"Governments should be afraid of their people."
December 22, 2012 2:11 PM   Subscribe

Television viewers in China were shocked last Friday when state broadcaster CCTV aired V for Vendetta unedited in prime time. Previously, Chinese search engines would not even return results for the anti-totalitarian 2006 film; CCTV-6 did at least harmonize the title by translating it as "V Special Forces", rather than the more common translation given in pirated DVD editions, "V the Revenge Killing Squad".

Some Chinese netizens speculated that the broadcast meant that censorship was beginning to loosen under newly-installed General Secretary Xi Jinping, with one Weibo user asking: "For the first time CCTV-6 aired 'V for Vendetta,' what to think, is the reform being deepened?"

CCTV played down the significance of the broadcast, with a spokesperson stating: "It is already broadcast. It is no big deal [...] We also didn't anticipate such a big reaction."
posted by strangely stunted trees (53 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
So, if you look at this, and think that it's ridiculous that the Chinese government is allowed to restrict the content of movies "to promote social harmony", consider that there's a resurgent movement in the US to do exactly the same thing to video games, "to protect the children".

It is the same basic thinking, that people in your society shouldn't be allowed to see/experience things you don't agree with, because they can't handle it... while you, of course, are in a position to know better than they do what they can tolerate. It's infantilizing people who are just as good as you are, because they happen to hold different opinions, perhaps opinions you find scary.

The Chinese censors probably believe just as firmly as the game censors that what they're doing is correct. It's obviously wrong from the outside, but it's not so obvious from the inside. It's all about trying to coerce people into being how you want them to be, superior to inferior, instead of persuading them, as equals.
posted by Malor at 2:23 PM on December 22, 2012 [21 favorites]


Wasn't the film version of V for Vendetta criticized for turning the original graphic novel's more nuanced comparison between anarchy and fascism into a hopelessly dated screed against George W. Bush?

I mean, if that's the case, now that Bush is just an old man, it's pretty safe to release the movie.
posted by FJT at 2:26 PM on December 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think the criticism, at least from Alan Moore, was exactly the opposite: that by setting it in England instead of America, the Wachowskis refused to confront Bush head-on.

A better criticism would be making the all-powerful fascist leader a hateful, homely, and utterly uncharismatic figure played by John Hurt with shrill, scowling menace. The real Adam Sutler would have undoubtedly radiated strength and reassurance, if not warmth per se.
posted by Balok at 2:38 PM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't know about the nuance, I was just mad they didn't include all the musical numbers.
posted by Catblack at 2:40 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just watched V for Vendetta for the first time three days ago, and it never occurred to me that it was aimed anywhere near GWB. It was a very British film, and reminded me of Orwell's later work more than anything else.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 2:42 PM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, if you look at this, and think that it's ridiculous that the Chinese government is allowed to restrict the content of movies "to promote social harmony", consider that there's a resurgent movement in the US to do exactly the same thing to video games, "to protect the children".

I don't know if it can be reduced to being exactly the same thing. The Chinese government's mistrust of foreign media and influence comes from it's history of being largely at the receiving end of European imperialism. There's also the Cold War/Communism mentality of mistrusting capitalist media. And also, there comes a belief that since rule of law isn't absolute, there are some controls that are needed. There are examples of this especially in China's attempt at Internet control, especially around domestic crises like the Anti-Japanese protests or Xinjiang protests.
posted by FJT at 2:44 PM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Here's a review that lays out the comparison between the two:
First and foremost, the central political theme is different. The book was very clearly Anarchy versus Fascism, with both being represented as varying shades of grey. The movie is more like Liberalism versus neo-Conservatism, and is very much Good Guys versus Bad Guys. The big thing that Moore took issue with in the adaptation (which he demanded he not be credited for) was that the writers took what was a very British story and implanted a quite American set of views and beliefs on it. It's not too tough to see parallels drawn against the Bush administration in the adapted story, which probably goes a long way enlightening the viewer on how the Wachowskis view Dubya.

