Among heated international protests, Japan's Ministry of Education approved a new edition of a history textbook that has been criticized as glorifying Japan's invasion of neighboring countries and covering up wartime crimes.
The friction between Japan and its neighbors over the issue of history textbooks goes back to the early 1980s.
"Each time Japan has given the green light to history textbooks with distorted wartime facts, it has aroused fury and indignation from the countries it once invaded," said Ma Junwei, a researcher with the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations.
Ma believes that Japan's frequent revisions of its history textbooks are connected with its overall development strategy.
"As the world's second largest economy, Japan is not satisfied with its current international political status and is eager to shake off its guilt as a loser in World War II. But it has not found a shortcut to becoming a political giant," Ma said.
Japan's right-wing groups are the primary force pushing the controversial textbooks, Ma stated.
The textbook at the center of the storm was published by Fuso Publishing and written by the Society for History Textbook Reform.
Chinese historians say that although 120 revisions were made to the book before it received official approval, "their nature of denying historical facts and glorifying invasion has remained unchanged."
They cited as a typical expression of the textbook's "deliberate distortion of history" the total absence or ambiguous description of the notorious Nanjing Massacre in December 1937, when Japanese troops slaughtered more than 300,000 civilians and unarmed soldiers after capturing the city, then China's capital.
"The textbook issue is only one segment of the whole Japanese rightist movement," said Shen Jiru, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
He said that when such distorted versions of history are widely accepted by the public, the ultrarightists will encounter few restrictions. This would undoubtedly endanger the future of Japan and Asia.
On Wednesday, the People's Daily published an editorial comparing Japan with Germany. It noted that while both Japan and Germany are economic giants, the international community views the two quite differently, largely because of their widely divergent attitudes toward their wartime actions.
"Such a textbook . . . will not bring Japan pride, trust and respect. It can only bring Japan suspicion, query, and fury," the article said.
(Xinhua News Agency April 7, 2005)