’s Republic of China (PRC) as opposed to the Republic of China (ROC /Taiwan). The paper will begin with the history of their culture to a point in time where differences emerged causing uneasy relations. The paper will also look into factors that have made the relationship between Japan and China and Korea to be strained in the current time as well as talk about.
Historical facts about Japanese, Chinese and Korean Cultures
Throughout the ancient history, much of the northern China and Korea was one kingdom with very close cultural ties. However, Chinese and Japanese civilizations were very different although Japanese came from Chinese. Since the two civilizations were very close to each other, the dominant one influenced the less dominant. Chinese civilization was the most dominant in north East Asia.
While the Japanese civilization dates back to the first century Ad, the Chinese civilization dates back to 2070 BC. China is the oldest civilization thriving to date: it still has as written and well preserved records of its successes and pitfalls throughout most of ancient times. The earliest well preserved documents date back to 1500 BC. The cradle of northern Asian civilization that spread to all other neighboring countries was the yellow river in the present day China. Another recorded source of this civilization was the Yangtze River still in China. In these early days, the Chinese culture evolved which varied according to regions as it spread. The common feature of this culture was the mythical creature: the dragon that is seen in the Chinese, the Japanese and the Korean culture. Another aspect of the Chinese culture that spread throughout the region is the martial arts although they evolved differently in all regions to produce what is seen today.
The Chinese philosophy and literature originated in China between 1046 BC and 256 AD under the Zhou dynasty. When this dynasty collapsed, multiple warring states arose each of which was ruled by warlords. However, this had the overall influence of expanding the Chinese influence to the neighboring areas. Large parts of the present day China would unite under the Qin Shi Huang in 220 BC. The subsequent reigns developed a functional government bureaucracy that ruled China until 1912.
During the first century AD, marked interactions took place between the Chinese civilization and Japanese. When the two societies converged, the Chinese was more advanced with a developed form of writing. At this time, Japanese had not developed a form of writing so they borrowed the Chinese radiographs as they needed to communicate with Chinese. It is believed that they learned Chinese although the common language in two geographically separate populations evolved differently to produce separate languages. Around the same time, the Japanese did not have a dominant religion. Their encounter with Chinese transferred Buddhism and Confucianism to them. These two borrowed religions co-developed with the Japanese Shintoism such that there are significant Buddhist populations in japan today. The Japanese Shintoism also borrowed the art of building temples from the Chinese.
After the Chinese warring period, they developed an effective bureaucracy that unified and ruled the entire kingdom for many years. The Japanese borrowed many aspects of the Chinese form of bureaucracies including tittles as well as official functions. Additionally, the first Japanese constitution had many Chinese aspects among them the centralization and the organization of the government. Along with the government and various systems, the Japanese borrowed various aspects of Chinese city planning. Cities in the ancient China had angular buildings and straight streets which was important for efficient movement of goods and people. The Chinese also applied this concept in many other aspects of their lives including irrigation. This was taken up by Japan when the two civilizations begun interacting between the first and the 10th century. As Buddhism came to japan from China, the new converts begun adopting the Chinese ways of building reliquaries and temples: this was one way through which Chinese architecture passed to the Japanese. This influence of the ancient Chinese on japan can be seen in the old cities of Nara and Kyoto all of which have rectangular gardens and straight streets.
The earliest mentioning of the kingdoms of Korean peninsula in the history of north East Asia especially in Japan was between 600 and 900AD. In this period, Japan sent a number of students to China to study governance and help the Japanese to effectively govern their archipelago. It is in this process that they mentioned of a collection of kingdoms in the Korean peninsula. These scholars later mentioned that this confederation of kingdoms collapsed still in the reign of the Sui and the Tang dynasty in the mainland China. In this period, the Japanese took up the Chinese form of government and their law. However, this was short-lived as they reverted back to clan and family rivalry in the 10th century AD.
