World War II Victory Allows No Distortion in the Interests of Justice and World Peace

China International Studies, September/October 2015, pp.12-21. | 作者: Ruan Zongze | 时间: 2015-11-23 | 责编: Wang Jiapei
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Ruan Zongze

 

The year 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) and the World Anti-Fascist War. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. At this historical moment in the inheritance of the past and ushering in the future, the United Nations and its member states have carried out various commemorative activities. China worked shoulder to shoulder with Russia to stage commemorative activities to review the great historic significance of the world’s war against fascism in order to uphold justice and maintain peace in the world.

History is like a mirror reflecting the future. The major historical importance in commemorating the victory won by the world people in the war against fascism lies not only in the full recognition by the world of the historical roles played by China and Russia, but also in the reflection on that part of history – how to correctly handle and learn the lessons of that time and the past 70 years, and in particular how to prevent the fascists from turning back the wheel of history and how to build a new world order based on win-win cooperation.

 

Significant contributions made by China and Russia in World War II cannot be ignored.

 

Before President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia, he published an article entitled “Bearing History in Mind and Ushering in the Future” in RG.RU, a national newspaper in Russia. He said that Russia was the main battlefield in Europe in World War II while the Chinese people held ground as the main theater of the war in Asia. The Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression started the earliest and lasted the longest in the world’s fight against fascism. Like the Russian people, the Chinese people suffered heavy losses. In their unyielding and arduous resistance against the Japanese aggressors, the Chinese people, both soldiers and civilians, annihilated and contained a large number of Japanese forces. The Chinese people, with their huge national sacrifice, over 35 million casualties, finally won their great victory against Japanese aggression, and made a significant contribution to victory in the World Anti-Fascist War. Like the Russian people, the heroic chapter written by the Chinese people in their victory against Japanese aggression will be engraved forever in history.

In August 2014, the permanent representatives of China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus jointly wrote a letter to the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, requesting the inclusion of commemorations for the 70th anniversary of victory in the World Anti-Fascist War in the agenda of the 69th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. In the letter, they stressed that all UN member states should bear in mind the historical lessons of victory in the World Anti-Fascist War World War II, and the judgments of the Nuremburg Trials and the International Military Tribunal for the Fast East should never be distorted.

In February 2015, China, as the rotating president of the UN Security Council, proposed holding a Security Council open debate at the ministerial level on February 23 on the theme of “maintaining international peace and security: to take history as a mirror and reiterate the firm commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter”. China’s initiative was positively received, and representatives from over 80 countries signed up to deliver speeches. The debate reaffirmed that the lessons learned from the past can serve as a guide for the future, and participants appealed to the UN member states to explore effective approaches to maintain world peace and security in the face of the new world situation. The debate served as a prelude to the 70th anniversary of victory in the World Anti-Fascist War and the founding of the UN.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi presided over the open debate as president of the Security Council and made a speech. He said that “the great victory of the World Anti-Fascist War 70 years ago changed the world profoundly. The UN was founded when the world was reflecting on that history and envisioning the future. The UN Charter declared its unswerving faith in eliminating wars and pursuing enduring peace, established basic norms for contemporary international relations, and built up the safeguard mechanism for terminating wars and keeping peace.”

On February 26, 2015, the UN General Assembly held its 69th session, at which the resolution on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II was adopted by consensus. Almost 40 countries, including China, India, Vietnam, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Fiji, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Venezuela, Burundi, Eritrea and others were co-sponsors of the resolution.

The resolution is of great importance, because it highlighted, twice, the words “for the first time.” First of all, the resolution, for the first time, confirmed the end dates for World War II differ from country to country, and recognized different dates for commemorating the end of the World Anti-Fascist War by the member states. The surrender ceremony for Germany was held at midnight on May 8, 1945 in Berlin so the United States, Britain and France set May 8 as the V-Day in Europe, while Russia set May 9 as the commemoration date because of the time difference.

However, in Asia the flames of war were only put out in the latter part of 1945. On September 2, 1945, the ceremony for Japan’s surrender to the allied forces was held on the US battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Japan signed the instrument of capitulation in front of representatives from nine countries, including China. This was the first complete victory by China in its resistance against foreign aggression in modern times, and also recognition of the great contribution made by the Chinese people to victory in the World Anti-Fascist War. At the seventh meeting hosted by the Standing Committee of the 12th National People’s Congress of China, a resolution was approved making September 3 the commemoration date for the victory won by the Chinese people in the their war of resistance against Japanese aggression.

Secondly, the historic importance of the Asian battlefields in World War II was confirmed for the first time. It is elaborated in the UN resolution that 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II. That war brought devastating sufferings people around the world, especially in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific region. This is the first time, in fact, that China’s historic importance as the main World War II battlefield in the East was recognized.

The Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression broke out before the war in Europe and it lasted longer. The anti-Fascist war in Europe lasted for more than five years and the war in the Pacific battlefields lasted nearly four years, the war in China for nine years. The Chinese people made huge sacrifices in their contribution to victory in the world’s war against fascism. According to incomplete statistics, China suffered over 35 million military and civilian casualties. The protracted containing and resistance against the main forces of Japanese imperialists on the Chinese battlefields played a decisive role in Japan’s defeat with over 1.5 million Japanese military personnel killed. Strategically speaking, the Chinese people, by waging war against the Japanese aggression, supported the allied forces in European and Pacific battlefields. Through coordinated and concerted actions with the allied forces in Europe and the Pacific, they restrained and disrupted the attempts at strategic coordination by the Japanese, German and Italian fascists. From a macro perspective, the battlefield in China was one of main battlefields in the world war against fascism, in which the Chinese people pinned down most of main forces of the Japanese army, and defeated large numbers of the Japanese forces. China was the foremost contributor to the victory against Japanese militarism. The Chinese battlefield served as strong support to US military actions which helped the US achieve final victory in the Pacific war.

However, in numerous books on the history of World War II, descriptions of the battles in China are scarce and are merely mention this in passing. What is the reason for this? The in-depth reason is that World War II history was, until recently, written by Westerners. They depicted the war in a selective and biased way, with Britain and the United States highlighted predominantly and other countries sidelined as subordinates. Recently, there is has even been a tendency in the history books published in the West to portray the war between Soviet forces and German fascists as if the military operations against the Nazis by the allied forces in Europe were launched only by British and American forces. The Soviet Union has its books and archives on World War II history, which stress the role played by the Soviet army. However, the systematic study of the Soviet history of WWII was severely affected by the disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the decisive say on WWII has been by Westerners up until now.

Facts speak louder than words. As Chinese President Xi Jinping emphasized in a speech, “the great triumph won by the Chinese People in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression crushed completely the plot of the Japanese militarists to colonize and enslave China and put an end to China’s national humiliation of suffering successive defeats at the hands of foreign aggressors in modern times. This great triumph reestablished China as a major country in the world and won Chinese people the respect of all peace-loving people around the world. This great triumph opened up bright prospects for the great renewal of the Chinese nation and set our ancient country on a new journey after gaining rebirth. This great triumph is also the great contribution made by the Chinese people to the victory of war against fascism in the world and to the maintenance of world peace.”

 

Firm opposition to distortion of history and whitewashing of aggression

 

It is of great significance that China and Russia made the decision to jointly commemorate the 70th anniversary of victory in the World Anti-Fascist War, with reciprocal attendance at the each other’s commemoration ceremonies and joint participation in the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations in September 2015. All these activities aimed at enhancing positive and healthy trends in the world in opposition to turning back the wheel of history.

The post-war world order is based on a series of important historical documents. On December 1, 1943, with the total approval of Joseph Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union, China, the United States and Britain agreed to jointly issue the Cairo Declaration, expressing the political will of the allied countries to fight against and punish aggressors and to maintain world justice. The Cairo Declaration stipulated that Japan would be “expelled from all territories which she has taken by violence and greed” after the Meiji Restoration. On July 26, 1945, China, the United States and Britain released the Potsdam Proclamation urging Japan’s unconditional surrender. The Soviet Union declared war on Japan on August 8, 1945 and acceded to the Potsdam Proclamation. Article 8 of the Potsdam Proclamation stated that “Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku, and such minor islands as we determine.” All the above-mentioned documents defined specifically the aggressive nature of the war launched by Japan, as well as the way to deal with Japan after its defeat and the scope of Japanese territory after the war. People can see clearly that the Cairo Declaration, the Potsdam Proclamation and Japan’s capitulation statement, which came one after another, constitute an international law system as well as very important basic documents for the establishment of the post-war world order.

However, the rightists in Japan have never given up their attempts to overturn the post-war settlement, which they take as humiliation, and seek to make Japan a “normal state” and a country able to fight by amending the Constitution, abandoning the defense-only policy, and lifting the ban on collective self-defense. The Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refuses to recognize in clear-cut terms the very nature of the war as Japanese aggression. He also denied what was specified in Article 6 of the Potsdam Proclamation, that Japan launched a war of aggression and “embarked on world conquest”, claiming that the Potsdam Proclamation is only an official document representing the political positions of the allies in World War II, and that Japan’s acceptance of the document was only to conclude the war.

