To commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, China has invited world leaders from Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe to take part in a large military parade on September 3. The guest list was revealed on August 24.
The disruption to people's daily lives and the absence of national leaders from Western Europe, among other aspects of the parade, were hot but censored topics on Chinese social media.
This is the first time that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has organized a military parade to commemorate the end of WWII. China's role in the Second Great War began two years before war broke out in Europe, when Japan invaded China, sparking the Second Sino-Japanese War. After Japan, which was allied with Germany and Italy, bombed the US naval base at Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Sino-Japanese War became a major front in the larger conflict.
As anti-Japanese war efforts were led by the Kuomintang political party of the then newly established Republic of China (Taiwan), many on Chinese social media have wondered if the CCP should claim credit for the victory in the Sino-Japanese War at all.
But Chinese President Xi Jinping was eager to exhibit the “crucial role” that the CCP played during the Sino-Japanese War as the victory is symbolic to China's national revival, a nationalist project propagated by Xi since he has taken over the leadership. Some spoofed the parade as Xi's one-man show, depicted in the image at the top of this post as well as in Patrick Boehler's video pick on Twitter:
This is how some in China mock Xi's military parade on Sept. 3. pic.twitter.com/uJoukeacPW
— Patrick Boehler 包蟠睿 (@mrbaopanrui) August 23, 2015
Cheng Ming, a political commenter based in the US, even called Xi's attempt “shameless”:
Some say that the military parade is Xi's attempt to intimidate Japan and force [Japanese Prime Minister] Abe to recognize China's hegemony in Asia; some say that Xi wants to demonstrate to the world that he is in control of the military force. For me, Xi is using the parade to lie to the Chinese people and the world, in particular to the young people in China that the victory of the Sino-Japanese war was led by the CCP. […] As September 3 is approaching, media hype has surrounded the military parade. Party intellectuals are participating in a lying contest to prove that the CCP played a “crucial role” in the anti-Japanese War under Xi's instruction.
Of course, the military parade is far from being a literal one-man show as 30 heads of state, mainly from Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, will be present. To make sure things stay on script, authorities have tightened their grip on and offline. During the rehearsal over the weekend, major roads, public transportation and some businesses were shut down. Some users on the ground reported on Twitter:
— Eduard Fernández/费海德 (@eduard_bcn) August 23, 2015
— Michael Anti (@mranti) August 22, 2015
Went out to buy some vegetables under the blue sky prepared for the military parade in the morning. I was in a rather good mood, but then, the vegetable kiosk was gone. It will only be back in business on September 5. Breakfast shop, chicken restaurant and my favorite cafes all were shut down.
Many expressed frustration with the arrangement, but very few have dared to speak out against the state performance. A very harsh censorship directive has been issued to media outlets to make sure that:
all news and comments related to the military parade must be carefully reviewed before posting to guarantee they are positive and not offensive to the [People's Liberation Army] or the military parade; that they do not attack the Party, the [People's Republic of China], or the political system; and do not attack national leaders.
It turned out that not only critical comments but also negative news were censored. The authorities banned media outlets from reporting on the crash of a military helicopter that was preparing for a parade on August 16. More measures to restrict the flow of information will be introduced in the next few days, according to Astrill, a VPN provider, its service will be disrupted until end of the parade:
Due to upcoming Beijing's military parade next week, China is cracking down on IPSec VPNs using GFW auto-learning technique. VPN access form iOS devices may be limited at this time.
Until end of parade, some of the servers will not be available in iOS application.
Despite the harsh censorship measures, sarcastic comments and images occasionally pop up, but soon disappear. For example, on fascism:
They say a fascist country is about to host an anti-fascist military parade
Following the release of the guest list, mocking remarks surfaced, only to vanish quickly, in the comment section of a news thread. Below are some of the comments on China's parade guest list retrieved from Free Weibo, a project dedicated to recovering censored content from popular Chinese microblogging platform Weibo:
In March, [China] paid out US $30 million dollar in aid. That's the fee to show up. I should establish a country in Africa to earn some money.
The Republic of Vanuatu in the southern Pacific Ocean will join the Chinese military parade. The country was established in 1982, with a population of 200,000. It is crowned as the happiest country in the world. The country has nothing to do with the anti-fascist war. They come to Beijing just to hang around.
A person without principles has very few friends. Those state leaders who show up in September for the military parade are the pitiful few — former USSR, former communist alliances in southern Asia, the remaining communist states, a few African and Asia brothers. Some probably paid to show up.
State-controlled media are gearing up for the military parade with series of feature reports. As the performance approaches, Chinese people seem to have two options: publicly praise the parade or keep silent.