Saturday, June 28, 2014

More from the Mines

The old man was reminiscing about his experiences immediately after the war. Discharged from the Imperial Army as a suicide-bomber trainee, he returned to school, graduated, very briefly went through a couple of jobs, then settled on a mining company “because the pay was good,” where he wound up spending the rest of his working life, mostly in accounting until he moved up in the ranks to become a senior executive. The conversation turned to forced wartime labor in the mines—I cannot remember why; perhaps the TV was on and there was something in the news—and you might be interested in a couple of things that he said, which I am paraphrasing from memory.

1. When the war ended, the Koreans left the mine immediately without collecting their wages and took the first ship back home. For years, the company kept the ledgers that recorded the wages outstanding, but it disposed of them when it moved offices.

2. I feel sorry for the Chinese prisoners who were brought to work the mine. Many fared poorly, and some died. A company employee (employees?) was executed as a war criminal as a result. He (they?) did what he (they?) could, but some prisoners had arrived already in terrible condition because they had been shipped over under terrible circumstances.

The Opposition Have Hook for Tokyo Assembly Election (2)

What happened after the event is well-chronicled in the Japanese media (Yomiuri providing the most extensive online coverage, followed by Sankei. No one came forth to admit to the heckling. On the 19th, the day after, the Tokyo assemblywomen, all 25 of them, lodged a nonpartisan joint protest with the assembly chairman (Toshaki Yoshino, by custom on leave from the LDP while chair) to no avail. The next day, on the 20th, the third day after the incident as required by law, Shiomura filed a formal grievance with the assembly chairman seeking the identification of the hecklers and their punishment. The chairman rejected the complaint, giving as the reason for his decision the fact that the assemblymen against whom the complaint was being lodged had not been identified. Meanwhile, the media was having a field day, among other things taking the question to the governor (who had been caught snickering along with a number of assemblymen)—and the LDP’s national leaders, who by then must have realized that they had a serious problem on their hands, not only because of the national media’s attention but more specifically because enhancing the socio-economic role of women had become Prime Minister Abe’s signature plank in the Abenomics’ third arrow.

By Monday, on the 23rd, the fix—patch, really—was in. The secretary-general (Shigeru Uchida) of the Tokyo metropolitan LDP announced that Akihiro Suzuki, the assemblymen most widely accused on the internet, came forth to admit that he had been the one who had told Shiomura “Get married ASAP!” but denied that he had made the other comment. The same day, the assemblyman visited Shiomura, apologized to her in a media event, and resigned from the LDP (but not the assembly).

Two days later, on the 25th, the last day of the assembly session, the plenary:
a) adopted a resolution put forth mainly by the LDP and Komeito expressing determination to “work to regain trust and prevent recurrence”;
b) rejected a motion from the Communist Party seeking the culprit’s resignation from the  assembly;
c) rejected a motion from the Your Party (Shiomura’s affiliation) and DPJ (strange bedfellows at the national level, but not that surprising locally) beseeching the other heckler to come forth; and
d) rejected a final motion from the Communist Party seeking an apology from the culprit.

And the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly went into recess.

There’s an interesting damage control story here, which I will take a look at. For the whole sequence would be trivial—just another one of those weird-Japan stories that has graced the pages of WaPo and NYT over the years—if it were not for the potential ramifications for national politics, which I think that there is a good chance of becoming evident next year. There’s also a sidebar around the deep background behind the heckling, which I might take a stab at.

…to be continued.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Opposition Have Hook for Tokyo Assembly Election (1)

As John Campbell reminded me, it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up, and I guess that was why I just knew this story was going to blow up. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

June 18, the Budget Committee of the Metropolitan Tokyo Assembly is in session. Your Party Assemblywoman Ayaka Shiomura (35) is directing questions toward the prefectural administration concerning its support on pregnancy and maternity when multiple voices from the LDP wing are heard yelling “Get married ASAP!” and “You can’t have children?” Now, heckling is one of the several parliamentarian traditions that we inherited from the Anglos, but this went beyond the pale. And this is the one point in the story arc where contingency played a part. For if Ms. Shiomura had stopped right there, glared at the LDP section and called out the hecklers, announcing that she would not continue with the questions until the culprits had come forth—I’m casting Margaret Thatcher in this role—the committee would have come to a halt, party leaders would have conferred, and the hecklers would have been forced to come forth and apologize and be appropriately censured, and the whole incident would have blown over, with maybe a report on the mostly neglected reports on the local scene pages of the national papers. But she didn’t. Instead, she grimly soldiered on even as tears welled up in her eyes. It was only after the Q&A session that she sought recourse against the LDP. And that was when human nature took over, and the Tokyo metropolitan LDP crapped its pants and threw it up against the fan.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Japan Times-SHIMBUN?!?!?

