China staged official commemorations yesterday marking the 65th anniversary of the end of the second Sino-Japanese war, but a senior People's Liberation Army officer says Beijing has been progressively playing down the significance of the war for economic reasons.
President Hu Jintao yesterday led the chairman of the National People's Congress, Wu Bangguo, Premier Wen Jiabao and the other six members of the Politburo Standing Committee, in paying homage to the Chinese soldiers who died fighting Japanese aggression from 1937 to 1945, Xinhua reported.
It said Hu and the other leaders placed wreaths to honour the war martyrs at the Museum of the War of the Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in Beijing, while veterans, foreigners who helped China fight and other citizens also mourned silently.
It appears to have been the first time that all nine top Chinese leaders have formally attended a ceremony commemorating the war.
A PLA Daily commentary written by Major General Jin Yinan yesterday accused some local governments of removing some chapters about Sino-Japanese history from textbooks to please Japanese investors. '[The war] was the Chinese people's first victory in the hundred years since the first opium war ... it woke up the whole nation,' Jin wrote. 'It should not be forgotten. But reality has forced us to forget it.'
The article cited the removal from textbooks in Shanghai, Hunan and other places of the story of five national heroes who preferred to jump off a cliff on Langyashan, Hebei , rather than surrender to the Japanese army in 1941.
Jin, who is also director of the Strategic Teaching and Research Department at the National Defence University, also criticised authorities for discouraging the singing of anti-Japanese patriotic songs in public for fear of harming the development of Sino-Japanese relations.
He said the authorities had just focused on the economic relations between China and Japan and had ignored the importance of national spiritual education for new generations. 'The old men are passing away, while historical evidence and wounds are fading year after year,' Jin wrote. 'How can we keep our national pride and awareness, which we united for and poured all our efforts into earning 65 years ago?'
He contrasted China's attitude with the protection of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem to commemorate the subjugation of the Jews by the Roman army more than 2,000 years ago, and said Chinese authorities lacked such courage to face the past. 'When I saw so many young and beautiful faces praying before the wrecked wall, I suddenly felt that those young people were communicating with their ancestors,' Jin wrote.
A Shanghai-based senior colonel said Jin was urging Beijing to resume national and patriotic education for the younger generations, especially about the history of the Sino-Japanese war.
He said the war was depicted in anti-Japanese propaganda before China opened up to the world in 1978. However, since the early 1980s, the Japanese government had provided a great deal of support for China's economic reform.
'In order to attract more funding, former leaders Deng Xiaoping and Hu Yaobang announced the so-called 'no more war between China and Japan' policy, which became the most fundamental common ground linking the strategic interests of the two countries,' he said. 'All anti-Japanese sentiment has been played down since then.'
However, Yuan Weishi, a historian at Guangzhou's Sun Yat-sen University, said the first priority if Beijing was to face up to the history of the Sino-Japanese war was to restore historical truth. 'It's meaningless to launch all kinds of commemorative activities if our government still fails to make clear many historical facts about the Sino-Japanese war and other events,' he said.