China and Japan: Seven decades of bitterness


A dispute over islands in the East China Sea has inflamed relations between Japan and China for the last two years – but they were tense even before. The BBC’s Mariko Oi visited both countries with a Chinese journalist to find out why the wounds of World War Two refuse to heal.

“Do you feel guilty about what Japan did to China during the war?” It was a question that I had to translate more than once during a trip to Japan with Haining Liu, a former reporter for China’s state broadcaster, CCTV.

It was Haining who posed that question to some of our interviewees – the oldest of whom would have been a child in 1945.

“I feel sorry for what happened,” said one man. “There were many regrettable incidents,” said another.

“But maybe my regret isn’t enough?” added one of them, a Japanese nationalist, who argues that most school textbooks exaggerate the abuses carried out by Japanese soldiers. “No,” Haining responded. “It’s not enough.”

There are some undisputed facts. Japan was the aggressor, occupying Manchuria in northern China in 1931. A wider war began in 1937, and by the time Japan surrendered in 1945, millions of Chinese had died.


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