War, Identity, and Inherited Responsibility in Sino-Japanese Relations
Groups in conflict develop different and often contesting interpretations of the past, particularly if that history involves a violent injustice. How both perpetrator and victimised groups deal with their past history is critical to the successful resolution of protracted conflicts. When the harm is left unacknowledged and unaddressed, feelings of victimisation, humiliation, and shame emerge and frequently prolong the conflict between the transgressor and transgressed. The perpetrator's acknowledgment of responsibility for immoral acts is therefore an essential pre-requisite in promoting reconciliation. Debates about historical injustices, however, focus on whether guilt and responsibility for past wrongs should be passed on from the original perpetrators to the generational descendants. Seventy years have passed since the end of the Second World War, and yet the memories of the war continue to negatively affect the relations between China and Japan. While Chinese victims and their descendants continue to seek apology and closure, the Japanese public are experiencing 'apology fatigue'—a feeling of frustration that no matter what they do, the victims will never be satisfied. This thesis seeks to examine the extent to which present-day Japanese are willing to accept some degree of inherited responsibility for the acts of aggression committed by their ancestors. Drawing on social identity, basic human needs and reconciliation theories, this research aims to identify the social psychological factors impeding Japanese acceptance of collective responsibility for its past. Using a mixed methods approach, this problem is examined and explored with a sample of 162 Japanese university students representing a generation who were never directly involved in the nation's misdeeds.
Advisor: Clements, Kevin; Lee, SungYong
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: collective guilt; historical injustices; Sino-Japanese relations; collective memory; apology; apology fatigue; identity; social identity theory; victimhood; East Asia reconciliation; East Asia peace
Research Type: Thesis