Watching an Odd Commemoration / Fernando Damaso

Fernando Damaso, 3 September 2015 — Yesterday, September 2, China commemorated for the first time seventy years its “victory over fascism” with a huge military parade. The celebration was broadcast live on Cuban television. If we kept in mind what actually happened, we might more accurately describe it as “resistance to Japanese occupation.”

The nationalist army under Chiang Kai-shek as well as armed detachments of Mao Zedong, which later formed the basis of the Red Army, were defeated, decimated and forced to take refuge in the mountains. Japan occupied China, deploying an army of one million troops and establishing a repressive regime for 14 years, one which killed millions of Chinese citizens. It did not end until the Japanese surrendered to the United States and its allies on September 2, 1945.

Let’s review the facts.

After a southern expansion in May 1942, the Japanese were halted by the American victory in the Coral Sea, followed in June by the naval battle at Midway and the landing of American and Australian forces at Guadalcanal. From 1943 through 1945 the allied offensive made headway with landings in New Georgia, Vella Lavella, Bougainville Island, New Britain and Rabaul.

The allies made advances in the central Pacific with the liberation of the Aleutians, the occupation of the Gilbert and Marshall islands, the Marianas, Saipan and Guam, as well as the naval victory in Leyte Gulf. Both the Philippines and Burma were liberated and the Americans made their first landing on Japanese soil at Iwo Jima, followed by landings at Okinawa. On August 6, 1945 the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Japan’s military leaders tried to prolong the war but a second bomb, dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, sealed the fate of Japanese militarism.

In April 1941 the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression pact with Japan in order to avoid a war on two fronts. In exchange it received concessions from Great Britain, the United States and China. These included territorial annexations in Europe, acknowledgement of the status quo in Outer Mongolia, rights over Inner Mongolia and ports in the Pacific, and occupation of the Kurile Islands and southern portions of Sakhalin Island.

However, on August 8, between the two atomic bomb attacks, the Soviet Union broke its treaty and declared war on Japan. The Japanese army, its morale depleted, began retreating from the occupied territories, putting up only enough resistance to protect itself in retreat.

No one denies the contribution of many nations in the defeat of fascism, of Nazism and of Japanese militarism. But some played a more important role than others. The role of China, in spite of the immense loss of human life at the hands of the Japanese during the years of resistance and struggle by its citizens, is not one of the most distinguished when it comes to claiming victory in this conflict. It seems more like a new Chinese version of the end of the Second World War.

Are we witnessing the beginning of a new arms race?