Blogging and the Anti-Japan Protests in China

Contrary to popular belief, the blogosphere is not always a political hotbed of polemical partisanship. A good case in point is the much-yelled-about issue of the anti-Japan protests in China. For all the sound and fury on some Chinese blogs, there is also rational discussion and blogs are providing a meeting ground for common Chinese and Japanese people to speak calmly about the issues. Joi Ito has a very good post on his blog about the protests:

…I do think that the text books and teaching in Japan underplays the actions of the military in China and I believe the Japanese text books are a real problem that should be addressed…

In other words, the Japanese ministry of education needs an overhaul. Maybe they should use Wikipedia instead.

I’m not trying to trivialize the issues that are being protested by the Chinese, but if they are trying to cause change in Japan, maybe some of them can try to talk to their allies in Japan like me instead of trying to force or scare into submission their enemy. A reasonable bridge building effort between activists and experts on both sides to try to address the issues through tactical maneuvers might be useful.

Joi is admirably forthright in admitting Japan’s culpability (something I can relate to, having once apologized to an angry Bangladeshi cabdriver who was upset about the Pakistani army’s mistreatment of Bengalis in 1971), but what is truly remarkable is the discussion which follows in the comments to Joi’s post: there are well over a hundred comments, from all sides of the issue, and many interesting and innovative points are brought up and then debated with conspicuous and thoughtful civility. It is possible to have serious and considerate conversation in the blogosphere. Check it out.

And in a parallel development, I just saw that it was announced about an hour ago that Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi has extended an apology to China:

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi apologized on Friday for Japan’s wartime atrocities and said he would meet Chinese President Hu Jintao in a bid to repair ties that are at their worst in over three decades.

Koizumi, speaking after making the apology in front of world leaders at a multilateral forum, said he would meet Hu on Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia-Africa summit in Jakarta.

“Nothing is produced by antagonism,” Koizumi told traveling reporters. “Friendship is most important. I would like to hold the meeting from that perspective.”

More here in the NY Times.