China adds six years to second World War in school textbooks

Officials make ‘correction’ to war dates to boost ‘patriotic education’ in schools

Chinese education authorities have added six years to the duration of the second World War, known in China as the Chinese War Against Japanese Aggression, in school textbooks to make it 14 years long, part of an increased focus on "patriotic education".

The changes were announced at the start of the year, and the outbreak of the war is now dated from the 1931 Mukden incident, an explosion near a Japanese-owned railway line near Shenyang in northern China that led to Japan’s invasion and occupation of Manchuria, according to state media.

The education ministry said the changes would boost patriotic education and emphasise the Communist Party’s key role in fighting fascism.

Until now, the start of the war was dated from the battle between Japanese and Chinese troops at the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing in 1937.


"If the war continues to be defined solely as that over the eight-year period from 1937, then the courageous deeds of Chinese people and the huge sacrifices they made to resist Japanese aggression in the years before that will be ignored and forgotten," ran a commentary in the China Daily newspaper.

“So, the revision is aimed at showing respect to those who first fought against Japanese aggression and reminding younger generations of their deeds,” it said.

Li Zongyuan, curator of the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, said the revision was “a correction”.

The history of the second World War has proven a divisive issue between China and Japan over the years, and Beijing has criticised what it sees as Japan's failure to atone for its wartime actions.

More than 35 million Chinese soldiers and civilians were killed or wounded in the conflict.

Last year, Japan changed schoolbooks revising references to 1937 Nanjing Massacre, leading to an official complaint from China.

In 2005 there were violent anti-Japan demonstrations in China over school textbooks, which critics believed glossed over Japan’s wartime history.

In 2013, a spat over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China, prompted further, violent anti-Japanese protests in China.

Chinese historians say that 300,000 people died in the Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, but a post-war Allied tribunal put the death toll at 142,000, and conservative Japanese politicians and scholars deny the massacre ever took place, or is at best exaggerated.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing