Monday, May 22, 2006

Are the Japanese racist? Did the Japanese commit genocide in China prior to WWII?

Before answering the questions, it is necessary to define and analyze the terms of the question. "Genocide" was coined by Rafael Lemkin to describe the actions he observed committed by the Nazis against the Jews in Europe. In Axis Rule in Occupied Europe: Laws of Occupation - Analysis of Government - Proposals for Redress published by the Carnegie Foundation in 1944, Lemkin wrote: “Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.” His word very closed described what the Nazis attempted to accomplish vis a vis the Jews and other minorities in Europe. Subsequently, observers sought to expand the term "genocide" to describe other situations in the world that were not so clearly reminiscent of Nazi atrocities. Eventually, the UN formally defined “genocide” in the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.” A close reading of this definition makes it arguable that virtually any large scale action in a conflict can be called "genocide," an interpretation that makes claims of "genocide" not particularly useful as a descriptive term.

The actions of the Japanese in on the Chinese mainland prior to and during World War II, while clearly murderous, do not seem to fit into the Lemkin's original definition of genocide. His definition hinges on the mindset and intentions of the dominant party toward the party they are attempting to eradicate. The Nazis were clearly trying eliminate Jews and other minorities from Europe, and the Nazi’s actions were clearly motivated by their ideology and beliefs. There is much less documentation to suggest that the Japanese were motivated to eliminate the Chinese from China in a "genocidal" campaign.

There is no doubt that the Japanese engaged in mass killings in China. Many Chinese were killed as a result of combat operations, but many more were killed after combat operations had ceased. The Japanese troops, who in other campaigns contemporary to Manchuria, behaved with discipline, nonetheless committed atrocities during the campaign in the interior of China. The Japanese Army operated with great restraint in Taiwan, even in the face of provocations and challenges from the local aboriginal population, and never committed the scale of the atrocities that marked the Japanese operations on the Mainland. It seems that something other than raw racism was at work.

The Japanese did have racist sentiments towards Chinese, but that does not seem to be the only motivation for the killing. As Benjamin A Valentino observed in Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the Twentieth Century: “Racism was rampant in the Japanese Army, but even in this case, strategic motives also seem to have been at work.” The strategic motives include desire to defeat and cow a restive population, and the need to ensure easy, dependable access to the resources of the Mainland. Where the Japanese had few problems pacifying the population, such as in Taiwan, there were few atrocities. Had the Japanese truly sought to exterminate the Chinese, Taiwan would have been a good place to start, with its relatively small population and the islands relative vulnerability. The fact that the Japanese did not take this easy opportunity for brutality is telling.

What the Japanese perpetrated in China does not seem to meet the definition of genocide but instead seems more like “mass killing.” While highlighting the differences between the terms "mass killing" and "genocide" make strike some as needless hair-splitting, differentiating the two allows an observer to examine the underlying motives of the actions. Mikiso Hane offered many reasons why the Japanese Army was able to actually perform the grueling, grisly work of mass killing that furthered Japan’s strategic requirements. Hane argued that the actions of the Japanese in Manchuria could be explained by the brutality involved in the training of Japanese soldiers, feelings of racial superiority engendered by military success and brainwashing and mob psychology. There is no indication that the formal policy of the Japanese government or of the Army's high command was to systemically eliminate all Chinese from China. However, to attribute what occurred in Manchuria to “genocide” makes the action easier to dismiss as some uniquely pre-McArthur Japanese aberration. On the other hand, to attribute the Japanese actions to poor soldierly discipline, to contempt for the enemy or to mob psychology bring the circumstances of the actions of the Japanese uncomfortably close to familiar contemporary circumstances. There are numerous reports of modern, relatively well trained forces committing atrocities around the world even today. Often these atrocities can be blamed on soldiers essentially being “turned loose,” unconstrained by laws of war and soldierly discipline, in order to effect the larger policies of their governments. We should be thankful that the atrocities are relatively small because these modern day deployments are dwarfed by the size of the Japanese army in China.

"Mass killing" on the scale the Japanese perpetrated in China requires a mindset inured to killing other human beings in large numbers and in close quarters. The Nazis committed their genocide in camps, automating their killing so that a relatively small, hard core did the bulk of the killing. The Soviets starved the large majority of their victims, a method of homicide that made their mass killing distant and impersonal. The Japanese Army, once unfettered from discipline, engaged in killing their victims in a retail fashion. The Japanese martial culture trained their warriors from their youth to close with the enemy, and engage in mortal combat at arm’s length. Grossman notes in “On Killing” that humans have to be conditioned to kill, especially in close combat, when fear of injury and death is at the peak and threatens to overwhelm a soldier’s training, orders and desire. The Japanese martial culture provided the conditioning that the leadership was able to harness in pursuit of national aims.

