19 May 2021
(1901 – 1995)
Area of Expertise: Chinese History with Global Perspective
The Book selected: The Examinations for Entering Bureaucracy
in Ancient China, Chuo Koron, 1963
The History of China, Volume I & II, Iwanami Shoten, 1977
Alma Mater: Kyoto University
Achievements: He contributed to combining the Chinese history with global perspective by taking his initiative in Japan (the point is nobody else did it in the world). This was also required as the basis of discussion on East Asia for intellectual world. Thanks to freedom and economic assistance given to the post-war Japan by international community and Japan’s own economic progress; it appeared that ordinary Japanese could then visit and study abroad. This level of freedom for global research was never attained in the country before. By 1970s, any place in the world, except where the political constraints existed, became accessible for Japanese scholars, whoever had the will to do it.
The Mission for Japanese Modernization
Miyazaki himself broadened his views as visiting professor to University of Paris (1960-1961) and Harvard University (1961-1962). He also travelled West Asia on this occasion. Why was this renewed effort for global study required for Japan? To find out what was the fatal defect in Japanese modernization during the pre-war Japan, that eventually led the country to a disastrous and irrational end. From this historical perspective, every sensible person in Japan (including our emperor) were convinced that Japanese intellectuals in the pre-war Japan had only insufficient knowledge about the world history; in particular, about East Asia, Indian-Subcontinent, South East Asia, Central Asia, West Asia and Europe, or in one word – Eurasia.
Therefore, Japan could not simply catch up with a global level of political standard in the West, after the spiritually-empty period of its closed era severed from the developments of modern world. On the contrary to a ferociously revolutionary trend in Europe during the 19th century, the decadence in corruptive politics was uncontrollable. As professor Inoue noted; the Tokugawa 11th Shogun – Ienari, the head of Japanese government at the time, made 40 concubines and 55 children in days of wine and dine, as the country’s economy had plummeted. Japan was at its nadir.
This was a most difficult and challenging academic mission ever-attempted by the Japanese, but Kyoto University under Ichisada Miyazaki’s leadership provided many of credible and dedicated historians to fill up this enormous gap, and by doing so they led Japan and the world. It was also an indispensable task to fulfil on the road to Japanese modernization. The job was planned as a combined effort for this objective, and no others could match to their standard. Most importantly, the significance of this long historical void was unimaginable to the Japanese, in particular, for accurately assessing the damage done to its society.
Civilised Spirit – Fukuzawa’s View
Before the post-war period, only-one credible argument was published on this vital subject in Japan and it is not only still valid but also even more critical for the Japanese. As the official researcher and translator of English and Dutch for the Tokugawa Shogunate’s missions, Yukichi Fukuzawa visited Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia and the United States. With his unique experience (as he also stayed at all of port of call including Hong Kong and Singapore en route to Marseille via Suez of their British ship – HMS Odin), he asserted the necessity of Japan’s Civilized Spirit, which the country must yield.
He described it as a single metal bar of state power commonly exists in the West from the different materials of gold, silver, copper and iron. While those materials themselves are all existing in Japan but they cannot be united by existing factionalism in the society, in his words – due to its inherent disproportion of power. He further explained it more precisely that his argument was about the progress of Civilized Spirit of the Japanese people – Shushin-hattatsu-ron. Criticising the Japanese governing system, he was indeed talking about the indispensable modern progress in democracy.
Why were there no Civilized Spirit of the People for a modern state of Japan? Fukuzawa insisted; ‘They say (in the West) – The God creates all men with equal right.’ However, the people of Japan do not get involved in the politics/public affairs; therefore, Japan still has no shape as a modern state. The cause of this political failure is that there is no individuality or individualism in Japan, as he pointed out. As a political system, their own human way of bad thinking/factional interests must always come forward, disregarding what is/should be the right policy for the nation. Isn’t this still the source of problems in politics elsewhere today?
He analysed the history of Japanese religions in details. All these lavish Shinto shrines and Japanese Buddhist temples in cities and at mountainous locations in the capitals and various other regions were planned and constructed by the state with its strict criterion, within the framework of its grade-ranking system. No priests or monks were given any freedom on what to preach or how to develop the religious concept (as the matter was a part of the sacred military strategy). Some Buddhists were later added by the state approval, as they accommodated to this state-made norm and bought a rank. (Christianity as independent religion, however, had to be banned in this closed system, which ultimately lasted more than two and half centuries until the Meiji Restoration.)
