china-japan relations

China is considering plans to designate 3 September as 'Victory Day of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression', the country's media revealed late yesterday.

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress is discussing the matter at a session this week. That the proposal was widely reported suggests its passing is inevitable.

Local media did not report on how the day will be marked. But it should be an interesting test case for Communist Party historicism. The terms of Japan's World War II surrender, signed aboard the USS Missouri on 2 September 1945 (pictured), stipulated that 'senior Japanese commanders and all ground, sea, air, and auxiliary forces within China...shall surrender to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek.' Chiang Kai-Shek was leader of the Kuomintang, against whom the communists fought a civil war for the next four years.

Whether 3 September will see China's Communist Party recognise the wartime achievements of its former foe – or indeed the contribution made by the allies – remains to be seen.

For decades, Communist Party historians downplayed the Kuomintang's role in fighting the Japanese Imperial Army. The only acceptable line was that the Communist Party led the resistance while the nationalist government did little under the weight of corruption and incompetence.

More recently, however, the nationalists' reputation on the mainland has been somewhat rehabilitated. Monuments dedicated to Chiang Kai-shek have been restored and TV documentaries have catalogued the tales of Nationalist veterans who fought against the Japanese. In popular multi-player computer games set during the war, players can elect to mow down Japanese troops as either CPC or KMT soldiers. This modest historical rethink is probably part of a subtle soft-power push to woo Taiwan towards reunification.

With the proposal for a Victory Day, September is set to become something of an anti-Japan month in China. 18 September is the anniversary of the 1931 Mukden Incident, which Japan used as a pretext to invade Manchuria; Chinese nationalism is routinely fired up around the date. 2012 saw another September flashpoint, when the Japanese government purchased the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands on the 12th of the month. Violent protests targeting Japanese businesses, products and citizens ensued.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.