Reading Response: Nish, Duus, and Mitter on why Japan invaded China

Image by U.S. Army – United States Military Academy, West Point, Public Domain, Wikipedia

 

Ian Nish, “An overview of Relations Between China and Japan, 1895-1945,” The China Quarterly 124 (1990): 601-623.

Peter Duus, “Introduction, Japan’s Wartime Empire: Problems and Issues,” in The Japanese Wartime Empire, 1931-1945 (1996): xi-xlvii.

Rana Mitter, China’s War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival (2013), 1-118.

 

All three authors are presenting arguments about what led up to Japan’s invasion of China. Like LaFeber, Duus focuses primarily on the economic aspect of Japan’s invasion.

Nish promotes the idea that Japan’s expansion into China was strategic and was intended to create a buffer between Japan and the USSR. This point also comes up in Mitter’s work and is interesting because it paints the situation in the Pacific as a sort of preamble to later Cold War politics between the US and the USSR, which would also impact China and Japan by reversing their positions vis-à-vis Western powers. According to Mitter, the US’s preeminence in the region through Japan after the Pacific War would create lasting resentment in China.

Mitter examines the details of internal Chinese politics in an attempt to show that China was more than just a passive victim of Japanese aggression. LaFeber barely touched on China’s role in the war. Nish and Duus both present China as being weak and fragmented, consistently encouraging outside intervention into the conflict. Mitter clearly shows that Chinese nationalists took an active role in shaping China’s future, but internal conflict coupled with external aggression or indifference crippled the country. According to Mitter, China did not become truly unified until active hostilities with Japan broke out. Was the conflict with Japan really the creation of a new national identity based, or simply a convergence of interests among disparate parties? And does a national body have to be unified to be legitimate?

Duus brings up the point that the myth that GEACPS was legitimately for the good of Asia lives on in Japan because people are trying to reestablish a national identity. Guilt is shifted away from Japan onto external forces that supposedly made Japan’s actions necessary. How much of a role did Western colonialism and expansionism play in China’s weaknesses as a country and Japan’s drive to become economically self-reliant? Were there other options available to Japan and what factors prevented those paths from being explored?

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Often considered the “national dish” of Singapore, this is a food that’s widely loved by Singaporeans and visitors alike.  Also, it’s one of the few local dishes served on Singapore Airlines, giving you the opportunity to get a taste of Singapore before you’re even in Singapore.

Here’s a quick history of the dish (the links in this quote will all go to Wikipedia pages):

Hainanese chicken rice is a dish of Chinese origin most commonly associated with Singaporean cuisine or Malaysian cuisine, although it is also commonly sold in neighbouring Thailand, and found in Hainan, China itself. So-called due to its roots in Hainan cuisine and its adoption by the Hainanese overseas Chinese population in the Nanyang area (present-day Singapore), the version found in Singapore region combines elements of Hainanese and Cantonese cuisines along with culinary preferences in the Southeast Asian region. The dish was popularised in the 1950s by Moh Lee Twee, whose Swee Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant operated from 1947 to 1997. [1]

You can find at least one stall at every food center selling chicken rice, as it’s usually called here. Typically you can get it either roasted or steamed. I prefer the roasted, but my wife loves the steamed version, which is probably why she loves Mr. Chicken Rice so much (shown in the top picture).

Mr. Chicken Rice is a restaurant in E-Hub, Pasir Ris in the Downtown East area that sells a specific type of steamed chicken rice. I don’t recall the whole back-story, but the chef that got that location going used to work for a five star hotel in downtown Singapore. Eventually, I think the restaurant decided they didn’t need him anymore, so he went out on his own and started up his own business. The restaurant at E-Hub is always jam packed, and even though I don’t generally like the steamed version it’s damn good!

To me, chicken rice is the staple dish of Singapore. It’s also my ‘safe’ dish. When I’m wandering back and forth in the food court and I can’t figure out what I want, or I’m scared to try something new, I always settle on the chicken rice. I know it’s good and I know it’s safe. The recipe is more or less the same wherever you go. All you have to worry about with chicken rice is whether the guy behind the counter gives you a bad cut of meat (too many bones) or not.

Chicken rice is also something that people apparently get really passionate about.  For example, recently the Malaysian government tried to claim chicken rice (“”We cannot continue to let other countries hijack our food. Chili crab is Malaysian. Hainanese chicken rice is Malaysian,” in The Star newspaper.”) as a native Malay dish, which is kinda ridiculous.  Even the name says Hainanese. Singaporeans were outraged by the idea, but I don’t see why either side is fighting so hard over where chicken rice belongs.  The current status or love of the dish in either country doesn’t matter much when you realize that it’s originally, and factually, from Hainan in China.  The dish doesn’t belong to Singapore or Malaysia.  It belongs to China.  It’s simply been imported to the two countries along with other cultural and culinary traditions.  That’s one of the drawbacks of being a multicultural society of immigrants like Singapore, Malaysia and my own country (US) are.  The only traditions you can claim as actually being your own are the ones that develop in the area.  Previous traditions that you bring with you don’t really count.  Also, it’s worth it to note that 44 years ago Singapore was a part of Malaysia, rather than an independent nation.

Regardless of where it came from, or who it ‘belongs’ to, chicken rice is a dish that I’ve come to love greatly and will come to miss greatly if I can’t find it when I leave this country.  My loss on that one.

China Kills Its Own Citizens

Back in April I wrote a post about China and how it sold poisoned gyoza to the Japanese.  I then went off on a rant about how China is ruining its world image, because here lately everything that comes out of China is poisonous or defective.  If you’re wondering why I’m so pissed off about China doing this stuff, it’s because most of those products wind up on the shelves of United States grocery stores and department stores, just waiting to poison some unsuspecting person or child. Not to mention that it’s just stupid, and I don’t like stupid. China’s economy relies on exports to other countries, and they’re causing people all over the world to not trust and to not want to buy their products. They’re killing off their livelihood, one screw-up at a time.

I’m also kinda pissed off at the US government for not doing better pre-screening on items imported from China.  They have a proven track record of producing bad quality items.  If a man has a record of sexual offenses against children, appropriate measures would be taken to make sure he didn’t do it again right?  So why is it that a country is producing and exporting bad products to the US, some of them potentially lethal, and we just keep on letting them do it?  Can we fine the country as a whole?  Can we do anything to let them know that this behavior isn’t welcome? How about a 1 month embargo on all China-made products? If they won’t listen to common sense, maybe they’ll listen to dollar sense.

On the other hand, what can we really expect from a country that not only poisons the world, but poisons its own citizens as well?  The following video is about Yunnan province, where factories are producing massive amounts of pollution that are causing near lethal levels of lead blood poisoning in the region’s children.

There’s pollution in every country, but within acceptable limits. This is just blatant and damn near disgusting, as it shows a lack of respect for human life. Not to mention that it’s killing children.

Good job China.  Not only do you try to screw over the rest of the world, but you’re stupid enough to shoot yourself in the foot as well.  I guess when you’re citizens have no freedoms and no way to protest or affect change it doesn’t matter, right?

(Image Source: Vegetarian Organic Blog)