China announced 23 June that the country will for the first time invite both foreign armies and former Nationalist troops to attend a military parade at Tiananmen Square.
Qu Rui, deputy head of the event committee, said that President Xi Jinping will give an “important speech” during the parade, which will take place on 3 September to commemorate Chinese victory in the country’s defensive war against Japan.
This is the first time China has organised a military parade not on National Day (1 October), and Qu has promised that the country’s most advanced military technology will be showcased – some for the first time ever.
The Second Sino-Japanese War, known within China as the “Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression”, began in 1937 when the Imperial Japanese Army launched a full-scale invasion of the Republic of China, then governed by the the Communist Party’s historical rival, the Kuomintang.
Later part of the Asia-Pacific Theatre of the Second World War, fighting ended in 1945 after the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, eliciting the country’s unconditional surrender on 2 September. It is estimated that up to 22 million Chinese civilians were killed as a result of the war, as well as over 1.3 million KMT-led troops.
Full-scale civil war erupted between the KMT and Communist Party soon after Japan’s surrender, and by 1949 Mao’s communists had taken over the mainland and forced the KMT to retreat to Taiwan, which is still officially governed as the Republic of China.
Beijing’s decision to feature former KMT soldiers in the parade has been met with condemnation from Taipei. The Veterans Affairs Council of Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense has “implored” China not to use veterans “as a publicity stunt to promote itself.”
Despite the fact that the People’s Liberation Army played a comparatively minor role in resisting Japanese invasion, the war remains a powerful vehicle for the government to promote patriotism and bolster its own legitimacy.
The military refused to comment on whether Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe would be formally invited to the military parade.
Chinese state media, however, have previously suggested that the 3 September parade is intended to “frighten” Japan and “show the world China’s determination to maintain the post-war world order”.