And although they made subtle attempts here and there, we're never really challenged to see the Movie V (Hugo Weaving) as anything other than a freedom fighter, a hero. He serves the common man, he fights the corrupted government… he's basically Robin Hood. Comic V was never, ever portrayed as simply being in the right. His methods are at least as violent and shocking as those of the government he seeks to topple. Not to mention his mental instabilities in the comic are much more pronounced and noticeable. In the movie, he's a regular gentleman (albeit one in a smiley mask who kills people with knives). He watches movies with Evey, makes her breakfast, and generally fits a superhero mould, a knight in black armour. It's only really near the beginning (when he destroys the Old Bailey) that Movie V shows any outward signs of mental imbalance. Comic V is much more willing to sacrifice the innocent and use any means to justify his ends.
posted by FJT at 2:47 PM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's not too tough to see parallels drawn against the Bush administration in the adapted story, which probably goes a long way enlightening the viewer on how the Wachowskis view Dubya.

Oh well, too tough for this watcher, I guess.

I have to admit, I enjoyed the film, and got lost in it, and not only was I not thinking of George W. Bush, I wasn't thinking of the Wachowskis either.

I haven't read the book (nor was I aware of it when I sat down to watch the film).
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 2:52 PM on December 22, 2012


It's okay, it's too bad movie to inspire anyone to anything.
posted by The Whelk at 2:55 PM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I couldn't live in China, but when i stayed there, people were so trusting, they were like children, i felt this strong need to protect them...i think, every bad thing has a good side just as every good thing will have some bad aspects, if only because everyone's opinions vary and everything has so many aspects, it's inevitable - i don't think saying, the ones who have enough money, anyway, in surveys they showed the highest levels of calm and trust in the world. Ditto Singapore - there is a lot that is wrong, but the calmness and peacefulness (even if it's from being kept in a childlike state) that came with being so trusting, i was really jealous. I'm very nervous, large parts of my life have been ruined just by worrying all the time, my fault, but just saying.
posted by maiamaia at 2:58 PM on December 22, 2012


It's okay, it's too bad movie to inspire anyone to anything.

Eh, mostly I watch films for entertainment purposes. This one entertained me. Inspiration was unnecessary.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 3:00 PM on December 22, 2012


It's okay, it's too bad movie to inspire anyone to anything.

Of all the Wachowski films it's the only one that I can't imagine being much different if it had been a Miramax adaptation instead. I think their mistake was sourcing something that already had lots of geek cred to begin with; they're better at starting from obscure, original or unexpected material bringing the awesome to it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:07 PM on December 22, 2012


( couldn't get over how it looked like a Honda commercial - cheap cheap cheap)
posted by The Whelk at 3:08 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Malor: that's a lazy generalisation of the role of state censorship in the PRC as a whole. I'll agree with you that infantilising is what generally what SARFT does (State Administration of Radio, Film & Television) but that's not true for all the censorship that China imposes.

There's censorship to to suppress unwanted political attention: riots against land seizures (but not land seizure itself), counter party political discussions, and local party corruption (but not always suppressed). There's also censorship that dampens the spread of false stories and rumours, as well as suppression of mob justice and flesh searches.

For example, there was a weibo going around earlier this month of a bridge's concerte base seemingly supported by mere wood pillars pitched into the mud. The implication is that this is yet another bridge built by unqualified workers, will collapse any minute, people's lives are in danger, etc. Turns out that bridge was built during the occupation and hasn't been in used for decades.

Another example was the salt scare during last year's Fukushima disaster. Discussions forums talked about radioactive iodine and it somehow cumulated into a rationale for buying salt now (I can't remember the flimsy logic). People panicked and started buying excessive amount of salt based on this and stores in the coastal cities ran out of salt.

There's a lot of people in China, and a lot of them are disaffected, poorly educated and just getting by. Rightly or wrongly, the CCP is worried about misleading or outright wrong information motivating them to "disrupt social harmony" (panic, riot, mob violence, general unrest) and state censorship is employed to control that. Look at how censorship was selectively enforced during the anti-Japanese riots of the past few years, or even during the Red Cross money scandal, as a social release valve.

I think it's a totally arsed way of handling things and only digs a deeper hole but it's not in the same vein as "protect the children". It's still about social control though: the masses can't handle the truth versus don't have enough information to discern the truth.
posted by tksh at 3:10 PM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


When I lived in China, I was pretty shocked to see both Farewell My Concubine and To Live on TV, with English subtitles. Both are excellent films, and both take very, very harsh looks at the history of China. To Live, in particular, was stunning, in a horrifying way. Essentially, the film is about a Chinese family that is shit upon by every major movement in China. Non-stop dread and despair, all due to the insanity of Chinese government policies during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Just a brutal, amazing film. I couldn't believe I was watching it on Chinese TV.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:13 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


The state broadcaster is called CCTV? Well that's cheeky.
posted by meadowlark lime at 3:15 PM on December 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Of all the Wachowski films it's the only one that I can't imagine being much different if it had been a Miramax adaptation instead. I think their mistake was sourcing something that already had lots of geek cred to begin with; they're better at starting from obscure, original or unexpected material bringing the awesome to it.