This controversial grading-system was originally invented in Wei/China. But together with Buddhism, China later abandoned the practice. Fukuzawa solemnly gave his frank assessment: In this discordant political reality, which is completely different from the modern West; all the Japanese monks and scholars (and perhaps politicians, elite bureaucrats and some big businessmen too?) are merely a mental slave of an ancient/despotic government. By this defunct rule of employment, no Japanese can be independent in the society. In this strict and harsh directive, there are actually no religion, or rather, religious rights in Japan – he firmly criticized the on-going reality.
Why cannot the Japanese be allowed to think something differently, if the new way is better for their future? He went straight to the point. Disregarding the modern spirit, they all live in the artificial/unreal/second man-made world, without any progress, but only with constant shame. In this illogical/prejudiced system, everyone needs to abuse somebody irrationally, and at the same time, to be oppressed by someone baselessly, whereas the people at the bottom have no rights at all. Fukuzawa worried; in such dreadful reality, a precious noble spirit could not be come forward even in turbulent time. Many ‘modern’ Japanese would be surprised at his candid remarks but his logic is based on customary tradition that no Japanese can deny.
Every Japanese is supposed to have their own class and rank, where everyone is expected to speak with a different form of language – Keigo. This is always applicable whenever one speaks to other person, if he is slightly senior in age or has a senior job. No individual nor organisation can be free from this tacit enforcement in the Japanese society. Higher the rank a Japanese obtains, the problem increases. At one point, it could be dramatically multiplying in terms of responsibility. Over a certain level, one must argue not based on right and wrong or the fact of his superior’s opinion that could be connected to upper-echelon of unknown political entity. The individual with conscience who does not consent to this rule must be sacked, or unlikely to get/take such a high-rank position in the first place.
In this hidden ‘corridor’ of ranking, no one (including the head of the government) can maintain any rationale for making decision, and consequently, taking responsibility attached to all the judgements made in Japanese organizations (and no young Japanese exactly knows the existence of this hidden social practice until they join them upon graduation day). Fukuzawa argued that in this strictly controlled society, Japanese do not know what to achieve for the present and future world, as they are already deprived of their civilized spirit for the benefits of ancient ideology, which belong only to the past-outdated world.
Without civilised spirit, therefore, no Japanese could prosper in the end, as the relevant matters will never be discussed sincerely. He wrote this harsh criticism in believing that Japan will attain their real modernization someday. This book – The Summary of Civilised Spirit/Bunmei-ron – was published as private edition in 1876. He also left his strongest words on this specific issue; ‘Factionalism/System of the Classes must be revenged upon my parents’, despite he belonged to Warrior/Samurai class. His father was a scholar, and he could read most of Chinese classics at home. Fukuzawa rightly knew that Confucianism is only talking about human relationships, and therefore, not a religion.
He denounced, therefore, both Tokugawa Shogunate and new Meiji Government as hopelessly inadequate with their anti-foreign chauvinism brewed during the Japanese isolation. He predicted that they will be unable to provide modern politics and economic policy for the people of Japan. He further warned that they will eventually be ‘a laughing-stock in the world’. The Japanese history proved him right. (The Meiji Restoration followed exactly the cyclical pattern of this ideology.) So, what would he say, regarding the current Japanese administration? Isn’t it obvious that the misused modern constitution is not good enough, if Japan is not yet equipped with his single metal bar?
Western Views on China and Its Reality
On the other hand, the general view vis-à-vis China in the West had another problem. The Chinese extraordinary inventions of gunpowder and mariner’s compass or export products such as tea party or silk garments with exotic elegance were changing the culture of growing aristocratic life in the industrializing Europe. Even in the 19th century, as the West began to develop their own bureaucracy around the time of French revolution, many Western intellectuals believed China, as one of the most enduring civilizations in the world, had a rationalism and advanced bureaucratic system. For France, La Chine always represented superior civilization with a full of exquisite finesse. However, as testified by further advance of technology in the 20th century, things were changing rather rapidly.
