The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 20. 2014    

May 19, 2014    
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In This Issue


At the opening night of the recent 2014 PEN World Voices Festival in NYC, some of the world's most prominent writers and thinkers to took the stage for a 7-minute oration-a kind of mini-soliloquy of unrestrained intellectual fury-on the social or political phenomenon of their choosing. Here is an excerpt from Noam Chomsky's talk  to announce the intention of the Asia-Pacific Journal to prioritize issues of climate crisis . . . ecological, geopolitical, economic, political and social . . . in future work at the journal. We welcome your proposals and articles. Chomsky:

When I hear the phrase "on the edge," the irresistible image is the proverbial lemmings marching resolutely to the cliff.

For the first time in history, humans are now poised to destroy the prospects for decent existence, and much of life. The rate of species destruction today is at about the level of 65 million years ago, when a major catastrophe, probably a huge asteroid, ended the age of the dinosaurs, opening the way for mammals to proliferate. The difference is that today we are the asteroid.

Geologists break up the history of the planet into eras of relative stability. The Pleistocene, lasting several million years, was following by the Holocene about 10,000 years ago, coinciding with the human invention of agriculture. Today, many geologists add a new epoch, the Anthropocene, beginning with the industrial revolution, which has radically changed the natural world. In the light of the pace of change, one hates to think when the next epoch will begin, and what it will be. No literate person can fail to be aware that we are facing a prospect of severe environmental disaster. . .

We might wish to consider a remarkable paradox of the current era. There are some who are devoting serious efforts to avert impending disaster. In the lead are the most oppressed segments of the global population, those considered to be the most backward and primitive: the indigenous societies of the world, from First Nations in Canada, to aboriginals in Australia, to tribal people in India, and many others. While indigenous people are trying to avert the disaster, in sharp contrast, the race toward the cliff is led by the most advanced, educated, wealthy, and privileged societies of the world, primarily North America.

We welcome your contributions and reflections.

Announcing the Kyoko Selden Memorial Translation Prize in Japanese Literature, Thought, and Society

The Department of Asian Studies, Cornell University is pleased to announce a prize honoring the life and work of their colleague Kyoko Selden. The prize will pay homage to the finest achievements in Japanese literature, thought, and society through the medium of translation.

The winning translations will be published online at The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus. Deadline application: May 31, 2014. For more information see here.

Have you used the APJ search engine? The best results may be obtained by going to the left home page and typing in key words such as Okinawa, 3.11, energy, or Vietnam War under Title.

Please try the new pdf feature at the top of each article, particularly if you wish to print it. It can also be copied and pasted into a Word file to adjust type size and font. Let us know if you encounter problems.

Thanks to  the generous support of our readers, we succeeded in raising more than $12,000 to fund the Journal for 2014. The Journal will remain free. You can still support the journal at our home page with your 501 (C) tax-deductible gift.


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Cemil Aydin with Shuang Wen  
Changing Modes of Political Dialogue Across the Middle East and East Asia, 1880-2010 

East Asia's relationship with the Middle East today is based mainly on economics and is devoid of grand political projects of solidarity and intellectual dialogue. China, Japan and Korea present the Middle East with a model of state-led capitalist neoliberal economic development. At the same time, the redemptive transformation of East Asia into a globally powerful region offers a trajectory of development diverging from the Middle East, struggling with political turbulence, regime crises and regional wars both cold and hot.


One hundred years ago, in 1914, both East and West Asia were dealing with a similar reality of European hegemony and colonialism. This period gave birth to several projects of cooperation between pan-Islamic and pan-Asian currents of thought. Today, however, there is an imbalance between East and West Asia that has created miscommunication in intellectual encounters. This article elucidates the intertwined histories of the Middle East and East Asia over the last century to further understanding of the challenges of today, and to help find ways to make the intellectual and political ties stronger in ways beneficial to both regions. The author argues that the Middle East and East Asia need a more sustained cultural, intellectual and political dialogue for constructive cooperation on issues of global governance.

Cemil Aydin is associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and author of The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought (Columbia) and Islam in World History (Routledge, in press).

Kirk A. Denton
Exhibiting the Past: China's Nanjing Memorial Museum  
When the CCP came to power in 1949, it proceeded to nationalize all culture industries and cultural institutions, including museums, and to develop them in ways that would align them with the new ideology of state socialism. National, provincial, and local governments promoted, funded, and constructed many new museums. The Central Committee established a Museum of the Chinese Revolution to present an official view of party history, and in the early 1950s, the state started building memorial halls dedicated to revolutionary history. These early PRC museums were deeply indebted to the Soviet influence.

Not until the Great Leap Forward was a more systematic state effort to build museums  instituted. Following the initial approach in the early 1950s, the author outlines three dynamic bursts in museum development: the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962), the early post-Mao period (1980s), and the post-Tiananmen period (since the 1990s). A detailed explanation of historical trends in Chinese state-sponsored museum development
highlights, among other things, the relationship between the monumentalization of trauma and the market economy, which turns memory of past suffering into a commodity to be consumed in tourist scapes.

One new type of museum to emerge in the post-Mao museum boom is that devoted to the memory of atrocities committed by the Japanese imperial army during the War of Resistance. The view of the war period presented in Mao-era museums tended to downplay atrocity and victimization in favor of a more heroic narrative in which the CCP was the driving force. In the post-Mao era, as the Deng economic reform program ushered in profound social changes, including the emergence of new class divisions, forms of memory that emphasize national unity through shared suffering served the state well: depictions of Japanese atrocities are morally unambiguous and could direct divisive class resentment toward an external other. One of the most important of these museums is dedicated to the Nanjing Massacre.    

Kirk A. Denton is professor of Chinese studies at The Ohio State University. He is author of The Problematic of Self in Modern Chinese Literature: Hu Feng and Lu Ling (1998). He is editor of the journal Modern Chinese Literature and Culture.

Kyle Cleveland
Mobilizing Nuclear Bias:
The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis and the Politics of Uncertainty (Article Updated and Revised May 18, 2014)
The nuclear disaster in Fukushima has given rise to one of the most significant public health crises in modern world history, with profound implications for how nuclear energy is perceived. In a major new interpretation of the  crisis, Cleveland shows how the level of risk was assessed by nuclear experts and state-level actors who worked largely out of view of public scrutiny. In addition to examining how the accident progression in the reactors was addressed and conveyed to the general public, the authorshows  how the exclusionary zones were determined by Japanese and foreign governments in Japan. 

Diplomatic considerations helped to suppress the complex, often fractious relations between Japan and foreign governments - especially the United States - whose collective efforts eventually turned the tide from managing the nuclear meltdowns to ameliorating their long-term consequences. Based on interviews with political officials in both the Japanese government and foreign embassies in Japan, and nuclear experts and military officers who worked the crisis, the article analyzes how technical assessments drove decision making and were translated into political policy.

Kyle Cleveland is Associate Professor of Sociology at Temple University's Japan Campus in Tokyo and the Associate Director of TUJ's Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies. He is writing a book on the political dimensions of radiation assessment in the Fukushima nuclear crisis, examining how foreign governments in Japan responded to the crisis.