Academic Scholarship

Remembering and Forgetting the War: Elite Mythmaking, Mass Reaction and Sino-Japanese Relations, 1950- 2006

History and Memory, 19(2), 43-74., November 2007

History and Memory Yinan He, Ph.D
School of Diplomacy and International Relations

Ruling elites often make pernicious national myths for instrumental purposes, creating divergent historical memories of the same events in different countries. But they tend to exploit international history disputes only when they feel insecure domestically. Societal reactions to elite mythmaking, reflected in radicalized public opinion, can reinforce history disputes. During the 1950s–1970s, China avoided history disputes with Japan to focus on geostrategic interests. Only from the early 1980s did domestic political incentives motivate Beijing to attack Japanese historical memory and promote assertive nationalism through patriotic history propaganda, which radicalized Chinese popular views about Japan. Media highlighting of Japan's historical revisionism exacerbated societal demands to settle war accounts with Japan, while factional politics within the Chinese Communist Party made it difficult for the top leaders to compromise on the bilateral "history issue."


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