The French excavation team found the code of Hammurabi (reigned from 1792 – 1750BC) written on black whin in Susa, Iran, in 1901. What were those writings saying? It sounds like Bible… The modern West was excited to discover many other archaeological findings. Sumer in Mesopotamia already invented bronze technology, town-planning and letters all by c. 3300 BC. The archaeological findings could only confirm, those appeared in China by c. 1300 BC or even later. A substantial gap was recognized for the case of iron technology in which China was less advanced. Qin’s (221 – 206BC) terracotta army had no iron weaponry, although they might already had known some of these products.
Another source of confusions developed in the West was that the name of China was always China – one name – generally for the public-discussion purpose. This English word originally came from the pronunciation of Qin. The first Empire of Qin was ephemeral and virtually ruled by only one emperor, Zheng. The Qin Emperor rose from the Far-West of China with a strong military power and foreign element. He conquered China by crushing five other kingdoms one by one, in the stagnating era of divided kingdoms, which lasted more than five centuries, during the so-called Spring and Autumn, and the following Warring States periods (770 – 221BC). But he failed to establish his political base to the rest of China.
The longest-survived Han dynasty firmly introduced the iron technology. Above all, as magnificent Chinese historians in the West such as Jacques Gernet properly analysed, Chinese dynasties never used this naming. China/Zhonghua actually means the Centre of the Civilised World. It is connate; the rest are all barbarians. It was originally used to explain their political ideology. In fact, the Chinese administrations only started using this name of state – Zhonghua – in modern times.
This naming was first conceived by Sun Yat-sen who had to give in his provisional Republic of China to Yuan Shikai, after the fall of Qing dynasty in 1912. Sun could not ignore Yuan’s remnant forces of Qing, capable of destroying Sun’s dreamed ‘revolution’ for his own Empire of China (– all including ‘People’s Republic’ written in the same Chinese Characters). One of the purposes for such a new usage was the Chinese wanted to inspire ‘modern’ nationalism.
Sun, still regarded as the father of Modern China, wrote his important note on this subject with its difficulty he encountered. His identified problem/Confucianism covered all the Chinese political activities. Like what happened in Japan, therefore, the People’s Republic of China could be also the largest ever-created ‘dynasty’ in its political core without real sense of any modern revolution.
The Ancient China sensibly accommodated barbarians from the north, like Romans did it for their own empire. But these two geopolitical patterns of economic expansion were totally different. China had neither Mediterranean Sea nor Baltic Sea equivalent. Instead, the agriculturally rich China was often invaded by the Ural-Altaic horse-riding ‘bandits’ from the north. Some of these northern invaders were lucky enough to establish and select the name for their own Chinese empire and/or divided kingdom. But even as absolute conqueror, all of them had to rely on Chinese mandarins to administer the Chinese farming population.
The fact was that no Ural-Altaic nomadic rulers could ignore the advantage of various Chinese agricultural productions and other exquisite expertise in abundance, which were all essentially required for strengthening their military power. In this process, no matter what race originally one came from, they could become authentic Chinese by taking one of its surnames. The important matter was not about appearance but ideology to control the human way of thinking politically at institutional level.
Any foreigners could be Chinese, like exactly what happened later in the United States and all other countries in the West. You just need to accept the ancient Chinese/modern American principles. From the Chinese viewpoint, the important thing was to expand and protect a huge-inherited agricultural infrastructure spread all over its territory. In this traditional process, the acknowledgement of rulers could be easily given so far as Chinese were concerned – To subjugate the Chinese population as Chinese emperor (he will be given a Chinese name) meant the acceptance of the Chinese ideology.
In modern times, some did not wish to be integrated in such a way. The problem of its sovereignty and danger for China is that they do not have a solid national political history for their state, due to the prevalence of such durable political ideology. Unless, they established a modern polity like Americans. Most controversially, this old economic structure has already gone in terms of statistics, as China’s ‘modern’ economic sector vigorously advanced in the 21st century.
As the conclusion from our overview, therefore, while three, i.e., Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Indus out of four world’s ancient civilizations were interlinked each other, China developed in a relative isolation in terms of politics and economy. Despite its isolationism, however, China was constantly influenced by the West. Even one of the original inventors of this Chinese ideology, Zhou (1050 – 771BC) could have some Western foreign element (decimal classification, for instance – as Shigeki Kaizuka noticed).