I looked for the English version of a Sankei editorial and came across the masthead/nameplate The Japan Times-SHIMBUN. I’ve heard that opposites attract, but this is ridiculous.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Not Quite Separate, Not Quite Equal: The Other “Japanese” during WW II

Able-bodied Korean men were shipped out to the Japanese archipelago to work in the mines and factories there during WW II. Read these first-person accounts by others who was there, a Japanese high school student who were also dispatched, together with his entire class, to work alongside the Korean men in iron mines. The two groups did work together in the open pit mine, and did engage in some fraternizing. However, at the underground mine, it was the Koreans who unhappily worked in the shafts, while the students worked aboveground transporting the ore.

The Koreans differed from the students in two other ways. First, they received wages. Koreans acknowledged this in the lawsuits, where the plaintiffs demanded unpaid back wages, among other things. Second, they had an out. They could volunteer to serve in the Imperial Army; after all, they were Japanese citizens. Not many did, of course, as the small number of ethnic Koreans enshrined in Yasukuni attests. This also meant, though, that they were better off than the typical able-bodied Japanese-Japanese male, who, if given the choice, would surely have elected to serve the war effort from behind.

How were working conditions like for the Koreans? If the open-pit and underground narratives are any indication, they varied significantly with the circumstances—just like the experiences of the soldiers in the Imperial Army. In one example chronicled by the dreaded Special Police of all people, 292 of the 383 Koreans who had been conscripted to work in a nickel mine had run away. The officer making the report complained that the Koreans were being taken in by Japanese businesses, who apparently were offering better working conditions than the mine.

And where there are war efforts and able-bodied males, there are bound to be “comfort women”; the Japanese mines and factories were no exception. Perhaps the high school students were too naïve to notice, but a pro-Korean advocacy web site takes note of their existence on two occasions, 40 Korean women and three Japanese women respectively, both apparently servicing Korean laborers.

I’ll leave it at that for now.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

We’ve Always Liked China…But How Much Longer…

The following commentary ends differently depending on how I feel that day.

I manage to surprise most foreigners when I tell them that Japanese children are taught Chinese classics as part of their compulsory education. Perhaps that accounts for the fact that Japanese fantasy anime are just as likely if not more so to take their inspiration from Chinese history as from Japan’s.

The Chinese influence goes well beyond the classics, of course. We could not imagine the Japanese writing system making do without Chinese characters. This situation is unlikely to change any time soon either, as information technology has made Chinese characters much easier to use.

This is in sharp contrast to the nations that were not absorbed into the clutches of the Chinese empire. The Vietnamese got rid of Chinese characters by the early 20th Century, while a friendship “sealed in blood” did not deter the North Koreans from switching to all-Chosongul (or “-Hangul” according to their neighbors to the south) mode as quickly as they could after they established control over their share of the Korean Peninsula. Chinese characters held on much longer in South Korea, but had mostly disappeared from public life by the end of the 20th Century.

There’s no way to deny it; beneath all the ongoing turmoil, we Japanese like China, respect it. We freely acknowledge the legacy, which by the way stretches well beyond the literary realm. But that does not mean that they have to like us back, or that they will have any use for us except for totally utilitarian purposes. Perhaps it is high time we realized this, and moved on.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Conquering China: A Bargain with the Devil

This time, it’s going up after a one-day delay. If this situation continues, I will post here immediately, without delay.

We’re lucky that we didn’t win the war on China.

No, not that one. That one, the on-again, off-again war between 1592 and 1598.

Hideyoshi Toyotomi subjugated the last of the warlord holdouts—actually, he forced him to commit hara-kiri—in 1590, bringing the century-long Age of Civil Wars to an end. But Hideyoshi had his eyes on bigger things. He decided that he would next conquer China, which at the time was under the rule of the Ming dynasty. He went on to wage two major if inconclusive campaigns, almost exclusively on the Korean Peninsula, before his death in 1598 brought an end to Japan’s war on China.
A half century later, the Manchurians had better luck—or so it seemed at the time. In 1644, they kicked the Ming dynasty out of Beijing and officially established the Qing dynasty. Qing endured until 1912, when China itself virtually fell apart in the face of the forces of the modern era and took the dynasty with it.  Manchurians did get a rump state, courtesy of Japanese imperialists, in 1931, but that lasted all of 15 years until it was subsumed into China when Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces. They are stateless, and stateless they will be. They will forever remain a minority in the Han Empire known to us as the People’s Republic of China.

The Manchurians were not the first to conquer China. The Mongols had done it much earlier, formally establishing the Yuan dynasty in 1271. They took a little more time to completely do away with its predecessor the Sung dynasty, which had fled south, but the task was finished in 1279. The Yuan dynasty was relatively short-lived, and the all-Han, Ming dynasty set up shop in 1368. The Mongols did get some of their sovereignty back in the early 20th Century as the Qing dynasty, indeed China itself, was falling apart, but most of them were left behind in China—mainly in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, where they are now outnumbered 5-to-1 by the Han.

