V-Day celebration to 'create new national history'

Updated: 2015-08-25 21:14

By Fu Jing and Gao Shuang in Brussels and Zhang Yunbi in Beijing(chinadaily.com.cn)

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Beijing is in full swing ahead of a military parade and other activities to mark the end of World War II, which European observers say will be significant events in helping the world know how modern China emerged from its humiliating past.

Zhang Ming, vice-minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said 30 heads of state, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republic of Korea President Park Geun-hye, will attend China's V-Day celebrations next Thursday. He also said that those attending, including the military parade, will also include government representatives from 19 countries and heads of 10 international organizations, including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Six former politicians, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, will also attend. Other heads of state and government leaders coming to Beijing include President of Myanmar Thein Sein, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang and Choe Ryong-hae, a senior official of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Ambassadors and envoys to China will also be present.

Professor Hans van de Ven, Professor of Modern Chinese History at the Department of East Asian Studies of Cambridge University said China's decision to hold a large military parade in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II serves important domestic and international purposes.

"Domestically, the purpose is to rally the Chinese people around a new common national history, one in which stands central not the fight against internal class enemies, but joint resistance against foreign invasion. The aim is to create a new national history," said van de Ven.

He said the display of military hardware is also meant to suggest that China has the military wherewithall befitting a great power, and so can keep its people safe, important given that China for almost two centuries suffered defeat after defeat and invasion after invasion.

"Internationally, the commemorations on September 3 are meant to draw attention to China's role in World War II, illustrating that it played as important a role as the US, the USSR, and the UK, and that China, too, stood on the side of good," said van de Ven.

Peter van Tuijl, Executive Director of Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict in the Netherlands said the Chinese people suffered tremendously during World War II and contributed significantly to the victory of the Allied Forces.

"I have the greatest respect for those," said van Tuijl.

He also said while celebrating the 70th anniversary of the end of the war: "I appreciate the parade of the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army as an acknowledgement of its important role in World War II and as a sign that the growing Chinese military capacities will operate within internationally agreed frameworks as a force for peace.

"In this regard, we welcome the increasing Chinese contribution to UN peacekeeping. We also believe that more work is still necessary to develop and agree on regional arrangements for peace and security in Northeast Asia".

Adam Cathcart is a lecturer in Chinese History at the University of Leeds in the UK and said the parade has been the focus of fastidious preparations and careful planning, and will be another chance for the world to focus on the great city of Beijing.

"The diplomatic activity on the sidelines is one of the most advantageous aspects of the parade and I hope all the countries in the region will take advantage of the opportunity to talk with one another in a friendly atmosphere." said Cathcart.

In particular, he said it will be good to turn a new page in Sino-Japanese relations, remembering the difficulty of the past but also the peaceful achievements in the years since 1945. "China and Japan have built a relationship that in some ways is very robust, and this couldn't be done without visionary leadership," Cathcart said.

Professor Simon Ball, Chair of International History and Politics of University of Leeds said the trend in western historiography of the war has been to acknowledge the importance of the Japanese attack on China.

"The world war had a rolling start from 1937 to 1941. At the same time historians are rediscovering the very different natures of the bundle of regional wars that made up the world war," said Ball. " It is clear that the world powers drew very different lessons from their joint experiences".

Rana Mitter, Deutsche Bank Director of the University of Oxford's China Centre and Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China said the parade reminds China and the world that there was a major contribution by China to the ultimate Allied victory in World War II.

"Asia was devastated by that war, and it is crucial for all actors in the region to create a consensual and peaceful order that prevents such a war ever happening again,"said Mitter.