CHINA / SOCIETY
Chinese remember Sep 18 Incident amid Japan’s ruling LDP turning election into anti-China contest
Published: Sep 17, 2021 04:05 PM Updated: Sep 18, 2021 04:40 PM
Visitors holding Chinese national flags have their photos taken in front of the 9.18 Historical Museum in Shenyang, Northeast China's Liaoning Province on Wednesday. Air raid sirens once again sounded through the city at 9:18 am on Wednesday. The

Visitors holding Chinese national flags have their photos taken in front of the 9.18 Historical Museum in Shenyang, Northeast China's Liaoning Province on September 18, 2019. Air raid sirens once again sounded through the city at 9:18 am on the day. The "September 18 Incident" in 1931 was followed by Japan's full-scale invasion of China, triggering the 14-year-long war against Japanese aggression. Photo: IC

Sobering air raid sirens in numerous cities, silent tributes observed by ordinary Chinese on streets across the country, airing of documentaries about trials of Japanese war criminals on national television and countless messages of "never forget" on social media platforms - China is in full gear as it marks a day of remembrances and reflection: the 90th anniversary of the September 18 Incident, which falls on Saturday.

Though it has been nine decades since that fateful day in 1931 which marked the start of Japanese militarists' large-scale invasion and war crimes in China for years to come, the emotions, anger and hatred remain very raw for many Chinese over what is widely viewed as an incident that inflected national humiliation. 

Those sentiments have been further fired up by Japan's recent provocation and hostility toward China, including challenging China's bottom line on the Taiwan question - reflected in the chaotic leadership election campaign for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which kicked off on Friday with candidates appearing to be competing over their anti-China rhetoric and stances. 

Observers said that the rising outrage and indignation that will be on display on Saturday and which has been building up for months in China toward Japan's recent provocation should serve as a stern warning to Tokyo that it's on a dangerous path — if it continues to antagonize a much more powerful China than before.

On Saturday, air raid sirens will be echoed through most major cities across China. In Shenyang, Northeast China's Liaoning Province, where the incident took place, the sirens will sound off at exactly 9:18 am and people and vehicles will stop moving and observe a moment of silence to pay tribute, several residents told the Global Times. 

"At this time, my blood always starts to boil, and heroic images of Chinese soldiers killing enemies to defend the country emerge in my mind," a Shenyang resident surnamed Cui told the Global Times on Friday. "The Sep 18 Incident is very important for every Shenyang resident, so it is for every Chinese."

Highlighting the importance of the day for many Chinese, after widespread backlash, Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, where the 14th National Games is taking place, abandoned a plan to postpone the sounding of the sirens and finally decided to sound the air raid sirens on Saturday.

On national television, the documentary Asia-Pacific War Crimes Trials, a global award-winning series that focuses on the trials of Japanese war criminals after World War II is scheduled to be rebroadcast.

On Chinese social media, floods of Chinese netizens said historical alarm bells are ringing and they will not forget the nation's humiliation. On Sina Weibo, the topic "remembering Sep 18" has gained about 4.17 billion views as of press time. Another topic, the "90th anniversary of Sep 18 Incident", attracted 120 million views.

Also on social media, some netizens, including the fan club of Chinese female band 7SENSES, urged fans to stop publishing entertaining posts on social media on the September 18 Incident's anniversary and asked fans to watch their words on the day instead.

The commemorative activities are not only for people on the Chinese mainland but also for residents on the island of Taiwan. 

As the incident is a painful memory for the entire Chinese nation, including Taiwan compatriots, the Chinese mainland will establish a new venue for cross-Straits communication and exchange at the September 18 Incident History Museum in Shenyang, Zhu Fenglian, a spokesperson for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Zhu said 12 of the 82 cross-Straits communication venues on the mainland have the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression as the theme, which records the Chinese people's heroic struggle and the great spirit of resisting aggression.

Zhu called on compatriots on both sides of the Straits, especially young people, to visit these places, learn about history and draw strength from it.

Many residents on the island of Taiwan have long had wrong, confused historical values and some even blindly admire Japan because the invaders forced local residents to receive education about loyalty to Japan's emperor during their occupation and because the DPP authorities are constantly pushing for "De-Sinicization." 

The opening of the new cross-Straits exchange also came after Japanese politicians' recent radical rhetoric about Japan's role in the Taiwan Straits if the Chinese mainland uses forces against secessionists on the island. Such rhetoric has already sparked widespread outrage in China.

Rising outrage

Before the 90th anniversary on Saturday, Chinese public sentiment toward Japan had already soured, reflected in recent backlashes against certain Chinese celebrities' link to Japanese war shrines.

Chinese actor Zhang Zhehan, who posed for pictures at Japan's Yasukuni Shrine, has been forced out of the entertainment industry as many mainstream platforms have deleted his films and television works, variety shows and music. 

Two weeks after Zhang's industry ban, embattled Chinese actress Zhao Wei also faced harsh responses. She allegedly signed Zhang to her company last year. Many netizens also unveiled that Zhao wore a Japanese military flag on her costume in 2001, which sparked a wave of public criticism.

Zhao's name was removed from many of the works she starred in on major Chinese video platforms, and many of the films, talk shows and TV series she acted in were also removed from the platforms.

Meanwhile, Japanese cultural products are also facing a boycott in Dalian, Northeast China's Liaoning Province, a city that suffered invasions by Japanese troops during the late Qing Dynasty, including the bloody massacre of Lüshun in 1894, and World War II. A Japan-themed shopping street dubbed "Little Kyoto" in Dalian suspended operations on September 3 after sparking controversy.

Such widespread outrage among the Chinese public shows that public goodwill toward Japan is plummeting, Lü Chao, a research fellow at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

If mutual public goodwill is damaged too much as a result of Japan-initiated provocations, there will be less room for China-Japan relations to recover, and Japan will certainly suffer more if bilateral ties worsen, said Da Zhigang, director and research fellow of the Institute of Northeast Asian Studies at Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences.

Liberal Democratic Party presidential candidates pose before a press conference in Tokyo on Friday ahead of the ruling party's September 29 election to choose a successor for outgoing LDP president and prime minister Yoshihide Suga. Candidates have used hostile rhetorics to make an issue out of China. Photo: AFP

Liberal Democratic Party presidential candidates pose before a press conference in Tokyo on Friday ahead of the ruling party's September 29 election to choose a successor for outgoing LDP president and prime minister Yoshihide Suga. Candidates have used hostile rhetorics to make an issue out of China. Photo: AFP



The falling public goodwill is the result of Japanese politicians' increasingly hostile and radical approach toward China, analysts said, pointing to the provocative rhetoric at the election for the LDP leadership.  

Among the prominent candidates, Fumio Kishida, Taro Kono and Sanae Takaichi have shown aggressive stances targeting China. 

Takaichi, a former internal affairs minister, has frequently visited the Yasukuni Shrine - a symbol of Japan's militarist past. She reportedly said that she would continue to visit the shrine if elected, prompting harsh criticism from China. 

In response to Takaichi's remarks, Zhao Lijian, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said on Tuesday that China's position on the Yasukuni Shrine is consistent and clear and China's internal affairs accept no foreign interference. "Japanese politicians should stop making an issue out of China. Enough with such senseless political hyping-up," Zhao said.

September 18 Incident

September 18 Incident


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