VJ DAY REMEMBERED : China mutes the voices of victory

VJ Day in China was, above all, a carefully-scripted event. The Communist Party staged it in an attempt to stir nationalist pride and boost its historic claim to the nation's loyalty.

President Jiang Zemin made his way to Marco Polo bridge, on the outskirts of Peking, where the Sino-Japanese war began on 7 July, 1937, and declared the Anti-Japanese war "the first time in modern Chinese history that our people won absolute victory against foreign invaders". The People's Daily celebrated with a youthful picture of Chairman Mao and a long article on "The superb strategy of Mao Tse-tung in directing the Anti-Japanese war". China expressed appreciation for the apology made by Tomiichi Murayama, the Japanese Prime Minister, although it reiterated that some Japanese "are still unable to adopt a correct attitude", and that Tokyo must "face up to history".

Overall, there was little to offend Japan. The tone was set weeks ago; Peking wanted to settle historical accounts without jeopardising Japan's present-day economic role in China.China's leaders know they cannot afford to insult Tokyo. In the first quarter of 1995, Japan was China's biggest trading partner and bilateral trade is forecast to reach $50bn (pounds 33bn) this year; Japanese companies are key investors and providers of technology to China and Tokyo is the biggest aid donor, already providing 1,681bn yen (pounds 11bn) of soft loans - and promising more.

The leaders are wary of the assertion that Japan has replaced its former military might with economic clout. Among the older generation, the brutality of Japan's occupation is not forgotten. According to Peking's figures, 21 million Chinese were killed and 14 million injured in the 1937-45 Anti- Japanese War, and the economic loss to China was $500bn. The country suffered many of Japan's worst wartime atrocities: the 300,000 killings of the December 1937 Rape of Nanking the germ-warfare tests which murdered unknown thousands and barbaric medical experiments performed at the notorious Camp 731 in Manchuria, the north-east part of China which the Japanese occupied in 1931.

Yet 50 years later, both countries know that theirs is the most important relationship in East Asia. The potential strains, however, remain immense. The two nations are increasingly jockeying for position as the dominant Asian power.

For Japan, the big issues are China's military expansion and its nuclear- test programme. Tokyo is concerned about China's rising defence budget, military modernisation and claims to the South China Sea and the Spratly Islands. On nuclear testing, Tokyo has been unusually forthright. After the test in May, Japan reduced China's 7.8bn yen (pounds 51m) of "grant aid". On Thursday, Tokyo indicated further cuts in humanitarian assistance - but ruled out any impact on yen loans.

Peking has its own complaints. When Mr Murayama visited in May, the Chinese failed to persuade Japan to renegotiate interest payments on yen-denominated loans, which have soared with the strengthening Japanese currency. China protested strongly over the Dalai Lama's visit in April to Japan. And it has put pressure on Tokyo not to follow the US in upgrading links with Taiwan when Taipei is represented at a regional forum in Osaka in November.

Against this sensitive background, the Chinese government shied from Japan-bashing in the run-up to VJ Day. Since mid-June, when the anniversary season was launched, China's commemoration has become the focus of nationalistic "patriotic education". The emphasis has been on the West's under-valuing of China's role in defeating the "Fascists", and on the Communists' superiority to the nationalist Kuomintang in fighting the Japanese.

For some, the anniversary has been good business. At Jiaozhuanghu, outside Peking, up to 6,000 people arrive each day, mostly work-group outings, to view the defensive tunnels built by villagers during the Anti-Japanese war.

And just so they realise what war in China was like, there is an "Anti- Japanese lunch" of corn bread, gruel and pickled vegetables.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: LGV Driver - Category C or C+E

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national Company that manu...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - OTE £30,000

£13000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Assistant

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Maintenance Assistant is requ...

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?