Douglas MacArthur's View of Chinese History

Recently, I had a chance to listen to the recording of Douglas MacArthur's Farewell Address to Congress (April 19, 1951). 

I was stunned to hear the General saying "China, up to 50 years ago... The war-making tendency was almost non-existent, as they still followed the tenets of the Confucian ideal of pacifist culture." It is obvious MacArthur had only a very shallow understanding of the Chinese history or the Japanese history for that matter. Granted that it is not a military leader's job to analyze the deep historical background of a conflict, but did he actually think the Chinese as the helpless victims of the aggressive Japanese, as explained in an educational pamphlet for the military, GI Roundtable: What Shall Be Done about Japan after Victory? 

Apparently, MacArthur was in for a big surprise when he faced the atrocious Chinese and Koreans in the Korean war, and concluded "Through these past 50 years the Chinese people have thus become militarized...has become aggressively imperialistic, with a lust for expansion and increased power normal to this type of imperialism." It is amazing that MacArthur did know nothing about Mongol Empire or the last dynasty, Qing Empire (lasted until 1912) that came out of Manchuria, took over China and ruled Mongol, East Turkistan and Tibet as well, following the Mongol Empire and many empires came before them. The Chinese culture has been developed within these empires. The Confucian ideal has been just that, an ideal that no one bothered to follow in China. In other words, the Chinese did not become militarized nor aggressively imperialistic overnight in 50 years. 

The Qing dynasty quit fighting the Western colonial powers after the Opium War, not because they were following the tenets of the Confucian ideal of pacifist culture, but because they realized it is easier and safer to let them have part of China. After all, China wasn't theirs to begin with. China was only a colony to the Qing dynasty who was ruling the vast Qing colonial empire.    

Japan, on the other hand has never been a colonial empire all through the 2000 years of its known history, until it took over the Pacific islands from the Germans after the WWI. Actually, Japan avoided to make them colonies by structuring it as trusteeship. Taiwan and Korea were not colonies. They became part of Japan, just like Alaska and Texas became part of the U.S. Manchuria was an independent country reestablished by the Qing dynasty under Japanese protection, just like Japan has been an independent country under the U.S. protection since 1952.

Chinese imperialism and savagery is rooted in their glorious 6000 years of history, history of being rule by the hoarding nomads. For the rulers of China, the rest of Asia has been actual or potential vassal states, Japan included. That is one of the reasons China chose to side with the Western colonial empires. They chose to fight against Japan rather than fighting the Western colonial empires that have been taking over the coastal areas of China, because it was upsetting for them that Japan, a vassal state in the Chinese mind, was dominating the Chinese. By fighting against Japan alongside the Western colonial empires, China had the opportunity to make Japan or other parts of Asia its vassal state or colony as one of the victors, just like Japan did after the first World War. Actually, that is what China started to do soon after the U.S.-Japan war ended. 

After 7 years in Japan and 2 years of the Korean war, however, MacArthur did not take the view expressed in the pamphlet that Japan was the aggressor nation greedily seeking to expand her territory. In stead, he sided with the Japanese claim that Japan was provoked into a war of self-defense. In his testimony on May 3, 1951 before the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees of the United States Senate, he stated "There is practically nothing indigenous to Japan except the silkworm. They lack cotton, they lack wool, they lack petroleum products, they lack tin, they lack rubber, they lack a great many other things, all of which was in the Asiatic basin. They feared that if those supplies were cut off, there would be 10 to 12 million people unoccupied in Japan. Their purpose, therefore, in going to war was largely dictated by security."


Press code for Japan: To understand the fake and tortured Japanese public discourse

On September 21, 1945, soon after the defeated Japan signed the surrender terms on September 2, 1945 on the battleship Missouri,  the General Headquarters (GHQ) has issued a ten point press code. The stated purpose sounded reasonable as follows:

In accordance with the Supreme Allied Commander’s objective of establishing freedom of the press in Japan, a Press Code for Japan has been issued. This PRESS CODE, rather than being one of restrictions of the press, is one which is designed to educate the press of the Japanese in the responsibilities and meaning of a free press. Emphasis is placed on the truth of news and the elimination of propaganda. This Press Code will cover, in addition, all publications printed in Japan.