Between 600-1500 AD, the two civilization carried out large scale maritime trade with each other across the East China Sea. This happened as Japanese increased their navigation prowess. Some of the earliest ports that were utilized in this trade were the Hangzau in China and Ningbo in japan. The island of Rukyu (the modern day name is Okinawa) played an important part in this trade and absorbed both the Chinese and the Japanese cultures in the form of cuisine and martial arts among others. Over these centuries, the Korean developed their civilization from the Chinese like the Japanese had done before. As results Koreans became more and more culturally and politically different from the Chinese and the Japanese. Japanese emperor Hideyoshi had at one point tried to invade China but failed. Between the 10th and the 17th century, Japanese political landscape was characterized by civil wars that ravaged the country. Over this time, there was a rise in lawlessness and the rise of Japanese pirates (wokou) which complicated trade between China, Korea and Japan. These pirates did not only rob sea vessels but also the wealthy ports across the sea.
Since the beginning of the 17th century, three families aimed to unify japan. One of them was led by Hideyoshi who was successful. After this, the Japanese developed some sense of self confidence and wanted to conquer China. Hideyoshi lead the Japanese forces across the East China Sea but was refused access by Korea. As a result, he captured Korea and passed to the Ming dynasty and close to Manchuria. The Chinese and the Korean united to resist and repulse the Japanese invasion but this lead to a long war. The Japanese forces were driven south by the Chinese but the war was not won easily by either side but resulted to a stalemate. Chinese agreed to recognize Hideyoshi as the king of japan as a pre-condition for withdrawal and the war ended. This was the first time the Chinese and Koreans united against the Japanese. With the unification of japan seen earlier, this lead to increase in confidence among the Japanese and they arranged a second invasion across the East China Sea. However, China and the Korea had realized that japan was no longer friendly and had prepared for such an invasion. The Koreans with the help of Chinese repulsed and defeated the Japanese.
The deterioration of relations between modern Japan on one side and China/ Korea on the other side begun in 1856 when a war broke between China and British. China being an agrarian country and British, with the help of France being industrial powers, China lost the war. Japan felt that there was an urgent need to industrialize to avoid such losses in future, the turn of events in this time lead to shifting of total political control of entire japan under Emperor Meiji. Japan was forced to trade freely with the west and could not risk a war due to the indicative outcome of the first and the second opium wars. The control of Ryukyu Islands, Taiwan and the conflicts between China and japan led to the first and the second Sino-Japanese wars which threatened to fragment china into small territories of Russia, Britain and Japan. The United States forced all other states to avoid fragmenting china and insisted that any trade with a nation should occur through mutual benefits than war and force. Japan only took Ryukyu Island, but helped to overthrow the Qing dynasty and install a puppet government of the Republic of China. This was the beginning of the bad relations between the two countries in the modern history. Korea was insignificant at this time. The First World War led to occupation of some parts of China by Japanese after they defeated Germany. Russia on the other hand occupied China in the region north of Manchuria. Japanese occupation of China would be the reason for the greatest armed conflict in Asia during the Second World War.
After the First World War, japan wanted to have colonies like the western friends as well occupy regions that were rich in resources. Japan established a puppet state in Manchuria and named it Manchukuo. The Chinese tried to resist occupation but Japan used its bigger military might to silence the Chinese but failed to recognize that such was happening. Japan used its power to force agreements that benefited at the expense of China, his lead to second Sin-Japanese war in which China lost Shanghai to japan. Japanese forces began mass looting, killing and raping of Chinese: this became a full blown war. The Chinese retreated and pulled guerilla stances which stalled further Japanese advances. This has been among the worst point of the Sino- Japanese relations. By this time, japan had occupied Korea and much of south East Asia. Due to the bombing of the Pearl Harbor, the US and allies purposed to defeat japan.
Due to many wars that have been waged by Japan against China since the 15th century, China has learned to see Japan as an ambitious neighbor who always had expansionary desires. This view is held by Korea due to the above instances. Additionally, there are other instances in which the Japanese behaved in a manner not typical with the north Asian culture in which the Japanese society was degraded to an extent that bandits and pirates came from it. This seriously affected their neighbors. The ultimate events of the early part of the 20th century further strained the Chinese and Korean view of Japan. After japan industrialized to the levels of the western powers, its immediate moves were to attempt to occupy China and Korea. This was a big betrayal to the Chinese people who did not attempt to occupy japan in the years of Chinese prosperity.
