Asian Tensions and the Problem of History
May 28, 2013
The political turmoil currently roiling Northeast Asia — a region that should otherwise be basking in success right now — can often seem bewildering to outsiders. One key to understanding, however, can be found in a surprising location: a single recent photograph.
On May 12, a journalist snapped a picture of Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, grinning from the cockpit of a fighter jet. Such politician photo-ops are neither unusual nor controversial in the West, where the worst thing they tend to provoke is eye-rolling (think of Michael Dukakis looking like Snoopy in a tank during his failed race for the presidency in 1988, or George W. Bush’s landing on an aircraft carrier in May 2003, and beaming under a banner declaring that the war in Iraq was a “Mission Accomplished”).
5月12日，一名記者拍下日本首相安倍晉 三(Shinzo Abe)微笑着坐在一架戰鬥機駕駛艙中的照片。在西方世界，這樣的政治擺拍頗為平常，也不會引發爭議，其所能引發的最糟的東西就是讓人厭煩（想想1988 年，在以失敗告終的總統競選期間，邁克爾·杜卡基斯[Michael Dukakis]坐在一輛坦克中，看上去像史努比[Snoopy]的那張照片；或者2003年，喬治·W·布殊[George W. Bush]降落在一架航空母艦上，笑容爛燦，他頭上方的一條橫幅寫着：伊拉克戰爭「任務已完成」。）
Not so in Asia, at least not these days: no sooner had the photograph of Abe appeared than howls of anger erupted across China, and one of South Korea’s largest newspapers, Chosun Ilbo, excoriated him for his “never ending provocations.”
Jiji Press/Agence France-Presse
One might have expected a picture of Japan’s leader atop military hardware to have raised a few eyebrows in the region — after all, his country is still officially pacifist. But few casual observers would have predicted just how much fury it produced, or the particular detail that sparked it. It turns out that the real outrage wasn’t Abe’s jet itself, but the marking on its side: the number 731. By unhappy coincidence, 731 also happens to have been the number of an infamous Imperial Japanese Army unit that conducted hideous chemical weapons experiments on live victims in Manchuria some 70 years ago.
雖然人們可能預見到，一張日本領導人在軍 事裝備上的照片會在該地區引發一些不滿——畢竟，日本在官方名義上仍是和平主義國家。但是，漫不經心的觀察者中幾乎沒人會預見到，這張照片竟引發了如此多 的憤怒，或者是照片的什麼細節導致了這些憤怒。其實，真正引發憤怒的不是安倍晉三坐的戰鬥機，而是戰鬥機側面的一個標號：731。而很不幸的巧合 是，731也是一支臭名昭著的日本帝國陸軍部隊的番號，大約70年前，這支部隊在滿洲進行過慘無人道的化學武器活體實驗。
That the gaffe — seen as a deliberate insult by many Chinese and South Koreans but almost certainly an accident — would trigger such furious condemnation speaks volumes about the explosive role history continues to play in Asia today, and helps explain why the region seems on the brink of not one but several conflicts.
To grasp history’s power for disruption, consider first everything Northeast Asia has going for it. In many ways things could scarcely be better at the moment, and the region’s powers should have strong motivation not to let anything rock the boat. After all, while most of the world struggles with the Great Recession, China, despite having just weathered a delicate leadership transition, is still humming. (Yes, the latest growth figures show some softening, but not the hard landing that many analysts feared.) South Korea, meanwhile, just democratically elected a strong, pro-American president, and the country’s growth rate just hit a two-year high.
要了解歷史的破壞力，首先要考慮一下東北 亞的所有有利因素。在很多方面，目前局勢基本上不能再好了，該地區的大國應有強烈的動力，不讓任何事情擾亂現狀。畢竟，當世界上大部分國家在和經濟大衰退 作鬥爭時，雖然中國剛經歷了一場微妙的領導人換屆，但仍然運轉正常。（當然，最近的增長數據顯示其經濟有些疲軟，但這不是很多分析人士所擔心的硬着陸。） 與此同時，韓國前不久通過民主的方式選舉了一位強有力的親美國總統，該國的經濟增長率也剛創下兩年來的新高。
And then there’s Japan, which, under Abe’s unexpectedly able stewardship, has shrugged off nearly two decades of decline and is suddenly on a tear. Despite the market turbulence this week, the Nikkei stock index has been hitting five-year highs, Sony has just posted its first profit since 2007, and Japanese consumers are finally buying again.
