China is preparing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of victory in what its government calls "the war of resistance against Japanese aggression." On Sept. 3, Beijing will host its biggest military parade in decades as visiting world leaders look on. Even so, China's bravado could backfire, casting light on uncomfortable historical truths that its leaders might prefer to forget.
Japan is ostensibly the inspiration for China's militarist chest-thumping. Beijing's propaganda claims that the Chinese people have no more bitter adversary today than the country that invaded, and ultimately surrendered, before most of them were born.
Yet the intercontinental ballistic missiles, stealth fighter jets and "aircraft carrier-killer" munitions that will grace the streets and skies of Beijing are designed to be used not against Japan, but against the US -- which fought on China's side as its principal ally during World War II.
Indeed, China owes its territorial integrity today to America's 1945 defeat of Imperial Japan, which had occupied parts of China since 1931. China's global stature stems partly from US wartime president Franklin Roosevelt's hope that China would be one of the "Four Policemen" that would uphold the postwar order. This led the victorious allies to make China a founding member of the United Nations Security Council, an honour reserved for no other Asian country.
But it was not the Chinese Communists who led the campaign against the Japanese invaders before their surrender. In fact, the guerrillas led by Mao Zedong largely stood on the sidelines during the war, while the Nationalist armies of Chiang Kai-Shek fought epic land battles against Japan's Imperial Army -- only for Mao and his compatriots to fill the vacuum in the wake of Japan's defeat and the Nationalists' military exhaustion, violently deposing Chiang's regime four years after the war ended.
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