China gives little credit, or help, to aging Nationalist veterans

Published 9:06 am Monday, August 31, 2015

BEIJING — Chinese veteran Sun Yibai doesn’t have much time for the Communist Party’s claim to have led China to victory against Japan in World War II.

“The Communist Party didn’t fight Japan,” said the sprightly 97-year-old, who once served as a translator with the storied Flying Tigers aviation brigade. “They made up a whole bunch of stories afterward, but it was all fabricated.”

That view challenges a basic premise underpinning this week’s lavish celebrations in Beijing of the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat: That Mao Zedong’s Communists were the saviors of the nation, battling against Japanese forces that began occupying parts of China in 1931 before launching a full-blown invasion in 1937.

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Veterans such as Sun have long found themselves on the wrong side of that narrative. Their service with the Nationalists led to imprisonment, persecution and often death in the years after the 1949 Communist revolution. Now mostly in their 90s, they’re living out their remaining years shunned and forgotten by all but a few who care to hear their stories.

“Nobody cares about veterans like me. Nobody cares. People just forget what happened in the past,” said Sun in an interview in his Beijing apartment stuffed with books and old photos.