The racism that Hine observed in the Japanese Army came from the fact that Japan was an unusually isolated society. Japan is an island with few natural harbors, all of which are defensible whose major regional rival, China, essentially gave up on sea borne exploration and conquest except for a brief period in the 15th Century. The Japanese had little contact with other societies, a condition that allowed the Japanese to concentrate and refine their elaborate rituals of manners. Their isolation and safety from invasion was seen as validation for their theology of superiority and unique favor with the Gods. When the Japanese were finally forced to deal with other societies that were clearly more advanced in technology with the coming of the American Fleet, the Japanese were able to study and adopt the most useful components of foreign technology without being subjugated by a foreign power. Hence, the Japanese were able to persist in their belief in their inherent superiority, a belief that they took with them into the interior of China. The rapidity of their victories was seen as yet more affirmation of their favor with the gods and superiority over other races.

The Japanese combined their feelings of racial superiority with a society built on the culture of politeness and affront. All Japanese from their youth were trained formally and informally in deference to their "superiors" and in contempt for their "inferiors." Elaborate rituals of politeness were demanded and affronts to the rituals were punished immediately and brutally often times with death. The Japanese were accustomed to kill as punishment. More important to the willingness to use brutality to enforce cultural mores was the willingness of those oppressed to accept stoically the brutality meted out by the ruling samurai class. People in such cultures accept irrational brutality if they themselves know that by enduring, they will eventually have the chance to visit brutality on others subordinate to them. The Chinese were the ready targets for this expression of brutality by the Japanese. A western analogy to this Japanese construct can be found among the Spartans of ancient Greece. The Spartans were ruled by a warrior class, and were contemptuous of other civilizations not as organized or as ruthless as they.

The Japanese saw other cultures that did not accept their peculiar vision of society as uncouth, barbarian, and unworthy of consideration. The Japanese used, and in fact still use, dehumanizing language to identify outsiders. The Japanese had the peculiar situation where they were strong enough to maintain separation from their neighbors, but had just enough contact to develop negative perceptions of those same neighbors. As Soderberg pointed out in Japanese Influences and Presences in Asia, “Racism tends normally to be directed against people who are in a minority, in close proximity and in sufficient numbers.” For the Japanese, the Chinese were this minority.

But even given all the factors that conspired to cause the atrocities in China, was there something unique about the Japanese wanting to kill as many of their enemy as possible? The answer to that is no. Americans in every war, from the Revolution to World War II have written memoirs attesting to their desire to "kill as many of the enemy as possible." Allied forces grimly but deliberately bombed civilian targets in pursuit of total war in World War II. There was nothing unique about Japanese desire to kill large numbers of their enemy. What distinguished the Japanese was their willingness though a confluence of circumstances, to kill large numbers of the enemy, even enemy civilians, in close personal contact.


The most dramatic change in the Chinese military was the establishment of the Whampoa Military Academy. Sun and Jiang both recognized the need for scientific and systematic approach to training officers. Sun may have been more interested in insuring that the most advanced military science and tactics were taught, while Jiang was perhaps more interested in insuring that officers had correct political thoughts. They established the academy to accomplish both their goals, and largely succeeded, at least initially. Mr Lawrence pointed out the role the Soviets had in establishing Whampoa, and Whampoa’s importance in fielding new weaponry for the prolonged period of warfare from 1911 to 1946. However, I would argue that Whampoa’s larger importance was in the shared experience and zeal it fostered in the officer corps. This esprit de corps among the young officers served the Nationalists well as they grew up to assume more senior leadership positions in the military of the Republic of China, and helped the ROC to hang on, even after retreat to Taiwan.

One thing that did not change was the basic organization of the Chinese military. Warlords raised armies, and controlled territory until they were defeated or bought off by other warlords. It was interesting to read the analysis of the warlords by Edward McCord on page 176 of the Graff text. McCord makes an elaborate argument that the warlords after the turn of the century did not have any direct linkage to the warlords to whom the Qing dynasty turned for defense from the Taipings. Then, one paragraph later, McCord points out that dynasties had made a calculated decision not to have a unified army to defend against any one commander becoming strong enough to challenge for the throne. McCord calls this policy “military fragmentation.” To my mind, McCord is shaving the point too thin by denying direct linkages between the warlords of the different eras. It seems significant however that 70 years apart, we have virtually identical military organizations arising from the Chinese body politic.

It seems McCord is also missing the larger picture as well. Throughout Chinese history, strongmen have arisen from somewhere in the provinces, and if they were able, challenged to be declared emperor in a bid to unify China. These men did not have royal lineage to give legitimacy to their claims; to paraphrase Mao, their political power and legitimacy came from the point of a spear, or the barrel of a gun. The chaos of the competing warlords was an expression of the egalitarianism at work in the Chinese dynastic succession. Any strongman, regardless of his background, with the wherewithal and good fortune could seize power. For lack of a better term, warlord-ism is the Chinese way.