Press Code for Japan (from Prange Collection)
The ten-point press code, however, shows that the freedom of press was secondary to the authority and the needs of the Allied Occupation Powers. In practice, nothing that suggested they were the true power behind the scenes was allowed, let alone criticism.  Propaganda meant whatever inconvenient for them. 

  1. News must adhere strictly to the truth. 
  2. Nothing should be printed which might, directly or by indirectly, disturb the public tranquility. 
  3. There shall be no false or destructive criticism of the Allied Powers. 
  4. There shall be no destructive criticism of the Allied Occupation and nothing which might invite mistrust or resentment of those troops. 
  5. There shall be no mention or discussion of Allied troops movements unless such movements have been officially released. 
  6. News stories must be factually written and completely devoid of editorial opinion. 
  7. News stories shall not be colored to conform with any propaganda line. 
  8. Minor details of a news story must not be over-emphasized to stress or develop any propaganda line. 
  9. No news story shall be distorted by the omission of pertinent facts or details. 
  10. In the make-up of the newspaper no news story shall be given undue prominence for the purpose of establishing or developing any propaganda line.

The actual subject matters the censors deleted or suppressed spanned over the 30 categories listed below:
A page from War Guilt and Postwar Japanese Education by  Naoko Kato 2002

I have not seen the English source document for it, but it was first mentioned by Haru Matsukata Reischauer who worked for American news organizations in the post war Japan in her 1986 book, "Samurai and Silk: A Japanese and American Heritage", and the list was published by Etō Jun in his 1989 book, Tozasareta gengo kūkan (Contained Realm of Discourse). That was about 10 years after I left Japan, and I was not aware of the books at the time. Looking back, however, it became all clear to me why all the public discourse, either in the political arena or in the media sounded so fake and tortured that I could hardly understand or bear to listen. That is continuing even today.

It is sad and frustrating to see the same fake and tortured public discourse even today. The occupation ended over 60 years ago, but the Japanese media, education, and political systems as well as the players within them are still operating largely under the constraints established by the War Guilt Information Program, I must say. It is maintained by external as well as internal forces. It's a world of communists, spies, traitors, propaganda and misguided public, some of which is examined in War Guilt and Postwar Japanese Education by Naoko Kato 2002. But I will not get into that here.

The censorship actually was started on September 10, and "Memorandum on Freedom of Speech" was issued before the above press code was issued. On the following day, September 11, so called war criminals were arrested including Prime Minister Tojo, according to the "Chronological table 1    September 1, 1939 - October 25, 1945" by National Diet Library. Immediately preceding the above ten-point press code issuance on September 21, Asahi News was suspended for two days as a punishment for two "anti-American" articles it published. One was calling attention to the American war crimes of Atomic bombing, mass murder of civilians, sinking hospital ships, use of poison gas, etc. and the other was questioning American version of the Japanese military activities in Philippines.

According to Michio Sekino's research on the paper trail of the War Guilt Information Program, the occupation forces were afraid of severe backlash against the military tribunals as well as the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even more problematic were the atrocious treatments of Japanese civilians as well as the military outside the Japanese mainland, especially in Manchuria, China, Russia, and Korea. Many of the topics they were trying to suppress were relating to their wrong doings in violation of various international laws and the surrender terms, not to mention the fundamental human rights and decency. The list reflects their awareness of their own wrong doings. They did not want to take any chance of public discourse explode over what they did or were doing. They wanted to project an image of benevolent victor.


Propaganda that outlived its usefulness

"Propaganda is a soft weapon; hold it in your hands too long, and it will move about like a snake, and strike the other way." -Jean Anouih, L'Alouette, 1952

What can you do about a propaganda that outlived its usefulness and coming back to haunt you? That is a question the Western countries, especially the U.S. is facing after having sold the post WWII world the anti-Japanese propaganda.

The war time propaganda and the subsequent military tribunal have established that the Japanese are greedy aggressor, atrocious, and bigoted cruel racists, the rest of the humanity, especially the Chinese and the Japanese colonial subjects such as the Koreans, were the poor victims, therefore the world has to carry out the justice by stripping Japan of all the territories with non Japanese cultural heritage, making Japan pay the damage and restitution to rebuild the entire region, especially China, and reforming the foundation of Japanese society in such a way as to make Japan incapable of waging a war again, and to make it serve the world as the Allied nations see fit.

