Omissions galore in China’s history books

Associated Press

Shanghai, April 13:

Some things you won’t find in Chinese history textbooks — 1989 pro-democracy movement, millions who died in a famine caused by misguided communist policies or China’s attacks on India and Vietnam.

China is criticising Japan for new textbooks that critics say downplay wartime abuses. But China’s own schoolbooks are marked by significant omissions about the communist system’s history and relations with its neighbours.

“With rising Chinese nationalism, efforts to rewrite history, to reinterpret history according to the demands of nationalism have become a major national pastime,” said Maochun Yu, a history professor at US Naval Academy in Annapolis.

Experts say China’s textbooks are written to heighten a sense of national victimhood and glorify the Communist Party. The books describe those who died in action against Japan and others as having “gloriously sacrificed” themselves for China.

Propaganda paintings reproduced in books show Chinese struggling against foreign invaders. An eighth-grade history book refers to Japanese by an insulting phrase that roughly translates as “‘Jap’ bandits”. It focuses on Japanese atrocities and repeats China’s claim 35 million Chinese died or were injured during the 1937-45 war.

The books don’t mention the 1962 border war that broke out when Chinese troops attacked Indian positions, nor the 1979 war when Beijing sent troops to Vietnam. Also missing: the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations, when troops killed hundreds of unarmed protesters; 30 million Chinese who starved to death during the 1958-61 “Great Leap Forward”.

The books gloss over ally North Korea’s invasion of South. They only say “civil war broke out,” without mentioning how it started. America is portrayed as an invader that forced Beijing to intervene. The books accuses US of using biological weapons during the Korean War.