The East Asian sphere of hatred-A A +A
Saturday, February 2, 2013
WHEN you ask a Filipino what he thinks about Malaysia, Indonesia or Singapore, he’d probably say that they’re nice places to visit without saying anything bad about them at all, or he’d say that Malaysians, Indonesians and Singaporeans are just our friendly neighbors who look just like us but speak different languages.
We try to consider everyone between Burma and Papua New Guinea as our friends, but if you shift your gaze a little bit to the north towards East Asia, things are quite different.
There are officially six countries in East Asia, but only five of them really consider themselves as East Asians. China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan all share the same sea, but the sixth country, Mongolia, considers itself to be more Northern Asian than Eastern Asian.
If people from the five nations (excluding the Mongolians) were put into a room together, a fight would erupt within the first half hour, and all the nationalities would be joining in.
Why? Because the magical East Asian Sphere of Hatred dictates so, that’s why. China hates Taiwan, Japan and both Koreas; Japan hates both Koreas and China; South Korea hates China, but actually hates Japan more than North Korea; Taiwan hates both China and North Korea, while North Korea hates everyone and everything.
Why all this hate? Everyone has their own reasons, but everyone seems to have a common hatred for China, and China hates them back.
Let’s start with Taiwan – did you know that Taiwan isn’t a member of the United Nations because China won’t let it be a member? You see, to the Chinese, the Taiwanese are basically rebels that formed their own country within Chinese territory. The government Beijing one day hopes to unify China once more and take back what they claim is rightfully theirs.
Taiwan disagrees and, like any self-respecting nation state, wants to keep its sovereignty. However, the United Nations has China’s back – adopting the one-China policy, the UN will never allow more than one China (“People’s Republic of” or “Republic of”) to be a United Nations member.
The relationship between China and Taiwan is a lot like that between North Korea and South Korea. During World War II, China used to be controlled by a Nationalist government, then the Japanese showed up and began conquering China just because it could.
China in World War II was a very chaotic place – it was the Nationalists vs. the Communists vs. the Japanese. Eventually the Communists steamrolled over the country in 1950, and the Nationalists and their supporters fled to Formosa Island and decided to call themselves “Taiwan” while puffing their chests and blowing raspberries at China. China declared war to reclaim what it perceived as “lost territory”, and up to this day, no peace treaty has been signed between the two nations.
…Just like North and South Korea. The Korean peninsula is divided into two parts – the Communist, American-hating north and the Democratic Gangnam-style dancing south.
Once upon a time there was a war called World War II, and Japan decided that it would be awesome if it annexed Korea. Both the North Koreans and South Koreans hated Japan, but it was the Soviets and Americans that made them hate each other. You see when Uncle Joe Stalin and Uncle Sam decided to adopt Korea, they didn’t want to share, and that’s basically what caused the Korean War.
In short, both Koreas hate Japan because it split them up, and the Koreas hate each other because they can’t agree on unification. North Korea calls South Korea a “nation of puppets and traitors”, while South Korea says North Korea is their “crazy, Communist brother.”
Everyone in East Asia has a reason to hate Japan. This once war-mongering country once dreamed of literal world domination and was conquering every country it saw within 5,000km.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if the Japanese conquerors were as benevolent as Alexander’s army, let’s say, but no – they regarded the other Asians as inferior and committed so many war crimes that they may have invented new ones. The Koreans find it remarkable that the Filipinos harbor zero hatred towards the Japanese even though the Japanese did the exact same thing to our country.
Another thing that peeves pretty much everyone in East Asia is amount of territorial disputes that each nation complains about. China is a land hog, claiming everything that ancient Chinese explorers laid eyes on, including Taiwan, which is like – a whole other country; South Korea and Japan have disagreements over a couple of tiny islands called the Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo in Korean, Takeshima in Japanese) and even the name of the Sea of Japan (South Korea insists on calling it the East Sea – this is how much they hate Japan).
Land disputes aside, though, what do all these conflicts have in common? They’re all rooted in history. Everyone seems to hold a grudge and nobody’s willing to let bygones be bygones.
They should learn from countries like us and learn that nothing can change the past, but there’s no good reason to hate your neighbor in the present.
If everyone in East Asia shakes hands and makes nice, then it would open a whole new world of possibilities for the rest of the world. Hybrid vehicles made by Samsung and Mitsubishi working together with components manufactured in Taiwan and China, East-Asia themed restaurants blending a fusion of food from all the East Asian cultures, probably even an East Asian political entity like the European Union with its own general assembly and universal currency, and… not neglecting North Korea, a big arms deal with China’s North Industries Corporation and North Korea’s First Machine Industry Bureau, to produce millions of AK-type rifles… all right maybe that last one wasn’t a good idea, but you get my point.
An East Asia where nobody’s bickering with each other seems plausible, but only if people put aside their prejudices and grudges and think about the betterment of humanity as a whole.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on February 03, 2013.