Unsettled war memories are once again stirring up tension in Northeast Asia. According to a recent report, Beijing would like to make World War II reconciliation a centerpiece of Xi Jinping’s visit to Germany next month. According to the article, diplomatic sources say that the Chinese government wants to highlight German contrition over its wartime past to shame Japan for what it considers to be insufficient postwar atonement. This report comes just after Tokyo was forced to distance itself from World War II-related comments made by individuals at public broadcaster NHK. Can any good come of engaging sensitive war memories? Yes, according to a recent proposal put forth by scholars from several countries.
In a new column in the Asahi Shimbun, University of Tokyo Professor Kiichi Fujiwara details an innovative plan to help states begin to move towards historical reconciliation. The proposal, which originated at a conference I participated in at the University of Tokyo earlier this month, urges that Japan and China use the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II to acknowledge the wartime atrocities that continue to inform these states’ national narratives so many decades later. The proposal is an important one, and should be seriously considered by officials throughout the region and in the United States. One particular feature of the plan—reciprocity — distinguishes it from other efforts to mend historical fences, and may make this proposal domestically viable for the participants involved.