Friday, September 18, 2015

China Bit: Sirens in Suzhou

Sirens to remind people of Japanese aggression
Sep 9, 2015|By Pan Zheng

Air raid sirens will sound across Suzhou on September 18 to mark the outbreak of China’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression in 1931. The city government decided to test sirens on this day instead of April 27, the anniversary of Suzhou’s liberation in 1949.
All over Jiangsu Province, sirens will be heard to commemorate the September 18 Incident 84 years ago when the Japanese army attacked Chinese troops in Manchuria, setting off a 14-year war in China.
The sirens will sound at 10pm and last nine minutes. People are reminded to stay calm during the alarm.


I Googled the item above as sirens here began wailing at 10 a.m. this morning. Given that began wailing at exactly 10 a.m. and that the weather outside was calm--being a good Iowan the first thing that I think of with a warning siren--I didn't think too much of it. Also, the pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists continued in their nonchalant ways. But a second round led me to my computer to find the above. I'd never heard warning sirens here before. (Note that the article refers to them as "air raid sirens". Really?)
This reminder of Japanese aggression isn't the only recent reminder of that distant war  that the Chinese people have received of late. Earlier this month the Chinese celebrated a new holiday to mark the surrender of the Japanese to Chinese forces, ending the brutal and humiliating occupation of China by the Japanese. The big-wigs celebrated by holding a Soviet-style parade of military hardware and goose-stepping troops parading through Tiananmen Square. Apropos the occasion, Vladimir Putin attended as a guest. Meanwhile, a great many ordinary Chinese spent the holiday pouring into Japanese-owned malls to buy Japanese-manufactured goods, or they went out and bought Japanese brand cars. One senses a disconnect from the leadership's ideas about how they should think of Japan. For C, it was a day off of school. 
Some suggest that all of this reminder of a war that ended over 70 years ago is to foment nationalist pride and denigrate the Japanese. In the U.S.,  it would be the equivalent of sounding sirens to mark December 7, 1941, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, or to declare a national holiday for V-J Day. Even in my youth, less than 20 years after V-J Day, I don't recall any commemoration. And while the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack was noted, it was not a holiday or major event.  Those who lived then and were affected by the war, such as my parents, certainly recalled that date and what they were doing when they learned of the attack. But for us young ones, it was strictly a historical event.  The current generational equivalent is 9/11, but note that American high schools are now populated by those who have no personal memory of 9/11. Time passes. 
As for me, if I'd have been asked, I would have suggested a celebration of 70 years of peace between China and Japan (and the U.S. and Japan). The cause for celebration is the successful rehabilitation of Japan after the war and its place in the world today. A fact, that I must add, justifies some measure of American pride. 
Anyway, an interesting choice of a date to test the sirens. But was something else something else being tested? 

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