Chinese issues in Japan

The re-examination of Sino-Japanese history

By William Wetherall

First posted 15 February 2006
Updated 15 September 2009
Last updated 15 August 2017


ROC connections Bo Yang Ko Bunyu Huang Wen-hsiung Other writers Murata Renho
PRC connections


ROC connections in Japan

Here you will find biographical sketches of Taiwanese and "Chinese in Japan who have written commentaries on, or otherwise contributed to, ROC/PRC-Japan relations. First, though, a word or two about the meaning of "ROC/PRC-Japan" and "Taiwanese and Chinese in Japan"

ROC/PRC-Japan relations

By ROC/PRC-Japan relations I mean relations between Japan and either or both the Republic of China (ROC) and the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Despite PRC's claim that ROC no longer exists as a state, ROC had been a state for nearly four decades when PRC was born in 1949. PRC did not replace ROC as "China" in the United Nations until 1972, the year many countries, including Japan, switched their recogition from ROC to PRC. However, ROC continues to function as an independent entity. And Japan -- like most other states which formally recognize PRC and acknowledge if not accept its s claim that ROC is part of its dominion -- continues to relate with ROC as a non-state entity.

Taiwanese and Chinese in Japan

By Taiwanese and Chinese in Japan I mean different things at different times -- since the formal meanings of all three terms considerably vary depending on their historical coordinates.

Taiwan was part of Japan, and Taiwanese were Japanese, for at least half a century -- 1895-1945 in terms of territorial control and jurisdiction, and 1895-1952 in terms of treaty sovereignty and nationality.

"Japan" -- from 1895 to 1945 -- consisted of the Interior (prefectures) and Taiwan from 1895, plus Karafuto from 1905, and plus Korea as Chosen from 1910. "Chinese" were aliens in the Interior, Taiwan, Karafuto, and Chosen.

From 1945-1952, Taiwanese in the prefectures under Allied Occupation were legally still Japanese. However, under GHQ/SCAP policies adopted by the Japanese government they were treated as "aliens" for the purpose of border control and registration. Taiwanese in the prefectures legally became aliens when they lost their Japanese nationality in 1952.

From Japan's point of view, ROC nationals living on the continent when the People's Republic of China was established in 1949 continued to be ROC nationals, as Japan did not recognize PRC. However, such Chinese were not "Taiwanese" or "former Taiwanese" when it came to legal treatment in Japan under legacy laws, or under current laws that embraced legacy statuses.

Today, though PRC does not recognize ROC as a state entity, and considers Taiwan as one of its provinces, Taiwan inhabitants vary considerably as to whether then consider themselves Chinese. Some inhabitants, as recent migrants from PRC, or as refugees from the mainland during the civil war which resulted in PRC's birth and ROC's eviction by the People's Liberation Army (PLA), have cause to think of themselves as "Chinese", as perhaps do native Taiwanese of Chinese descent.

However, not a few native Taiwanese of Chinese descent consider themselves to be "Taiwanese" rather than "Chinese". And Taiwanese "aborigines" are not likely to regard themselves as "Chinese" even though most are entirely or highly assimilated in Sinified Taiwanese society. And of course the vast majority of mainland inhabitants have no cause to consider themselves "Taiwanese".

Ko Bunyu, Huang Wen-hsiun, and Chen Shui-bian

These three men (see below) represent just a few of the numerous varieties of "Taiwanese" in Taiwan and Japan.

Both Ko Bunyu and Huang Wen-hsiun, and Chen Shui-bian, were born in Taiwan. Both Ko and Huang were born in the late 1930s when Taiwan was part of the Empire of Japan. Chen was born in 1951, six years after Taiwan had been returned to ROC and two years after the ROC government had fled to Taiwan from the continent.

Ko and Huang

Both Ko and Huang were born Japanese of Taiwanese subnationality. Under ROC laws that applied to them after ROC occupied Taiwan in 1945, they became ROC nationals. However, they did not entirely lose their Japanese nationality until 1952.

