Textbooks and Patriotic Education: Wartime Memory Formation in China and Japan

The treatment of the wartime period in Japan's history textbooks has long been a subject of debate and controversy, even a source of international tension. Since their creation, history textbooks have been used to shape national identity and encourage patriotism. This article, drawing on the comparative study of high school history textbooks in Japan, China, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States by Stanford's "Divided Memories and Reconciliation" project, compares the treatment of the wartime period in the textbooks of China and Japan. The study found that Japanese textbooks are relatively devoid of overt attempts to promote patriotism and that they contain more information about controversial wartime issues such as the Nanjing Massacre than is widely believed. In contrast, Chinese textbooks, particularly after their revision a decade ago, are consciously aimed at promoting a nationalist view of the past as part of the country's “patriotic education” campaign. The article warns, however, against efforts in Japan to promote a Japanese-style version of patriotic education.