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Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Document shows Mao approved of Japan's emperor system
BEIJING — Chinese leader Mao Zedong expressed his approval of Japan's emperor system at a meeting with a Japanese businessman in 1956, according to a newly declassified document.
Mao gave his consent to remarks by the businessman that the Japanese people supported the emperor system and that Emperor Hirohito, known posthumously as Emperor Showa, had nothing to do with wartime wrongdoings, according to the document released by the Chinese Foreign Ministry's archives.
A widely supported view among historians is that Mao held a positive view of Japan's Imperial system and had no intention of interfering with it during or after World War II. This document is the first diplomatic paper to back up that view.
In 1956, Beijing was trying to normalize diplomatic ties with Tokyo just as the prime minister at the time, Ichiro Hatoyama, was seeking reconciliation with Communist China and the Soviet Union.
The document mainly records remarks during a 90-minute meeting between Mao and Saburo Nango, head of a Japan-China export-import association, in the Zhongnanhai district in Beijing on the night of Dec. 17, 1956. Chinese officials compiled the paper by interviewing Japanese participants.
"The Japanese people support the emperor system," Nango was quoted as telling Mao at the meeting.
"This is because the Emperor is the banner of the Japanese and the Emperor looks at each and every citizen equally," he went on. "This is the same as (the attitude of) Chairman Mao to the Chinese people.
"In the past, some military people did wrongdoings by exploiting the Emperor," Nango said. "But the Emperor did nothing wrong."
To this view, Mao gave his consent, according to what Nango told the Chinese officials. The document did not record any specific remarks by Mao.
The same document contains remarks made at a meeting between Mao and Shozo Murata, head of the Association for the Promotion of International Trade, on Dec. 10, 1956.
Murata told Mao that the Soviet Union had insisted that Japan carry out a violent revolution by scrapping the emperor system, according to the document. This is why many Japanese have a negative view of the Soviet Union, but no such feelings toward China, Murata added.
In reply, Mao said the Soviet Union called for the abolition of the emperor system during the days the nation was governed by Josef Stalin.
China used to hold similar views, Mao said, hinting that Beijing no longer sought the abolition of the emperor system.
Among historians, it is widely known that in the 1950s and '60s, Mao voiced gratitude for the invasion of China by the Imperial Japanese Army.
According to another declassified diplomatic document, Mao told a June 1960 meeting with a Japanese literature group that the Chinese people would not have woken up if Japan had not occupied the bulk of China.
"For this, we have to thank the Japanese Emperor's army," Mao added.
A former top Chinese official involved in diplomatic efforts with Japan from the 1950s unveiled an episode that provided a glimpse of Mao's attitude toward the emperor system.
"On a few occasions, Chairman Mao said to Japanese people visiting Beijing, 'Please say hello to his majesty the Emperor,' " according to the former Chinese official.
However, the Chinese government's official line is that Emperor Showa, as head of wartime Japan, was responsible for prosecuting the war.
In a 2003 memoir, former Vice Premier Qian Qichen said he was the principal cause of Japan's war of aggression against China.
Despite this, Chinese leaders have repeatedly requested that the Emperor visit China since then-Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping visited Japan and met with Emperor Showa in 1978.
Emperor Akihito in 1992 became the first Japanese monarch to visit China after the 1989 death of his father.
In 2009, China strongly requested an opportunity for Vice President Xi Jinping to meet with Emperor Akihito during a visit to Japan. The meeting was held and prompted a flurry of controversy.