Ill Will Rising Between China and Japan: History Caught in the Middle

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Japanese lawmakers on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a resolution that plays down this country's militarist policies in World War II, less than two weeks before ceremonies take place across Asia marking the 60th anniversary of the war's end on Aug. 15.

Though expressing "regret" for the wartime past, the resolution omitted the references to "invasion" and "colonial rule" that were in the version passed on the 50th anniversary.

The action will most likely be seen by China and Japan's other Asian neighbors as further proof of growing nationalism here. A right-wing vandal seemed to capture a growing sentiment last week when he tried to scrape off the word "mistake" from a peace memorial in Hiroshima that said of Japan's war efforts: "Let all the souls here rest in peace, as we will never repeat this mistake."

But in the weeks leading to Aug. 15, the leaders of China have been making sure that their view of the war, simply called the Anti-Japanese War there, gets across. China is spending $50 million to renovate a memorial hall for the victims of the Rape of Nanjing in 1937, when Japanese soldiers killed 100,000 to 300,000 civilians, at a time when details of it are disappearing from Japanese school textbooks. Chinese state television is broadcasting hundreds of programs on China's resistance against Imperial Japan.

The two countries find themselves playing out old grievances in a new era of direct rivalry for power and influence. Never before in modern times has East Asia had to contend with a strong China and a strong Japan at the same time, and the prospect feeds suspicion and hostility in both countries.

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