Something good, unless it politically conflicts with the ruling ideology, should also be accepted in China or elsewhere. We must realize that the same sort of history was recently repeated in ‘Communist’ China as the country became a technological and economic titan in Chinese way. The Chinese corporations are also copying it today, absorbing all the advanced technologies from the West/Japan/South Korea, without paying much attention to the necessary international obligations in doing so.
The British Global Assessment
Other social scientific achievements in the pre-war period were duly delivered in the United Kingdom. In the West, only Arnold Toynbee caught this totally different ideology as Britain’s diplomatic relationship with Japan was suddenly collapsing in the Asia-Pacific region. He launched his formidable analysis – A Study of History – promoting the necessity of global historical study to understand a specific political issue facing the nations, as Georg Hagel once tried it in vain without a credible information available in the 19th century.
Toynbee captured this political entity by extracting the two turning points in Chinese history and named the essence of this ideology as militarism. He argued that this Ideology inclusive of Japan, was conceived earlier in the inland China/at the time of Yin-Zhou ‘revolution’. And Confucius did not provide this Chinese concept because he was born afterwards, simply to fortify this ideology. With this vacant politics, he warned the Japanese, Japan cannot establish an independent civilization with maritime economy. Nobody listened in Japan and perhaps also in the world but his findings are simply stunning.
In this alarming situation, John Maynard Keynes published The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. Under the deteriorating reality of global economy, he put an unusual preface to Germans and Japanese for this book. He explained the mechanism of economic failure by establishing the modern economic theory. But his warning was not taken seriously by most economists in the world, as a war was then still remaining as better/credible alternative. The problem is that many economists in the world still could not capture his points, even though the war solution with further advanced technology became unthinkable today.
A Global Research Began in Struggling Japan
This inconsistency gap of ideology with the outside world had widened constantly in the ever-secluded Japan, as its economic outlook continued to be worsened since the 1990s. In fact, the Ancient Japan did not hide about their politics and diplomacy. They tried to explain every substantial political event in the Japanese classics, in particular, about important diplomacy and relationship with Korea and China.
But this negative Japanese attitude surfaced in the closed era was multiplied by the inevitable ‘modern’ double-standard. And the reality/economy of such peculiar ‘ancient’ state, which hide all the important facts, or simply following their isolated politics, has been getting worse and non-rectifiable. All these passive developments pushed Japan’s economic trend further downward. More problematically, the world had to be influenced inactively by Japan as this economic dragging continued on a global scale.
Nevertheless, it is not Japan that is different from the world (they need an economy to survive, for instance). Also, the Japanese are not particularly strange people. But this system of seclusion is completely estranged Japan from the rest of the world. Such politics will never come to rule in other parts of the world, but they cannot put an end to this malfunction with its ‘tradition’ of its incessant political-core movement. Is this not the reason why Japan could not make a reform in the last three decades?
What learned Japan from the collapsed history of modernisation, which eventually materialized as the disastrous and disgraceful defeat of WWII? In this process, Japanese officers and soldiers all participated in the war together. There was no better place where this command system or its politics were exposed so visibly. Many wrote about their experiences in memoirs; in particular, about the exalted insanity of powerholders without any sense of responsibility (still there) and technically primitive and lacklustre human inefficiency experienced in the battlefield (ditto).
Simply, they were striving against the strategy and tactics of modern military and the business management of international community, not knowing what it meant, in believing Japan as a modernized state. In global terms, Japanese are not particularly ingenious people compared to others. And some Westerners may find a difficulty to appreciate; why on earth only Japanese could write such a global issue. Talking about say, History of West Asia, for instance, Philip K Hitti wrote a detailed superb study for Syrian and Lebanese histories in English. Threats from outside world to the region, that he identified, came from Roman and Persian empires. Frankly, China was invisible in his analysis.
