However, the article on page 6 of the Sankei Shimbun of August 10, 2007 entitled "The House Resolution on the Comfort Women: `A Warning to Japan'" (慰安婦決議案：「日本への警告」) seems to challenge the frontiers of journalism.
It concerns an op-ed by American studies expert Tao Wenzhao published in the foreign edition of the People's Daily on August 6.
Now I do not have the original Chinese, only the English language version released a day later in China Daily and the People's Daily. One would think, however, that the article in English would in some way resemble the Chinese original.
One would think that, yes.
However, the article described in the Sankei report does not share a single point of commonality with the English translation on both the People's Daily and the China Daily websites.
According to the Sankei Shimbun, the Tao's article warns:
「慰安婦問題は日米同盟の試練」Hmmm, looking through Tao's text, I cannot find, "the Comfort Women issue is an acid-test for the Japan-U.S. alliance."
He offers not a single warning.
But wait, here is Tao quoting Mike Honda:
Democratic Representative Mike Honda, who sponsored the non-binding act, said afterward: "The passage of the comfort women resolution is not the end, but the beginning. It is sending a strong signal to Japan's political community."No, that is not it. Maybe it is the suggestion the title that Japan "should ponder" the resolution.
OK, let's look at the second quote in the article:
The resolution condemning Japan that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of last month was "a warning to Japan that redounded to the benefit of the Bush Administration."
Look at the Tao article again. See any line even remotely approximating the above passage?
Neither do I.
Let's try another quote:
「日本の右翼勢力を批判する声はこれまでに米国の民間レベルにとどまっていたが今回の決議で政府の態度表明となった。」You know the drill.
Until now the voices criticizing Japanese right wing forces were limited to the American private sector. However, this time's resolution became a manifestation of the government's stance."
Yep, it is not there. The phrase "right wing" does not appear anywhere.
OK, this is getting tiresome. Let us try one more:
"If Japanese conservative forces incite the nations of Asia over the history question, then there will be no escape from effects upon the strategic outlook and the position of Japan's alliance partner the United States will grow more and more unpleasant."
Oh come on. Not one quotation matching the English translation? What is going on here? Were there two op-eds on the comfort women printed four days ago in the foreign edition of the People's Daily--or is the English translation department at the People's Daily just particularly mendacious?
How are we to harmonize the impression created in the Sankei quotes that the alliance is about to blow apart with the Tao conclusion in the English language article?
What impact will this House resolution have on US-Japan relations? The Japanese side appears desperately trying to magnify it. This writer believes it would only cause a few "scratches or bruises" at best. The two countries are close allies with wide-ranging common interests in security, economy and many other areas between them.
"Desperately trying to magnify it" -- that sounds just about right.
The Sankei article intimates that Tao is really a sub-rosa spokesman for the Chinese government, foreshadowing a shift away from the Hu Jintao line of underplaying the history card.
For a surreptitious government spokesman, Tao manages to screw up just about every Japanese name he mentions. He calls House Resolution 121 "the Kato resolution" (boy I hope nobody tells Ambassador Katō) instead of "the Honda resolution." He also misidentifies the Chief Cabinet Secretary who made the 1993 statement on the comfort women. Kōno Yōhei made the statement, not his replacement Takemura Masayoshi.
Now either there was another op-ed on the comfort women in the foreign edition of the People's Daily on August 6...or the Chinese intentionally edit out the sexy parts of their op-eds when they translate them into English...or I am going to have to read Sankei Shimbun articles on China and/or the comfort women with a metric ton of salt.
Somebody please prove me wrong.