Rising China marks day of shame

2011-09-19 (China Military News cited from Global Times) — Cities across northeast China simultaneously sounded their air raid sirens on Sunday to mark the 80th anniversary of the Japanese invasion.

Pedestrians stopped and vehicles joined their horns to the chorus as the sirens began their plaintive wails for three minutes at 9:18 am in more than 100 cities in Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.

During the siren, Shenyang, Liaoning, suspended all television and radio broadcasts as a subtitle and audio recording went out with the message, “Never forget the national humiliation. Rejuvenate the nation.”

Ahead of the sirens, more than 1,000 representatives from the central and local governments, the People’s Liberation Army and various walks of life gathered at the “September 18 Museum” in Shenyang, where the Japanese army began its assault.

“I received a short message to remind Shenyang citizens of the anniversary,” Zhu Feifei, an English teacher in Shenyang University of Technology, told the Global Times. “When the sirens started, I stood silently on the balcony. The atmosphere was solemn.”

Similar scenes took place across the country.

In Chongqing, about 1,000 citizens chanted wartime songs Saturday. Japanese air forces bombed the city for nearly seven years during the war, killing more than 30,000 people.

While in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, people held an air defense exercise in the downtown area and in colleges on Sunday morning.

On September 18, 1931, Japanese troops bombarded Chinese army barracks near Shenyang, starting the armed invasion of Northeast China.

Four months later, Japanese troops rolled across the region, occupying territory 3.5 times larger than all of Japan.

The incident was followed by a full-scale invasion of China and Southeast Asia, marking the start of a 14-year war of resistance against Japanese aggression.

“It is important and necessary to let young people remember the national humiliation,” said Zhu. “But blind hatred is not encouraged. The most important thing for China is to develop, as only a powerful nation can prevent painful moments of history from happening again.”

However, the manner of educating younger generations about history has come under debate after several shocking incidents.

In late July, authorities in Fangzheng county, Heilongjiang, were criticized for building a monument bearing the names of Japanese paramilitary immigrants.

On August 3, five men sought to splatter it with red paint and smash it with hammers. Two days later, after a national outcry, the monument was torn down.

Separately, a tourist site near Mount Huangshan, Anhui Province, invited tourists to dress up as gun-toting Japanese soldiers and pretend to capture female villagers, a short-lived move which also drew public ire.

Huang Dahui, a professor of Japanese politics at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that memorial activities on such a special day are necessary, but that these must be blended into the public’s daily lives, rather than being a simple one-day ritual.

“We should turn to new media to educate the young generation about the war. Apart from textbooks, the Internet, TV and even cartoons could be used,” Huang said.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television issued a notice in June criticizing some TV and movie scripts for adding fictional elements to the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression.

Huang warned that China should not be overconfident after overtaking Japan as the world’s No. 2 economy in terms of GDP, noting that the country has much to learn from Japan in aspects such as technology innovation, education and cultural investment.

China and Japan have had rocky ties since the normalization of relations in 1972, especially in the past decade as Japanese right-wing nationalists gained traction in the country’s political arena.

In August, the education board of Japan’s second largest city, Yokohama, adopted history and civics textbooks compiled by right-wing Japanese scholars.

The textbooks refer to the Pacific War as the “Greater East Asian War” or as a war for “Japan’s survival and self-defense.” They are set to be used by 100,000 students in all of Yokohama’s 149 public junior high schools from 2012.

The move drew immediate criticism from other Asian countries, with accusations that the textbooks were revising history.

Huang noted that the distortion of Japan’s invasion is dangerous because mutual trust between the two sides is based on the respect of history, and the lack of trust will lead to more misunderstandings.

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