The Allied nations for the most part consisted of the US, UK (including Canada and Australia), China and Netherlands. France and Russia became the Japan's enemy only toward the end of the war. Their strategy against Japan was developed by the U.S. with inputs from other Allied nations. According to the now declassified war time documents, psychological warfare and propaganda were important part of the strategy. Apparently, it was used not only against the Japanese, but also it was applied to their own peoples including the military. The strategy was first developed in 1942 as Japan Plan by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS: predecessor of CIA).

You can see some part of that strategic thinking in a pamphlet titled GI Roundtable: What Shall Be Done about Japan after Victory? written for the U.S. Military by the American Historic Association (AHA) in collaboration with scholars, journalists, the State Department, Office of Strategic Services, and the relevant foreign embassy (see the AHA archive site). 

"Rape of China", as they put it in the the pamphlet, was the biggest propaganda they developed, which has been used very effective in executing over 1000 military and political leaders as war criminals, and in making the Japanese people feel guilty and keeping them apologizing and paying the restitution. For the most American soldiers who knew the Japanese only from their fierce fighting in the battle fields, images of the Japanese soldiers abusing civilians and POWs must have seemed plausible. Even today, the world is still made to believe "Rape of Nanking" happened, despite the fact that there weren't any credible witness of murder scenes, although there were numerous stories someone heard about or stories made by connecting dots assuming atrocity was committed by the Japanese military. On the other hand, the atrocities the Chinese soldiers committed against the Chinese as well as the Japanese civilians are discounted and ignored (see War Guilt Information Program Against Japan: the Paper Trail).

I don't know how anybody can buy into such propaganda today, knowing what the Chinese have been doing ever since the Japanese have put down their arms (actually the Chinese have been behaving that way for thousands of years). Yet the American government officials and politicians as well as American historians are stubbornly telling the Japanese to apologize and pay up the restitution at every turn without presenting concrete evidence, even today as indicated in such statements as Statement on Prime Minister Abe's December 26 Visit to Yasukuni Shrine issued by the U.S. Department of State on December 26, 2013, Standing with Historians of Japan (by Alexis Dudden, March 2015) and its extension, Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan (May 2015) signed by 457 American and some other Western historians. Note that those historians in Japan they are supporting are the disciples of the historians who took over the Japanese education system as part of the War Guilt Information Program (brainwashing program) the Allied Occupation Forces imposed on the defeated Japanese during the 7 years of occupation, and as a group they are still holding on to their positions.

Those American historians are trying to stop the inevitable exposure of the lies and distortions their predecessors promoted. The propaganda is losing its hold on the Japanese people as evidenced by the actions of the Japanese government and the new breed of Japanese historians such as Fujioka Nobukatsu. It is unfortunate that those arguing along the line of the old propaganda are not interested in reviewing the historic facts. As a result, "information gap" is building between the two camps.

Meanwhile, what are the Chinese doing? The Chinese communists have been killing their own people left and right, carrying out ethnic cleansing in Tibet, Uighur, and Inner Mongolia, steeling islands from Philippine and Vietnam, declaring Senkaku islands as well the entire Okinawa islands Chinese territory, telling the Japanese to shut up and face up their sorry past. When the Chinese accuse Japan for not facing up the past, they are talking about the history created by the old propaganda, and the Chinese communists are still promoting that old propaganda in the U.S. "encouraging" the U.S. medias as well as politicians and historians to stick to it. The Chinese are trying to play victim while invading the neighbors and committing atrocities. They are riding on that old propaganda that says Japan is the bad guy.

The American military is intensifying their training and surveillance around China, increasing the level of  joint operation with the Japanese military. The recent official examination of the declassified government records pertinent to the suspected Japanese war crimes (IWG reports 2007) came up empty handed. Yet, the American government officials and politicians as well as the historians and media are perpetuating the outdated propaganda and telling the Japanese to apologize for the war crimes they did not commit at every turn, totally ignoring their own war crimes such as mass killing of Japanese civilians using carpet bombing and atomic bombing as well as atrocities the Chinese have been committing. Is this a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing? Or do they think it's still useful to continue the course they set some 80 years ago?