China yesterday observed the 74th anniversary of the Japanese invasion of its northeastern region, with official media urging citizens not to forget the episode, but not to let it poison their feelings toward Japan.
The conciliatory message came amid a spike in tensions over Chinese accusations that Japan has failed to shoulder responsibility for atrocities committed before and after World War II, and over conflicting claims to a chain of potentially oil-rich islands in the East China Sea.
In a lengthy commentary on Saturday, the People's Daily newspaper told readers the Sept. 18, 1931, attack by Japanese soldiers on a Chinese barracks in the northeast city of Shenyang had unleashed an era of untold suffering.
But the commentary attributed the attack to "a small group of Japanese militarists" -- rather than to the Japanese nation as a whole. It said Chinese should observe it by looking ahead and not dwelling on the past.
"We never want to extend hatred by keeping history in mind. Instead we want to face the future by making history a mirror," the commentary said, using an oft-used rhetorical phrase.
Victims of war
Chinese in more than 100 cities were to mark the anniversary yesterday by gathering around memorials to victims of China's Anti-Japanese War and standing at attention as bells tolled and sirens wailed.
State-run television ran lengthy documentaries showing atrocities during the era.
In Beijing, however, there were no apparent protests or special security arrangements at the Japanese Embassy, where earlier this year angry crowds hurled rocks and bottles in a display of anger over Japan's alleged refusal to take responsibility for its actions in China in the 14 years that followed the Shenyang attack.
China's entirely state-controlled media has carried a steady stream of anti-Japanese commentary in recent months as the country commemorates the 60th anniversary of Japan's surrender at the end of World War II.
Beijing has also continued to rail against visits by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to a Tokyo shrine that honors Japan's war dead, including executed war criminals.
They have also objected to allegedly saccharine depictions of the war in some Japanese textbooks.