Sure, North Korea has tried to complicate the political picture, but even Kim Jong-un’s belligerence has proved more a blessing than a curse, since his temper tantrums only underscore the need for his neighbors to work together.
Yet, despite the many reasons to cooperate, those Asian neighbors aren’t doing so — at least on the strategic side, where things are about as bad as anyone can remember. Beijing and Tokyo are locked in an escalating squabble over the control of some desolate islets known in Chinese as the Diaoyu and in Japanese as the Senkaku islands, with armed ships from both countries playing a dangerous game of chicken in the waters offshore. Meanwhile, Japan is caught in a separate island spat with South Korea, whose president, Park Geun-hye, just spent a significant portion of a visit to Washington lambasting Abe — who, as leader of the one other powerful democratic U.S. ally in the region, should be her closest friend.
然而，儘管有很多合作的理由，但是這些亞 洲鄰居並沒有這麼做——至少是在戰略層面上，當前的戰略局勢與人們記憶中最糟糕的一樣。北京和東京陷入不斷升級的衝突僵局，為爭奪對一些無人居住小島嶼的 控制權爭吵不已，這些小島被中國稱為釣魚島及其附屬島嶼，而日本稱之為尖閣諸島，雙方派出的載有武器裝備的船隻在附近海域玩起了危險的懦夫遊戲。同時，日 本也在與韓國開啟對另一個島嶼的爭端，而韓國首相朴槿惠(Park Geun-hye)剛剛在對華盛頓的訪問期間，花了大量時間抨擊安倍晉三。然而，作為該地區另一個美國盟友的強大民主國家領導人的安倍，本應成為朴槿惠最 親密的朋友。
The real source of all this bitterness, of course, and the reason it’s so hard to resolve, is that it actually has little to do with the islands themselves, or with various other pretexts. As Abe’s unfortunate photo-op highlighted, what’s really at stake is the legacy of what happened in the region during the first half of the 20th century. That’s when a rapidly modernizing Japan set out to establish itself against the imperial European powers by brutally carving out and exploiting an empire of its own in Korea, Northern China and elsewhere.
當然，所有這一切紛爭的真正源頭，以及這 些紛爭如此難以解決的原因，實際上與那些小島本身或其他多種借口無關。正如安倍不幸的政治擺拍所突顯的，真正的厲害衝突所在，是20世紀上半葉該地區所發 生事情的歷史遺產問題。那時，一個快速現代化的日本決定在亞洲建立自己與歐洲帝國列強抗爭的地位，手段是通過在朝鮮半島、中國北部及其他地方野蠻地建立一 個屬於自己的帝國，在這些地區進行掠奪。
Seventy-plus years later, those events still rankle, and turn small problems into big ones. Take the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. China claims that before Japan seized them in 1895, they were Chinese property — and that the decision by Washington (which seized them in turn from Japan in 1945) to hand them back to Tokyo in 1972 only perpetuated a longstanding injustice. Now that China is strong again, Beijing intends to correct the record, however little value the barren islets actually have.
70多年後，這些事件帶來的痛苦仍在發 酵，把小問題變成大糾紛。比如釣魚島/尖閣諸島的例子。中國宣稱，在日本1895年搶走這些島嶼之前，它們是中國領土；而華盛頓（1945年，美國從日本 手裡奪走了這些島嶼）所做出的在1972年把它們交還給東京的決定，維護了長久存在的不公正。現在中國已再度強大，北京要糾正歷史記錄，不論那片荒島的實 際價值有多麼小。
Or consider another flashpoint. Abe has recently distracted attention from his economic agenda by reviving talk about revising Japan’s pacifist Constitution, one of his longstanding priorities. The prime minister’s proposals, which include renaming Japan’s “Self-Defense Forces” and allowing them to come to the aid of an ally like the United States if attacked, hardly seem radical. But Asian fear of Japanese militarism still runs so deep that even tiny moves like these create tremors.
