China and the World

Shoot ‘em up

Relations with Tokyo continue to worsen


‘Little Hero’: now taking on Japan

Lin Hao is something of a celebrity. During the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, the 9 year-old was one of the first students to climb out of the rubble but went back into the ruins to pull out two of his classmates. Asked why he risked his life to save others, the ‘Little Hero’ replied: “I was the hall monitor, it was my job to look after my classmates.”

Lin was later picked to hold the hand of former basketball star Yao Ming as he led the Chinese Olympic team into the arena at the Beijing Games in 2008 (see our profile of Lin in issue 20).

Today China’s ‘Little Hero’ has a new role. Lin, now 15, has launched a TV career in which the Sichuan native plays a child who leads the fight during the Sino-Japanese War that began in 1937. The series, which is available online, is called Fight the Devils Everywhere (Japanese are often called guizi in China, which means devil in Mandarin).

The premiere of the show comes at a time when Beijing is waging propaganda war with Tokyo. Just last week the People’s Daily unveiled an online game that allows users to shoot Japanese ‘war criminals’. The state-run newspaper says the game’s purpose – called Shoot the Devils, naturally enough – is to expose “the crimes of the Japanese invaders” and make internet users “forever remember history”.

In fact, the newspaper released an earlier version of the game in December with more of a domestic focus. Called Shoot the Corrupt Officials it was a hit: 200,000 users played it in one week.

Nevertheless, shooting war criminals seems to be a lot more popular. Xinhua claims that over a million people were squeezing the trigger on the Japanese in just 10 days. Noting its popularity, a video gaming company then released a new offering named WWII OL (World War Two Online) that not only allows gamers to dispose of war criminals at their leisure, but also to take over Japan itself.

Tensions between China and Japan heightened last November when Beijing declared an air defence zone in the East China Sea. They then worsened in late December when Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates 14 Class-A war criminals as well as other Japanese war dead. Beijing named Abe an “unwelcome” person – a remark widely seen as an indication that it was ruling out high-level dialogue with Tokyo for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile Beijing continues to stir up Japan’s militarist past. On the same day that Shoot the Devils was released, China’s top legislative body, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, ratified two new national days: September 3 to mark Japan’s defeat in World War Two and December 13 to commemorate the victims of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre.

Neither commemoration offers a day off work. But a commentary in the People’s Daily made clear that the new national days were intended to revive memories about Japan’s wartime behaviour. “Victory Day is a time for celebration, but also for alertness. The spectre of Japanese militarism still haunts us,” the newspaper warned. But Bloomberg Businessweek said that Beijing might as well have renamed the dates as “Hate-Japan days”.

President Xi Jinping also wants to turn minds back to the 1940s. Apparently, he planned to use his trip to Germany later this month to remind Japan once more of its wartime atrocities. Reuters has reported that Xi asked to visit the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin to note Germany’s atonement for the horrors of Nazism. This he wanted to favourably contrast to Japan’s own war record and its version of the conflict’s history (provocatively a governor at broadcaster NHK recently denied that the Rape of Nanking had even happened).

But Berlin wasn’t keen on Xi’s travel plan. “The Holocaust is a no go area,” an insider told Reuters, adding that Germany didn’t want to get dragged into the dispute between China and Japan.

However, China has since denied the report. The Chinese ambassador to Germany told reporters no such visit was ever discussed.

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