OnPoint by Keith Ng


Dear DomPost

Why did you print an op-ed (in the print edition on 17 May) on why Chinese people should be denied basic civil rights in Japan?

I'm not sure if anyone from your paper actually read the piece by Yuriko Koike, but in her article (also available via an online syndication service), nominally about the Chinese naval build-up in the Pacific, she talked about "particular foreign residents" and “foreigners with a particular interest”. Specifically, she railed against a "controversial" law that would "allow particular foreign residents on the island to vote in local elections".

If you don't understand the euphemism, let me spell it out: She is saying that it's dangerous to let Chinese residents in Japan to vote in local elections.

Koike is a Japanese politician, and of course it's her right to say such things. But it seems a little fucked up for a New Zealand paper to give half a page to a Japanese politician arguing against giving Chinese residents the vote in Japan.

That's the explicit one. The rest is really subtle and I guess you can be forgiven for missing it.

The world watches and wonders whether China will follow Japan’s path and emerge as a fully modern yet peacefully inclined country."

History has repeatedly demonstrated that such ambiguity, particular if practiced by a rising power, can spark an arms race. The secretive naval build-up of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Germany, for example, helped incite World War I."

What's wrong with these sections? Don't you find it a little weird that she compares China's naval build-up in the Pacific with Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Germany? The last real challenge to US naval supremacy in the Pacific was, of course, the Empire of Japan. The fact that she omits that, and cites Japan as the model of peaceful development is dog whistling a very specific political worldview.

Think I'm being overly sensitive? Turns out, she is actually a member of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform and pays homage at the Yasukuni Shrine. She is a card-carrying historical revisionist. As in literally revising history books. She is of the view that the historical narrative of Japan as an aggressor in World War II, of the atrocities committed during its invasions and occupations, is mostly anti-Japanese propaganda. The Nanking Massacre, where 100,000-300,000 people were killed and 20,000-80,000 women and girls were raped, was literally reduced to a footnote in these textbooks:

At this time, many Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed or wounded by Japanese troops (the Nanking Incident). Documentary evidence has raised doubts about the actual number of victims claimed by the incident. The debate continues even today.”

She is, to a Chinese person, what a Holocaust denier is to a Jew.

Again, she has the right to say such things. But it makes this article analogous to a Holocaust denier talking about why Israel's military might is a threat to stability in the Middle East and saying that they need to disarm and be a model of peaceful development and multilateralism like Germany.

At face value, it's a straightforward argument. But in a historical context, it's deeply and grossly offensive.

Dear DomPost, I don't mean to be a dick about it, but clearly, this all went over your head. However, the voting thing should have stood out. Anyone who read the piece should have realised that "particular foreign residents" was a xenophobic euphemism. Even if you didn't notice the large historical revisionism elephant in the room, you should've seen that it was at least a thinly veiled piece of xenophobia.

My beef isn't that you printed something that I found offensive, but that you didn't have a clue that it was. You skimmed through a wire service you subscribe to and saw something about Chinese naval influence in the Pacific – which is practically a New Zealand angle, right? There was a whole lot of stuff in there that didn't immediately make sense, but you had half a page to fill on a budget of nothing, so you pulled it down and forwarded it to layout. Besides, it's just filler, so who gives a shit? Right?

P.S. Please consider this a submission to your opinion page. Thanks.

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