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Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
8 months ago

What about Turkey? What about Russia? What about China? When will they apologize for their imperial adventures? The answer is never, because anti-colonial guilt is a Western European phenomenon.

Matt M
Matt M
8 months ago

Not exactly a Western, European phenomenon. It is limited to wealthy, usually young, ultra-“liberal” Western European people who went to posh schools and top universities and work in media, fashion, publishing etc. And their lily-livered enablers in the institutions who hope to gain some kudos (or job security) by pandering to them.
Most Brits, myself very much included, are very proud of the British Empire and its achievements.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

The renowned Spanish-American philosopher Georges Santayana gave this assessment of the British Empire on the eve of the Great War. How right he was, and how fitting this should be the unabashed view of an intelligent foreigner.

“Never since the heroic days of Greece has the world had such a sweet, just, boyish master. It will be a black day for the human race when scientific blackguards, conspirators, churls, and fanatics manage to supplant him.”.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

Interesting essay. I know Japan faces some horrific demographic issues – in part I think because they discourage immigration – but maybe the self-hating culture of progressivism is simply a western, white thing. I could be completely off base, but Asians seem too serious to adopt all this nonsense.

Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
8 months ago

While I appreciate the author’s perspective I should also like to place the success of the Japanese imperialist project in context.
At a time when European empires increasingly used race to justify colonial presence, there was a powerful draw of the Japanese slogan of ” Asia for the Asians”.
In the context of the history of 20th century British India which I am familiar with, race was the one factor which was used to privilege colonial rule. A stark difference to the early East India Company days when there was free racial intermingling, and cohabitation.
It was possibly race which prevented India being given Dominion Status in 1920-21 along with the white colonies.
So, why ignore the emotional appeal of Japan to many colonized educated classes who knew that despite their Anglicisation/ Westernised ways, they would always be ” second”.
That explains why from Nehru to Tagore to Subhash Bose ( whom the author fails to mention) in the Indian context, Japan remained the magnet it was.
It was RadhaBinod Pal by the way- the author mistakenly spells the name of this eminent Bengali jurist.
I am not very familiar with present day Japanese society, but I see no reason why Empire of any kind should summarily be dismissed as ” bad”.
If the Japanese haven’t fallen victim to the Woke bug, it’s not entirely bad.
Maybe the Western academy should learn and develop a greater sense of nuance too about colonial Empire.

Last edited 8 months ago by Sayantani Gupta
Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence
8 months ago

Valid points, but do you not think that it is the Indian nationalists’ conception of the democratic, post-colonial nation in terms of race-thinking that continues to trouble ideas about what or who even constitutes the “state” in contemporary India? Is race-thinking even an ideology relevant to the democratic state — Japanese or Indian?

Last edited 8 months ago by Jennifer Lawrence
Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
8 months ago

Haven’t understood your query. If you mean that race wasn’t a factor in Empire, I would agree to an extent for the EIC spell upto 1857- though even there from Lord Cornwallis and 1793, there was a shift in the early social ease of the British.
After 1857 once power shifted to the Crown British rule became increasingly status quoist. Ideological affinities for racial segregation increased- especially if you read the Ilbert Bill controversy of 1884.
If I am clearer about your question I can try to answer it.

Paul Devlin
Paul Devlin
8 months ago

What would the British have given dominion status to? India was dozens (hundreds) of major and minor kingdoms. Didn’t each of those deserve their own freedom?

Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Devlin

There was a promise made by the Crown government about Dominion Status during WW One. Why would there have been a problem with the Princely states? They were loyalist and had separate treaty terms with the British, and if the Crown had continued to be the Head of State- as in Australia etc why should there have been a problem in India?
Granting it in 1921 would have stymied Gandhi certainly and allowed more of the moderate pro Western elements within Congress to dominate.

Last edited 8 months ago by Sayantani Gupta
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Surely the advent of steamships in the 1840s facilitated the arrival of thousands of wannabe memsahibs, and with them their middle class, Victorian racial prejudices?

Muscular evangelical Christian missionaries probably didn’t help either.

Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
8 months ago

Yes. “Fishing fleet” plus the preachers did no good!
What fun it would have been to have seen more of the likes of Ochterlony and his 13 ” wives” preening around!!

Last edited 8 months ago by Sayantani Gupta
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Yes all rather surprising for a man born in BOSTON, Massachusetts, British North America.

Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
8 months ago

Maybe because of that! Went ” native” with a vengeance.
The Suez Canal opening was certainly a spoiler to the “ease” of interaction.

