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Shintaro Ishihara’s views on China, Japan

Shintaro Ishihara is a politician, author and governor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government since 1999. He is well known for his critical stance on Japan’s dependence under the US-Japan security alliance. In 1989, he co-authored the book The Japan That Can Say No with then-Sony chairman Akio Morita. He is also critical of the Chinese government, and is known for his controversial support of Japanese nationalism, historical revisionism, and frequent visits of Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead. Generally described as one of Japan’s most ‘far right’ politicians, he is often labelled in the Chinese media as ‘racist’, ‘nationalist’, ‘militarist’ and ‘anti-China.’

Earlier this week, the liberal Southern People Weekly publishes an interview with Shintaro Ishihara, which goes beyond the standardized labelling in the Chinese state media. Entitled ‘The Shintaro Ishihara that you do not know,’ the interview is also published online in the Southern Media Group and Tencent, but is now being deleted. Nevertheless, it could still be found on individual blogs. Below is a translation of excerpts from the interview.

‘I love Chinese culture, but not the Chinese Communist Party’

人物周刊:你一直被相当多的人看作反华人士,甚至有中国媒体称你是“头号反华分子”,是这样吗?

石原慎太郎:我当然是站在共产主义对立面上的。我很喜欢中国的文化,但是不喜欢中国的共产主义。我想随着中国经济的增长、社会的成熟度越来越高,可能有更多的人会对共产主义有不同的看法。

人物周刊:所以你是反共不反华。

石原慎太郎:对。我不反对这个国家,但是只要共产党支配这个国家,那么他对日本就是一个威胁。

人物周刊:你至少在1995年和2002年两次预言中国将会崩溃,现在看来,是不是有点把中国问题简单化了?

石原慎太郎:这个预言是有点偏差了,没有预测对。我当时这个预测主要是从经济上,我和英国一个经济学家对此进行过探讨,为什么预测中国经济会崩溃?是看到中国的金融市场很不稳定,国有企业的经营状况也不乐观,大量资金无法回流。可是后来一看,很多政府官员都成了国企的董事长,而且很快完成了转制和民有化,从结果看我们的预测确实有偏差。

人物周刊:这种预言的失误是否也和对中国的偏见有关?

石原慎太郎:不是偏见的问题。因为我们是按照一般的经济常识来预测中国的,因为中国不是资本主义而是一党制的国家,很多政策超出了我们的想象。当然也可以说是一种成功,对于这种成功我们很惊讶,但也稍微有些戒备。

SPW: Many people view you as anti-China. Some Chinese media even describe you as the ‘number one anti-China person.’ Is it correct?
Ishihara: I am of course anti-communist. I love Chinese culture, but not Chinese communism. I believe that as China’s economy and society become more developed and advanced, more people will hold a different view on communism.
SPW: So you are anti-communist but not anti-China.
Ishihara: Correct. I am not opposed to this country. But as long as it is governed by the Communist Party, it is a threat to Japan.
SPW: You have predicted that China would crash back in 1995 and 2002. Looking back, have you over-simplified the China question?
Ishihara: My prediction is indeed off the mark. My prediction is mostly based on economics. I have discussed in-depth with a British economist on why the Chinese economy would collapse. What we saw were an unstable financial market, pessimistic conditions of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and the fact that financial capitals could not be returned to China. But looking back, a lot of government officials have become CEOs of SOEs, and they have accomplished reforms and privatisations rapidly. As a result, our predictions were wrong.
SPW: Is this mistake due to your prejudice on China?
Ishihara: It is not a problem of prejudice. It is because we use standard economic theory to predict China. It is because China is not a capitalist economy but a one-party state. Many policies are beyond our imagination. Of course, we can also say that China is a success. We are surprised by but also alert to this success.

Anti-American vs. Anti-Chinese

人物周刊:我读了你20年前写的《一个可以说不的日本》,你对美国批判得也很厉害,外界评论说你反美又反华,这两者区别何在?民族主义是不是转嫁国内矛盾的有效手段呢?

石原慎太郎:不是反美,是厌美,也不是反中,是厌中。美国和中国相同之处在用强压的手段对付别人,总之强权是我不喜欢的。日本现在还是处在美国的统治之下,美国声称用核保护伞保护日本,可是对日本来说,周围的中国、朝鲜、俄罗斯这3个国家都有核武器,唯独日本没有,美国如何保护日本?日本最终得不到美国保护,在世界上也没有发言权。可能我说得比较过激,日本也许应该拥有属于自己的核抑制力,来在世界上发言。

尖阁列岛(日本国内对“钩鱼岛”的称呼)问题,可能会成为中美日三方的敏感问题,中国5次召见日本驻华大使,这对日本是一种侮辱。日本也有过民族主义情绪非常高涨的时期,那是在明治维新以后,日俄战争胜利之后,结果后来一步步走向了战争。当然中国和那时的日本情况不一样,中国经济发展很快,年轻人民族情绪高涨,对于中国政府来说也很困难,又要调动这方面的情绪,又要施以控制,以免造成危险。