The Matrix was many things but its was hardly obscure, original or unexpected vis a vis borrowing from geek source material. If nothing else, it borrowed heavily from Cyberpunk and Shadowrun, which both Wachowskis played growing up. See e.g. Virtual Realities, the short story of the "Matrix Born Project" (from the identically titled Shadowrun sourcebook.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 3:24 PM on December 22, 2012


they're better at starting from obscure, original or unexpected material bringing the awesome to it.

So, was Speed Racer obscure or unexpected, in your opinion? (Or is it the exception that proves the rule).

It's been so long since I saw the movie, or read the comic, so I can't even begin to guess how well the Chinese population might make parallels between V and their system, but I am really surprised they let the "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people." though.

I wonder if there is any signal bleed into North Korea. Probably not.

Also, they banned Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest? Good on them.
posted by Mezentian at 3:26 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, was Speed Racer obscure or unexpected, in your opinion?

It's the case I was particularly thinking of when I said unexpected.

If nothing else, it borrowed heavily from Cyberpunk and Shadowrun,

Cyberpunk isn't something you borrow from, it's a genre. That's like borrowing from Gothic. As for drawing upon Shadowrun, that's not terribly comparable to an adaptation of the actual text of a well-known book.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:39 PM on December 22, 2012


It was a very British film, and reminded me of Orwell's later work more than anything else.

To be sure, the original comic book stories dated from the Thatcher era. But even Moore felt that the film turned his tale into a "Bush-era parable":

It's a thwarted and frustrated and perhaps largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values [standing up] against a state run by neo-conservatives — which is not what "V for Vendetta" was about. It was about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about [England]. The intent of the film is nothing like the intent of the book as I wrote it.
posted by dhartung at 4:02 PM on December 22, 2012


even Moore felt that the film turned his tale into a "Bush-era parable"

If I learned anything from The Lord of the Rings, it's that once you sell the film rights to your book, your criticism of the film is worth about as much as the average person. It's out of your hands, and can be adapted in whatever ways the filmmakers think will work.

Anyway...

Moore says '[The film is] a thwarted and frustrated and perhaps largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values [standing up] against a state run by neo-conservatives.

Nope, didn't see that at all.

Moore then describes his novel as 'about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about [England].'

Yep, that's exactly what I got from the film.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 4:19 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I couldn't live in China, but when i stayed there, people were so trusting, they were like children, i felt this strong need to protect them...i think, every bad thing has a good side just as every good thing will have some bad aspects, if only because everyone's opinions vary and everything has so many aspects, it's inevitable - i don't think saying, the ones who have enough money, anyway, in surveys they showed the highest levels of calm and trust in the world. Ditto Singapore - there is a lot that is wrong, but the calmness and peacefulness (even if it's from being kept in a childlike state) that came with being so trusting, i was really jealous. I'm very nervous, large parts of my life have been ruined just by worrying all the time, my fault, but just saying.
posted by maiamaia at 2:58 PM on December 22 [+] [!]


Generalizations about cultures are easy to make lots of different and conflicting ways (Francis Fukuyama thinks China is a classic low-trust society ). the "calm and peacefulness" seems like a model goal of propaganda and education efforts - people may be just saying what they think a foreigner should hear. There are huge political tensions and economic suffering in China's history and in prosperous, successful China today ( which has been by far the most successful of any nation in raising millions out of poverty in recent history ) too - all reasons for mistrust and anxiety
posted by Bwithh at 4:20 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are examples of this especially in China's attempt at Internet control, especially around domestic crises like the Anti-Japanese protests or Xinjiang protests.

The anti-Japan protests were encouraged and organized by state authorities.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:21 PM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm just curious if there is anyone in this thread who reads Mandarin, follows what's happening in the online forums, and has lived for a meaningful period of time in China.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:22 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


(George_Spiggott, I think this is what snuffleupagus meant by Cyberpunk, which is I assume why he italicized it.)
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:26 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cyberpunk isn't something you borrow from, it's a genre.

