China will not agree to any efforts to “deny, distort or beautify” history, President Xi Jinping said yesterday, as he hit out for the second time in three days at Japan’s revisionism over its wartime aggression and moves towards remilitarisation.
“There are still a small number of people who ignore the iron facts of history... History is history and facts are facts. Nobody can change history and facts.
“Anyone who intends to deny, distort or beautify history will not find agreement among Chinese people and people of all other countries,” Mr Xi said at a ceremony to mark the 77th anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge incident.
On July 7, 1937, Chinese and Japanese troops clashed at the bridge known locally as Lugou, about 15km from Beijing, triggering the start of the Sino-Japanese War. Japan had occupied north- east China since 1931.
Mr Xi is the first Chinese leader to attend commemorative events for the July 7 incident, reported local media, which ran editorials in the past week criticising Tokyo over its invasion of China and actions during World War II.
Premier Li Keqiang, speaking at a press briefing in Beijing with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday, also drew references to the anniversary.
“The future can be inaugurated and peace can be maintained only if lessons from history are kept in mind,” he said.
Observers say China’s high degree of attention this year – with war survivors attending the event which was telecast live – is unusual. Mr Xi also unveiled a sculpture based on a military medal designed for veteran soldiers, who were represented by one from the Communist Party and another from the Kuomintang.
The event was prompted in part by Beijing’s concerns over Japanese efforts to “whitewash its wartime atrocities” through repeated denials by right-wing forces and also Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni war shrine last December, they add.
Shanghai-based professor of Japanese studies Su Zhiliang told The Straits Times that yesterday’s event is part of China’s preparations for the 70th anniversary of the Allied forces’ victory in World War II next year and also a warning that history can repeat itself.
“Now, whether Japan stays peaceful or embarks again on a war path is a serious question for many countries,” he added, referring to Japan’s reinterpretation of its pacifist Constitution last week to allow for the right to collective self-defence in certain scenarios. That has triggered fears in China of Japanese remilitarism.
The move is the latest twist in the two neighbours’ relationship, which has nosedived since August 2012, when Tokyo nationalised part of the contested East China Sea isles known as the Senkakus in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
Recent visits by a Japanese minister to China and by former Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan to Japan had sparked talk that Beijing would ease its Japan-bashing and let bilateral ties recover ahead of the Apec leaders’ summit in Beijing in November.
Mr Xi’s latest remarks, which followed his criticism of Japan in Seoul last Friday, have quashed such suggestions, say analysts. Expect higher-profile treatment for other anniversary dates this year, they add, though Mr Xi may not necessarily attend all.
They include Sept 3 and Dec 13, both designated for the first time as national memorial days to mark Japan’s official World War II surrender in 1945, and the 1937 Nanjing Massacre respectively.
China started last Thursday to release one confession a day from 45 Japanese prisoners of war. It has also launched a website on the Nanjing Massacre that reportedly killed over 300,000 Chinese.
Peking University’s North-east Asia expert Wang Dong told The Straits Times that while China, as a good host, is keen to cool regional tensions before the Apec summit, it also sees the need to counter Japan’s revisionists.
“I don’t think both are mutually exclusive,” he said.
“Defence of historical justice is crucial for regional peace and stability and it is something that not only China but all Asian countries that had fallen prey once to Japanese wartime atrocities should be doing too.”
“There are still a small number of people who ignore the iron facts of history... Anyone who intends to deny, distort or beautify history will not find agreement among Chinese people and people of all other countries.”
– President Xi Jinping, at a ceremony yesterday to mark the 77th anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge incident. He is the first Chinese leader to attend commemorative events for the Sino-Japanese incident
This article was first published on JULY 8, 2014.
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