Hong Kong’s social movement for democratization gave rise to fresh friction between China and Hong Kong in the 2010s, and its aftereffects also spread to Taiwan, which had already been democratized. Because of their psychological closeness with these regions, many people living in Japan took a greater interest in the situation in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan than people in any other country in the world. However, while there existed in Japan books that dealt separately with China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, there had been no book that explained in simple terms the history of each of these regions while also taking into account their historical relationships. This book is an introductory work that seeks to respond to these social and educational needs.
But two difficult problems stood in our way when it came to publishing this book.
The first problem was how to refer to the regions in question in a neutral manner while avoiding the political question of whether or not to use the designations China and Taiwan as state concepts. Properly speaking, “Cross-Straits Four Regions called Liangan-Sidi in Chinese” (Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) is the designation that best fits the current situation. This is because the government of the Chinese Communist Party, for which “One China” is a fundamental principle, has banned the use of this designation, while Taiwanese society, which is placing increasing importance on its own distinctiveness, does not necessarily accept this concept. In other words, it may be supposed that by a process of elimination “Liangan-Sidi” is the most neutral concept in the current circumstances. However, this term does not exist in Japanese, and consequently an alternative Japanese term became necessary. Accordingly, it was decided to provisionally use the term “Sinosphere” to refer to the Sinophone region, including Macau.
The second problem was what to call the period covered in this book when taking into account historical relations while attaching importance to the historicity of the current situation in the “Liangan-Sidi.” After careful consideration, we opted for the concept “postwar history.” The reason for this is that present-day relationships in the “Liangan-Sidi” are underpinned by the reorganization of these regions and the differences in their systems of government that resulted from Japan’s defeat in World War II, and these are closely linked to the history of the period immediately after the war. It would have also been perfectly possible to use the term “contemporary history,” but it was decided that “postwar history” was able to give better expression to the historical depth of the “Liangan-Sidi” as it ties in with the current situation.
Of course, there will be various criticisms from various positions regarding our use of the term “Sinosphere” in this book. These are a reflection of the extent to which the “Liangan-Sidi” are in the midst of great upheaval. There will also be various criticisms from various positions regarding our use of the term “postwar history.” It is true that the term “postwar history” no longer has currency in historical circles around the world. Japanese society will soon need to undertake a suitable summarization of the eighty-or-so years that it has understood as the postwar period.
The planning and publication of this book was like setting foot in a minefield. But unless someone summarizes on the basis of knowledge gained from the latest academic findings the historicity of and interrelationships between the “Liangan-Sidi” originating in “postwar history,” Japanese views of the “Liangan-Sidi” will never be brought up to date. We hope that readers will gain a sense of the authors’ zeal in this regard.
(Written by NAKAMURA Motoya, Professor, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences / 2023)