China turns down the volume on anti-Japanese war anniversary rhetoric
Subdued events may be response to Tokyo’s gestures, analysts say
Beijing took a low-key approach for yesterday’s 80th anniversary of an incident that led to full-scale war with Japan.
Analysts said the subdued commemorations of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident might be in response to Tokyo’s recent efforts to improve ties with Beijing.
The incident, a battle between the Japanese army and Chinese forces near Beijing on July 7, 1937, is regarded as the start of China’s war against Japanese aggression.
Yesterday’s commemorations included a visit by Politburo Standing Committee member Liu Yunshan, No 5 in the Communist Party’s hierarchy, to a Sino-Japanese war museum near the bridge, state television reported. State newspapers also published some commentaries on the incident.
The approach was in sharp contrast to several years ago when President Xi Jinping gave a speech at a big ceremony for the 77th anniversary, urging the public to remember the past and to be vigilant about the future.
The following year, Xi and other top officials, including Premier Li Keqiang, visited the museum.
Professor Chen Zilei, from Shanghai University of International Business and Economics, said China’s subdued tack followed friendly overtures from Japan.
“The Japanese government has signalled that it is willing to improve Sino-Japanese relations,” Chen said.
“They said they would take part in the establishment of the Belt and Road Initiative and would consider joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank,” he said.
Lian Degui, professor of Japanese studies at Shanghai International Studies University, said this year also marked the 45th anniversary of the normalisation of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
“It is important to remember historical lessons but the 45th anniversary has more meaning as the two countries strive for peace and cooperation,” he said.