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China Distorts History Ahead of World War II Commemoration

Movie poster for the Chinese film "The Cairo Declaration"
Movie poster for the Chinese film "The Cairo Declaration"

China spent last week excoriating Japan for twisting the history of World War II while spreading distortions of its own on the 70th anniversary of the war's end.

Even China's Global Times, a tabloid owned by the People's Daily Communist Party newspaper, said China had gone too far by putting photos of an actor portraying Mao Tse-tung (now Mao Zedong) on posters for a movie on the Cairo Conference of 1943.

Mao was not in Cairo for the meeting on war strategy with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill but his arch-enemy, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, was.

The Global Times quoted art critic Sima Pingbang as saying that "By featuring Mao, who was not present at the meeting, but excluding Chiang, the poster shows no respect for history nor to Mao."

China was playing up Mao's exploits during World War II ahead of the Sept. 3 military parade and commemoration of what is known in Beijing as the "Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and World Anti-Fascist War."

However, most historians say it was Chiang's Kuomintang (KMT) forces that bore the brunt of the fighting against Japan while Mao saved his troops for the 1945-49 civil war, which ended with Chiang fleeing to Formosa (Taiwan).

The Cairo film was one of more than 10 new movies,12 TV dramas, 20 documentaries and 183 war-themed stage performances in China leading up to Sept. 3, Reuters reported.

The military parade in Tiananmen Square has posed a dilemma for world leaders unwilling to attend a display of China's military might yet also unwilling to offend a world economic power.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he would attend but the U.S., Britain, India and others have yet to commit. It was also not known if Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had been sent an invitation.

Last Friday, as Japan marked the 70th anniversary, the conservative and nationalist Abe expressed "deep remorse" for Japan's actions but did not make an apology of his own. He also said that future generations of Japanese should not have to apologize.

The following day, the 81-year-old Emperor Akihito, whose father Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's surrender, expressed his own sorrow over the war in what some Japanese commentators saw as a rebuke to Abe.

"Reflecting on our past and bearing in mind the feelings of deep remorse over the last war, I earnestly hope that the ravages of war will never be repeated," Akihito said.

A commentary in China's official Xinhua news agency charged that the "revisionist" Abe had "shied away from assuming responsibility for launching a war of aggression upon other countries, saying Japan tried to 'overcome its diplomatic and economic deadlock through the use of force.'"

The U.S. left its response to National Security Council spokesman Ned Price who said in a statement that "We welcome Prime Minister Abe's expression of deep remorse for the suffering caused by Japan during the World War II era, as well as his commitment to uphold past Japanese government statements on history."

"We also value Prime Minister Abe's assurances of Japan's intent to expand upon its contributions to international peace and prosperity in the years ahead."

--Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@military.com

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