Is Xi Jinping trying to provoke anger against Japan?

Chinese President Xi Jinping speaks during a Korea-China Investment Forum at Shilla Hotel in Seoul, South Korea (4 July 2014) President Xi Jinping said the Chinese people would oppose anyone who tries to rewrite history

Related Stories

In China, the 77th anniversary of an event rarely merits a nationally televised memorial service - or an appearance by President Xi Jinping.

But on Monday more than 1,000 special guests, including top Communist officials, military veterans and young children, turned out for a highly choreographed memorial marking the Marco Polo bridge incident which sparked the Sino-Japanese war in 1937.

The bloody skirmish between Chinese and Japanese troops took place on the outskirts of Beijing, igniting Japan's eight-year invasion of China.

"This grand ceremony is here to remember history, commemorate martyrs, cherish peace and sound a warning to the future," Mr Xi said in a speech outside the Museum of the War of the Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese Aggression.

BBC China Blog

The BBC China blog is where our teams across the country will provide a flavour of their latest insights.

We'll focus on the new and newsworthy, but also use our journalists' expertise to shine fresh light on China's remarkable transformations and upheavals.

Most of the posts will be written or filmed by journalists in our main bureau, in Beijing, or in our other bases in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Please let us know what you think and send us your ideas. You can also use #BBCChinablog to keep up to date with our reports via Twitter.

Mr Xi used his speech to comment on the present, criticising a "small group of people who ignore historical facts" and "create regional tension".

Dozens of school children then shouted a vow "not to forget the shame of the nation".

In the past, memorials of the 7 July battle were relatively low-key. Last year, a two-minute state television story on the anniversary featured local Communist Party members placing flowers on the Marco Polo bridge.

But this year's 90-minute television spectacle comes as Beijing is putting pressure on Tokyo to apologise for wartime acts, including Japan's use of wartime sex slaves and the Nanjing massacre in 1937.

The two countries are also engaged in regional disputes.

China and Japan both have claims over a small string of islands in the East China Sea, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.

Last week, Japan alarmed many in China by reinterpreting its constitution, giving the Japanese military greater latitude to fight overseas.

A protester burns a portrait of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with the Chinese characters "Shameful" written on it, outside the Japanese Consulate in Hong Kong on 7 July, 2014 A Chinese protester burns a picture of Japan's PM Shinzo Abe with the Chinese word for "shameful" written on it
Chinese citizens gather to remember victims during the bombing of Chongqing and commemorate the 77th anniversary of the official start of war with Japan in southwest China's Chongqing municipality on 7 July, 2014 Chinese citizens gathered on Monday to pay tribute to war victims

Monday's memorial service was the leading topic of conversation for millions on Weibo, the leading Chinese internet forum often compared to Twitter.

"This is a national humiliation which we can never forget," read a typical comment. "What China-Japan Friendship? Wolves will always devour humans. It is a crime to be friendly to our enemies."

Out of thousands of comments online, only a tiny minority questioned the purpose of the televised memorial.

"Look what the government has stirred up among the people? Anger created for a political purpose is bad. This will only make things worse," the dissenter wrote.

More on This Story

Related Stories

Elsewhere on the BBC

Programmes

  • TokyoThe Travel Show Watch

    Japan has a reputation for being expensive but can you visit without breaking the bank?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.