What U.S. President Donald Trump disclosed after his April 6-7 summit in Florida with Chinese President Xi Jinping is shocking. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, Trump said Xi told him, “Korea actually used to be a part of China,” part of a history lesson on China and Korea given by Xi during the meeting. Trump said that when he said Korea, he meant the entire Korean Peninsula, including South and North Korea.
We are dumbfounded that the leader of 21st-century China made such a ridiculous claim. If Trump really conveyed Xi’s words correctly, it is nothing but a grave challenge to the identity of the Korean people.
As China’s power has grown remarkably over the last three decades, China’s historical perception is increasingly taking a worrisome turn. In a meeting in Beijing with a North Korean delegation in the 1960s, Communist China’s first premier Zhou Enlai, who is still admired as one of the greatest modern leaders of China, said it did not make any sense to say that Korea was a tributary of China from ancient times. Zhou added that you can easily find the Korean people’s footprints in all parts of the Liao River and Songhua River basins between Liaoning and Jilin provinces in Northeast China. His remarks translated into a candid admission of the ethnic Koreans’ unique identity, totally distinct from the Chinese.
But China’s views on history have changed dramatically since the 1980s thanks to revisionist arguments by Fei Xiaotong (1910-2005), a noted Chinese anthropologist and sociologist. Fei said that all the history that took place within the boundaries of China’s current territory belongs to Chinese history. After such a chauvinistic perspective became the mainstream, China began to regard Korea as sort of a component of China.
Evidence of such an attitude is thick on the ground. China is trying to distort history through the Northeast Project of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. China has tried to take away our proud Goguryeo (37 B.C. - A.D. 668) history. Several years ago, an official at the Chinese Embassy in Seoul went so far as to say, “We are sorry that we could not protect Korea during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895.”
We wonder if Xi really believes such nationalistic views on history. How can he talk about promoting friendly ties with us with such distorted views on history? Xi should explain himself.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 20, Page 34