Ko, though, resides in Japan. And he chooses to Japanese the reading of the characters of his name -- which are the same as the characters of the name of Huang Wen-Hsiun -- who is better known as Peter Huang.

Chen Shui-bian

Chen -- ROC's president from 20 May 2000 to 20 May 2008, sentenced to life on 11 September 2009 for embezzlement -- was born an ROC national. At the time of his birth, Taiwan was still formally part of Japan's sovereign dominion, but Japan's laws lost their effectiveness in Taiwan the moment Japan surrendered its control and jurisdiction over the territory to ROC in 1945.

Had Chen been born in the prefectures during the Allied Occupation of Japan, he would have become a Japanese national of Taiwanese subnationality, and then lost his Japanese nationality in 1952.

Support for ROC in Japan's national diet

There is not a little support for ROC in Japan's national diet. One such ROC supporter is Murata Renpo, who used to be Taiwanese. She now counts herself among several pro-Taiwan Japanese diet members (see below).

While Japan's ties with PRC have become considerably closer since 1972, and now exceed those with ROC in terms of economic and other exchanges and investments, Japan's ties with ROC remain in many ways deeper and friendlier.

Despite Japan's formal recognition of PRC, which includes acceptance of PRC's claim that Taiwan is a provence that will sooner or later return to the national fold, Taiwan enjoys a significant amount of support in the Japanese Diet. And some supporters are sympathetic with the view that Taiwan deserves to recognized as a state entity, if that is the will of the Taiwanese people.

That there should be so much support in Japan for the idea of Taiwanese independence should come as no surprise. It was, after all,

  1. ROC that Japan began invading and occupying from 1931, if not earlier by some accounts
  2. ROC that Japan fought until 1945, though Japan never declared war on ROC
  3. ROC that received Japan's surrender of Taiwan in 1945, as a representative of the Allied Powers
  4. ROC that Japan continued to recognize as China after the revolution in 1949 when the ROC government retreated to Taiwan
  5. ROC with whom Japan signed a peace treaty in Taipei in 1952 in which it recognized that it had abandoned its sovereignty over Taiwan and the Penghu islands, and
  6. ROC that Japan continued to recognize as China until 1972, when it switched its recognition to PRC.

And it is ROC that Japan may have to help the United States defend should a war break out between ROC and PRC.

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Bo Yang (Po Yang)

In 1984, the Taiwanese writer Po Yang published "Chou3lou4 de zhong1guo2ren2" [The ugly Chinaman], in which he compared Chinese with Americans and Japanese, and blamed Confucianism, and ROC's nationalists and PRC's communists alike, for the failure of China to emerge as a truly great nation. The book came out on the continent in 1986 but was banned the following year. A Japanese translation appeared in 1988 with the subtitle "Naze, Amerikajin, Nihonjin ni manabanai no ka" [Why don't (Chinese) learn from Americans and Japanese?].

Po Yang [Bo Yang], the pen name of Kuo Yi-tung [Guo Yidong], was born in Henan province in 1920. He took refuge in Taiwan in 1949 with tens of thousands of others who fled the revolution. He began writing about China's failures, and in 1968 was arrested for criticizing the Kuomintang (KMT) government of Chiang Kai-shek during a period of martial law. Released in 1977, he picked up the pen again and hasn't stopped expressing his views of why China has been stumbling on the road to becoming a stable democratic state. Po is now seen as one of ROC's most celebrated free-Taiwan writers. An avid human rightist, he is also the founder of the Taiwan Chapter of International Amnesty.

Po's "Ugly Chinaman" has inspired several spin offs with similar titles, including the 1994 volumes by Ko Bunyu. In 1997, Po and Ko teamed up to publish Shin Minikui Chugokujin [The New "Ugly Chinaman"], which was subtitled "'21-seiki wa Chugokujin no jidai' wa dai uso da" ["The 21st century will be the era of Chinese" is a big lie].