Shinjiro Kodama translated Hitti’s major works into Japanese, travelling thoroughly the region by adding countries into his considerations, such as the historical influences of Persia and Greece to the East, and then he wrote his own analysis. Above all, he was aware of Chinese and Japanese history. While all West Asia experts still find Hitti’s original information most valuable, one might need Kodama’s book to understand the issues that facing the world today. Besides, such an omission of facts will not occur in Japan, as they must first study the existing materials in English, as a matter of course.
Frankly, intellectual world seems to be split between the West and the East at an enormous level in this standstill, and the gap is enlarging without free dialogues. It seems that the origin of this problem comes from the lack of historical understanding in the ruling West about the reticent East. It used to be trivial in terms of impact but is getting serious as China had rapidly replaced the Soviet Union’s status in the Cold War.
Hidden, Unidentified and Unnoticed Ideology
Another barrier is; the lack of general interests and enthusiasm among scholars and journalists in the West and there are reasons for this tendency. To capture the opposing ideology and its arguments could never be a complicated task. It rather jumped directly in the centre of Western politics. Karl Marx’s The Manifest of the Communist Party and other written materials explained how the ideology of Communist works. Nothing was hidden and even the name of ideology was declared based on modern internationalism. They also insisted their thoughts to form a political party. You cannot even blur your political statements in front of the tenacious critics.
The ideology of Fascism/Naziism and Anti-Fascism movements brewed by new nationalism in Europe. It spread from Italy to Germany, Spain and many other countries. Some obtained their independence after the dissolution of imperialism in the late 19th century, and the sentiment was also affected by the consequence of WWI. As this political movement was actually developing, few leaders/politicians were involved in a decisive manner to lead the movement. Above all, many intellectuals and professionals in the West also studied the nature of this ideology and warned about it.
On the contrary, this enigmatic ancient political core had to be hidden even in the East. Nobody led or declared anything. It was a movement like power of inertia. You may say, how could we/the West get involved in such other people’s affairs without giving an impression of diplomatic impudence in the age of democracy? Another decisive factor for this unidentified ideology was that this grave historical confrontation is not going on in Europe, but in East Asia…for the first time in world history.
After the Cold War ended peacefully, China gradually emerged as the world’s second largest economy. Yet, they were still behaving like a developing nation, in hiding their manifesto with domestic agenda. As China soon started to behave strangely, the West was caught off guard. Many of leading Western analysts on global affaires so far seemed to have no idea about this unimaginable new-ideological confrontation under such circumstance.
Japan Problem was terminated in the new financial competitions, while the Japanese had no clue on what happened in terms of modern economics. Afterwards, the effects of Japan disease gradually spread out to all the corners of world. The current global reality is, as everybody can see it, Japan is still surviving negatively with a massive government debt as the ‘boiler’ of this Japan disease, and the world had to follow suit. It is now critically important for the world economy that we take actions to reverse this global trend.
Who Makes A Move?
‘Where Japan stands in face of the progress of the world?’ – even Professor Miyazaki had no idea on this query of emergency. Equally, despite Fukuzawa’s absolutely pertinent analysis, he ended up somewhat uncompleted in terms of Japan’s reform possibility. The Japanese economy was (in particular, after the victory of the Nippo-Chinese war in 1895 and the adoption of the Gold Standard in 1897) vigorously expanding with the injections of new technology/physics from the West led by the United Kingdom. The economic cycle has not yet reached its pinnacle in his time; therefore, Japan was not ready to take any actions for such degree of hyper-mega-reform.
To find the real answer, we need to enhance these two intellectual achievements by further intensifying the pertinent analyses. Fukuzawa’s definition of Western civilization – starting from the Roman empire was far too short but this was already covered by Kyoto School and others. And his contemporary’s claim for 2500 years of the Japanese history was apparently too long. This academic jumble seems continuing even in the post-war Japan. History must be certified by a reliable document. In this sense, the national history of Japan began from 645 onward. The history of antiquity cannot be ignored but it must be differentiated to avoid confusions.
One thing seems certain; nobody else in the West would go further to find out the real cause in the global history inclusive of Japan. Could then both sides start a discussion towards an eventual solution, perhaps? Let’s hope the answer is positive. Some Japanese still believe, Japan has democracy and capitalism. And they are seriously arguing the end of democracy and capitalism is near. They know history like a baby, so don’t worry – just not to be perturbed, and let’s concentrate on the real issues in Tokyo.