Eamonn Fingleton: The news out of both Japan and China was that neither country made a lot of noise on the anniversary of the rape of Nanking

Roundup: Talking About History

[Eamonn Fingleton is the author of "In the Jaws of the Dragon: America's Fate in an Era of Chinese Hegemony," which will be published in March.]

For observers of Sino-Japanese relations the big news in the past week has been that there has been no news. Although last Thursday marked the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the notorious Nanking massacre, political activists in both Japan and China have been notable - so far at least - for their restraint.

Given that the massacre, which began on Dec. 13, 1937, and continued for six weeks, was one of the worst atrocities in military history, the Chinese people would be forgiven for expressing their feelings in less muted terms. On conservative estimates, at least 150,000 people were annihilated in what was then the Chinese capital of Nanking (the city now known as Nanjing) and in many cases their deaths took place in circumstances of almost unbelievable cruelty and depravity.

Although it may be too soon to conclude that the Chinese people have forever put recriminations behind them, relations between Japan and China actually have grown considerably closer than is generally understood in the West.

The story goes back to the early 1970s, when just months after President Richard Nixon's historic visit to Beijing, Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka made a similar visit. Amid burgeoning trade links, the once icy Sino-Japanese relationship immediately began to thaw. Japanese corporations started making substantial investments in China in the 1980s and, as the years have gone by, Japanese officials have become ever more generous in permitting large transfers of advanced Japanese manufacturing technology. They have also advanced vast amounts of official economic aid. For decades, China has been by far the largest beneficiary of Japan's huge aid program....

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