SPW: You criticize America severely in The Japan That Can Say No 20 years ago. The media says that you are both anti-American and anti-Chinese. What’s the difference between them? Is nationalism an effective way to divert attention away from domestic problems?
Ishihara: It’s not anti-American, it’s hating America; it’s not anti-Chinese, it’s hating China. What’s common between the US and China is that they both apply pressure on other countries to achieve their goals. It’s this authoritarianism that I dislike. Japan is still under US rule. The US alleged that it would protect Japan under its nuclear umbrella. However, Japan’s neighbors, namely China, North Korea and Russia, all possess nuclear weapons, but not Japan. How can the US protect Japan? If Japan loses US support, it would lose voice in the world. Maybe I’m a bit radical, but I think that Japan should possess its own nuclear deterrence so as to establish its own voice in the world.
The Senkaku (Diaoyu in Chinese) issue is becoming a sensitive issue in China-US-Japan relations. It is an insult to Japan that China has summoned Japan’s ambassador to China five times in a row. Japan also has its own history of ultra-nationalism. It was during the Meiji era when Japan achieved victory in the Russo-Japanese War. The result is that Japan embarked on a path towards total war. Of course, today’s China is different from yesterday’s Japan. China’s economy is developing rapidly. At the same time, Chinese youths are very nationalistic. It is a difficult problem for China: this sentiment needs to be mobilized, but properly controlled, so that it will not cause any dangers.

Admirer of Deng Xiaoping

人物周刊:很多中国人认为你在东京都人气非常高,是因为你对中国强硬,他们误解你了吗?

石原慎太郎:可能是吧。我是不喜欢中国的共产主义,但是喜欢中国的文化。我尤其喜欢中国的两个人物,一个是邓小平,一个是《金瓶梅》里的西门庆。(笑)

人物周刊:你怎么评价日本“失去的20年”?假如你是日本首相,要着手做哪3件事?

石原慎太郎:我首先可能效仿中国政府,要让国会3年不动,还要在经济上搞军队式的强硬改革。最重要的是税制,消费税不改不行,对富裕阶层要大量征消费税,但对于最基本的生活开销不应该加税,比如大米就不该征消费税,但便利店里的饭团就可以加上消费税。近些年日本人对金钱的欲望越来越强,对交税纳税都有很大的抵触情绪,可是如果不把消费税问题解决了,日本经济好不了。

人物周刊:你在日本一直是以改革者的形象出现的。难怪有人从学术上分析说,很多改革者都推崇强力,带着点法西斯色彩。

石原慎太郎:学术上很多东西都是不正确的!改革和政治都是需要强力的,改革和一些具体的政策当然有很多界限,但是也必须要追求合理的效率。像邓小平,他虽然是共产主义者,但是在中国第一个提出了对效率的追求,我觉得是很了不起的。我对邓小平这个人物还是很尊崇的,比如他在一些关键时刻的决断。

SPW: Many Chinese think that you are popular in Tokyo because of your tough stance towards China. Have they misunderstood you?
Ishihara: Perhaps. I don’t like Chinese communism, but I like Chinese culture. I especially admire two Chinese personalities: one is Deng Xiaoping; the other is Ximen Qin in The Plum in the Golden Vase (laugh).
SPW: How do you view Japan’s ‘lost two decades’? If you were the Prime Minister, what three things would you focus on?
Ishihara: I will first imitate the Chinese government, and freeze the parliament for three years. I will also implement military-style economic reforms. The tax system would be the focus, especially consumer tax. Consumer tax for luxuries should be raised heavily, but not for basic spendings. For example, there can be consumer tax on rice dumplings in convenience shops, but not on raw rice grain. In recent years, Japanese have stronger desire for money, and are against paying taxes. But if the consumer tax issue cannot be resolved properly, the Japanese economy cannot improved.
SPW: You appear as a reformer in Japan. No wonder some academics assert that many reformers admire power, with a taste of Fascist.
Ishihara: Many things in academia cannot be believed! Both reforms and politics need power. There are many limits in reforms and implementation of policies, but reasonable effectiveness cannot be neglected. Take Deng Xiaoping. Although he is a communist, he is the first person in China to take efficiency seriously. I think he is incredible. I highly admire Deng Xiaoping, especially his bold decisions in key moments.

5 comments

  • Mr Ishihara says that he doesn’t like Chinese communist regime and then he says that he would imitate Chinese government and he admires Deng Xiaoping. The truth is that the two countries has many things in common more than what they want to think. Not to forget that Japan was forced to become a democracy by the US after WWII.

    • phillip wong

      You have to understand, not many Chinese people like communist. They only like the communist if the communist can continue to deliver economic growth, and lower the poors in China. 

      I would say Chinese, and Japanese have a lot in common in culture, and race. 

  • Gael

    It seems that Ishihara want to sell an image of him completely different than he seems for most Chinese people. That’s his communication strategy… and that’s funny since most of anti-china protest over the Senkaku Islands issue were held by members of his own party and other advocates. This interview also show how militarist he is, no doubt he is against the principle of the Constitution’s Article 9 which make Japan a pacific and peace-promoting country (even if the SDF exist).

    BTW, Japan does not become a democracy thanks to the US after the WWII (they surely contributed to his empowerment at this moment). The US (via Commodore Perry) forced the country to open their economy to foreign countries in the mid-19th century, which enables a flow of Western ideas to come in. It is by this way that Japan started to think about another political system (constitutional monarchy vs shogunate) and had duplicated Brit, French or German institutions. It built the basis of the Meiji Era and the democracy in Japan (first constitution written in 1889).

  • zhuzidi

    Ishihara himself has said many extremely hateful things towards other Asians. But I don’t see why this interview needed to be censored.

  • Cleo

    I would like to thank Japan and Germany for poisoning the image of the Chinese in Third World countries so that wherever the peaceful Chinese turn, they are met with harsh stares and polluted relationships.  I think this deserves a wikileaks of your very own with an expose of Akihito and how hands on he has been in running the war machine exactly as his father, Hirohito was hands on. 

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