Japan and History

Japan and History

150 150 Jamie Metzl

Japan has truly been a miracle country in the 70 years since the end of the war. It has grown its conomy spectacularly, built a vibrant democracy, and been an exemplary champion of world peace. With so much to be proud of, it is unfortunate that Japan remains mired, to a certain extent, in the global debate around the history of its colonial and wartime years. This is the case partly because the Chinese government has manipulated the Japan history issue for its own domestic political purposes (and virtually ignored the massive deaths attributable to Mao and his policies, and Mao was responsible for significantly more Chinse deaths than were the Japanese) and partly because Japan has not done all it might have to come to terms with its colonial and wartime historical record. The country has come a long way, but that progress pales in comparison to how much Germany has recently done in this regard.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement a couple of days ago commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender and end of the war was certainly not a step backward, as some had feared, but it would be hard to call it a step forward. As I discuss in my Asahi Shimbun (essentially Japan’s New York Times) article linked here, I believe Japan would be a stronger country if its leaders like the Prime Minister saw historical accountability as something that could make the country stronger rather than as a humiliation. If interested, you might also want to look at my recent Project Syndicate editorial, linked here, which also deals with these issues.