CHINA'S plan to declare national memorial days marking the Nanjing Massacre and Japan's defeat in World War II has cheered many Chinese, even amid concerns over its impact on rapidly worsening bilateral ties with Japan.
News of the proposal to remember victims of the Nanjing Massacre on Dec 13 and China's victory over Japan on Sept 3 emerged on Tuesday after the National People's Congress (NPC) leadership met and discussed it.
NPC leaders have the authority to pass legislation themselves, though the proposal is more likely to be on the agenda for their annual meeting that starts next Wednesday.
If approved, the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Day will be one of China's few national-level memorial days, and the first to mark a tragedy.
State media on Wednesday splashed the news on their front pages and ran commentaries in support - particularly of the memorial day for the Nanjing Massacre. Japanese troops invaded Nanjing, then the Chinese capital, on Dec 13, 1937, and began a 40-day period of killing, looting and raping that reportedly left 300,000 dead.
The China Daily newspaper wrote: "It is natural for countries to have memorial days and for China, one of the most seriously victimised countries during World War II, the two days will be a show of respect and mourning for the victims and a reminder of the necessity of building up its national strength."
Others cited how the memorial days would serve as a warning of Japan's re-militarist intentions under Premier Shinzo Abe and also foster patriotism among the Chinese amid the spat with Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku isles.
The Xinhua news agency, in a commentary, slammed Japan for denying history, unlike Germany which has "faced up squarely to the past, made sincere apologies and renounced militarism".
It wrote: "China remembers the Nanjing Massacre, so will the world. The carnage committed on one nation is a scar on humanity and a threat against all others."
The Nanjing Massacre Day is the latest of China's efforts to highlight Japan's war-time brutality in the Jiangsu provincial capital city, following a denial of the event by a Japanese state broadcaster official earlier this month.
Proposals for a remembrance day for the event known as the Rape of Nanking were tabled in 2005 and 2012 by Jiangsu's national parliamentarians. The province has been holding memorial events since 1994.
The proposal is expected to be approved by the 2,000-plus NPC delegates meeting next week.
Nanjing University historian Zhang Sheng told The Straits Times that the current bilateral tensions might have helped convince Chinese leaders to agree to a national remembrance day.
Reaction in Japan was muted, with only the influential Asahi Shimbun, the second-largest daily, reporting on China's plans.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters yesterday that China's plans are a domestic matter.
Stressing that there are various debates about the facts of the Nanjing incident, he added: "It can't be denied that after the former Imperial troops entered Nanking, civilians were killed and there was looting."
Professor Akio Takahara, a China expert at Tokyo University, told The Straits Times that it is important for both Japan and China to find ways to improve bilateral relations because we are neighbours that cannot move house".
"Whether this measure (declaring memorial days) would be conducive to this common goal is highly questionable," he added.
But Prof Zhang said it is China's right to do so and that the blame lies with Japan. "The Japanese government is responsible for the bilateral tensions, having denied history despite ample evidence yielded from decades of research by Chinese academics on the Nanjing Massacre."
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.