To see a note from the editor, click here.

Friday, 3 September 2010

65 Years On

Several recent posts at Sino-Gist have dealt with China's relationship with Japan, and the issue of history that is so crucial to relations between the two countries. Only yesterday, a post on this blog discussed the conclusion of the latest Beijing-Tokyo forum that candid speaking is required for points of conflict in Sino-Japanese relations to be ironed out (click here to see this piece).

Today, September 3rd 2010, marks the 65th anniversary of China's defeat of Japan in the Second World War.  Not surprisingly, Chinese state media accorded the commemorations of the milestone significant space, with the People's Daily publishing a front page editorial warning its readers not to forget the injustices Japan inflicted on China during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). A glance at English extracts from the editorial released on the newspaper's website reveals just how important the anniversary is to the Chinese Communist Party.  Yesterday's post mentioned how the CCP uses historical events and landmarks to bolster support for its authority, and this is a feature that comes across very strongly in the editorial. The Party's role in leading resistance to the Japanese invasions right from the start is emphasised throughout the piece, with the Kuomintang's contribution to the Anti-Japan National United Front portrayed as supporting the efforts of the CCP's military forces. Certainly, one is left in no doubt which political grouping played the key role in achieving victory in the Asian arena of the 'anti-fascist war'. In essence, the Party sees the leadership demonstrated against Japan as legitimising its continued political domination of China in the 21st century.

In the same vein, appeals to the legacy of Dr. Sun Yat-sen ground communist rule in factors beyond the CCP's own achievements. The editorial's description of Sun as 'forerunner of the Chinese Democratic Revolution' links the Party with a figure revered in China for his ideas of political and social revolution. Most importantly, his use appeals to an audience wider than the communist fraternity, transforming the issue of the CCP's right to govern from being purely political to one that includes national pride. Thus, Chinese who do not warm to Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping or Hu Jintao can still relate to the Party through its links with Sun.

Interestingly, the editorial makes reference to Hu Jintao's theory of scientific socialist development (for more information, see this previous Sino-Gist post) and Deng Xiaoping Theory, but omits the usual tribute to Mao Zedong Thought. Bearing in mind that Mao is credited in official histories of the CCP with being instrumental in leading the Party's anti-Japanese efforts, such an omission is slightly surprising. However, this move may represent a desire to emphasise the CCP's role in the defeat of Japan's forces rather than allude to the efforts of any particular individual. By claiming the credit as an institution, the Party is able to justify its continued superiority in the post-Chairman Mao age.

What will this mean for Sino-Japanese relations? It is inconceivable that Japan did not anticipate that the CCP would organise commemorations of the Chinese victory on the scale that it did. Indeed, it would be more surprising if the latter had not occurred. Therefore, September 3rd's marking will most likely serve as a reminder of how sensitive China remains about the events of the first half of the 20th century, rather than actively impede future dialogue between the two countries. That said, with past Japanese aggression such a useful tool to a CCP constantly trying to strengthen its own legitimacy, China may be reluctant to sacrifice this source of political capital anytime soon.

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