Human History: China vs. Japan

October 22nd, 2014
in Op Ed, syndication

by Frank Li

In a previous post (Human History: China vs. Europe), I compared China with Europe. It was a comparison between the East and the West. In this post, I will compare China with Japan. It is a comparison within the Far East.

Follow up:

As a prerequisite, read:

  1. America: What is Japan, Anyway?

  2. Top 10 American Misconceptions about Japan.

1. Overview

China and Japan are similar in three aspects, at least:

  1. Both are located in East Asia.

  2. Japan is mostly a copy of China, from the language to the culture, with its own adaptions, of course.

  3. Both have big economies, with China being the second largest in the world and Japan the third.

China and Japan are different in three aspects, at least:

  1. China is at least 20 times bigger than Japan geographically, and China’s population is 10 times more than Japan’s.

  2. Japan became a democracy after WWII, while China remains a non-democracy.

  3. China has been rising over the past three decades, with no end in sight, while Japan has lost its past two decades and counting.

2. China vs. Japan: yesterday

Let’s look at this subject in three aspects:

  1. The Emperor of Japan.

  2. The Emperor of China.

  3. China vs. Japan, historically.

Let me elaborate on each.

2.1 The Emperor of Japan

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

The Emperor of Japan is the ceremonial monarch in Japan's system of constitutional monarchy and is the head of the Japanese Imperial Family and the symbolic head of state. According to Japan's 1947 constitution, which dissolved the Empire of Japan, he is "the symbol of the state and of the unity of the people." He is also the highest authority of the Shinto religion as he and his family are said to be direct descendants of Amaterasu.[1] Therefore, the Emperor performs Shinto rituals for the people of Japan.

The Imperial House of Japan is the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world.[3] In Kojiki or Nihon Shoki, a book of Japanese history finished in the eighth century, it is said that the Empire of Japan was founded in 660 BC by Emperor Jimmu. The current Emperor is Akihito, who has been on the Chrysanthemum Throne since his father the Showa Emperor (Hirohito) died in 1989.

2.2 The Emperor of China

Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

The Emperor (Chinese: 皇帝; pinyin: Huángdì, pronounced [xu̯ɑ̌ŋ tî]) refers to any sovereign of Imperial China reigning between the founding of Qin Dynasty of China, united by the King of Qin in 221 BC, until the abdication of Puyi in 1912 following the Xinhai Revolution. When referred to as the "Son of Heaven" (Chinese: 天子; pinyin: tiānzǐ, pronounced [ti̯ɛ́n tsɨ̀]), a title that predates the Qin unification, the Emperor was recognized as the ruler of "All under heaven" (i.e., the world). In practice not every Emperor held supreme power, though this was most often the case.

2.3 China vs. Japan, historically

How is it possible that a single family has been ruling Japan for more than 2,000 years, uninterrupted? Three main reasons:

  1. The ruling family has been very clever. For example, it combined politics with religion (Shinto) totally, with the Emperor at the top of both – The Emperor is the head of the state as well as a living a God! Therefore, from a European viewpoint, Shinto may not be a religion per se. Instead, it’s an instrument to help the Emperor rule! In analogy, it’s like the Pope being the King of Italy, if not the EU, for more than 2,000 years, all in the same family - Incredible!

  2. Japan is an island country, small and autonomous enough to be ruled by a single family for a long time. Japan had never been invaded by a foreign force before WWII.

  3. The Japanese have been indoctrinated to be subservient, yielding to the Emperor’s authority.

In contrast, there were more than 10 dynasties in China over the 2,000 years prior to 1912, when China became a republic (History of the Republic of China). Each dynasty started with a self-made (and unanimously by force) emperor, and it lasted, on average, a few generations until a new self-made emperor emerged. Why was it so different from Japan? Three main reasons:

  1. China was too big to govern by a single emperor, let alone continuously by his descents. An old adage: wealth does not pass three generations. It applies to feudalistic dynasties as well!

  2. China is a part of the Eurasia continent, having land wars with foreigners from time to time, which made China even more too big to govern.

  3. “It’s good to be king.” The Chinese have an “emperor” culture, in which many want to be the emperor, even to date.

In short, while the key difference between China and Europe is China’s singularity vs. Europe’s plurality (Human History: China vs. Europe), Japan was, and still is, even more singular than China! Two examples:

  1. Japan has never had a serious problem with race, because it has been a single race, up to more than 99%!

  2. Do you know that Japan’s Emperor does not even have a last (or family) name? There is no need for it, because it has been all in the same family for more than 2,000 years!

All in all, what was the best for Japan? The Meiji Restoration that started in 1868! What was the worst for China? Internal strife and isolationism made it miss the Industrial Revolution, entirely!

What was the net result of the worst for China and the best for Japan? The “little” Japan launched the First Sino-Japanese War against the “mighty” China and won! Worse yet, Japan invaded China in 1931 (Japanese invasion of Manchuria ), and kept expanding deeper into China until the end of WWII!

3. China vs. Japan: today

After WWII, Japan recovered quickly, thanks largely to America (Saddam Hussein vs. Emperor Hirohito), as well as the industriousness of the Japanese people! As a result, by 1990, Japan advanced its world economic prominence far better financially than it had militarily by war.

Then Japan entered into its two lost decades (and counting). Why was that? Two main reasons:

  1. The rise of its neighbors, first South Korea and Taiwan, and then China! The graph below tells you a lot about how Japan lost its fortune to China.

  2. The political system called “democracy” that was imposed on Japan after WWII finally showed its real face: It does not work!

Here are two examples why democracy does not work in Japan:

  1. Emotions vs. thinking: Japan shut down all its nuclear reactors in 2013, thanks to the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 that destroyed Fukushima Daiichi reactor complex. For more, read: Nuclear Powerless Japan Must Pay for Fuel Imports in Weak Yen.

  2. Several times in recent years, Japan changed its government every six months. What a laughing stock the Japanese government has become!

Japan is, and will continue to be, the most efficient country in the world. But size matters, often decisively. Japan simply does not have the size to match with China!

4. China vs. Japan: tomorrow

The competition between Japan and China is over! As China rises to become the largest economy in the world by 2020, Japan will fall further behind!

Warning to America: do not get involved in any conflict between China and Japan, such as the Diaoyudao (aka Senkaku Islands in Japan)! Let them work it out, over time! America must learn to live with China, a new power house!

More broadly, the major players of the world have been the U.S., Russia, and China over the past few decades, and will continue to be so. For more, read: Three New Kingdoms.

5. China and Japan

Look at this photo:

Japan is the only Asian country in G7! It is significant in one aspect, at least: Asians can compete with Europeans and Americans.

Now, look at this picture:

China is at the center! It is significant in one aspect, at least: China is up and coming, standing right in the middle!

For my fellow Americans, here is my simple analogy for China vs. Japan:

Japan must understand this analogy and accept it, or it will be self-destruction and mutual destruction, thus ending the race for superiority between human races, with the white race only left standing …

6. Closing

The old is new; the new is old.

Japan needs a new strategy to best China, again ...

My fellow Americans, with Human History: China vs. Europe first, and China vs. Japan now, hopefully you have understood China, as well as the world, much better. More importantly, to those Americans who brush off the competition from China by saying “I have seen it before, from Japan, in the 1980s,” I would simply say: “it’s different this time!”

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