Commemorating China's sacrifice
China suffered terrible losses - more than any other country - at the hands of imperial Japan. It is understandable that today, 70 years after the second world war, the nation marks on a grand scale the Japanese surrender. The ceremony and military parade on Tiananmen Square are about commemorating the sacrifice and heroism of the Chinese people and their contribution to the overall war effort. With China being the main eastern war front, they had a vital role in bringing hostilities to an end.
Presidents and prime ministers of 30 countries, representatives of 19 others and the heads of 10 international organisations recognise that and are attending the events. But many Western leaders have chosen to stay away, largely because of a perception that President Xi Jinping is using the occasion for political purposes. The parade will include 12,000 People's Liberation Army soldiers and sophisticated military hardware, a display of technological advancement and growing power. At a time of rising tension in the region, particularly the East and South China seas, outsiders could be excused for misreading Beijing's intentions.
This is a pity. While the ceremony is certainly an opportunity for Xi to show his leadership of the PLA at a time when it has been rocked by scandal, the tenor of the occasion is commemoration, not politics. Up to 20 million Chinese died during 14 years of Japanese invasion, occupation and war - in one month alone in Nanjing, as many as 300,000, many of them women and children, perished. Japan has yet to atone with a sincere apology and its nationalist prime minister, Shinzo Abe, regrettably declined the invitation to attend the events. If he had accepted, as has South Korea's president, Park Geun-hye, a chance for reconciliation in northeast Asia would have arisen.
Only by Japan acknowledging the past and making genuine amends can the region move forward. The activities in Beijing today are aimed at showing the determination of China and other nations to prevent a repeat of those horrific events. There may be disagreement with Beijing's motives, but ultimately, the commemoration is about celebrating those who fought so bravely and gallantly.
Chinese, from the Communist Party and Kuomintang and every walk of life, fought in the war of resistance against Japanese occupation. Today, we remember the resolve, losses and victory. A brighter future lies in the lessons learned.