Another change in the Chinese military was having Sun Yatsen as the philosophical voice and Jiang Jieshi as the front man for their attempts at reform. Sun had a western education, and could make his case for the superiority of his claim to power in English to the press and diplomats of the world. He had the ability to craft a simple yet still vague philosophy such that both the Chinese communists and the Republic of China claim him as a founding father. Sun also had the keen insight to turn to the western world for military training assistance and for arms. Sun also had an able subordinate in Jiang, who though may not have been the most tactically sound General, was on occasion, politically astute and was an excellent commandant of the Whampoa Academy mentioned earlier. Jiang also had a polished, Christian wife who sold the world on the idea that Jiang and the Nationalists were more than just regional army vying for power. Together, Sun and Jiang modernized their army, forced their opponents to do the same and were able to entrench their military vision so that it outlasted their own lives. These men brought major change in the Chinese military. However, if one strips away the philosophical pretense, one finds that Sun and Jiang WERE just warlords, albeit ones who had some western education, good American PR and, paradoxically, the good fortune to have truly despicable characters like the Chinese Communists as their enemy.

Of note, the Chinese way stands in contrast to the Japanese who were able through discipline and luck to restrict power at the highest levels to just a few families.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Elleman's Military History of China

Elleman treats all the rebellions of the 19th century as an ethno-centric reaction to the Manchu rule. Elleman characterizes the Taiping Rebellion as an _expression of “anti-Manchu Han nationalism.” (pg 57) Regarding the other rebellions that Elleman covers: Nian, Tungan, and Muslim Rebellions; the author calls these “radical reflection of increased regionalism.” He then explains that the only reason that regionalism had a chance to rise up is because the Qing dynasty was so distracted by the larger Taiping rebellion, that they could not concentrate on the situations out in the provinces.

Elleman’s treatment reminds me of Sir John Harington quote from the 17th century: “Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.” The term “rebellion” is similar to “treason” in the epigram; rebellions that succeed become “revolutions” that usher in new dynasties. The Manchus/Qings themselves came to power after a period of rebellion that culminated with the sacking of Beijing. Had the Mings been able to resist the Qing onslaught, history would have recorded the rise and fall of the Manchus a failed regional rebellion. As we have seen, a rebellion’s success allows those leaders to dictate the terms by which they are remembered.

This author also asserts the inevitability of success for rebellion against the Qing. According to Elleman, as the rebellions grew stronger, the Qing were forced to adopt western weapons and tactics, both of which were soon matched by the rebels. Elleman cites the diffusion of Western thought and hardware into the China as the reason the Qing were ultimately defeated. The problem with this thesis is that the Qing had the same access to Western thought and hardware as the rebels, but those things could not preserve the dynasty. Further, when innovative military minds did rise up among the Qing, the dynasty was able to defend itself.

The rebellions occurred during a period in which the Qing Dynasty lost the competence and the will to assert its authority throughout China. Such periods in China’s past, during which the provinces perceived that that the central government had lost control, signaled the beginning of the end of the dynasty in power. In an earlier posting, we discussed whether the perception that the dynasty had lost control inexorably led to the Dynasty actually losing control or whether the perception flowed from the actual loss of control. Regardless of which was the cause and which was the effect, opportunistic pretenders to the throne pressed their claims during this 60 year period. It is easy to comprehend how fatigued the Qing dynasty became after two generations of challenges to its rule. This fatigue prevented the Qing from mustering the force necessary to put down the final challenge to their rule in 1912.

It is perhaps the nature of China and the Chinese that gives rise to bloody rebellion. China is a huge area with many different cultures competing for political power. When there is a strong central power that can plausibly claim to have the “Mandate of Heaven” for its rule, China holds together in peace. However, if the rulers lose the interest or will to ruthlessly assert their power all the way to the frontiers of China, rebellions arise either to assert local control or, depending on the ambitions of the rebellion’s rulers, push all the way to the capital in a bid to overthrow the Emperor.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Decline of the Qing Dynasty

The beginnings of the decline of the Qing dynasty ironically can be found in the Qing emperors’ desire to prevent the armed forces from becoming a threat to the dynasty. The Qing emperors were descended from the Manchus, a people ethnically distinct from the majority Han. The Manchus were aware that even hundreds of years into their rule, they were perceived as outsiders in the midst of the majority Han. With this self-awareness, Qing emperors worked to decentralize power. They had read history and knew that challengers to the throne often arose from those who had large armies to use as a power base. The Manchus believed the hostility to them as outsiders made them even more vulnerable.