Po [Bo] Yang
Translated by Tiun Liang-Tek [Tyun Riantee] and Munakata Takayuki
Minikui Chugokujin: Naze, Amerikajin, Nihonjin ni manabanai no ka
[Ugly Chinaman: Why don't [Chinese] learn from Americans and Japanese?
Tokyo: Kobunsha, 1988
230 pages, paperback (Kappa Books)

Ko Bunyu contends that China is disliked for seven reasons, which he subdivides into three groups.

A. People other than oneself aren't human
  1. Self-centered [jiko chushin]
  2. Expedient [go-tsugo shugi]
B. The bad are all others
  3. Self-righteous [dokuzen]
  4. Shifts responsibility [sekinin tenka]
C. Don't look in well together
  5. Distrusts people [ningen fushin]
  6. Bandit state [dohi kokka]
  7. Dangerous "friendship" [kiken-na "yuko"]

Bo Yang
The Ugly Chinaman: And the Crisis of Chinese Culture
Translated and edited by Don Cohn and Jing Qing
St. Leonards (NSW): Allen & Unwin, 1992
xvii, 162 pages, paperback

"Bo Yang was born in China in 1920 and fled to Taiwan in 1949 on the eve of the communist takeover. A poet, novelist, essayist and historian, Bo Yang was jailed for ten years for translating into Chinese a Popeye cartoon that the Taiwan authorities found offensive. Upon his release in 1977, he began to give the speeches on the Ugly Chinaman phenomenon that form the core of this book. Bo Yang lives in Taipei with his wife, the poet Chang Hsiang-hua." (Cited from fly)

Don Cohn was the book editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review. Jing Qing, a translator, was born and raised in Beijing and had lived in Oslo and Auckland before residing in Hong Kong with Cohn and their daughter. (Paraphrased from fly)

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Ko Bunyu (Huang Wen-hsiung)

Ko Bunyu was born in Taiwan in 1938 and came to Japan in 1964 to study. He graduated from Waseda University and completed the preliminary phase of a doctoral program in literature at Meiji University. He has since been a visiting fellow at the Japanese Culture Institute at Takushoku University and is the chairman of the Japan Headquarters of the World United Formosans for Independence (Taiwan Dokuritsu Kenkoku Renmei), which is dedicated to the establishment of a free, democratic and independent Republic of Taiwan.

Takushoku University began in 1900 as Taiwan Association School (Taiwan Kyōkai Gakkō). Its founder and first president (1900-1912) was Katsura Tarō (1848-1913). The purpose of the school was to produce people who were able to contribute to the development of Taiwan, which had become a became a Japanese territory in 1895.

The school, renamed a few times, became Asia Association Speciality School (“Œ—m‹¦‰ïê–åŠwZ Tōyō Kyōkai Senmon Gakkō) in 1907, and Takushoku University (Takushoku Daigaku) in 1918. "Takushoku" means "cultivation" and "development" in the sense of "colonization". Its 12th director general (1967-1971) was Nakasone Yasuharu. It celebrated its centennial anniversary in 2000.

Ko is the author of over a dozen books in Japanese, most of them critical of the People's Republic of China and laudatory about Japan. In 1994 he wrote companion volumes called Minikui Chugokujin [The ugly Chinaman]. But Ko was not the originator of this very interesting genre (See Bo Yang).

Ko has also authored books with titles like "Japanese made Taiwan" [Taiwan wa Nihonjin ga tsukutta] (2001), "Japanese made ROK" [Kankoku wa Nihonjin ga tsukutta] (2002), and more recently "The wild spree of anti-Japanese history education in China and ROK" [Chugoku, Kankoku no han-Nichi rekishi kyoiku no boso] (2005).

