By Chen Shaoyuan and Li Rongde
Beijing, January 18 (Caixin): China’s Education Ministry has ordered school text book publishers to revise all history textbooks used in schools and universities to say that the “War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression” began on September 18, 1931 and not July 7, 1937 as has been stated hitherto.
The ruling will establish the war as having lasted 14 years, starting on Sept. 18, 1931 and ending on September 9, 1945.
According the history accepted in the West, the Second Sino-Japanese War began on July 7, 1937, and ended eight years later with the surrender of Japanese troops to Chinese forces on Sept. 9, 1945.
But the Chinese government recently took a decision to consider the Japanese attack on a Chinese garrison in Shenyang in present-day Liaoning Province on September 18, 1931, as the beginning of the war with Japan. This attack, known to historians as the “918 Incident” followed a bomb blast at a Japanese built rail line in a Chinese village.
Japanese troops marched into northeastern China after the “918 Incident” triggering a series of clashes between Chinese guerillas and the Japanese forces all over North East China. It was only in July 1937 that full scale war broke out between China and Japan. It began when the Japanese military crossed the Lugou Bridge, also known as the Marco Polo Bridge, located in a southern suburb of Beijing.
The move to pre-date the beginning of the war partially reflects the worsening relations between China and Japan.
“It is necessary to stress the 14-year history of Chinese resistance against Japanese aggression after the ‘918 Incident’ in order to fully reflect the crimes Japan had committed during its invasion of China,” the Education Ministry said in a written response to a Caixin query on Tuesday
The ministry has issued a letter telling local education authorities to make the change in textbooks before the new semester starts in late February, after the Chinese New Year holidays, a spokesperson said.
The ministry did not offer a reason for the timing of the change. It only said it was following instructions from the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party issued in 2015, when China marked the 70th anniversary of China’s victory in the “War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression,” as World War II is known in China.
Chinese President Xi Jinping had referred to the war with Japan as “an excruciating 14-year-long struggle” during a speech at a military parade to mark the victory in September 2015.
Academics have been divided into two camps over how long the war lasted, with those opting for a 14-year period (1931-1945) growing more vocal amid frosty relations between China and Japan.
Hong Yuanshu, a member to the top government advisory body from the North Eastern province of Heilongjiang, proposed a revision to textbooks in 2016 to recognize “Chinese people’s sacrifices during the early years of resistance against the Japanese invasion.”
To refer to it as an eight-year war is not historically accurate because it amounts to dismissing resistance fighters who began fighting in 1931, said Professor Guo Dehong at the Central Party School in Beijing.
(The featured picture at the top shows a Japanese aggressor publicly executing a Chinese man)