或者考慮另一個引發憤怒的導火點。最近， 安倍重申修改日本和平憲法的言論——這是他長期的一個政策重點——轉移人們對其經濟議程的關注。日本首相提出一系列提案，包括重新命名日本的「自衛隊」， 允許其在像美國這樣的日本盟友遭到攻擊時，給以援助，這些提議聽上去並不極端。但亞洲各國對日本軍國主義的恐懼如此之深，以至於即使是像這樣的微小舉動， 也會引發震動。
All of which begs a big question: Why can’t these countries just let the past lie, especially when doing so would be so clearly in their interests? Yes, there are plenty of ugly traumas to overcome. But Japan has been a pacifist, liberal democracy for nearly 70 years now, and it’s hard to imagine it threatening anyone.
The answer is that no one will go first. The best thing that could happen for Asia today would be for Japan to apologize once and for all in a manner that is as clear, comprehensive and un-nuanced as possible. This means doing something like what Chancellor Willy Brandt of Germany did in 1970 when he fell to his knees before a monument to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, or when President Richard von Weizsäcker recognized the principle of Germany’s “collective responsibility” a decade later.
答案是沒有人願意邁出第一步。對今天的亞 洲來說可能出現的最好情況是，日本以儘可能清楚、全面且最不會引起誤會的方式作出徹底的道歉。這就意味着日本要做出一些像德國人那樣的舉動，比如1970 年德國總理維利·勃蘭特(Willy Brandt)在華沙猶太隔離區起義紀念碑前跪下，或者是十年之後德國聯邦總統里夏德·馮·魏茨澤克(Richard von Weizsäcker)承認了德國要承擔「集體責任」的原則。
Imperial Japan’s crimes were not the same as Nazi Germany’s. But democratic Germany has profited enormously from its open, non-defensive approach to the country’s past, and democratic Japan would as well. Japan’s victims, for their part, should press to have their legitimate grievances comprehensively addressed — and then move on, as France, Russia and even Israel have done with the Third Reich’s descendants.
日本帝國犯下的罪行與納粹德國不同。但是 民主的德國已經因自己開放地、毫無戒心地面對本國過去的態度獲得了巨大的好處，而民主的日本如果這麼做也會得到好處。從日本的受害者角度上來說，他們應該 尋求設法全面解決他們的合理積怨的方法，然後既往不咎，就像法國、俄羅斯，甚至以色列對待第三帝國(Third Reich)的後代那樣。
But this, sadly, is unlikely to happen: Politicians in the countries concerned have too much to gain (or so they think) from continuing to stir the pot. Thus Japan likes to point out that it has already apologized multiple times for its misdeeds, and that it has even paid compensation in some cases. This is true. But it’s also true that various Japanese politicians, catering to their conservative and contrition-weary base, continue to undermine those apologies by questioning them and the historical record.
然而不幸的是，這不太可能發生。相關國家 的政治家們從繼續攪動這一亂局中能獲得太多（或許是他們自以為）的好處。而日本則可能指出，它已經為自己的過錯多次道歉，甚至還為一些個案支付了補償金。 這沒錯。但是還有很多日本政治家會為了迎合保守派和懺悔意識較弱的選民，通過質疑道歉和歷史的方式，繼續弱化這些道歉。
When I interviewed Abe in Tokyo two weeks ago he was carefully opaque on whether Japan had been the aggressor in World War II, and defended the right of Japanese leaders to visit Yasukuni Shrine (where 13 Class-A war criminals are buried) by comparing it to America’s Arlington National Cemetery.
