China unimpressed by Abe’s WWII commemoration speech

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s speech about WWII led to much debate in the media about Japan’s history and its current international role. A record number of foreigners went to Japan last month but the economy is struggling. And the pop group AKB48 were praised as peacemakers but continue to annoy some foreign male writers.

The language of Prime Minister Abe’s speech on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII was much scrutinised, in both Japanese and English. The English version included the key terms “aggression,” “colonial domination,” “deep remorse,” and “apology.” The Diplomat magazine said the statement was widely accepted in Japan because most Japanese people agree that those born after the war should not have to keep apologising. The Financial Times, now owned by Nikkei, praised Japan, noting that its armed forces have not fired a single bullet at an enemy in seventy years. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he hopes the statement will be received as a positive contribution to reconciliation between Japan and its Asian neighbours. Yet the Chinese and South Korean press expressed dissatisfaction with Mr Abe’s words. Xinhua of China said the speech was insincere and filled with “linguistic tricks” while Park Geun-hye, South Korea’s president, said it did not live up to her expectations.

The diplomatic tension surrounding the anniversary of the end of the war did not prevent South Korean or Chinese people enjoying Japan this summer. They arrived in record numbers in July, when the total number of foreign visitors reached nearly two million. The tourists are attracted by the weak Japanese yen, which should be good for many Japanese businesses, especially exporters. However, economic problems are emerging. Exports from Japan to China are down and overall the Japanese economy shrank again. It was not a particularly dramatic contraction – down 0.4% in the three months to June or 1.6% on an annualised basis. However, some reports said  Abenomics is not working and others questioned if Japan is set for a stock market crash.

The Japanese pop group AKB48 enjoy an enormous following in Asia are appeared to be advocating peace with their song and video We Don’t Want To Fight (Bokutachi wa Tatakawanai). There was a provocative article by the Japanese-American author Roland Kelts in The Japan Times. He said AKB48’s success suggests the infantilisation of women. Chris Harding of Edinburgh University agreed on the BBC that the band play into the western stereotype of subservient Japanese women. The same BBC piece also challenged the Western myth that Japan is inherently strange. Yet what other country could have produced a robot hotel with a dinosaur on the front desk?