Professor Paul Johnson (left) and Dr Huang Qinguo (right)
The University of Western Australia Historical Society, its friends and guests were delighted to hear Dr Huang Qinguo, Chinese Consul General in Perth, and Professor Paul Johnson, Vice-Chancellor of UWA, deliver addresses and answer questions about the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Asia.
This event was the second held by UWAHS in 2015 in commemoration of war and peace in the 20th century. During the UWAugust Winter festival, UWAHS held its 100-year tribute to ANZAC, with presentations and a public forum entitled “ANZAC Legends and Myths Revisited”. In September, our attention was drawn to another perspective, that of peace in the Pacific.
With grateful permission from both speakers, transcripts of their learned addresses are published below.
Dr Huang Qinguo was appointed as Consul-General of the People’s Republic of China in Perth in 2013 following previous roles in the Chinese Embassy in Federative Republic of Brazil, the Jiangxi Academy of Sciences and Nanchang Hangkong University (NCHU). The Chinese Consulate-General in Perth has been committed to promoting friendly exchanges and cooperation between China and WA in all fields.
Professor Paul Johnson was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of The University of Western Australia in 2012, having served as Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University and Deputy Director of the London School of Economics. Professor Johnson’s research has focused on two areas: the economic and social development of Britain since 1850, and the economic impact of population ageing. Since receiving his doctorate from Oxford University in 1982, Professor Johnson has been an expert adviser on pension reform and the economics of demographic change to the World Bank, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, the British Government and the House of Lords.
Chinese Consul General Dr Huang Qinguo’s address’ at UWA Historical Society on the 70th Anniversary of the End of World War II
Professor Paul Johnson, Vice-Chancellor of UWA,
Professor Ron Bodycoat, President of UWA Historical Society,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s my pleasure to attend the forum today and share my thoughts .
History is the best teacher and peace is our best hope. The Chinese government held grand commemorative activities on September 3 to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression as well as the World Anti-Fascist War and President Xi Jinping delivered an important speech. This is the first time that China has held a military parade on the Victory Day to memorize the history, honor the martyrs, cherish peace and open up the future . And this has received positive response from peace loving people in the world.
The Second World War that took place between the 1930s and 1940s is a decisive battle between justice and evil, between light and darkness, and between progress and retreat. Around 2 billion people of more than 80 countries and regions were engulfed by the flames of war, which swept across Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania. In that war, China was not only the first country to fight the Fascist aggressors, but also has experienced the longest period of struggle, and suffered great sacrifices and heavy losses. The “September 18th Incident” in 1931 marked the beginning of China’s resistance against Japanese invasion and raised the curtain of World Anti-Fascist war. After The Lugou Bridge Incident or the July 7th Incident, China became the main battleground against Japanese aggressors. When World War П broke out in Europe in 1939, China had fought the Japanese Fascist on its own for eight years. By the time the Pacific War erupted in 1941, China had combated Japanese fascists for a decade independently. The China theater contained and pinned down the main forces of Japanese militarism and played a decisive role in the total defeat of Japanese invaders. China was the main theater of the World Anti-Fascist War in the East.
China’s perseverance greatly impeded the progress of the Japanese aggressors, forcing them to give up their northward invasion targeting the Soviet Union and retarding their southward invasion into the Pacific and crushed the attempt of Fascists to divide the world and seek hegemony. Following the outbreak of the Pacific War, 70% of Japanese military forces and around 35 divisions of ground forces were contained in China battlefield. China battlefield supported the military actions of the allied forces in the European and Pacific theaters strategically, making undeniable contributions to the World Anti Fascist War. More than 1.5 million Japanese forces were wiped out in China battlefield. China suffered more than 35 million casualties during the war, with military casualties reaching more than 3.8 million. And China suffered more than US$100 billion direct economic losses, and indirect economic losses of more than US$ 500 billion . Some allied commanders once in the war gave objective views about the important role the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression played in World War II and its contribution to the World Anti-Fascist War. The Marshal of the Sovient Union Vasily Chuikov wrote in his memoirs : "even in our most difficult times of the war, because much of Japan’s strength was contained in China, it failed to start an immediate war against the Soviet Union,. We must acknowledge this indisputable truth." British Former Prime Minister Churchill also said: "If the Japanese attack the West Indian Ocean, all our positions in the Middle East will be lost. Only China can help us to prevent that from happening." The victory of the World Anti-Fascist War is the victory of justice , peace and the people. Justice , peace and the people represent the right path to take. -Justice will prevail! Peace will prevail! The people will prevail! That is the great truth of history.