So the deal appears to be: conquer China, and you get your own dynasty in the Middle Kingdom, the greatest state on the planet, for a couple of centuries, sometimes more, sometimes less. But when your time is up, they get to keep you, and they move in. And that is why I say that we got lucky when Hideyoshi Toyotomi failed to defeat the Ming dynasty.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

“Out Damn’d Spot!” (Allegedly): The Cybertheft Allegations

The following column was intended for my MIGA column, but I haven’t heard back from the editor for a whole week and counting, so here it is.

In “Russian and Chinese Assertiveness Poses New Foreign Policy Challenges” from the HBO History Makers Series, former US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates makes an astonishing and, for the Obama administration, the following unhelpful claim:

“What -- what we have accused the Chinese of doing, stealing American companies' secrets and technology is not new, nor is it done only by the Chinese. There are probably a dozen or 15 countries that steal our technology in this way.

“In terms of the next capable next to the Chinese are probably the French. And they've been doing it a long time.

“I often tell business audiences, ‘How many of you go to Paris on business.’ Hands go up. ‘How many of you take your laptops?’ Hands goes up. ‘How many of you take your laptops to dinner?’ Not very many hands. I said for years, the French Intelligence Services have been breaking into the hotel rooms of American businessmen and surreptitiously downloading their laptops, if they felt those laptops had technological information, or competitive information that would be useful to French countries -- French companies.

“……We nearly are alone in the world in not using our intelligence services for competitive advantage of our businesses.”

Now this may be helpful in selling his book, but it surely cannot be helpful to the US government in the execution of what will likely be concerted efforts to convince US allies and fence-sitters to join its years-long fight against China’s government-sponsored cybertheft following its criminal charges against five PLA officers. I will not hazard a guess as to the eventual success of the US endeavor—for that, I need to be compensated for the time and effort it would take—but there are a couple of points that I’ve looked at that may be of interest to you as you think forward.

First, is the US being hypocritical in charging PLA officers with cybertheft for commercial gain while overlooking France, to use Gates’ stark example? There’s obviously too little information here to be sure one way or another, but I will say this: It is not difficult to assume that the US government is going easier on its allies than on China, but if we go by Gate’s allegations alone, the differentiation in their treatment appears to be warranted, indeed, demanded by rule of law. Note that the French theft occurred on French soil. In Japan, overseas theft is punishable under the Penal Code only if the criminal is Japanese. How about the United States? A cursory search turns up this CRS Report, which strongly suggests that simple overseas theft where the only US connection is the victim is unlikely to be prosecuted under US law (although the existence of state laws muddies the situation somewhat), and this FBI advisory, which makes it clear that the Economic Espionage Act, under which the French actions obviously falls, only protects against “theft that occurs …outside of the United States” when “(a) an act in furtherance of the offense” has “been committed in the United States or (b) the violator is a U.S. person or organization.” By contrast, a “federal grand jury in Pittsburg…found that [the] five Chinese military officers conspired together, and with others, to hack into the computers of organizations in Western Pennsylvania and elsewhere in the United States,” according to this announcement by US Attorney General Eric Holder.

Leaving aside that fact that you need to identify suspects and connect them to the crime with evidence to bring an indictment, prosecuting the French agents was never an option as far as the facts alleged by Gates were concerned, at least if the term “rule of law” means anything.

Second, are US hands as clean as Gates claims they are? Well, many Japanese trade officials and diplomats would dispute his expansive statement that “[w]e nearly are alone in the world in not using our intelligence services for competitive advantage of our businesses.” During the trade friction years when US trade negotiators forcefully pushed their Japanese counterparts for concessions, Japanese officials directly engaged in the negotiations were convinced that the US government was wiretapping the Japanese embassy and hotel rooms in Washington where Japanese negotiators were staying. They pointed to what they believed were telltale signs of wiretapping, and routinely used payphones for sensitive communication. It could not be proved then, it cannot be proved now, but you will be hard put to find any of the negotiators at the time that would be willing to even seriously doubt the allegation. And given how the US government was working hand-in-glove at the time with US textile, steel, auto, electric and electronic appliances, and computer industries (to name those that immediately come to mind), it requires no stretch of the imagination to consider those allegations, if true, to be “using [US] intelligence services for competitive advantage of [US] businesses.”

Obviously, a distinction needs to be made between allegations of a government acting as the mastermind of an economic crime ring and a government attempting to gain a negotiating edge, respectively. That said, the US government must be mindful that the Snowden revelations will not be the only on the mind of its allies when it comes to them to seek their cooperation in putting pressure on the Chinese authorities regarding its (alleged) cybertheft activities.