China marks WWII victory over Japan
BEIJING // President Xi Jinping and other members of China’s most powerful political body made a rare public appearance on Wednesday for the first national commemoration of Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II.
Beijing earlier this year declared September 3 as a national day to mark Japan’s defeat – it signed the formal surrender on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945, with China celebrating the following day.
Relations between the two countries are currently mired in bitter disputes over territory and history.
Hundreds of veterans, officials, military personnel, schoolchildren and young people in ethnic minority dress gathered at a museum near the Marco Polo Bridge on the edge of Beijing, where a skirmish between Chinese and Japanese troops in 1937 triggered full-scale war.
Opening the ceremony, Premier Li Keqiang called on the crowd to “pay a silent tribute to martyrs who bravely sacrificed their lives in the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression”, as the conflict is known in China.
Mr Xi and his six colleagues on the Communist Party’s politburo standing committee presented seven flower baskets in front of sculptures of “martyrs” inside the museum, with China Central Television broadcasting live.
The party has long used nationalism as part of its claim to a right to rule. It stresses that under its leadership, which began in 1949, China finally overcame more than a century of humiliation by outside powers dating back to the Opium Wars of the 19th century.
The most frequent references to national humiliations are to Japan, which invaded China in the 1930s and surrendered in 1945.
Beijing researchers estimate that 20.6 million people died as a result.
The two countries’ relations are heavily coloured by their history, and Beijing and Tokyo are embroiled in a series of rows, including a long-running diplomatic spat over disputed islands in the East China Sea.
Tensions rose further this year after the Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe in January visited the Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals.
Chinese officials often call on Japan to “reflect” on its past, while Tokyo regularly invokes the need to develop a “forward-looking” relationship with Beijing.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: September 3, 2014 04:00 AM