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Date Posted: 10:34 23/09/2003

National humiliation remains on Chinese minds

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the Japanese invasion of China in 1931

SOME HAVE said that as Marxism-Leninism collapses under its own contradictions - and despite the efforts of official propagandists to patch it together with theories such as 'The Primary Stage of Socialism' or 'Socialism with Chinese Characteristics' or, lately, the execrable 'Three Represents' - the Chinese government has wilfully promoted nationalism as an alternative mass doctrine. Shanghai Eye is sceptical about the ability of any government to manipulate public opinion so blatantly, whether in China or in Germany, where the government has also been accused of stirring up anti-US feeling.

However, it is surely the case that the government has done very little to discourage particular forms of xenophobia, especially during the minor riots outside various American properties that took place after the US had destroyed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

The strongest feeling, though, remains against Japan. The government is, as usual, treading a fine line. A brief ceremony will be held in Shenyang tomorrow to mark the anniversary of the invasion of northeastern China by Japanese forces, but an official petition to stage a demonstration against Japan, demanding reparations for war crimes committed during the occupation, has been rejected.

Most of the articles in the Chinese press about tomorrow's anniversary emphasize the notion of national humiliation, an idea that has arguably played a much greater role in the history of modern China than collective ownership of the means of production, or the eventual triumph of the proletariat, and one which remains a bedrock in the Chinese psyche. Ask anyone in China what the three digits, 9-18, mean to them, and their response is instant.

The concept of national humiliation - beginning with the concessions extracted by foreign powers after the first Opium War, and culminating in the invasion by Japan - certainly explains the country's preoccupation with prestige. This manifests itself in massive projects like the Three Gorges, or in the imminent launch of the Shenzhou 5 manned space mission, timed to coincide with the country's National Day on October 1.

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