BEIJING: It was all quiet yesterday at the historic Lugou Qiao or Marco Polo bridge, the mute witness to the July 7, 1937 shooting incident that triggered the Japanese invasion of China during World War II.
Small groups of tourists milled around the stone bridge built in 1189 spanning the Yongding river just outside the Wanpeng walled city to the south-west of here.
Over at the embassy row in the city centre, policemen sealed off the road leading to the sprawling Japanese embassy. Armed personnel, guarding the high wall, kept watch on everyone near the vicinity.
After Saturday’s incident when 10,000 anti-Japanese demonstrators marched to the Japanese embassy to show their anger and another group of demonstrators smashed the windows of a shopping centre in the outskirts, it was back to business as usual in the capital.
There was no mass hysteria and no outpouring of anti-Japanese sentiments.
But there is still a strong undercurrent of anti-Japanese feelings following China and other Asian countries' outrage after Japan rewrote its high school history textbook yet again.
Talk to anyone on the streets and you will be overwhelmed by the anger the Chinese have at the sufferings of their forefathers at the hands of the Japanese invaders.
However, in China where public demonstrations need a licence, such feelings are more subdued, unlike in South Korea. Nevertheless, there are reports that anti-Japanese mass actions such as rallies and boycotting of Japanese goods are happening in the provinces.
These are sporadic and not yet a mass movement but many Chinese are urging the government to take a stronger stand on the issue.
Liu Ping, 30, said: “Of course we feel very strongly against the Japanese. The folks who suffered at their hands hate them. People of my generation are more angry than hateful.
“How can they simply twist history and whitewash their war crimes?” asked the clerk.
“If this goes on, young Japanese students will not only forget the atrocities committed by the Japanese during the war, they will eventually grow up to believe that their forefathers had actually done the right thing and were victimised.”
Taxi driver Kao Wei, 45, said: “Of course we are still angry with them. My grandfather who was a lawyer was being treated in a hospital in Hubei province when the Japanese army overran the place. He was killed together with all the doctors, nurses and other patients.
“My grandmother who is now in her 90’s is still alive. She joined the anti-Japanese army after loosing her husband.
“Look at the Germans, They have atoned for their war crimes. Why are the Japanese still trying to whitewash their historical past?”
China and Korea suffered under the Japanese during the war. It is estimated that 35 million Chinese were killed, including 300,000 during the Nanking massacre.
Japan also has overlapping claims with China over the Diaoyudai islands.
But what has angered the Chinese now is a revision of the Japanese history book claiming that Japanese carrying out military exercises at Lugou Qiao on that fateful July 7 were fired upon by the Chinese, which led to the Sino-Japanese war.
There is no proof of any Chinese firing the first shot, and Chinese critics also question why Japanese soldiers were carrying out military exercises on Chinese territory.
It is not known whether the book explains that the Japanese had already occupied north-eastern China and propped up a puppet government under Emperor Pu Yi.
History professor Wang Sinsheng of Beijing University said historically, the Sino-Japanese relationship had gone through many ups and downs – the honeymoon period from 1972 when diplomatic ties were resumed to the 80’s, and now when frictions are starting to resurface.
“But the two countries will still need each other. China still needs technology and capital from Japan while Japan needs the Chinese market,” said Prof Wang.
At present, he estimated that the Japanese had pumped in US$50bil (RM190bil) into more than 20,000 projects in China, providing jobs to over one million Chinese workers.
“Such conflicts are normal in the process of history.
“This would not be the last but it would not derail co-operation between the two countries as too much is at stake,” said Prof Wang.
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