It's also the title of an RPG, like Shadowrun, which I think was snuffle's point.

Edit: Jinx!
posted by SPrintF at 5:27 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'll say it. I fucking love this movie.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:39 PM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I lived in China for two years and my feeling is closer to Bwithh's. I remember the salt running out, couldn't even get it in Hong Kong. Can't speak Mandarin though, I am in awe of anyone who can as I found it impossible to grok without huge effort at memorisation.
posted by arcticseal at 7:06 PM on December 22, 2012


The anti-Japan protests were encouraged and organized by state authorities.

Yeah, the government has a hand in them, but the raw Ant-Japanese sentiment still exists and does not require any government effort to manufacture at all.

I'm just curious if there is anyone in this thread who reads Mandarin

I go to Panda Express and order the Mandarin Chicken every week. I make sure to use chopsticks too.
posted by FJT at 9:23 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sorry, that came off a little too glib. I speak Mandarin and read Chinese, but don't live in China anymore.
posted by FJT at 9:35 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Ditto Singapore - there is a lot that is wrong, but the calmness and peacefulness (even if it's from being kept in a childlike state) that came with being so trusting, i was really jealous. I'm very nervous, large parts of my life have been ruined just by worrying all the time, my fault, but just saying.
posted by maiamaia at 2:58 PM on December 22 [+] [!]


This does not accord with my impressions of any of the Singaporean people I know, many of whom deeply resent and criticise the paternalistic approach of their government, and are worried about all the sorts of things people are worried about in the west. They are not kept in a 'childlike' state ffs.

Frankly I'm pretty insulted on their behalf.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 10:39 PM on December 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I work for a Singapore-based company, and people are not childlike. There is a lot of discussion about politics. People just don't shout at each other about it.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:13 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the government has a hand in them, but the raw Ant-Japanese sentiment still exists and does not require any government effort to manufacture at all.

I've read that the Chinese education system helps play a big part in anti-Japanese sentiment, but since so many people get the whole Japanese textbook issue wrong, I suppose I am probably wrong about state control of the historical narrative in China.

It always strikes me funny that a country that is still upset about Japan is not so upset over a regime and its descendants who killed at least 20 million people 50 years ago, within living memory.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:17 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the government has a hand in them, but the raw Ant-Japanese sentiment still exists and does not require any government effort to manufacture at all.

There's a lot of justification for it; the crimes the Japanese committed against the Chinese were far worse, in many ways, than anything the Nazis did. They took cruelty and malice to extraordinary lengths. Maintaining residual hate for what was done to them is perfectly understandable.

I think it's interesting that, with Germany, we can differentiate "Nazis" from "Germans", and thus not feel the need to hold the whole country hostage for Hitler's misdeeds, even though so much of the country was complicit in supporting the Nazis. Japan doesn't have that easy separation, as the WW2 government wasn't a splinter, clearly identifiable political group that came to power; it was the mainstream military. Plus, the modern governments have struck me as fairly unconcerned with the crimes committed in WW2, so as a total outsider, through a language barrier, it seems to me that the Chinese believe the Japanese don't feel that much remorse for what happened. This keeps the anger alive, even though most of the people who committed the crimes are already dead.

But, seriously, the stuff the Japanese did in WW2... remember comfort girls? That was the tiniest of peccadilloes, on that scale.

I won't quote it directly, because it is really disturbing, but this Wikipedia link will give you an overview. I recommend not reading this anywhere near a mealtime.
posted by Malor at 12:12 AM on December 23, 2012


Cyberpunk isn't something you borrow from, it's a genre. That's like borrowing from Gothic. As for drawing upon Shadowrun, that's not terribly comparable to an adaptation of the actual text of a well-known book.
...
It's also the title of an RPG, like Shadowrun, which I think was snuffle's point.
...

