BEIJING, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) — As rifle-carrying foreign troops clad in manifold uniforms goose-stepped with crisp, tidy clip-clops and neatly choreographed movements across the Tian’anmen Square, China’s V-Day parade on Thursday gained its international gravity.
The display marked the country’s endeavor to revive the forgotten memory that China and its global allies joined hands to win a war against “the darkest forces ever” in the history of mankind 70 years ago.
Nearly 1,000 high-spirited soldiers from 17 countries marched in the wake of veterans and Chinese army formations, marking the foreign troops’ premiere in a Chinese military parade.
Among them were Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Pakistan, Serbia, Tajikistan and Russia. Six others, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Fiji, Laos, Vanuatu and Venezuela, marched their delegations for parade.
Most of those countries are sufferers of the World War II and some of them gained national independence as the post-war world order took shape.
They were observed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and governmental representatives including the U.S. Ambassador to China.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were on the rostrum.
“China’s contribution and sacrifice during the Second World War is very much recognized, appreciated for all such sufferings, and sympathized by the world people,” said Ban Ki-moon before the parade.
FIRST ANTI-FASCIST FIGHTERS
In Shanghai, Sara Imas, 65, was watching the live-show of military parade. She is a Jewish descendant born in the eastern Chinese city. Her parents came to Shanghai in 1939. They were among 30,000 refugees migrating from Europe during the war.
“Chinese put themselves in our position and offered help to us in the most difficult times,” Imas told Xinhua. “So I am proud of the military parade.”
Chinese people’s empathy with Jewish refugees stemmed mostly from their own pains inflicted by the Japanese aggression.
China was the first country to face the onslaught of the Axis Powers in 1937, two years before Britain and France, and four years before the United States, Rana Mitter wrote in his 2013 book “Forgotten Ally.”
China’s anti-fascist war began even earlier actually. On Sept. 18, 1931, Japanese army invaded northeastern China, marking the starting point of the Chinese people’s courageous fight against fascism.
American reporter Israel Epstein, writer of “The People’s War,” was initially skeptical of the ill-equipped army of a country far from being industrialized capable of making any effective resistance against the Japanese aggression.
Epstein, a reporter on wartime China was surprised to find how the communist-led guerrilla mobilized farmers in occupied North China to make vast rural area a base for tenacious, protracted war.
He described China as “an important ally of democracy and frightening enemy of Fascist invaders,” whose struggle provided “meanings and hope” for people all over the world.
China considered the march-past of foreign troops in its V-Day parade a symbol of unity that China and allied forces fought together to finally defeat the evil forces.
Nell Calloway, granddaughter of Claire Lee Chennault, hadn’t known her grandfather flew any airplanes until he died. “I don’t think I really appreciate his accomplishments until I started reading all the books about him.”
Not a famous person in America though, Chennault is an absolute super-hero in China. Veterans of “Flying Tigers” led by Chennault were invited to participate in the V-Day parade.
“Flying Tigers” is a nickname given to American Volunteer Group, the air corps that fought alongside the Chinese during war.
“What really impressed him is Chinese people’s tenacity and willingness to do whatever it took,” said Calloway. “They would rebuild the runways that the Japanese bombed on overnight.”
China paid “ghastly price,” as Mitter put it, in its own theater, more than a quarter of the WWII battlefield.
China’s wartime casualties totaled more than 35 million, accounting for one-third of the world total.
American writer Wesley Marvin Bagby quoted Franklin Roosevelt’s words in his book “The Eagle-Dragon Alliance”: “if China went under, ‘how many divisions of Japanese troops do you think will be freed?'”
“The successful resistance put by the Chinese people at great sacrifice was a very important contribution to ending the Second World War,” said Schroeder, who is also the first German Chancellor being invited to the D-Day celebration in France in 2004.
A PARADE FOR PEACE
As China is growing into a global power, its V-Day parade has caused criticisms that China is flexing its military muscle, which may pose a threat to post-war world order.
Zhang Ming, China’s vice minister of foreign affairs, dismissed such concerns, describing the event as “a demonstration of China’s aspiration for peace and its firm will to defend it.”
“It’s important to look to the past, what kinds of lessons we have been learning, and how we can move ahead to a brighter future,” Inn Buruma, wrote in his bestseller “Year Zero: 1945.”
In Buruma’s view, the post-war world order was anything but once-for-all happy ending. The Cold War was quick to distort the world order for lasting peace written in the 1945 Charter of the United Nations.
Its latest evidence went to Shinzo Abe‘s endeavor to alter Japan’s peaceful constitution by calling it “anachronistic.” Some 120,000 people rallied in Japan’s parliament building on Sunday to oppose the amendment bill.
Nobusuke Kishi, Abe’s grandfather who played a major role in the invasion of the Northeast China and ran his country’s war economy was never put on trial like other war criminals. In 1957, he even became the prime minister of Japan.
Now Abe vowed to bring down Nobusuke’s “political legacy,” putting the East Asia and the world under what Buruma called the “long dark shadow of the history.”
Zhang denied the parade targeting at the Japanese people in general, describing it as a necessity to reaffirm the determination to work for world peace and prosperity.x “Though reflecting upon and drawing lessons from the Second World War, we will join hand to usher in a better future for the mankind.”
Dmitry Bobrov, commander of Russian troops in Thursday’s parade, said, “Our elder generations once fought the common enemy, now we march at a synchronized pace. It has symbolic meanings.”
“We fought together like brothers and we were able to change our history. Now we need to come together in peace and change our future,” Calloway said.