Cold War Sino-Japanese Relations

London Bloomsbury Greater London

Wednesday, November 21 2018 from 06:00 pm to 08:00 pm

Journalists and the Establishment of Cold War Sino-Japanese Relations by Dr Casper Wit (Cambridge)

While the history of post-war Sino-Japanese relations is usually studied from the perspective of economic and diplomatic relations, this talk will take a different approach and focus on the role of journalism and media, thereby highlighting the role of nongovernmental actors in shaping the relations between the two countries in the 1949-1972 period. During this period Beijing and Tokyo had no diplomatic relations and there was a profound lack of understanding regarding contemporary developments in each other’s country, and journalists were a rare conduit for information. My focus centres on Chinese and Japanese journalists’ mutual reporting on their neighbouring country, with special attention to the journalists’ role as transnational mediators and how their influence shaped their respective domestic views of the region. The central question we will seek to explore is how the work of the civilian journalists was integrated into the structure of China’s Japan policy, and how Japanese journalists were influenced by actors in Tokyo who favoured improved relations with Beijing.

Firstly, zooming in on the journalists can provide us with unexpected perspectives on Sino-Japanese relations of the time, especially with regards to the central role played by Japanese conservatives who supported Sino-Japanese rapprochement and who were united in the LDP’s “Pro-China Faction.” Already from the 1950s the Chinese leadership sought to cultivate the Japanese mainstream media to broaden Chinese influence among those sections of Japanese society not naturally inclined to support Beijing, something that was supported and facilitated by the pro-China conservative and mainstream politicians in Japan who were pivotal in streamlining the Sino-Japanese rapprochement process that came to fruition in 1972. This challenges the pervading view that China’s main interest lay with engaging ideological allies within Japan.

Secondly, journalists and politicians in Beijing and Tokyo prioritised economic and geopolitical expedience while neglecting the issue of war memory in the reporting on their neighbouring country. The resulting positive narratives crafted about the other in this period were therefore predicated on a neglect of historical issues that have since come to haunt bilateral relations, making the history of journalism in Sino-Japanese relations highly relevant to understanding the present predicament.

At The Khalili Lecture Theatre SOAS

Dr Casper Wits is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge. He is a historian of modern East Asia and his research focuses on diplomatic and international history during the Cold War, especially Sino-Japanese relations in this period. At Cambridge he is associated with the ERC research project "The Dissolution of the Japanese Empire and the Struggle for Legitimacy in Postwar East Asia, 1945-1965." (