Right. And in terms of actual source material, look at the story I linked. (It might not be well known, but it was in a sourcebook that I'd bet the Wachowskis read. They've talked about playing Shadowrun.) Comatose children raised in pods and plugged into a simsense construct their whole lives. To raise "deckers" ("netrunners" in Cyberpunk terminology) who know of no existence beyond serving their corporation (instead of being a bag of mitochondria, as in the movie). There are some correspondences between the main characters (Lucifer:Renny::Morpheus:Neo). However, it's not 1:1 and I'm not trying to take anything away from The Matrix. I enjoyed recognizing familiar elements when I saw it, and the Wachowskis both did their sources justice (beyond just RPGs) and came up with a hugely fun and successful interpretation and rendition of those themes. (At least in the first film.) I just wouldn't call it "original." But so what? It doesn't have to be original to be a great movie.

posted by snuffleupagus at 5:37 AM on December 23, 2012


I used to have difficulty understanding the ongoing anti-Japanese sentiments in both Korea and China. However, after visiting the "history" museum attached to the Yasakuni shrine I can understand it. As someone who has visited three of the four Major Korean War museums (I still need to get to the one in North Korea) I thought that I could not be shocked by a contrasting narrative. But the shrine's museum did just that.

The two things that most floored me were the map of the "Korean Liberation" culminating in Korea's final "liberation" in 1910 (with the large warning sign that said no photography was allowed in this portion of the museum (the part covering the years 1898 to 1945), and the section that claimed that the Nanjing massacre was not just propaganda but was actually perpetrated by the Chinese Communist party forcing women and children to throw themselves in front of the Japanese soldiers. I understand that this narrative is only subscribed to by fringe elements but it was still shocking to be confronted by it.

In contrast to this the Japanese contributions to the 918 Museum (The Mukden Incident) in Shenyang were very moving and give hope that people can admit to the horrors of the past and also put the animosities caused by the past behind them. A Chinese friend of mine after visiting this museum was very moved and mentioned that the two things she was shocked to learn that day was that the Holocaust was more horrific than the Japanese atrocities in China. And that there were Japanese people that were not only willing to apologize for past crimes but would help to put together a museum so none would ever forget and repeat these crimes.

I still don't agree with the anti-Japanese sentiments, I really do wish people would let the past remain in the past, but I can understand why these sentiments would continue. To me the most unfortunate thing is that while most people are really sorry for what happened in the past and do not wish it to continue to affect the present, many politicians around the world (including some in all three countries above) continue to use these ancient xenophopbic animosities for political gain.

Sorry for the extended derail. On the topic of the film being shown, I think it is not very surprising at all because it fits nicely into the Chinese narrative of the legitimacy of all Chinese governments. The current Chinese government (and also most Chinese dynasties, according to popular narratives) was put in place by a popular revolution so of course this story works.
posted by wobumingbai at 6:04 AM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Having lived in China, and now Japan, I've seen the antagonism from both sides. Many of my Chinese students hated Japanese people, but had never actually met someone from Japan. A lot of Japanese people (especially with the Senkaku/Diaoyu thing going on) have negative feelings for Chinese people, again, not having ever met them.

As to the government role in protests, some friends of mine living there the year before I got there told me about the protest on their campus after the U.S. bombed the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia. Two or three straight days of marching around the schools track, next to the foreign teacher and student building, chanting slogans. My friends, who were all American, were advised by the school to stay in their apartment, with their curtains closed.

The thing is, up until very recently, if there was an unauthorized protest, it was stopped, and quickly. Only in the last couple of years are we hearing about protests continuing after the protestors are told to stop. If a protest is happening, and it involves thousands of students, it's highly, highly unlikely that someone didn't okay it.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:28 AM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's a lot of justification for it; the crimes the Japanese committed against the Chinese were far worse, in many ways, than anything the Nazis did.

The Nazis set up a rationalized, industrial-scale extermination program that methodically and purposefully liquidated between six and eight million people. What the Japanese did is comparable to how other colonial powers, including the US, Britain, France and the Netherlands behaved in Southeast Asia.

Look at what the US did in the Philippines. Look at the US bombing campaign in Indochina that killed at least a million people.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:33 AM on December 23, 2012


I'd also draw a distinction between Japanese politicians and regular folk. The problem that Japan has at the moment is that its new leadership has family ties to Japanese militarism during the war. Abe's grandfather on his mother's side was a senior government minister during the war with oversight of the development of Manchuria.

Aso, the new deputy prime minister (and a former prime minister) is the heir of a large industrial conglomerate that used slave labour during the war.

Anything these guys say in relation to the current clusterfuck in NE Asia and the past clusterfuck in NE Asian will be interpreted through that lens.

