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 13 September 2016


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, before turning politician. She has studied in Beijing and reported from Taiwan.

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. I have not (as of 15 September 2009) confirmed that she 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.

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 recall 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) after becoming Japanese, , ROC , repeated that she had never acted other than as Japanese since she became Japanese, and flatly stated that she was Japanese -- "Nipponjin desu".

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PRC connections in Japan

Forthcoming.

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