Jooji Akiyama [George Akiyama] and Ko Bunyu]
Manga Chugoku nyumon: Yakkai-na rinjin no kenkyu
[Graphic China primer: A study of a difficult neighbor]
Tokyo: Asuka Shinsho, 2005

Ko Bunyu [Bun'yu]
Nihonjin yo: Jibun no kuni ni hokori o mochi nasai
(Sekai moderu to shite no Nihonron)
[Japanese! Have pride in your own country
(Japan discourse as a world model)]
Tokyo: Asuka Shinsha, 2006
190 pages, softcover

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Huang Wen-hsiung (Peter Huang)

Ko Bunyu, whose Chinese name is Huang Wen-hsiung, is not to be confused with the political activist who writes his name with the same characters, and is of similar age (b1937), but resides in Taiwan, where he is also active in the Taiwan independence movement.

Better known outside Taiwan as Peter Huang, this other Huang Wen-hsiung [Huang Wenxiong] went to the United States in 1964 to study sociology, first at Pittsburgh University. Then in 1970, while a student at Cornell University, he attempted, with another Taiwanese, to assassinate Chiang Ching-kuo, Chiang Kai-shek's son and then heir apparent, at the Plaza Hotel in New York.

Peter Huang jumped bail and went underground for three decades before surfacing in Taiwan in 1996 after the statute of limitations had expired. He was charged with illegal entry under the 1988 National Security Act, which required Taiwanese returning to Taiwan from overseas to apply for reentry. However, in 2000 a revised Immigration Law gave everyone with a family register in Taiwan the right to return and live freely, and in 2003 the Grand Justice ruled that the restriction on reentry in the 1988 law was unconstitutional.

Huang had returned to a far more liberal and domestically attuned ROC. Pro-Taiwanese welcomed him as an independence hero. KMT hardliners, and others who favored closer ties with PRC, saw him as just a terrorist who had tried to kill the son and successor of Chang Kai-shek, who unlike Huang was from the mainland.

By 1998 he became the chairman of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, and in 2000 he was appointed to lead a committee to form ROC's National Human Rights Committee. Then in 2001 he was chosen by then president Chen Shui-bian to serve as an ambassador-at-large for Taiwan, partly because of his association with international human rights organizations, and partly because of his pro-Taiwanese stance. Po Yang, who was also regarded as a special envoy, was not chosen because of poor health. As of 2003, Huang was serving as a national policy advisor on human rights.

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Books by other writers

Nishimura Koyu (editor)
"Hannichi masukomi" no shinjitsu
[The truth about "Anti-Japan mass media"]
Tokyo: Ookura [Oakla] Shuppan, 2006
192 pages, softcover (Oak Mook 126)

To be continued.

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Murata Renho

Murata Renho (‘º“c˜@äu Murata Renhō), a Japanese parliamentarian, is better known as just Renho -- her stage name as a Clarion Girl in 1988, and a television commentator and newscaster. From 1995-1997, she studied Chinese and Chinese culture, and political economy, at Beijing University. in Beijing. She also reported from Taiwan, and then became a politician.

Renho was born in 1967 to a Taiwanese father and Japanese mother. According to her own website, she "naturalized from Taiwan" (‘ä˜pÐ‚©‚ç‹A‰» Taiwan kara kika) in 1985. Apparently she naturalized as "Saitō Renhō" (Ä“¡˜@äu), Saitō being her mother's family name. Whether she joined her mother's family register or established her own register is not clear to me. I have not (as of 15 September 2009) confirmed that Renho actually naturalized, or whether she acquired Japanese nationality through her mother under special transitional measures in the Nationality Law revisions that came into force from 1 January that year. I suspect the latter, and that she erringly called the process by which she became Japanese "kika" (naturalization) -- one the most commonly misunderstood and thereby misused words in the law.