兩周前我採訪安倍晉三時，他對日本是否是 二戰中的侵略者這一問題很謹慎地不置可否，並為日本領導人參拜靖國神社(Yasukuni Shrine)辯護，把那個埋葬着13名日本甲級戰犯的神社與美國的阿靈頓國家公墓(Arlington National Cemetery)相提並論。
Japan’s neighbors, meanwhile, are just as guilty of exploiting the past for present ends. For all China’s talk about lost sovereignty, for example, it’s no coincidence that Beijing only started expressing interest in the Diaoyu/Senkaku after a United Nations survey suggested the presence of oil nearby in 1969. Chinese politicians also know that playing the victim card goes over very well at home. Stoking resentful patriotism is a handy way to distract the population from a raft of social and environmental problems and the hollowing-out of China’s communist ideals. Why let facts get in the way?
與此同時，日本的鄰國也同樣犯有利用過去 來為現實謀利的錯誤。比如，儘管中國大張旗鼓地討論喪失的主權，北京其實是在1969年聯合國調查組表示在釣魚島/尖閣諸島附近發現石油之後才表示對島嶼 有興趣的，這絕非巧合。中國政治家也知道在國內打受害者的牌十分管用。在國內蓄積仇恨的愛國主義情緒可以輕易地將人們的注意力從諸多社會和環境問題上轉 移，可以填補中國共產黨空洞的理念。幹嗎要讓事實去妨礙這種做法呢？
Given such thinking on all sides, the chances are low that Asia will transcend its problems with history anytime soon. Yet that doesn’t mean there’s nothing the region’s leaders could do to improve things. Short of a full accounting, there’s another option that, though partial and unsatisfying, could help calm tensions. The idea, which China’s new U.S. ambassador Cui Tiankai suggested to me in an interview recently, would be to simply shelve the thorniest issues and work around them.
鑒於各方的這些權衡，亞洲要在短時間內超 越自身歷史問題的可能性十分渺茫。但是，這並不意味着該地區的領導人就不能去做些改善之舉。雖然不能徹底解決問題，至少有一個可能的選擇，儘管較為偏頗， 也不盡如人意，但卻能平緩緊張局勢。最近中國新任駐美大使崔天凱在一次採訪中向我表示，這個選擇便是擱置爭議，避開這些棘手的問題。
That is not as crazy as it sounds. In fact, such a strategy has worked elsewhere — between China and Taiwan, for example. Both Beijing and Taipei insist the island is part of China proper — but both have tacitly agreed to live with the status quo (de facto independence) without forcing the issue.
Even Japan and China have tried something similar before. In 1972, China’s prime minister, Zhou Enlai, struck a quiet deal with his Japanese counterpart, Kakuei Tanaka, to simply ignore the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute. It worked: The understanding held for almost three decades, until a newly empowered China started testing the boundaries a few years ago and Japan bought the islands from a private Japanese citizen in 2012. (Tokyo claims it was only trying to prevent private building there; Beijing saw the purchase as yet another provocation.)
甚至中日之間也曾嘗試過類似的辦法。 1972年，中國總理周恩來與日本首相田中角榮(Kakuei Tanaka)避開在釣魚島/尖閣諸島上的糾紛，簽署了一個和平協議。這一措施取得了成效：這種理解維持了近30年，直到幾年前才出現問題，因為重新感到 強大的中國開始測試邊界，而日本在2012年從一個公民私人手中購買了該島。（東京稱此舉僅僅是為了避免在島嶼上修建私人建築；而北京則將購島行為視為又 一次挑釁。）
Striking a few new deals along these lines would not be easy today. In China especially, the nationalist demon would be hard to stuff back in its box. Nor would this approach salve the private pain of those, like former wartime “comfort women,” still seeking acknowledgement and reparations from Tokyo. But it would cool the region’s boiling waters while letting all sides save face. And it might just be the only way to avoid an actual shooting war that no side, despite the overheated talk, wants or could afford.
依照上述建議達成新協議在今天已非易事。 特別是在中國，很難將民族主義這隻惡魔再控制住。而這種解決辦法也不能減輕一些人的私人痛苦，比如戰爭時期的「慰安婦」，她們依然在尋求東京承認罪行並給 予補償。但是這種辦法可以冷卻該地區沸騰的局勢，挽回各方的顏面。而這也許是避免一場真槍實彈戰爭的唯一辦法，畢竟雖然各方言辭激烈，但卻沒有誰願意或者 能夠承擔得起這樣一場戰爭。
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