Thursday, 23 April 2015

Liberation Day: a symbol of times that have changed

Today, 23rd of April is the memorial day for the Liberation of Nanjing.
Living in China was the first time to hear about Nanjing Liberation Day.  I assumed, naively, it was commemorating the relief and exhausted elation that must have followed the Japanese withdrawal from the city.  But it wasn't.
In the decades after the war the struggle was internal: the enemy was within. Nanjing's Liberation Day commemorated the day that the Communists defeated the Nationalists and established control over the city.  The train to Nanjing would play The Song of the Yangtze River (see the clip below) as it crossed the river on the way into Nanjing. Another teacher assured me the song was as a reminder of the Communist victory as they fought their way from the north into the city, though lyrics checking leaves me a bit skeptical about the veracity of this.

But the point is China's situation has shifted and so has the common enemy. Rather than class struggle defeating those with suspect 'rightist' pasts, the enemy is outside, most notably Japan.  In recent years Japan deserves a lot of flack for its position  (particularly after the PM's very slippery speech in Bandung that avoided any sense of responsibility for the war) but it'd be disingenuous not to notice the shift that has been occurring in China.    

On another matter Chinese today, I saw  a startling admission from a Shanghai based scholar, Fudan University Professor Ge Jianxiong, 62 that Tibet was not always part of China. 

HONG KONG: A leading Chinese historian and a veteran of the committee that advises on official Chinese history textbooks has broken step with the official Chinese line on historical sovereignty over Tibet and said that to claim that the ancient Buddhist kingdom “has always been a part of China” would be a “defiance of history”.

The Song of the Yellow River (almost, but not quite as militaristic as the one on the train to Nanjing in 1999-2000).


Andrew Wright said...

According to Wikipedia the total Chinese military and civilian deaths due to WW2 were about 20 million, the same estimate as for the Taiping Rebellion. Maybe 45 million Chinese died due to famine and other causes during the Cultural Revolution.

It is also interesting to note that Tibet once ruled a fairly large part of south western China ( I would be amused to see Tibet and Mongolia claim large tracts of China on the same basis as China's arguments which seem to me run as "We once for a period of time occupied some territory therefore it always belongs to us.". I encourage the Italians to do the same. :)

Cecilia said...

IMO. What gets glossed over in the WWII stats for China is that the Japanese invasion was concurrent with a civil war. The invasion probably wouldn't have been possible if the various factions in China had united against the Japanese. This invasion is as symbolic of Chinese impotence as it is of Japanese strength.

Genghis Khan is an interesting example of expansionism and history writing. Although he sacked Beijing, China claims him as a son of China. Perhaps Xi Jinping could launch historical claims for all the land to Poland ;)!

Andrew Wright said...

From what I read of China the current government is quite happy to use the way that foreign powers took advantage of domestic turmoil as a demonstration of why internal unity and stability is necessary. Though I'm sure that the blame for deaths incurred is probably shifted towards said foreign powers.

I do recall playing a computer based wargame (back when I had the occasional time for such things) where China did indeed lay such claims across Eastern Europe and Asia. I like to joke that it's only a matter of time until all the world's Chinatowns belong to them. The US will counter by claiming all the territory occupied by McDonalds and Starbucks (and they can keep 'em too). The Japanese and Koreans can fight over who owns the foreign sushi shops. :)

Cecilia said...

Wow, the things I've missed out on by not progressing past tetris! ;)
I'd agree that the C. Gov. have no qualms about saying China was weak. I don't keep up with China as well as I should, but the emphasis seems to be on the collective Chinese weakness. You don't hear much now about internal disharmony collaborators (or how the Communists were opposed to a national unity policy in the early 30s). The age of govt. incited class war is over (at least until the pendulum swings again)...