ENLARGE

Chinese troops practice marching ahead of a Sept. 3 military parade at a camp on the outskirts of Beijing.

Photo:

Associated Press

Sept. 2, 2015 9:38 p.m. ET

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China will celebrate the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II with a military parade through Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Thursday. Remembering the scale of Chinese sacrifice in that war is a worthy exercise, but the way this event is being presented shows a rising and muscular nationalism that raises questions about China’s regional intentions. Beijing usually holds parades of this kind once a decade on the anniversary of the Communist Party’s 1949 victory in the Chinese civil war. But the “Victory Day” holiday, which began last year, is different, with displays of advanced weaponry taking precedence over the usual emphasis on political and economic achievements. The parade is part of a broader propaganda campaign that emphasizes China’s “century of humiliation” at the hands of foreign powers. The rhetoric is intended to bolster the legitimacy of the Communist Party, without which there would supposedly be no “new China” free of the imperialist yoke. This might not matter much if it were merely about building national pride. But parade preparations have highlighted the extent to which President Xi Jinping has tightened the Communist Party’s grip over all forms of expression. State media are under strict orders to keep all news and comments “positive and not offensive” to the parade, the military or national leaders. Meanwhile, posters around Beijing show graphic images of Japanese wartime atrocities, as do news bulletins and retrospectives on state media. Japan’s wartime record in China, like Germany’s in Europe, is a fitting subject for remembrance. But the political purpose here is to stoke resentment against modern Japan while ignoring its exemplary postwar record as a beacon of peace and a leading provider of aid and investment in China. Chinese state media and textbooks similarly diminish the U.S. role in defending China, while exaggerating the accomplishments of Mao Zedong’s Communists over those of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists, who led the effort and suffered most of the casualties. Those losses helped cause the Nationalists’ subsequent defeat in the civil war and retreat to Taiwan—which Beijing has threatened with war ever …Read More