The School of Basic Sciences explores Chinese-Japanese history

Annette Willemse -- Tue, 09/16/2014 - 14:39

The School of Basic Sciences explores Chinese-Japanese history

The School of Basic Sciences on the Vaal Triangle Campus of the North-West University (NWU Vaal) recently hosted a thought-provoking colloquium. The colloquium, hosted by the subject group History, focused on the anti-Japanese sentiments during World War 2 (WW2). Professor Kikuchi Kazutaka from Aichi Gakuin University in Japan gave a lecture on his research of this topic.

Colleagues from the Aichi Gakuin University in Japan
and North-West University's Vaal Triangle Campus.
Professor Katzutaka's; "The War and Overseas-Chinese" book.

Professor Kazutaka’s research

Professor Kazutaka’s research is focused on the history of overseas Chinese and Japanese relationships during WW2 and is emphasised by the aim of his research: to investigate the anti-Japanese sentiments during WW2, the Second Sino-Japanese wars among the Japanese colonies of Taiwan and Korea and among overseas Chinese in general. The Second Sino-Japanese War fought between Japan and China, lasted from July 1937 until September 1945 and was the largest Asian war of the twentieth century. The war was the result of a decades-long Japanese imperialist policy aimed at dominating China politically and militarily, to secure its vast raw material reserves and other economic resources and particularly its food and labour.

Professor Kazutaka also aims to understand through his research the meaning and influence of Japan’s aggression towards China, as well as the scale and dynamics of resistance among overseas Chinese communities. What are the differences and similarities among different Chinese communities all over the world? How was the network connected or broken?

“In order to investigate what really happened, I had to focus on visiting research institutions like national archives, public and private libraries, as well as universities around the world. I have also visited the archives of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s headquarters, the Archives of the Chinese Communist Party’s local headquarters, the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce and various Chinatowns,” said Prof Kazutaka.


Prof Kazutaka travelled around the world to gather information on the life and times of Chinese people living in Japan and elsewhere in the world during WW2. He collected his data through historical records from Japan that reveal the actual conditions and movements of Chinese living in Japan during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the situation at the embassy, and in the cities of Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagasaki.

“My major concern in this research was not to separate the communities in Kobe or Nagasaki, but to look at each of them deeply in order to get an organic connection and clearer understanding of the Chinese community in Japan as a whole,” he said. Prof Kazutaka says that in his research he focused his attention on both the connections and divisions among Chinese communities throughout Japan.

Part of his data collection also included international historical records about Chinese communities living abroad during WW2. Newspapers were the primary source of information, as he was able to get information from publications such as: The Central Daily News, published by the Nationalist Party of Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975); the Xinhua Daily newspaper, published by the Chinese Communist Party; and the Nanjing Republic Daily, published by the Nanjing puppet regime.

The data collection meant that he had to travel to places such as Singapore, which he says is surprisingly a location with a great number of expatriate Chinese. There he went to the Central Library of the National University of Singapore to collect historical materials. “I also visited overseas Chinese schools in order to fortify my ideas and research,” said Prof Kazutaka. His aim through collecting this data was to establish what the exact relationship between Chinese and Japanese was during the war.

“I was most interested in the movement of Chinese seamen who supported England during the war. Another thing that weighed on my mind was the issue of the Chinese community in the Philippines who organised anti-Japanese guerrillas and formed a strong resistance against the Japanese army of aggression.”

Professor Johann Tempelhoff, head of history on the Vaal Triangle Campus, says that Prof Kazutaka’s research is very valuable and opens a whole new dimension to explore, as most of the history we know about Asia is written from a European’s perspective.

Vision for the future

Prof Kazutaka has published the book “The War and Overseas-Chinese” (volume 1); this book contains research on Chinese in Japan, in the colonies of Taiwan and Korea, as well as in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula, covering Japanese military occupation during WW2.

Prof Kazutaka says that the book clarifies some aspects about suppression, resistance and reconciliation of China with Japan. He is about to publish “The War and Overseas-Chinese” (volume 2), which talks about the Nationalist Government’s policy on Chinese in Diaspora, the Puppet Regime and the anti-Japanese movement among Chinese living in North America (The United States of America, Hawaii and Canada).

Professor Kikuchi Kazutaka is currently doing research on the anti-Japanese movement among the Chinese in England, France and Germany, and his next project – starting this year – will be to research Chinese living in South Africa. This research will be published as volume 3 to his “The War and Overseas-Chinese” book series.

“This way, we can elucidate a worldwide structure of the anti-Japanese movement during WW2, as well as the primary factors behind China’s victory and Japan’s defeat,” he said.

Through Prof Elize van Eeden from the subject group History contacted Prof Kazutaka to come present on Chinese visibility in Africa and elsewhere. “Even if we do not get to work with Prof Kazutaka in the immediate future, however this was an informative session and an opportunity that allows for connecting research in the long term. We look forward to Professor Kazutaka’s visit,” said Prof Van Eeden.

Prof Van Eeden’s view on the importance of History as a subject group on the Vaal Triangle Campus is that it is at the forefront in South Africa, with aspects relating to history theory on regional and environmental history with the main focus on water and multidisciplinary formats of research in which history also features. “As you can see we don’t just live in the past, though we enjoy it,” she said.