Marching in unity (China Daily)

Nearly 1,000 soldiers from 17 countries joined war veterans and PLA echelons

China’s V-Day parade on Thursday gained international gravitas, with rifle-carrying foreign troops clad in many uniforms marching with crisp footsteps and neatly choreographed movements across Beijing’s Tian’anmen Square.

The display marked the country’s endeavor to revive the forgotten memory that China and its global allies had joined hands to win a war against “the darkest forces ever” in the history of mankind 70 years ago.

Nearly 1,000 high-spirited soldiers from 17 countries marched in the wake of veterans and Chinese army formations, marking the foreign troops’ premiere in a Chinese military parade.

Among them were forces from Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kyrghyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Pakistan, Serbia, Tajikistan and Russia. Six other countries, including Afghanistan, Cambodia, Fiji, Laos, Vanuatu and Venezuela, marched their delegations for the parade.

Most of those countries were victims of World War II and some of them gained national independence as the postwar world order took shape.

They were observed by President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and government representatives including US Ambassador to China Max Baucus.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former British prime minister Tony Blair and former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder were on the rostrum.

“China’s contribution and sacrifice during the Second World War is very much recognized, appreciated for all such sufferings, and sympathized by the world’s people,” Ban Ki-moon said before the parade.

Sara Imas, 65, followed the parade broadcast in Shanghai. Imas is of Jewish descent born in the eastern Chinese city. Her parents arrived in Shanghai in 1939. They were among 30,000 refugees migrating from Europe during the war.

“The Chinese put themselves in our position and offered help to us in the most difficult times,” Imas said. “So I am proud of the parade.”

Chinese people’s empathy with Jewish refugees stemmed mostly from their own sufferings inflicted by the Japanese invaders.

China was the first country to face the onslaught of the Axis Powers in 1937, two years before Britain and France, and four years before the United States, Rana Mitter wrote in his 2013 book Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937 – 1945.

China’s anti-fascist war began even earlier. On Sept 18, 1931, the Japanese army invaded northeastern China, marking the starting point of the Chinese people’s struggle against fascism.

US reporter Israel Epstein, writer of The People’s War, was initially skeptical of the ill-equipped army of a country resisting Japanese aggression.

Epstein, a reporter on wartime China, was surprised to find the Communist-led, guerrilla-mobilized farmers in occupied North China helping to form a vast rural base for tenacious, protracted war.

He described China as “an important ally of democracy and frightening enemy of fascist invaders,” whose struggle provided “meanings and hope” for people all over the world.

China considered the march-past of foreign troops in its V-Day parade as a symbol of the unity that the Allies had to defeat the evil forces.

Dmitry Bobrov, commander of the Russian troops in Thursday’s parade, said: “Our elder generations once fought a common enemy, now we march at a synchronized pace. It has symbolic meaning.”

Clockwise from top left: Troops from Russia, Afghanistan, Fiji and Mexico march through Tian’anmen Square as part of the parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the world’s victory against fascism. Photos by Zou Hong / China Daily; Mexico Photo by Reuters

(China Daily 09/04/2015 page3)