After the involvement of the US and the allies in WW2, Japan had multiple battle fronts top take care of. As a result, the poorly equipped Chinese army defeated the Japanese invaders. Later on the US defeated and occupied japan in the post WW2 era. The success of China in driving out Japan meant that China and Korea could no longer trust their maritime neighbor; Japan. This was the height of the dissonance in relations between the two sides. In the post war period, China descended in to civil strife as there was a conflict between the preferred developmental paths. Some nationalist felt that the country could develop more as a communist while the government of the day favored capitalism. This lead to a serious war in which the capitalist Republic of China (ROC) government fled to Taiwan while the mainland developed a communist government, Peoples Republic of China (PRC)
The US who was seen was the ally of Japan used diplomacy to prevent the spread of the communist government into Taiwan and effectively caused division of what would have been one China. On the other hand, the tussle between the US and USSR occupation in the Korean peninsula led to the breakup of what had been throughout the centuries Korean people into two countries; the capitalist south and the communist north. Japan favored South Korea after the end of US occupation due to the shared capitalism. After the US occupation of japan, the relations between PRC and Japan normalized and the two countries were seen to enjoy cordial relationship in the 50s. However, China and Korea has always been very wary of japan. In the years of rapid Japanese industrialization, the country (Japan) looked down on its developing neighbors such as China and Korea.
In the cold war era, Japan had signed many military corporation agreements with the US. China felt that japan threatened its security. At the same time, serious diplomatic problems between China and the US arose and for many years, the US recognized the ROC and not the PRC as the legitimate state government of China. As a result, this made China to sign several defense and military assistant pacts with the USSR to dissuade the US or Japan from ever attempting to invade the PRC. Throughout the 20th century, the relations between japan and China and Korea on the other side have been mixed. The countries have tried very much to avoid any diplomatic or military confrontations; both their relationships have been characterized by marked distrust.
China on its side has held an annual event to commemorate the day it drove out Japanese invaders which Japanese have viewed as way of reminding them of their painful defeat by the US and allies in the WW2. In 2015, these commemorations were held in the red square where the Chinese president presented a speech that was filled with anti-Japanese rhetoric. The short speech referred to the Japanese as invaders, militarists and fascists. With the increase in Chinese influence in the entire region, japan has felt threated. The country has reacted by serious rearrangements in its defense policies. For a country that for many years did not produce or export arms, the country has now reviewed its laws to beggin arms production and export to friendly states. At the same time, the country has asked to have possession of its high enriched nuclear fissile materials from the US military. It is important to note that japan has not yet made nuclear weapons despite several of its large technology companies having nuclear capabilities. Japan does not seem to be okay with the current day Chinese ability in politics, economy and defense.
Korea and Japan on the other hand has had very different relations. Japan has completely dissociated itself with the poor and the internationally isolated North Korea but has maintained cordial relationship with the south. The two countries have signed many military treaties with the US which means that it is very unlikely that they may get involved in any armed conflict soon. The greatest modern day indicator of the cordial relations between Japan and South Korea was the cohosting of the 2002 fifa world cup. However, there lies dip suspicion between the two countries with the South Korea viewing japan as a skimmer always with negative motives.
Since the rise of the current Japanese Prime Minister (Shinzo Abe) to power, the relationship between Japan and China seems to improve with the two countries holding conferences of friendship. South Korea has always been seen to be friendlier to Japan. However, sentiments among the Japanese population as well as political elite have shown that they to hold derogatory views concerning China and Korea. Some of them have been seen to use derogative terms such as ‘third world nations’ to refer to China and Korea. Some Japanese are not ready to come to terms with the fact that China is the second richest country with the second largest economy in the world.
Due to pride among some Japanese people among other factors, they have been seen not to be happy with China’s and South Korea’s prosperity and have used terms that can strain relations between these countries. Due to the fact that some of these sentiments come from the political and the economic elite among the Japanese population, japan might not be able to have a normal relationship with China and Korea in the near future. On the other hand, Chinas annual military parade to celebrate the defeat of Japanese will always serve to remain the three countries of their past grudges between each other which will further strain the relations.