Last edited 8 months ago by Sayantani Gupta
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

The ‘White’ colonies had ALL been granted self government before The Great War, and thus were at the front of the queue when it came to handing out Dominion status.
India was not so fortunate

Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
8 months ago

There were promises that were perhaps not intended to be kept. The damage done was to discredit the Home Rule leagues movements of 1916-20 which were far more sensible than what transpired subsequently…

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Agreed, a poor record on reengaging on previous agreements.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago

Interesting essay. I’m an American with a Japanese wife, and after becoming a lawyer I studied law at Tokyo University (in Japanese) and then worked there for several years before returning to the US to raise our children.
I think there is some truth to this viewpoint but a lot of exaggeration as well. Take the comfort women, for example. Korea has made a big issue of this in recent years but the historical record does not show that the Japanese forced prostitutes into service. The poverty of the times produced plenty of volunteers.
A few years ago in an academic article Harvard law professor Mark Ramseyer (my fellow fellow at Tokyo University) noted that Japanese military brothels provided better conditions than did the brothels in Japan and Korea (both countries allowed prostitution at the time). He was pilloried for writing the facts.
Not to say that women were not exploited. Some, perhaps many, were, by family or by pimps. But they were not exploited by the Japanese military, which regulated the brothels to keep down disease and disorder. As Mark Ramseyer found, the Japanese military paid prostitutes a premium to keep them from leaving the war zones and plying their trade elsewhere.
Many Japanese politicians like Abe Shinzo do lean towards nationalistic views of Japanese history. But so do politicians in every country I know of. That’s just what politicians do.
As do we all. Every history is written with a slant, and usually by the victor. Or as Will (and Ariel) Durant put it, “history is mostly guessing; the rest is prejudice”.

Last edited 8 months ago by Carlos Danger
Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

In fact the conditions for prostitution were far worse in wartime Bengal. Researching the period for an upcoming book, I was startled to find the unorganised and considerably risky unregulated prostitution in Calcutta during World WarTwo. Especially after the influx of American troops for the Hump flights and the Burma campaigns, the sector was poorly regulated by the local administration leading to lots of social complexities.

Graham Strugnell
Graham Strugnell
8 months ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

From what I have read many Korean were forced into brothels and treated like animals. The Japanese regarded other races as sub human and did not treat them humanely. Many of the sex slaves (comfort women is a horrible euphemism) were outcasts in their own land once their colonisers withdrew. And what they did to the people in Singapore was disgusting. The Japanese way of dealing with shame is either to kill yourself or pretend the events never happened. You let them off too lightly.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
8 months ago

What did you read that made you think many Koreans were forced into brothels and treated like animals?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

No mention of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902-1923?

This alliance ended our era of ‘splendid isolation’ and ensured that the Tsar and his ruffians were given a ‘damned good thrashing’ by the Japanese in 1905, much to our amusement.

Subsequently our Japanese allies ‘hoovered up’ Imperial Germany’s Chinese possessions during the Great War, and Japanese warships helped us control the Mediterranean.

Unfortunately post-war, this alliance conflicted with US imperial ambitions, and was severed* under duress in 1922-3, thus starting the countdown to Pearl Harbour in 1941.

(* Using Canada as the intermediary!)

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
8 months ago

Your comment about Japanese warships helping us control the Mediterranean is intriguing. Could you expand a little for us? They’d have to sail a heck of a long way to start with!

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The 2nd Special Squadron, based in Malta and consisting of 3 Cruisers and 10 destroyers from February 1917 to July 1919.
The Royal Navy was impressed with their performance.

Dylan Blackhurst
Dylan Blackhurst
8 months ago

Really interesting article.
But I am left wondering. This constant need to keep digging into ex imperial power’s past is getting us nowhere.
Japan post war has provided the world many things of value (as has the UK, France etc).
Maybe it’s time to celebrate that. Rather than constantly soul searching over the past.

Last edited 8 months ago by Dylan Blackhurst
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.

julia abbott
julia abbott
8 months ago

China has not forgotten the past. Japan’s treatment of the Chinese in WWII is a disguised – not healed – wound.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
8 months ago
Reply to  julia abbott

Oddly each of the Chinese, Korean and Japanese cultures view their fellows as inferior. Not quite as inferior as shirobuta – white pig.

R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago

Given that they were militarily occupied for seven years (and arguably to this day) and were completely broken and remade by MacArthur into a militarily weak shadow of their former selves, I’d say that was penance enough. If you read enough Alex Kerr the new Japan that leaps out from the pages is a husk overrun by modernity obsession and a hatred for nature. There’s virtually nothing of the old Japan left to reckon with. The state that conquered Asia is gone.

D Glover
D Glover
8 months ago

If you have a very strong stomach look up what Unit 731 did in Manchuria. They were the Japanese biological warfare exponents. Their cruelty surpassed everyone else’s.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago
Reply to  D Glover

And Emperor Hirohito was fully conversant with what was going on at Unit 731, and thus should have been HANGED.

