China to penalize idolizers of Japanese militarism

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A Chinese youth, wearing a T-shirt bearing the war flag of the Imperial Japanese Army, is seen in a scrum of police and onlookers. Photo: People's Daily via tiexue.net

The National People’s Congress, China’s legislature, is expected to pass a “Martyrs Protection Law” with clauses aimed at criminalizing and penalizing those that seek to propagate and even glorify aggression, war acts and militarism, Xinhua reported.

The move has a historical context. China was scourged by aggression and imperialism after the end of the Qing Dynasty, particularly the eight-year war to resist Japanese invasion from 1937 to 1945. And now, there is apparently a growing number of adherents to Japanese jingoism, whose words and deeds have provoked strong indignation among many Chinese who are still inculcated with anti-Japan ideology.

These idolizers of Japanese militarism and samurai – Japanese military nobility – call themselves “spiritual Japanese” and they have, among other occasions, marched to a war memorial while wearing Japanese army uniforms in Shanghai in 2017, on Victory over Japan Day on August 15, to honor the invaders.

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Two men dressed up in Japanese military uniforms are seen in Shanghai. Photo: Kyodo News

In February this year, a trio wearing Japanese army outfits were arrested in the eastern city of Nanjing for posing for photos at a historic fortress used during the Battle of Nanjing. The former capital of the Republic of China fell to Japanese troops at the end of 1937, followed by a Holocaust-like massacre known as the Nanking Massacre in which Chinese historians say more than 300,000 civilians were killed.

Beijing is apparently fuming over the fact that some Chinese youngsters idolize the Japanese zeitgeist of World War II. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi fired the opening salvos earlier this year, lambasting such militarists as the “dregs of society”.

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Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi lashed out at those woh support a revival of Japanese imperialism during a press conference this year. Photo: Sina via Xinhua
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A news program shows Chinese youngsters wearing World War II Japanese military uniforms. Photo: Sanlih TV screen grab

The new legislation is also proof that Beijing is worried about the spread of such thoughts that could debase the Communist Party’s own account of history, in particular the war of resistance against Japanese aggression.

Some say that while it’s undoubtedly immoral to glorify or whitewash Japan’s heinous war crimes during its invasions of China and elsewhere, Beijing’s hasty move to nip the emergence of pugnacious “Japanophilia” in the bud could also indicate that the authorities lack confidence in the genuineness of their own propaganda concerning history and war.

For instance, Beijing-decreed history textbooks tend to belittle the frontline role of the Kuomintang-led resistance to Japanese invaders as well as Chiang Kai-shek’s command in the Far East theater in the international coalition against fascism. Right-wing politicians in Japan also accuse Beijing of playing the history card to tarnish Japan.

Some Japanese people have also expressed confusion over why, in a country where public discourse is still stoked with anti-Japan rhetoric, Japanese wartime demagoguery can still take root among some Chinese youngsters.

The Japanese paper Sankei Shimbun ran a detailed feature of the re-emergence of Japanese militarism in China.

The public and national security apparatus throughout China has been keeping a wary eye on any public display and assembly to honor Japanese invaders, and so far this year a dozen arrests have been made, according to the Japanese paper.

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