The events of World War II mean different things to different countries. To the United States and its Western allies, it was a victory over evil. Nazi Germany was not the only evil the world had to contend with then; it included all countries that aligned themselves with the Nazi agenda.
To China, the end of World War II signaled the beginning of total liberation from the occupying Japanese forces that militarized some parts of China. It was a period that marked the rebirth of the modern and culturally sensitive China as we know it today. And what better way to remember the hassles and difficulties of those days by commemorating it with a military parade that will showcase the military might of modern China?
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China’s World War II military parade
China’s decision to host a World War II military parade a few weeks after the Japanese government profusely apologized for its wartime atrocities is truly symbolic. China has always criticized successive Japanese leaders for not doing enough to erase the sad memories of the past. Among other things, China expected to receive a reparation or some sort of financial settlement, but such a proposition has not always been given attention by the Japanese government.
At the moment, it is even tougher for any Japanese prime minister to consider paying any reparation for a country that is almost richer than his or her country. China became the biggest economy in the world by GDP (on a PPP basis) last year, according to the International Monetary Fund, although the country’s financial crisis could threaten that positioning this year. Japan remains in third place behind the U.S., not counting the European Union in the top four at different positions, depending on the list or measurement used.
So following a long deliberation among Chinese strategists, China has finally released the list of expected guests for its Sept. 3 military parade. In a sketchy address, Vice Minister Zhang Ming of China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the list at an Aug. 25 press conference. In total, 30 heads of state are scheduled to attend the parade. These include leaders from friendly countries and China’s trade partners: Russian President Vladimir Putin, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, Myanmarian President Thein Sein, and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang will all grace China with their presences. The guest list will also include the heads of state of each member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan).
In another development, only half of the ASEAN member countries will be sending their top-level political representatives. Vietnam’s and Myanmar’s presidents will be accompanied by Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni, Laotian President Choummaly Sayasone, and Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan. But there are no top-level representatives from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, or Singapore. Some of these countries are embroiled in a land dispute with China in the South China Sea. Sending their top-level leaders will probably send a strong message to China that they are afraid of its military might. As long as China refuses to find a peaceful and lasting resolution to the South China Sea impasse, it will be difficult for it to be recognized as a fair leader and superpower in the Asian sub-region.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is not expected to appear in person at the parade. North Korea will be sending Choe Ryong-hae, secretary of the Korean Workers’ Party, to represent Kim Jong-un. Lately, the relationship between North Korea and China has turned sour as China boldly embraces the United States, Japan and South Korea–countries the North Korean leaders see as sworn enemies.
Leaders from regions outside Asia will also be there, like Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, South African President Jacob Zuma, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. United Nations President Ban Ki-moon has also signaled his intention to attend the parade.
49 countries attending the parade
In total, Zhang confirmed, there would be 30 heads of states and government representatives from another 19 countries, which means that a total of 49 countries will send official representations to the occasion.
Here’s the full list of attendees (via QZ):
|Abdelkader Bensalah||Algeria||Chair of the Council of the Nation|
|Amado Boudou||Argentina||Vice President|
|Dragan Covic||Bosnia-Herzegovina||Chair of the Presidency|
|Miguel Díaz-Canel||Cuba||Vice President|
|Milos Zeman||Czech Republic||President|
|Joseph Kabila||DR Congo||President|
|Taur Matan Ruak||East Timor||President|
|Abdel Fattah el-Sisi||Egypt||President|
|Choummaly Sayasone||Lao People’s Revolutionary Party||Laos General Secretary|
|Choe Ryong-hae||North Korea||Vice Marshal, Politburo member|
|Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska||Poland||Chair of Sejm (lower house)|
|Jacob Zuma||South Africa||President|
|Park Geun-hye||South Korea||President|
|Prawit Wongsuwan||Thailand||Deputy Chair of Thai junta|
|Sato Kilman||Vanuatu||Prime Minister|
|Truong Tan Sang||Vietnam||President|
As expected, leaders of the United States and of many of its Western allies are going to going to shun China’s parade. Chinese diplomats had announced previously that efforts are being made to invite representatives from each of the combatant countries in World War II.
“We have invited leaders of relevant countries to join the Chinese people to celebrate this great day, but it is their own decision not to come. For us, we respect and welcome all guests,” Zhang said.
The United Kingdom, France and Australia will be sending some unnamed government ministers to the parade, while the United States will ask its ambassador to China, Max Baucus, to attend. Similarly, Brazil and India may send their special envoys there. It is not surprising that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will not be coming to the parade, as China and Japan still have a lot of diplomatic headaches to resolve. There is an alternative plan for Prime Minister Abe to visit China later.
Zhang revealed, “Abe will be skipping the event because of his parliamentary schedule.” He explained that the parade is not meant to ridicule Japan and “has no direct link to current Sino-Japanese relations.” But former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama will be there. Murayama has proved himself to be a true pacifist. His 1995 statement and apology regarding the end of World War II, which denounced Japan’s “aggression” and “colonial rule,” has become the blueprint against which other succeeding Japanese politicians’ statements are modeled. It has been revealed that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will also attend the parade.
No one is surprised about who will be coming to China on Sept. 3, as the list is full of China’s new friends and business allies, from countries in Central Asia, parts of Southeast Asia, Africa, and (more importantly) Eastern Europe. China has enjoyed long-term relationships with these countries, some of which depend on China for economic hand-outs, and of course, the previous Communist Eastern European countries are China’s political allies.
This event is said to be a Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Victory of the Chinese People’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War, but there are lessons China must learn from its past history. Will China understand that flexing its military muscle with the other South East Asian countries in the South China Sea dispute could lead to a war? If China is showing itself as a peace-loving giant, it must lead by example and let international laws determine which country actually own those islands in the South China Sea.