Josef O
Josef O
8 months ago

The history of the relation between China and Japan is extremely complicated. The background is very important. The Qing dinasty which ruled China in the 19th century was not Han but of Manchurian origin. Hence SunYat Sen was fighting them to free China from their yoke. So the century of humiliation of China was due to the Manchurian rule, not exactly Chinese. Also the revolution of Sun was short lived and it took China several years to reach a real Chinese democratic governement, it happened with Chang Kai Shek. Many imperial powers were involved. Tsarist Russia, UK, Japan and other european countries. I appreciate the effort of Ms Hotta but to understand what was going on many more pages are required.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
8 months ago

Japan is run by people who believe, “that Japan should be applauded for liberating much of East Asia from Western colonial powers; that the 1946–1948 Tokyo War Crimes tribunals were illegitimate; and that killings by Imperial Japanese troops during the 1937 Nanjing Massacre were exaggerated or fabricated,” as well as that the comfort women were not coerced. The first of those, at least, has been a widespread view in several of those countries at the time and since. Indonesia, as such, is a direct product of it, since the Japanese-backed rulers of the Dutch East Indies simply declared independence under that name at the end of the War.

The founder of Taiwanese nationalism, Lee Teng-hui, was a volunteer Second Lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army until the very end of the War. He always regarded Japanese as his first language, and Tokyo as the cultural capital of his wider civilisation. The dictator of South Korea from 1961 to 1979, Park Chung-hee, had been an officer in the Japanese Manchukuo Army that had occupied Manchuria. These are the heroic Asian Tigers of successive generations of the same neoliberals who have always lionised Augusto Pinochet. Their economic system neither requires nor upholds democracy.

And the India to which both main parties in Britain are so keen to cosy up is run by the heirs of Mahatma Gandhi’s Nazi-linked assassins, and it has always recognised among the fathers of the nation the likes of Subhas Chandra Bose, who raised an army in support of Japan. He has featured on stamps six times, and on coins three times. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport is the aviation hub for the whole of eastern and northeastern India. There is also a Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Island. Yes, an island.

Sayantani Gupta
Sayantani Gupta
8 months ago
Reply to  David Lindsay

You make sweeping judgements not backed by either a sense of Indian history or of the British Empire in India. Please donot denigrate Subhash Bose without understanding the context of the INA. As for “N…” linked assassin’s, I would be very careful to use such terms, when many elements of Canadian and South American society have ties there. The assassination of Gandhi has a context – and while not condoning it, it was a buildup from the events of 1946- 47 in particular and the mishandling by Congress of the Partition situation.
History has complexity and nuance and should not be prejudiced by the manner of your assertions .

Last edited 8 months ago by Sayantani Gupta
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

“With Japan’s victory in the war against Tsarist Russia in 1905, it became the first non-white power to defeat a white one in a modern war.”

Nonsense! Ethiopia deserves that single honour having thrashed the Italians in the First Italo-Ethiopian War of 1895-6.
At the Battle of Adwa they destroyed the Italian army, killing 6,000 and capturing nearly 4,000 more*.

(* A contemporary rumour that the captured Italians were subsequently castrated sadly proves to be untrue.)

Christopher Thompson
Christopher Thompson
8 months ago

Sadly??

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
8 months ago

Castration is/ was the usual punishment for criminal behaviour in Ethiopia, particularly in places such as the Wadu District.
The Italian invaders certainly deserved such a fate.

Juan Manuel PĂ©rez PorrĂșa
Juan Manuel PĂ©rez PorrĂșa
8 months ago

These denunciations and condemnations of colonialism or imperialism are not symmetric or universal, meant to be applied to all colonial or imperial attempts, regardless of their success or failure, the context where they took place, or regardless of what country or entity carried them out.

Some empires, like the British or the Spanish, will always be condemned, or at least they will be presumed guilty until proven innocent. Others will not be, such as the Aztec Empire, no matter its objective qualities (which were awful, by the way) or relative worth with respect to other empires. (Aztec rule was orders of magnitude worse than the Spanish rule which replaced it, but in anti-colonial or anti-imperial ideologies, this doesn’t matter).

Kant’s formulation of his categorical imperative, that one should “act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”, simply does not apply here, and accusations of hypocrisy seem (and actually are) out of place. This foolish insistence, by the way, on condemning Russian Imperialism is partly to blame for the indifference of countries outside the West towards Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its attempted annexation of Ukraine’s Donbass region.

Last edited 8 months ago by Juan Manuel PĂ©rez PorrĂșa
Agnes Aurelius
Agnes Aurelius
8 months ago

I think the author should read more widely about the history of China. For example during the 19th century, until WW 11 The British & French treated the Chinese like vermin – using the “N” word was a normalised way to address them. The western supported the KMT, Chiang Kai-Shek was so corrupt and cared nothing for the well-being of his own people. His civil war with the communists showed how little either side cared for individual Chinese. The brutality the torture the flooding of villages with disregard to their lives. When Chiang moved to what is now Taiwan the inhabitants were so badly abused that they missed the Japanese.