In disregard of strong opposition, Abe forced the approval of two new security bills by the Diet. The crux of the bills is lifting the ban on Japan’s collective self-defense. The Japanese government, at its interim cabinet meeting on May 14, 2015, passed a series of security bills relating to the exercise of the rights to collective self-defense, with the “permanent law of dispatching the SDF overseas” as the most essential one. The passing of these bills signify that all legal obstacles have been removed if the Abe Administration wants to change Japan’s military and security policies by lifting the ban on collective self-defense, amending guidelines for Japan-US defense cooperation and enlarging military involvement of Japan’s Self-Defense Force in world affairs.

On August 14, 2015, Shinzo Abe mentioned, in a speech to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II the following day, “remorse” and “apology” in an indirect way. This was a way of reflecting on previous Japanese governments’ positions on history. He also said that over 80 percent of the Japanese population was born after the war and they should not have to bear the onus of repeated apologies. His speech lacked sincerity and was filled with ambiguity, and was a perfunctory acknowledgment of Japan’s aggression and its consequences. The day after his speech, Abe, in the name of the LDP president, made a donation to the Yasukuni Shrine which enshrines 14 class-A war criminals. He said through his agent that his gratitude and feelings towards the dead and to the Yasukuni Shrine remained unchanged. In this way, the Abe administration ignored a historical opportunity to gain the trust of Japan’s neighbors and the rest of the international community.

Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the victory in World War II reviewed the spirit enshrined in the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation, and maintained the dignity of these important international legal documents. Only by so doing, can the crimes and imperils caused by the war be deeply and lastingly understood and remembered, and only by so doing, can peace and stability in Asia and rest of the world be effectively maintained.

 

To establish a new world order based on win-win cooperation

 

China not only took part in writing historical documents such as the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation, but also participated actively in the founding of the United Nations. Represented by Mr. Dong Biwu and others, China was the first signatory country of the UN Charter adopted in San Francisco in June 1945. In October of the same year, the United Nation was founded, and China became a permanent member of the UN Security Council. This has exerted significant impacts on the establishment of a UN-centered world order.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has played an increasingly prominent role in the maintaining world security. In recent years, some Western countries, proceeding from new interventionism, have engaged in regime change activities in various countries on the pretext of their “responsibility to protect”. China, on the other hand, advocates no intervention and responsible protection. It stresses that the countries concerned shoulder responsibilities before, during and after their actions of intervention, and they should not depart target states after regime change takes place, leaving these states in chaos and the people in great misery. The war-torn Libya today is a typical example and there are many lessons to be learned. On the question of Syria, China, proceeding from the UN Charter, did not follow in the footsteps of others. This has shown exactly how a big country should shoulder its responsibilities.

Over the past two decades and more since the end of the Cold War, the developed countries in the West have been indulging in their “historical holidays”, while the newly emerging countries have been working hard to reform and develop. The rise of emerging countries is changing the global economic and political landscape. Especially after the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, the emerging countries represented by China have shouldered heavy responsibilities and become pivotal forces driving economic recovery in the world. This has created the necessary conditions for emerging economies’ extensive participation in the building of a future world order. The proactive involvement of emerging countries in a new world order will help build a world order built on  more rational and balanced foundations.

Perfecting the mechanisms for global governance will help improve the world security situation. In modern times, world orders have been formed or changed following wars and conflicts. However, the current world order since the end of the 20th Century has basically followed the trend of peace, and such a feature determines even more complexity in the evolution of the current world order. The future international security posture will be affected by two major factors: firstly, it will take time for the new concept of win-win cooperation to replace the old zero-sum concept which will die hard; and secondly, the entities affecting international security are diversifying, and the role played by non-state entities is increasing and should not be underestimated.

President Xi Jinping initiated the building of a new-type of international relations based on win-win cooperation. This initiative inherits the purpose and principles of the UN Charter, and what is more, it constitutes an important innovation and development of the UN spirit. To this end, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, when presiding over the Security Council Open Debate on Maintaining International Peace and Security, proposed that countries should seek peace, cooperation, justice and win-win benefits rather than conflicts, confrontation, power politics, and a zero-sum approach.

In a nutshell, the victory won in the World Anti-Fascist War is a victory for world justice and peace. The founding of the UN is an institutional achievement following victory in the World Anti-Fascist War. The UN Charter explicitly points out that the founding of the UN is to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind”. It is of great importance to maintain the purpose and principles of the UN Charter and the basic norms of international relations, and to uphold in true terms the spirit enshrined in historical documents such as the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation which serve as the foundation for the post-war world political posture. We should take history as a mirror and take actions to maintain world peace and security. Every effort should be made to uphold justice, maintain peace and create a better future for succeeding generations.

 

 

Ruan Zongze is Senior Research Fellow and Executive Vice President of CIIS. The article was originally published in the Chinese-language journal Contemporary World, Issue 9, 2015.

 

Source: China International Studies, September/October 2015, pp.12-21.

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