Tomorrow is June 4. Sixteen years ago, the Chinese People´s Liberation Army´s "Hard Bones" troops crushed the democratic demonstrations on Tian An Men Square. There are no reliable numbers of how many people were killed, arrested, or mistreated.
In the days before the People´s Republic´s 50th anniversary, Chinese TV ran a series named "Ren Min Bu Hui Wang Ji" - the people never forget.
That didn´t refer to June 4, 1989, of course, but to the glorious fifty years since 1949, with comparisons to the undoubtedly miserable centuries prior to that. During the past fifty-six years, with sometimes shifting agendas, the Chinese government has tried to make sure that the nation never forgets certain things - and to make sure that the nation won´t remember (let alone commemorate) some other things.
June 4 is one of the unwanted memories.
Today, Wang Guangya, China´s ambassador to the UN, criticized a motion of four UN member countries to join the UN security council as permanent members. These countries are Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan. Because of Japan´s ww2 war crimes in China, ambassador Wang objects to Japan´s bid and sees unity at the UN in danger. The entire UN reform agenda has become a victim of this issue, says Wang.
That may be so. But that isn´t Japan´s fault. It is China that blocks the process of UN reform. To think of an expanded security council without Japan, the world´s second largest economy, is ridiculous. If China gets her way and Japan is dropped, the other three countries seeking permanent membership should withdraw their applications, too.
Yes, Japan has a criminal past. But not each of their victims was Chinese. Many Americans, British, Australians, South Africans and soldiers from various British colonies, became victims, too. Many nations in the entire region were victims of Japanese aggression. But not all of them oppose Japan´s candidacy.
In the past fifty years, it was China that interfered in the Korean war. (Not to mention Tibet, which is Chinese territory - just that Tibetans have human rights, too.)
It is China that bullies countries like Vietnam and the Philippines by pushing its border claims close to these countries, saying that the entire sea between these countries were "Chinese".
And it is China´s government that instrumentalizes Chinese victims of Japanese war crimes for its political agenda. To see China´s intelligentsia - many of them were students - turning into an anti-Japanese mob wasn´t something you could watch with respect. It should emberass all Chinese people. The demonstrators weren´t victims. They were young, impulsive people seizing the rare opportunity, benevolently granted by the Chinese authorities, to go on a ranpage.
Tomorrow is June 4. In the 1990s, Deng Rong, one of Deng Xiaoping´s daughters, told the New York Times that how June 4 would be rated in the future was an open question.
But for the time being, China´s government will do its best to let "ren min wang ji liu si" - to let the people forget June 4.
Japan´s bid for a permanent security council seat comes as a nice opportunity to do just that. But seizing it comes at a price. China likes to present itself to the world as a (although mighty) orphan. But recently, it has started looking like a whining bully.
External related topics
American black soldiers in Asia´s World War II: "They fought alongside Indians and Chinese"
Joshua Taylor, a hero and a neighbour, October 1, 2007
The sexual fantasy of angry youths
April 26/30, 2007
original article in Chinese: nanfangdaily.com.cn
"Nationalism not just a CCP instrument"
Yu Tiejun on the failure of new thinking in Sino-Japanese relations, 2006 or 2007
"It is exactly what I learnt from WWII that we should not start WWIII"
On patriotism, Oct 28, 2006