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On the morning of July 7, 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping joined more than 1,000 people gathering at the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression near Marco Polo Bridge in Fengtai District, Beijing, to commemorate the 77th anniversary of the July 7 Incident. His appearance marked the first time for a sitting Chinese president to attend the annual memorial.
On July 7, 1937, Japanese troops requested to enter the walled town of Wanping near Marco Polo Bridge under the pretense of searching for a missing soldier. After their request was declined, the Japanese opened fire on the Chinese troops garrisoned in the town. The attack became known as the July 7 Incident. It heralded Japan’s comprehensive launch of war on China, as well as Chinese resistance against Japanese invasion.
As a major theater of World War II, China suffered bitterly defending itself against eight years of Japanese aggression. Historians have tallied more than 35 million Chinese casualties during the period, with 200 million more left homeless and China’s total economic losses surpassing US$560 billion. Particularly, the Nanjing Massacre, in which Japanese invaders killed 300,000 people, mostly civilians, continues to haunt the hearts of Chinese people.
Recently, a series of events to commemorate the War of Chinese People’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression was held around China. From late June through August, Beijing organized nearly 40 memorial events. The State Archives Administration of China has been consecutively releasing full texts of confessions by 45 Japanese war criminals online since July 3 - one a day, over 45 days. At the end of February, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s supreme legislative body, passed a resolution marking September 3 as Victory Day of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression and December 13 as National Memorial Day for Victims of the Nanjing Massacre.
One reason China has been holding events to commemorate the victory in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression so extensively is Tokyo’s recent moves to deny its wartime crimes. Since becoming Japanese prime minister in December 2012, Shinzo Abe has constantly embroiled historic issues: He visited the Yasukuni Shrine despite objections from multiple neighboring countries, claimed that levels of aggression remain unclear, and pushed for revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution. Some Japanese politicians have even defended Japan’s widespread sexual slavery, or “comfort women” as they have been called, during the war. On July 1, 2014, the Japanese cabinet approved a resolution to allow the country to exercise collective self-defense, which will enable its troops to fight overseas for the first time since the end of World War II.