On September 3, 2015, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin strode out to the Gate of Heavenly Peace in the center of Beijing. Together with 12,000 troops of the People’s Liberation Army, they had gathered to commemorate Victory Day, the anniversary of the end of World War II in China –– or, as it is known in Communist China, the “Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression” or the “World Anti-Fascist War.”
“The unyielding Chinese people fought gallantly and finally won total victory over the Japanese militarist aggressors, thus preserving the achievements of China’s 5,000-year-old civilization and defending the cause of peace for mankind,” the Chinese party boss said. Then, to celebrate that peace, a grand military parade was held –– an effort to display China’s strength and recall its past, or, in any case, the party’s version of it.
Like President Putin, Mr. Xi has elevated historical memory as a means of promulgating his desired narrative and justifying his policy aims. This has involved the creation of at least three new national holidays, of which Victory Day is but one; funding academic research to pair narrative with ostensible fact; and making it a criminal offense to “slander” Chinese war heroes and challenge the party’s official historical narrative.
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