Beijing ramping it up for WWII parade

Paramilitary guards patrolling Tiananmen Square in Beijing yesterday, as China prepares to hold a massive parade on Thursday to mark the end of World War II.
Paramilitary guards patrolling Tiananmen Square in Beijing yesterday, as China prepares to hold a massive parade on Thursday to mark the end of World War II.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

BEIJING • Beijing is battening down the hatches and cranking up the propaganda ahead of a massive military parade this week to mark the end of World War II.

Some 12,000 soldiers will march through Beijing's central Tiananmen Square on Thursday, mostly Chinese but with Russian and a few other foreign contingents.

President Xi Jinping will be joined on the podium by leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

The city is taking extraordinary measures to ensure nothing goes awry, including restricting car use and closing factories hundreds of kilometres away to ensure the notorious smog is banished to make way for "parade blue", referring to clear skies in the run-up to the event.

The sale of model aircraft has been banned, people living along the parade route are warned not to look out their windows on the day and the city's two main airports will be closed on Thursday morning.

The Communist Party's biggest event of the year is happening at a time of uncertainty for China over its economic growth, turmoil in its stock markets and the deaths of 150 people at a chemical warehouse blast this month in Tianjin.

"It's like treading on thin ice," a source with ties to the leadership said when asked to sum up the nation's mood ahead of the parade.

Last week, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said that holding the parade had no "direct connection" with the current state of Sino-Japan relations.

But the country never misses an opportunity to remind the world of the horrors heaped on China by Japan during the war, and state media has been ramping up its output.

The official Xinhua news agency has published graphic details of Japan's war crimes and pictures of Japanese atrocities have also appeared on party propaganda posters springing up over the city.

It is particularly worrying for Japanese living in China, who have fresh memories of violent street protests in 2012 over a territorial dispute between the two governments.

While there are few signs of a flare-up in such anti-Japan sentiment this time, some residents say they are not taking any chances.

Ms Keiko Nakamura, a Japanese translator living in Shanghai, will not venture out on Thursday because of fears that her nationality could make her a target of violence.

China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the government "protects the legitimate rights of foreigners living in China in accordance with the law".

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 31, 2015, with the headline 'Beijing ramping it up for WWII parade'. Print Edition | Subscribe