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Television broadcasts, schools and private companies have switched their schedules to include anti-Japanese messages and entertainment in advance of the holiday that was created this year by President Xi Jinping. It’s officially called Victory of the Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and World Anti-Fascist War.
A parade of 12,000 troops, 200 aircraft and dozens of tanks and missiles will sweep down Beijing’s central Avenue of Eternal Peace and through Tiananmen Square on Sept. 3 — the day after the Japanese army surrendered to Allied forces in 1945.
This is the first time the government will commemorate the date this way, analysts say, to show that China is strong and the ruling Communist Party is responsible for the transformation.
“A large bombastic display is very much in line with Xi’s message of national rejuvenation. He is telling people that what laid us low in the past can never lay us low again,” said Nick Bisley, a China expert at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.
China boasts that leaders from 30 countries plan to attend, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Korean President Park Geun Hye and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. But no major Western democracies that were key in the Allied victory are sending a high-level representative, including the United States.
China lost 20 million people fighting the Japanese between 1937 and 1945, and many here believe the island nation has yet to fully apologize for war crimes during that time.
This nation also views the end of the war as the end of a “century of humiliation,” a period when China was too weak to stop imperial powers such as Russia, Britain and Germany from intervening in its affairs.
China’s Communist Party, which came to power in 1949, claims most of the credit for that victory over Japan and therefore the right to rule. But most of Chinese killed during the war were nationalist troops of leader Chiang Kai-shek, instead of the Communist forces of Mao Zedong.
“First and foremost this parade is for the domestic audience,” said Steve Tsang, head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham in England. “The legitimacy of the party is based on the narrative of leading the country to victory. It doesn’t matter that that version of events doesn’t bear any resemblance to reality.”
This week’s massive celebration comes after a difficult summer for Xi — the stock market plunged 40%, the economy is showing unmistakable signs of slowing, and a huge chemical explosion in the port city of Tianjin killed at least 158.
On top of that, Xi faces opposition from within the Communist Party over his zealous anti-corruption drive and plans for economic reform.
Such squabbles are normally kept out of the public spotlight, but in August, a commentary in People’s Daily accused retired leaders of trying to “intervene” in order to “extend their own power.”
Though the parade was planned long before these latest troubles, it will give a needed boost to Xi and the party’s image.
At the museum to the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression outside Beijing, people arrived in droves last week to participate in the buildup to the holiday.
Private companies arranged for their staff to tour the museum. A beauty college required all students to visit as part of its enrollment for the academic year. And families toured with children to help them complete their mandatory Sept. 3 assignments.
“The new holiday is very meaningful to us. We should always remind the younger generation of the past,” said Guo Wenxian, 65, who brought his 12-year-old grandson to the museum.
“A military parade is the best way to represent our nation’s power. It will make people feel protected,” said Zhang Jie, 36, a policewoman with her 7-year-old son. She said her her son’s school required them to tour the museum or watch an anti-Japanese war film before returning to school, which was postponed for a week because of the holiday and parade preparations.
Many companies are holding singing competitions for their employees — using anti-Japanese war songs. Not everyone is happy about the celebrations. Some have tried to use social media to grumble about the disruptions and the inaccurate way the party portrays its role in the victory, but their messages were quickly removed.