History is the best textbook. That is what President Xi Jinping said at the ceremony to mark the 77th anniversary of the Chinese People's War Against Japanese Aggression on Monday.
Just as Xi said in his speech, to bear in mind history, to cherish the memory of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives in the war, to refresh the importance of treasuring peace and warn people of the possible repetition of that historical tragedy are what the anniversary is for.
Indeed, the question of how to look at that part of the history between Japan and its Asian neighbors has long been an issue of great concern. Rightist politicians in Japan have tried to rewrite history, portraying that war as a military conflict in which Japan was forced to engage so as to liberate Asia from white colonialism. They also continue whitewashing the atrocities Japanese aggressors committed during the war.
What has turned their falsehoods into reality is the reinterpretation of Japan's pacifist Constitution last week, which in effect lifted the ban on the participation of Japan's Self-Defense Forces in collective self-defense, allowing the country to engage in military actions overseas once again.
From the denial of the war crimes Japanese aggressors committed and the brazen distortion of the truth to the reinterpretation of its postwar pacifist Constitution and to the permitting of Japan's military expansion, Abe and his cohorts have provided Japan's Asian neighbors with more than enough reason to be concerned about where Japan is heading.
History is history, and facts are facts. The truth cannot be distorted or denied.
The handwritten confessions of 45 Japanese war criminals that China's State Archives Administration started to publish last week, at the pace of one confession a day, should let all who have never witnessed it firsthand know what Japanese troops did to the unarmed people they subjugated.
How that war is seen matters; it matters a great deal.
Acknowledging honestly the aggressive nature of the war and the atrocities its troops committed and truly atoning for them are the prerequisites for Japan receiving forgiveness from its neighbors and maintaining friendly relations with them.
With their wrong attitude toward that war, Abe and his like-minded colleagues can hardly expect Japan's neighbors to consider it a normal country, as Abe wants.
And unleashing Japan from the constraints of its pacifist Constitution has only put its neighbors, including China, on their guard.
(China Daily 07/08/2014 page8)