That said, if there were more countries on earth like Japan (until recently a real commitment to lowering GHG emissions, freedom of expression, democratic participation, high personal incomes, social equity, commitment to high living standards, commitment to education, low rates of crime and social disorder, non-military foreign aid) the world would be a much better place.

However, while we focus on the past, it's going to be an Chinese century. I suppose it doesn't matter much to the United States, which is committed to getting rid of any and all civil liberties not covered under the 2nd Amendment.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:42 AM on December 23, 2012


KokuRyu, while you and I agree on a lot of things, I think drawing that kind of distinction (between politicians and, as you say, regular folk) excuses a lot of awful behavior. The things that happened in China, like Nanking, like Unit 731, like the comfort women, can't be simply laid at the feet of the ruling class (which is one of Japan's biggest problems, after all, wasn't it Kan who was a surprise for Prime Minister, since he hadn't attended Tokyo University, Waseda, or Kyoto University?).

A lot, and I mean a lot of people I come into daily contact with, people I would otherwise consider to be good, gentle, generous people, if you mention China to them, there's a moment of negativity, a curl of the lip, a look of disdain. If you're lucky, that's all, but if you're not, you'll hear something about how awful China is (not that, in a lot of ways, it isn't). My junior high students are being conditioned to dislike China, and you can hear it in the classroom. When we do flags of the world, or world language/adjective practice, and China comes up, more often than not, there's general approval or positive remarks towards most European countries, and, more recently, excited chatter about Korea (because pop music drivel and cheesy melodramas is more effective than ping pong), but when you get to China, all of that goes away, and I'm usually surprised and thrilled if no one makes a negative or disparaging comment.

There is a lot, and I mean a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment here, and it goes hand in hand with widely-held feelings of racism towards anything non-Japanese, but most especially other Asian countries and their people. I'm not saying that people will spit at your feet, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't there.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:02 PM on December 23, 2012


The Nazis set up a rationalized, industrial-scale extermination program that methodically and purposefully liquidated between six and eight million people. What the Japanese did is comparable to how other colonial powers, including the US, Britain, France and the Netherlands behaved in Southeast Asia.

You are wrong about this, full stop, and if you'd read the article above where I linked you, you'd have already seen this.

The Japanese appear to have killed about 10 million Asians, the vast majority of which were civilian. One of their largest extermination programs was called Kill All, Burn All, Loot All, which appears to have killed about 2.7 million Chinese. Total salt-the-earth stuff, leaving no humans alive where their army passed.

By any reasonable measure, they were similar to the Nazis, maybe worse. Asians appear to have suffered more than the Jewish people, not less. We can't be sure, however, because the Japanese didn't even bother to keep track of the subhumans they killed.

If you insist that the Nazis were worse, you're demonstrating ignorance, not spreading the truth.
posted by Malor at 4:36 PM on December 23, 2012


(oh, and just in case some chucklehead comes along later: I don't mean that Asians were actually subhuman. I was being bitterly sarcastic about the Japanese thinking that way.)
posted by Malor at 4:37 PM on December 23, 2012


If you insist that the Nazis were worse, you're demonstrating ignorance, not spreading the truth.

World War II casualties of the Soviet Union from all related causes are commonly estimated in excess of 20,000,000, both civilians and military, although the statistics vary to a great extent. The current assessment by Russian Government is that total losses were 26.6 million both civilians and military, with military dead at 8.7 million.

The Russian Academy of Science puts the civilian death toll in the regions occupied by Germany at 13.7 million. Contemporary Russian sources use the terms "genocide" and "premeditated extermination" when referring to civilian losses in the occupied USSR caused by the result of direct, intentional actions of violence. Civilians killed in reprisals during the Soviet partisan war account for a major part of the huge toll.[18]


The war on the Eastern Front went on for four years. The death toll may never be established with any degree of certainty. A recent estimate of Soviet military deaths is 8.7 million that lost their lives either in combat or in Axis captivity.[110] Soviet civilian deaths remain under contention, though roughly 20 million is a frequently cited figure.

I'm not trying to engage in a fight about who did worse in WWII, which I don't think is very useful.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:35 PM on December 23, 2012


If you insist that the Nazis were worse, you're demonstrating ignorance, not spreading the truth.

Why are we engaged in a genocidal pissing contest? This is like the nerdy Historian version of the media comparing the dead during a disaster.

