Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Wednesday that Japanese invaders of the country before and during World War Two behaved with barbarity and tried to slaughter the people into surrender, as China gears up for a military parade to mark the war’s end.
Millions of Chinese died in the war, and China rarely misses an opportunity to remind its people and the world of the horror visited upon it, especially as the government thinks Japan has never properly atoned.
Using unusually strong language at a medal ceremony for veterans and their descendants, Xi said that the invaders were “fiendish.”
“The Japanese militarist invaders were extremely bloody and cruel, who treated the Chinese people with unprecedented brutality, and tried to use massacres and death to get the Chinese people to yield,” Xi said, in remarks released by the official Xinhua news agency.
“In the face of the butchers’ knives of the invaders, the Chinese people used their flesh and blood to build a new Great Wall,” he added.
The government has repeatedly said that Thursday’s parade is not aimed at today’s Japan, but to remember the past and cherish the present peace.
China and Japan have long sparred over their history. China consistently brings up events like the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in which it says Japanese troops killed 300,000 people in its then capital.
A postwar Allied tribunal put the death toll at 142,000, but some conservative Japanese politicians and scholars deny a massacre took place at all.
Thursday’s parade, featuring some 12,000 troops, is the highlight of events in China this year marking 70 years since World War Two ended in Asia.
Most Western leaders have decided not to attend due to concerns about the message the parade sends at a time when China is jangling nerves around the region with its growing military assertiveness, for example in the disputed South China Sea.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also not attending.
Xi said that victory in the war was a “miracle” given the difficulties China faced, but that the lesson has never been forgotten.
“In recent times, in the face of incursions again and again by strong foes, the Chinese people have never yielded, continuing to join forces, taking up positions as those in front fall, tenaciously struggling, swearing to fight to the end,” he said.