In an effort to prevent any army from arising to challenge the dynasty, the Qing decentralized Army authority, organized their forces into two large groupings and the Dynasty retained the responsibility to actually pay the salaries of the troops. In one sense, the Qing’s strategy was successful. They ruled for almost 300 years, and prevented the army from rising up to challenge them. However, the Qings had violated some of the basic teachings of Sun Zi notably, Sun Zi’s call for proper marshalling of the army, and having the general retain control of salaries: As Sun Zi wrote in Chapter 1, paragraph 9: “By method and discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the graduations of rank among the officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure. The Qing, with their complicated structure of Banners and the Green Army, and with the state retaining control of salaries prevented the Army itself from presenting a threat, but made it difficult for the Army to counter external threats.”

By ignoring basic tenets of ancient Chinese thought, the Qings may have weakened the Army in such a way as to prevent a coup, but at the same time, the Dynasty was left open to other internal threats. Ironically, the most serious of these internal threats came from others who explicitly rejected ancient Chinese thought. In the 1850’s, large groups of poor Chinese rejected the strictures of Confucianism and embraced ersatz Christianity. Many of these poor Chinese believed the world that was ordered according to the dictates of Confucianism kept them poor and without prospects. These impoverished peasants eagerly received Hong Xiu Quan’s interpretation of himself as heavenly king, God’s son, Jesus’ brother sent to earth to establish a new order that would start by eradicating the hated Confucians. It is hard to comprehend how charismatic Hong was and how fertile the ground was for the type of ideology he sewed. Large portions of the formerly docile Han population took up arms to challenge, so many in fact that the civil war ended up killing 25 million Chinese.

Hong and his followers scored many initial successes against the Qings’ poorly organized and led armed forces. To their credit, the dynasty realized unless there was serious reform in the Army, Hong might well be successful. The Qing court appointed Zeng Gou Fan as the military governor of Jiangsu and Jianxi Provinces. Zeng had success leading a militia against the Taipings, having organized and lead the militia using the traditional Chinese military teachings. Zeng built a well organized army, and with the aid of opportunistic Western powers, was able to crush and destroy the Tiaping.

Immediately after the Taiping Rebellion, the Qings had to contend with another rebellion that expressly rejected Chinese thought. The Panthay Rebellion in Yunnan Province featured Moslems dissatisfied with their treatment at the hands of the Chinese majority. This rebellion took almost 20 years to quell at the cost of 80,000 lives, and was yet another serious threat to Qing authority.

Appealing to Zeng for defense of China was another step in the decline of the Qings. The Qing Emperors had deliberately tried to prevent the armed forces from becoming a rival power base, but had to forgo that policy. The Qings were forced to appeal to the local militias, like those of Zeng, to fight off the Taipings in the south and east, and the Moslems in the west. It was apparent to the local governors that the Qing were unwilling or unable to exert their centralized authority. Traditionally in China, once the provinces lost their respect and fear for central authority and power, the dynasty was in decline.

Three responses

1. Roe vs Wade is terrible constitutional law. It is built on a fictitious “right” not actually found in the constitution, bolstered by phony history and now defended from criticism because it is supposedly “settled” law. We may all desperately want something to be in the constitution, but if it is not there, it is not. Ask the prohibitionists about that.

Take abortion out of the courts, kick it to the state legislatures, and let them do the will of the people. New York and Maryland craves abortion, they will have it. South Dakota and Alabama see it as murder, they will prohibit it. Every other state will exercise their freedom of choice to select some policy in the middle.

2. Abortion is grisly and wrong. Peter Singer, ghoul that he is, nonetheless makes the inarguable point that birth is just another tick of the clock. If we are willing to shove scissors into the head of a baby still in the birth canal and suck out her brains at 40 weeks, why can’t we do the same to a 3 month old who was born 3 months premature? It would probably be a better idea even. Give that troubled girl you mentioned 3 months to really try out being a mother, sort of as a test run. If she says, “I can’t get any sleep, and my grades are suffering, and I really wanted to go to college,” planned parenthood can have drop offs in the back where the baby can be euthanized. Or she could just do it herself.

Watch a baby being aborted on 3D ultrasound. It’s hard to complain about the nihilistic beheading Islamists when we allow that same kind of thing in our own midst.

3. What is the difference between 1) creating an embryo to harvest its parts, 2) creating a clone for its parts to be harvested, 3) conceiving a baby for the express purpose of harvesting its parts in utero prior to abortion, 4) birthing the unwanted baby to whom you have given a lobotomy so that she has the same mental abilities of Terri Shiavo to allow it to grow for a period in order to harvest her now larger parts, so that you can starve her to death later? I’ll tell you. 1) is now, 4) is later. If you don’t think that loosening the rules a little leads to the unthinkable later, you have not watched prime-time TV lately or noticed that since gays started getting married, polygamists are agitating for their “rights.”