In Our Time: The Sino-Japanese War

4 years ago

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Second Sino-Japanese War.


In Our Time: History

Related programmes:
China's Warring States Period
Japan's Sakoku Period


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The consensus seemed to be that the legacy of the 1937-1945 war is still a live issue between China and Japan. It still shapes policy. For example, there are a few insignificant islands over which there is much beating of chests and beating of drums. Those round the table thought that if the military got out of hand and did something rash, then the whole thing could be blown up by the media in Japan and China and result in ... who knows? They also agreed that America's presence in Asia was still strong enough to be a constraint. But for how long?
Under Mao, the Chinese saw the war only through the eyes of the Communists. The Nationalists, under Chiang Kai-shek, did not exist. It was the Communists who faced the might and force of Japan and defeated them. This is not true, but there you go. In Japan the massacre of Nanking, which goes down as one of the great world massacres, simply did not happen. So there you go again. Perhaps the global economy and mutual interdependence will, or already has, knit these countries so closely together that the old enmities will not have the room or energy to rise up again.
Yesterday I went to Cambridge to see Clive James. We were talking about Paul McCartney and the first South Bank Show, which Clive was one of the very few critics (perhaps the only critic) to review positively. He's frail but game. He's coming to London to read his poetry at the end of the month and he says this will be the last time he will come to London. His poetry gets better and better, which must be really satisfying for him. I also loved his translation of Dante. Perhaps shamefully, it's the first time I've read Dante right through. The wit's still there of course; the mind is still action-packed and ready for delivery. It's the chest, the lungs that are letting him down. But he shows no signs of giving in. Thank goodness.
Bit of a heavy day after In Our Time this morning. I decided to walk from Broadcasting House to the National Theatre, which takes about thirty or forty minutes and is a pleasant wend through Soho and Covent Garden, before you hit Waterloo Bridge and stand on it and look downriver at the growing marvels of City architecture. But not when you're caught in a tremendous shower, wearing a light raincoat with no umbrella and arrive at the National Theatre soaked to the suit. Somehow or other, the rain seems particularly vicious on the knees. Nevertheless, we went into the Lyttelton and did the introduction to the programme on King Lear which we're doing with Richard Dunn, Simon Russell Beale and Sam Mendes.
And then on to lunch with a good friend who knows how to retire. He worked in VSO in Africa; he's part of a walking club that covers several miles a day in London. They go through London squares, or they go east of London and walk into the city through parks, etc, etc. He is, like so many of my acquaintances now, an addictive box set person and box set watching is the order of his day. He makes me think that I really should retire one of these days ... one of these days ...
So back to the cutting rooms to work on cuts of Francis Bacon, Paula Rego, the King Lear programme, the trail for the new series, and then to the office. Interviewed about the Cumbrian poet Norman Nicholson, who was born a hundred years ago in Millom and scarcely left it because of ill health. He died in the house in which he was born, which was half a house because the front of it was a shop which his parents ran. In those days Wednesday was half-day closing and his terrific autobiography is called Wednesday Early Closing. The children of Millom now know his poems as well as they will know any poems and that's terrific.
I was going to go to the launch of Edward St Aubyn's new novel. He's written some of the best autobiographical fiction of the last 25 years. Four volumes, all now in paperback, and quite special. But got tired, came home, sat down, read, did this, will read a bit more. And so to bed.
Best wishes
Melvyn Bragg



In Our Time

Melvyn Bragg presents In Our Time, a series where he and his expert guests discuss the history of ideas, and explore subjects in culture and science.
Read more about Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg on the Radio 4 Blog

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