China held a ceremony Sunday to mark the 82nd anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, a prelude to the Sino-Japanese War, but its highest leadership is believed to have skipped the event amid an improvement in relations with Japan.
Their believed absence was indicated by a report by China’s official Xinhua News Agency, which did not state that members of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party of China’s Central Committee Political Bureau had attended the ceremony.
This seems to reflect the continued improvement in Japan-China relations, as well as the fact that this year is not a milestone in this respect, according to observers.
The ceremony took place at the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression, a facility located near the Marco Polo Bridge in the suburbs of Beijing. It was attended by such figures as the CPC secretary of Beijing, Cai Qi, the highest-ranking official in Beijing and a member of the politburo. He has attended the annual ceremony for two straight years.
The about 500 attendees also included former soldiers in the Sino-Japanese War, family members of those killed in the war and senior CPC officials.
The Xinhua report did not contain harsh comments about Japan. In addition, China’s military newspaper, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, published a commentary on Sunday stating that Japan has made a certain amount of progress in recent years in dealing with the issue of acknowledging history. This commentary is believed to have been written with such elements in mind as the fact that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has continued to avoid visiting Yasukuni Shrine. All this seems to show that under the current circumstances, China intends to prevent historical issues from intensifying in the bilateral relationship.
While China has been locked in a trade row with the United States, Japan and China agreed at the Group of 20 summit meeting last month that Chinese President Xi Jinping would visit Japan next spring as a state guest.