Michael Burleigh at Literary Review:
Relations with Japan deteriorated when the Chinese discovered the possibilities of mobilising anti-Japanese sentiment, which became easier as Japanese nationalists began to baulk at the ‘cultural’ restraints the USA had placed upon them. It does not help that Japanese politics is frequently dynastic, so that the sons and grandsons of wartime figures have rotated through conservative cabinets. Some of these instantly forgettable figures have felt emboldened enough to pay their respects at Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, dedicated to those who have died for their emperor. In 1978 the chief priest enshrined fourteen Class-A war criminals there, adding them to the 2.46 million already commemorated at the site. Emperor Akihito has, as his father did, always given the shrine a wide berth, but not so some of Japan’s conservative politicians, notably Junichiro Koizumi and Shinzō Abe, the former and current prime ministers, who have stoked up nationalist feelings among Japanese incensed at how left-wing teachers’ unions have ensured that a masochistic version of the country’s history is fed to schoolchildren. Tempers worsened when Japanese academics began quibbling about the death toll in the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, the worst mass atrocity of the Sino-Japanese War. The fact that the Taiwanese tend to be nostalgic about the Japanese occupation (they still use Japanese administrative buildings, in contrast to the South Koreans, who tore them down in Seoul) adds to Chinese grievances.