During 2016 it became clear that Renho did not naturalize, though she sometimes continued to say "kika" (‹A‰») and some journalists continued to refer her her acquisition of Japanese nationality as "kika" or "nautralization". Renpo's profile on her homepage renho.jp as of 5 November 2017 makes no mention of her nationality history.

Renho's father, a businessman, came to Japan from Tainan county, where Chen Shui-bian was born. Renho grew up idolizing Chen, who has always advocated closer ROC-Japan ties. Since becoming a politician herself, she has helped him promote tourism and other exchanges between the two countries.

Renpo became a Clarion Girl, then a popular television news anchor. She traveled to Taiwan as a journalist to cover Chen's presidential elections in 2000 and 2004. Some people still know her by her former Taiwanese name, Hsien Lien-fang (ŽÓ˜@äu), or just Lien Fang, the Chinese reading of Ren Hou (Renhō).

In 2004, running as a member of the Democratic Party of Japan, Renho was elected to the House of Councilors from a Tokyo constituency. One month after the election, she visited Taiwan to meet Chen and others. She had recently visited the country to cover Chen's reelection.

Renho wonders why Taiwan, her father's country, is not a country now.

Renho's nationality

Renho is Japanese. Some people have doubted her qualifications as a National Diet member because of allegations that she was a dual national. The issue came to a head in 2016, when she was asked to clarify her status. She related the familiar story that she had acquired Japanese nationality in 1985 when she was 17 years old. She was under the impression, based on what she recalled her father had told her, that she no longer possessed ROC nationality. On 13 September 2016, however, she reported in a press conference that Taiwan (as she referred to ROC), in response to her request that it clarify her status, informed her that she remains registered as a national. She said this surprised her, but that she had immediately requested the government of Taiwan to remove her from its nationality register.

At the same press conference, she repeated that she was born to parents of Taiwan and Japan parents, and was a proud descendant of the Sha (ŽÓ) family through her Taiwanese father, who handled everything when she became Japanese, and regretted that she was unable to confirm the facts concerning her Taiwanese status with him, since he was no longer alive. She apologized for not knowing enough about her own situation to clarify her status before this, reiterated that she had never acted other than as a Japanese in her political life, and stated that "I am Japanese" (Nipponjin desu).

Criticism by some opposition party members, however, increased, as she had fumbled some questions about what she and/or her father had actually done, and when they did what was supposed to have been done to first (1) declare her choice of Japanese nationality, and two (2) divest herself of Taiwanese nationality. By the spring of 2017, her story had become more complicated, and some of her political detractors essentially claimed she had been lying. How could a law maker of her stripes, who seemed to know all the rules of the game when it came to interrogating government officials about policies and spending, not be familiar with a law that had been so important in her own life?

The simple answer to the claim that Renho was being disingenuous is that, in fact, many people in her position go through the motions of nationality choice, or their parents go through the motions on their behalf, without ever understanding the whys and wherefores of the choice requirement, and the implications of the vows one makes when filing the choice notification. My own children were cases in point. Everything I said went in one ear and out the other. They simply took their Japanese status for granted and had no interest in the bureaucratic rigamarole.

By the middle of July 2017, Renho had decided -- after considerable hand wringing, and controversy within her own Japan Democratic Party -- that it was to her advantage to make public a copy of the parts of her family register that would prove beyond doubt that she had become Japanese only, by choosing Japanese nationality and renounced the nationality of the Republic of China, thus satisfying the political expectation -- not any legal requirement -- that government officials like herself not be dual nationals. While laws require that people who run for and hold national offices must be Japanese, no law forbids them from also possessing another country's nationality.

18 July 2017 press conference

On 18 July 2017, Renho held a long press conference at the Democratic Party headquarters, in front of a room full of reporters, photographers, and camera crews. Before the start of the conference, she distributed handouts that provided details about her nationality history and a facsimile of her family register, on which information unrelated to her nationality status had obliterated to protect the privacy of others in the register. The entire conference -- in which she spoke for about 7 and a half minutes, followed by roughly an hour or so of questions and answers -- is publicly viewable on several Youtube uploads.