I don't mean not to do important scholarly work and family tracing cases on this sort of stuff, but not to be stuck in this "who had it worse" mode, cause that's jut a race to the bottom.

There is a lot, and I mean a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment here

When I was in China, the largest group of exchange students studying there were Koreans. The 2nd largest group were Japanese. This was about 6 years ago. In my limited experience of tutoring junior high school students for a year, the kids are generally rude smartasses. I would probably expect a fair number grow out of that mentality.
posted by FJT at 6:22 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


So, if you look at this, and think that it's ridiculous that the Chinese government is allowed to restrict the content of movies "to promote social harmony", consider that there's a resurgent movement in the US to do exactly the same thing to video games, "to protect the children".
The purpose isn't to "protect children" it's to "Protect gun owners by deflecting public attention" - the only people bringing it up are on the right, most notably the NRA head.
I think the criticism, at least from Alan Moore, was exactly the opposite: that by setting it in England instead of America, the Wachowskis refused to confront Bush head-on.
I thought Alan Moore hated the idea of turning any of his comics into movies and refused to watch it on general principle. I don't know if he had any specific criticism.
Another example was the salt scare during last year's Fukushima disaster. Discussions forums talked about radioactive iodine and it somehow cumulated into a rationale for buying salt now (I can't remember the flimsy logic). People panicked and started buying excessive amount of salt based on this and stores in the coastal cities ran out of salt.
Haven't retail outlets in the US completely run out of AR-15s in the last week or so? I don't think you can say panic buying is a China-only thing. Also, your body regulates iodine levels - if you have enough in your body you won't absorb any from the environment (I think). That's a good thing when radioactive iodine isotopes are floating around. Most salt you buy is doped with iodine to prevent iodine deficiency.

I think it's unlikely anyone in china was at risk over fukushima, though, and I don't know if there is enough iodine in salt to help. Probably not. Normally people take potassium iodide to prevent the uptake of Iodine 131, and in fact people in the US were scrambling for that in the wake of the disaster (probably completely unnecessarily as well). However, in Japan itself access to Potasium iodide was a real issue
The Nazis set up a rationalized, industrial-scale extermination program that methodically and purposefully liquidated between six and eight million people. What the Japanese did is comparable to how other colonial powers, including the US, Britain, France and the Netherlands behaved in Southeast Asia.
The western powers weren't really that active in china for that long. The second opium war ended in 1860, and the republic of china was started in 1912. So around 50 years. During that time you had the Taiping Rebellion which killed millions of people. The western powers supported the Taiping for a while, then switched to the Qing dynasty later. But either way, they never tried to actually oppress and take direct control of China. They were fine with letting the Qing run things officially while having them by the balls. Then you had the ROC which was also aligned with the western powers, and the communists of course aligned with Russia.
I'm sure some bad things happened in China under direct western control, but I don't really know of anything nearly as bad as what the Japanese did there. For the most part they were able to get what they wanted from the various local governments and powers. (also, I'm not saying the western powers didn't do other things that were bad in places that were not china)

If you're curious about Chinese popular opinion these days you can check out Chinasmack which basically translates some posts from popular online message boards. I don't really know how representative it is.
posted by delmoi at 6:37 PM on December 23, 2012


A lot, and I mean a lot of people I come into daily contact with, people I would otherwise consider to be good, gentle, generous people, if you mention China to them, there's a moment of negativity, a curl of the lip, a look of disdain.

And why not? Although I think an awful lot of Japanese folks are dismayed at the actions of Ishihara which precipitated this crisis, on the other hand people rightfully think that China represents an existential threat to Japan, and is actively working to box in the country. China over the past few months has made it impossible for Japan to back down and save face. The people marching in the streets of China don't want an apology, they want to see the destruction of Japan. Period.

And I think that is a bad thing.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:38 PM on December 23, 2012


You are wrong about this, full stop, and if you'd read the article above where I linked you, you'd have already seen this.

Malor, you linked to a Wikipedia article. How do you expect anyone with half a brain to take you seriously when you say the Japanese were worse than the Nazis?

