My China, My Japan

Personal statement, written for the Common Application.

Approximately sixty years ago, during World War II, Japan invaded and occupied parts of China, committing many atrocities. I learned something of these events in middle school, but didn’t give them special thought at the time; WWII seemed marked by so many horrors. A recent event, however, forced me to reflect on my vaguely learned school lessons and on the importance of history. The occasion was the Asian Soccer Cup held in China this summer. The Japanese team played well and captured its second consecutive title, but throughout the tournament it was constantly harassed by heckling Chinese fans. Before each game, Chinese booing virtually drowned out the Japanese national anthem; and after the title game, Japanese supporters were forced to remain inside the stadium because of threatening Chinese mobs. The city of Beijing, it was reported, had to deploy as many as ten thousand policemen to keep order. It is perhaps understandable that Chinese should harbor animosity towards Japan. The young spectators may have heard stories of the suffering of their relatives during the war. But I felt that it was misguided to jeer at and intimidate the Japanese athletes and supporters who themselves, after all, had done no harm. They were separated from WWII by at least one or two generations. Most of them, like me, had no direct knowledge of their ancestors’ crimes. Weren’t these spectators being overly vindictive? The Japanese government lodged complaints, and the issue threatened to strain Sino-Japanese relations. For me, however, it was also a personal matter. My mother is Chinese and my father is Japanese. I feel more attached to Japan-I have lived more than half of my life in Japan-but I am very close to my Chinese relatives as well. I thus found myself torn in the recent conflict, unable and unwilling to side with one country or the other. But then, why should I have to choose sides? It has become increasingly common in recent years for people to migrate across national boundaries. I myself was born as a result of this trend. On the surface, the world appears to be moving toward a borderless future of shared views and values. The events of the summer, however, taught me that this trend may be deceptive. Even as young men played soccer together, their fans were still divided by old grudges. We cannot live outside of history. Even those who neglect the past cannot escape its burden. Relations between Japan and China are becoming more intimate by the day. Yet the rancor manifest at the Asian Cup reminded me that the bitterness of old conflicts is astonishingly slow to fade. I am still uncertain to what extent we must answer for the actions of men and women before our time. I do believe, however, that for the people of Japan and China to share a common future, they must continuously grapple with the legacy of their divided past.

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