By Chang Ping, published: August 24, 2015
“Watching the news lately, one feels nauseated by the stark contrasts. On the one hand, you have the Tianjin blasts, where you see how poor the governance was before the explosions and how chaotic the aftermath. On the other, you have the military parade to celebrate victory in the Anti-Japanese War, where each and every participant makes immaculate goose steps in complete unison, and every formation is executed to utter perfection. In this juxtaposition we are witnessing the paragon of imperial rule….” – An anonymous netizen
A restaurant in Beijing recently put up a notice saying that due to military rehearsal, the local police station required diners to show their identification cards, register their ID numbers, full names and mobile telephone numbers before placing an order. After a real-name registration system for the using Internet, buying kitchen knives, and purchasing cold medicine, the idea of a real-name registration for ordering a meal is a joke no more.
This is merely one of the many things that are exasperating residents in the leadup to the grand military parade to be held in Beijing on September 3. The Beijing municipal government also sent out a notice saying that the city would exercise temporary measures on motor vehicles, limiting traffic to even or odd-plated cars on alternate days for two weeks.
In order to guarantee the air quality in Beijing before and during the troop review, from August 28 to September 4, Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Shandong, Shanxi, and Henan—altogether five provinces and two metropolitan centers—are being made to immediately cut emissions, stop production, and limit the manufacturing of more than 10,000 enterprises. This will mostly impact the steel, chemical, rubber, and other pollutive industries. At the same time, nearly 9,000 construction sites will need to suspend work. Some steel companies, mineral processing plants, and pelletizing plants in Xuzhou, Jiangsu, [500 miles away from Beijing] also received notice to stop or reduce production. For a Chinese economy that is already slowing, this is like adding hail to snow.
Even more inconceivable is that from early September, entertainment will be banned, with a large number of television dramas suspended from broadcast. A number of popular cultural tourist sites, like the National Palace Museum, will also be temporarily shut.
A Chinese media personality sighed: this grim and harsh atmosphere leads one to “not know whether it is celebrating the victory against the fascists, or the victory of the fascists.”
Netizens say, “the authorities are using fascist ideology and methods to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the defeat of fascists.” This isn’t just an amusing one-liner. It’s an accurate depiction of precisely the reality taking place right now in China.
Troop Review and Fascist Aesthetics
Commemorating the victory of the anti-Japanese war ought to be a spirited and happy occasion that reinforces the belief that justice will prevail. But leading up to this occasion, the Chinese government has arrested and summoned hundreds human rights lawyers and their colleagues. They’ve stepped up their control of the media and the Internet, and released a large number of films and television programs that manipulate and falsify history. How is this any different to how the fascists, 70 years ago, instrumentalized thought, culture, and the law?
Lately, People’s Daily and other mouthpiece media have been propagandizing that “The China Dream includes the dream of a strong military; the dream of a strong military is the foundation of the China Dream.” Similar banners hang in avenues and alleys. Along with images of dictatorial leaders displayed everywhere, tightening controls over information, and loud nationalist clamoring, we are witnessing a reincarnation of the militarism of a bygone era.
Aesthetically, the troop review itself that is set to take place on September 3 will be an exhibition of fascism as well. The form itself—inspecting the good order of the troops, flaunting military might, frightening the enemy—is an anachronism. For a long time in modern society and in democracies the military parade has become insignificant. When held, organizers do their best to turn it into traditional entertainment, and not be ridiculed. But China is still tirelessly and earnestly using it to display its military prowess and national prestige, to excite the passions of nationalism. It needs a sweeping scene and a grand tableau to show its posture of military uniformity. The model for this form is none other than Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl’s propaganda film “Triumph of the Will.”
The pity is that the international community, including Western democratic countries, are all directly or indirectly acknowledging that this fascist display is a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the victory against fascism. Of all preposterous things in the world, none could outdo this!
Chang Ping (长平) was the former chief commentator and news director of Southern Weekend (《南方周末》). He writes columns for the South China Morning Post, Deutsche Welle, and a number of Chinese-language websites. Forced to leave China and then Hong Kong, he currently lives in Germany.
VPN down: China goes after Astrill, other anti-censorship apps in run up to WW2 anniversary parade, South China Morning Post, August 26, 2015.
中文原文《长平观察：反法西斯还是法西斯的胜利？》, translated by China Change.