BEIJING (AP) — President Xi Jinping on Thursday praised China’s spirit of resistance in commemorating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific, saying any attempt to alter the nation’s course under Communist Party rule would be resisted by all of its 1.4 billion citizens.
Xi led government officials in a minute of silence and presentation of floral wreaths at a memorial hall dedicated to soldiers and civilians who participated in the war, in which China endured a brutal invasion and occupation of much of its territory by Japan.
“The Chinese people demonstrated to the world their patriotism, national character, heroism and a strong will to win during the war,” Xi, who is also Communist Party leader, said in a speech following the ceremony.
“The Chinese people will refuse any person or any force that attempts to distort the history of the Communist Party, its character or its mission,” he said.
Xi’s remarks come as China faces increasing political and economic pressure from the U.S., friction along its border with India and push-back from European countries and Southeast Asian nations over its economic and territorial ambitions.
Japan launched a full-on invasion of China in 1937, marked by urban warfare and atrocities such as the notorious Rape of Nanking. While armies under Nationalist Party leader Chiang Kai-shek fought most of the major battles, Communist Party guerrillas under Mao Zedong forced Japan to divert soldiers and resources from battlefields elsewhere with low-level engagements.
Although Japan formally surrendered aboard the USS Missouri on Sept.2, 1945, China marks the end of the war on Sept. 3 when it first held nationwide celebrations.
The Communists swept to power in 1949 following renewed civil war against the Nationalists and continue to uphold the struggle against Japan as a source of their legitimacy to rule. Chiang relocated his Republic of China government to Taiwan, where it continues to enjoy strong, though unofficial, U.S. support after making a transition to full democracy more than two decades ago.
On the mainland, the Communist Party has retained one-party authoritarian rule and crushed all efforts to mount a political opposition or even question its legitimacy. In the process, Xi has taken control of all major levers of power and eliminated term limits, effectively setting him up to be China’s leader for the rest of his life.
Thursday’s relatively low-key commemoration reflected social distancing rules in place during the coronavirus outbreak and contrasted sharply with how China has marked other significant anniversaries, including a lavish military parade through the center of Beijing last Oct. 1 to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Earlier on Thursday, Xi told Russian leader Vladimir Putin that he wanted to work for “international fairness and justice,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The exchange of messages was intended to commemorate the joint struggle of China and the former Soviet Union against the Axis powers, and also underscore the close cooperation over recent years between China and Russia in resisting the influence of Washington and the democratic West.
The two nations should use the 75th anniversary of the war’s end as an “opportunity to lead their countries towards deeper comprehensive strategic coordination,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.
“He also suggested that the two sides make concerted efforts with the international community to actively uphold and practice multilateralism,” Xinhua said, using China’s standard term for resisting American and Western influence.
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