Yes, the Japanese, like other colonial powers, behaved badly, notably in Korea (which Japan was encouraged to annex by Britain and other colonial powers). And, with the exception of the bombing of Nagasaki, the Americans never conducted weapons tests on live subjects, although it would be good of you, Malor, to mention that the Americans never imprisoned or prosecuted the Japanese researchers - their research was too valuable.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:41 PM on December 23, 2012


The things that happened in China, like Nanking, like Unit 731, like the comfort women, can't be simply laid at the feet of the ruling class (which is one of Japan's biggest problems, after all, wasn't it Kan who was a surprise for Prime Minister, since he hadn't attended Tokyo University, Waseda, or Kyoto University?).

Japan needs more people like Kan and Noda - "commoners" from non-blueblood backgrounds to run the country. People like Abe are so out of touch - he has never worked a day in his life except for a couple of years at Nippon steel - which leads to all sorts of foolishness, like the stupid Yasukuni visits, or attempts to reinstitute the draft in Japan.

Japan had a very vocal resistance during the years leading up to the Pacific War - the reason why you don't hear more about them is because they were tortured to death in prison.

Part of the problem is that Japan has apologized in the past, and has paid reparations. But typically Japan has apologized to dictators in Korea and China, and the people who suffered never received dime one of reparations. On top of that, Japan enjoyed good relations with the Chinese leadership 30 or 40 years ago, and there were efforts to downplay what happened during the war.

It's all been dragged out again. I don't think there is a solution, and I think there will be war in the next few years.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:49 PM on December 23, 2012


Malor, you linked to a Wikipedia article. How do you expect anyone with half a brain to take you seriously when you say the Japanese were worse than the Nazis?

Is there something inaccurate with the Wikipedia article, or are you just spouting shit to distract from the fact that you didn't do any research at all, as opposed to even the tiny investment of looking something up on Wikipedia?

although it would be good of you, Malor, to mention that the Americans never imprisoned or prosecuted the Japanese researchers - their research was too valuable.

That's in the article too, or at least it's in the article on the main researcher. Since we're talking about Chinese hate of Japanese, there's no particular reason to talk about that here; it's not important in this context.

Squawking about not mentioning Americans just seems like more distraction to me, bullshit fault-finding to aim attention elsewhere.
posted by Malor at 12:37 AM on December 24, 2012


So, if you look at this, and think that it's ridiculous that the Chinese government is allowed to restrict the content of movies "to promote social harmony", consider that there's a resurgent movement in the US to do exactly the same thing to video games, "to protect the children".

You do note the big difference there, right? There's been attempts in the US, all of which have been shot down by the courts. Whereas it's a matter of course in the PRC.

It always strikes me funny that a country that is still upset about Japan is not so upset over a regime and its descendants who killed at least 20 million people 50 years ago, within living memory.

*eyeroll* Yes, funny that people living in a authoritarian state don't (openly) question that government as much as a neighbor that killed about 20 million of their people, also within living memory.

What the Japanese did is comparable to how other colonial powers, including the US, Britain, France and the Netherlands behaved in Southeast Asia.

Yes, the Japanese, like other colonial powers, behaved badly, notably in Korea


I guess 20 million dead is just "behaving badly", though not very notably.

Look, the Qing (like all previous dynasties) were shitheads, the 8-Nation Alliance were shitheads, the warlords were shitheads, the KMT were shitheads, and the CCP were and are shitheads, but the Japanese in WWII were as big shitheads as some of the biggest shitheads in history. No amount of minimization is going to change that.
posted by kmz at 2:26 AM on December 24, 2012


Personally, I wouldn't read too much in CCTV's decision to broadcast V for Vendetta. Too little information, too early to tell.

It could be just a bone thrown to China watchers by way of Xi Jinping's PR team. It could be a bargaining chip for discussions with Hollywood studios who want to invest in China. Or it could be that the state committee have realised how over-the-top the film is and all the protest happy youth had already watched it five years ago and have since graduated from university anyways.

Ai Weiwei's still getting the courtesy guard treatment and prevented from travelling abroad so I'm not betting on reform.
posted by tksh at 3:17 AM on December 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Look, the Qing (like all previous dynasties) were shitheads

What? The Han and Tang were great. I'm still half serious when I say that both the CCP and KMT are illegitimate and the only "real" China is one under rule of an emperor. That's the way it's always been and it's an abomination to destroy a 4,000 year tradition.
posted by FJT at 10:35 PM on December 24, 2012


China anti-censorship protest attracts support across country: Anger over China's draconian censorship regulation prompted by propaganda authority's interference with newspaper's editorial
posted by homunculus at 4:14 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


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