Her register showed that she she had finally filed a notification of choice on 7 October 2016, which was 27 years overdue -- as she was born in 1967 and should have filed it between 1987-1989. She did this after attempting to file a notification of loss of foreign nationality after renouncing "Taiwan nationality" (Taiwan kokuseki) as she called her Republic of China status. On 23 September 2016, she received from Taiwan authorities a notice dated 13 September 2017 confirming that she had lost ROC's nationality. Then, on 7 October 2017, she filed a "Notification of loss of [foreign] nationality" (Kokuseki sōshitsu todoke ‘Ð‘rŽ¸“Í), which in principle would eliminate the need to file a choice notification. However, the Legal Affairs Bureau declined to accept the notification, directing her instead to file a "Notification of choice [of Japanese nationality]" -- which she did, on the same date, at a municipal government hall.

Renho ardently criticized the hostile climate in which she felt reluctantly obliged, as a public official and as the representative leader of the Democratic Party. Ten days after the conference, she resigned her leadership to take responsibility for the party's losses in the Tokyo Prefecture elections that had been held on 2 July 2017.

Renho made eloquent pleas for the creation of a society in which the sort of attacks against her would not happen -- in which people's family backgrounds would not give rise to doubt about their loyalty, and in which dual nationality and other forms of multiple multiple identities were met with tolerance and empathy. She especially reeled at insinuations by a few opposition party members who likened her to a spy.

Onoda Kimi

One of Renho's political enemies, who criticized the way she had raised the specter of human rights and racial discrimination, and even hate speech, in her the course of her attempts to deal with her attackers, was Liberal Democratic Party parliamentarian Onoda Kimi (¬–ì“c‹I”ü b1982). Onoda, was born in the United States to an American father and a Japanese mother before the Nationality Law became ambilineal in 1985, contended that Renho should not have used the controversy as a platform for talking about racial discrimination and identity, but should have limited her response to the question of whether she had, or hadn't, coimplied with the legal requirement to file a notification of choice and then endeavor to renounce her Taiwan nationality.

Onoda's parents had completed the same procedures that Renho's parents had completed to facilitate the acquisition of Japanese nationality for their children during the 3-year window from 1985 to 1987, as provided by special transitory measures in the supplementary regulations of the revised law. Onoda explained, on her Facebook page, that she, too, had assumed she had lost her American nationality when becoming Japanese, but discovered she hadn't even filed the choice notification. She uploaded an image of her family register showing that, on 1 October 2015 she had filed her nationality choice notification, and that it was duly received and accepted by the registrar having jurisdiction over her primary family register on 26 October -- which was only 11 years late. She then went to the U.S. Consulate and divested herself of her American nationality.

Onoda apologized for not having "endeavored" enough to comply with the law. She also deflected attention from herself by making political hay of Renho's situation. Onoda is on record as having spoken of "spies" in the same breath that she criticized Renho. She seemed unwilling to understand the conditions of Renho's personal experiences, which were considerably different than her own, and took the position that the only issue worth discussing was compliance.

A number of Onoda's remarks about Renho amounted to little more than ad hominem back biting in order to gain political advantage -- as though to say she, Onoda, had been contrite and forthcoming about her own failure to file a choice notification when younger -- as opposed to Renho, who fumbled the facts in her own case and changed her stories over the months it took her to clarify what had happened in the past -- a past she dimly recalled, and her father was no longer alive to shed light on what had happened. In the meantime, Renho's own party was divided as to how she and/or the party should handle the controversy, which at times lost track of the dual nationality issue.

The Renho and Onoda cases betray the sort of nastiness that epitomizes party and personal politics, and makes intelligent public debate about issues like tolerance of dual nationality, and other forms of multiple identity, difficult.

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PRC connections in Japan

Forthcoming.

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