My wife and I have been following the anti-Japanese protests going on in China with a great deal of interest. My wife, who is Chinese and was born in Hong Kong, certainly has very strong feelings with regard to the atrocities committed by the Japanese army during World War II and because of this, by her own admission, cannot share the enthusiasm I have for various aspects of Japanese pop culture. I can understand that. Whenever I see films about the horrors of the enslavement my ancestors suffered in the American south, I get very angry and upset. But at some point people have to decide to move on and live in the present rather than the past. This takes time, a lot of it. The Japanese war crimes are still fresh in the mind of Asia, in part because a frank and open airing of the matter has not been done. Right now, I would say that much of the burden for making a start at this is on the Japanese government and people. This will not be easy for them, as it will require a great national loss of face and many in Japan are not ready for that. Indeed, what Asian nation would willingly face such a shame? Ironically, China talks about owning up to history but conveniently forgets about the June 4, 1989 in Tiananmen Square. During anti-Japanese protests in Hong Kong recently, some protesters made mention of June 4th only to be violently shouted down and attacked by other protesters.
Everyone knows that the protests in China are not completely free but are being allowed and orchestrated by the Beijing government. I can’t help but make a comparison of this to the Star Trek episode, "The Return of the Archons". In this episode, Kirk and the crew are on a planet where the people are being controlled by a computer and forced to behave in a peaceful, tranquil, and souless manner. But every year, for one night during Festival, the computer turns off the controls and lets everyone run amuck. By the next morning, the control turns back on and everyone is peaceful again. Maybe this was done to let the people blow off all of their repressed emotional energy. Maybe this is what the Chinese government is doing right now.
Right now neither side seems interested in really dealing with the unhealed wounds from the war. Indeed, I would guess there are elements on both the Chinese and Japanese sides who are using it for political advantage.