As an old Chinese saying goes: a just cause enjoys abundant support, while an unjust cause finds little. The Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression was a just war against foreign aggression , and the Chinese people won sympathy and support from many other countries. Fellow Allied Forces members, including the Soviet Union , the United States and so on, provided valuable manpower and material support to China.We will not forget those Russian pilots who fought side by side with Chinese pilots, and those American pilots who opened the Mount Camel Airline; we will not forget Dr Norman Bethune (Canada ) and Dr.Kotnis (India ) and others who came all the way to heal the wounded and rescue the dying and the foreign journalists who risked their lives to report the war, and we will never forget those martyrs from all over the world who volunteer to came China and sacrificed their lives in the war against Japanese aggression.
Australian and Chinese fought alongside against the Japanese invaders in the Second World War, the two peoples forged a profound friendship. A monument on China’s Hainan Island recognizes the history of “Gull Force” of Australia. The newly-released movie “The Dalfram Dispute 1938: Pig Iron Bob” in Sydney tells the story of how Port Kembla wharves stopped loading Australian pig iron on the Dalfram ship, which was headed for Japan in November 1938, the workers believed the pig iron would be used by Japan in the invasion of China, where thousands had already been killed. During the Second World War, Australian mainland suffered many Japanese air raids. On 19 February 1942, the Japanese air force launched a heavy air raid against Darwin and resulted in the casualties of over 600 people, crash of 23 aircrafts and sinking of 8 warships, causing significant losses to the Australian people, it was called an “Australian Pearl Harbor”. Over the past years, air raid sirens ran out across Darwin many times to commemorate the history. Not long ago, Royal Australian Mint issued a coin in commemoration of the end of World War II. World War II veterans and some communities in Western Australia held some commemoration events. The newly elected Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivered a speech in Sydney last month in which he praised China’s key role in the World War II and reminded Australians not to forget that their longest ally in the world War II was China. Mr.Turnbulll said: “ without China’s endurance and courage in the face of Japan, our war history may have been ended very differently indeed”. The Chinese People's War against Japanese Aggression was an important part of the world Anti-Fascist War, Chinese people as well as peace loving people in the world made great contributions to the global war against Fascism.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Seven decades is just a short span of time in human history. The past experience, if not forgotten, can serve as a guide for the future. we must remember the lessons of history. Although blessed with the sunshine of peace today, we deeply feel that safeguarding world peace still remains a daunting task. War is like a mirror, looking at it helps us better appreciate the value of peace . Ravaging through Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania, World War II inflicted over 100 million military and civilian casualties. About 1 million Australians served in that war and 40,000 lost their lives, scourge of war taught us tough lessons. Today we commemorate the victory of Anti-Fascist War , bear history in mind, honor all those who laid down their lives, not to perpetuate hatred but in the hope that these commemorative activities will help remind all kind-hearted people of the ardent hope for peace, and work together to prevent a repetition of this historical tragedy and safeguard the outcomes of World War II in pursuit of a more beautiful future of mankind. History enlightenment and lessons are the common treasures of all people. Forgetting the history means betrayal. Any attempt or action to deny, distort or even prettify the nature of aggressive war are doomed to jeopardize the peace and justice of humanity, no matter how many times these words are said and no matter how high-sounding they are. Denying the crimes of World War II will lose people’s trust.
Peace has not come easily and must be preserved. China is a peace-loving country in world history. The Chinese people have the hardships of war ingrained in their memories, and they pursue peace tirelessly and cherish a peaceful and stable life. Being a founding member of the United Nations and a permanent member of the UN’s Security Council, China is both an active proponent and a devoted practitioner of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. China has unswervingly adhered to the path of peaceful development, unswervingly pursued an open policy of mutual benefit and win win result , and carried out friendly cooperation with all countries and we have made unremitting efforts for world peace and has won the appreciation and respect in the international community. President Xi Jinping stressed at the commemoration activities on September 3 that no matter how stronger it may become, China will never seek hegemony or expansion. It will never inflict its past suffering on any other nation. He solemnly announced that China will cut the number of its troops by 300,000. This has once again demonstrated China’s firm confidence and determination to take concrete actions to safeguard world peace and development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
China’s adherence to the path of peaceful development will inject impetus to the world prosperity and development. We live in the same global village and we should strengthen the sense of community of common destiny. China is ready to work with other countries to build a new type of international relations with win-win cooperation at its core. Nowadays Sino-Australian relations are at a new historical point and the bilateral relations have been uplifted to comprehensive strategic partnership. we enjoy even stronger links in our political mutual trust, business cooperation, and people-to-people exchange. China will insist on maintaining good relations with people in other countries including Australia to contribute to safeguarding world peace and boosting human progress. We are confident that with the concerted efforts of our two governments and peoples, the future of the bilateral relations will be even more promising.
Thanks very much Ron and thank you Dr Huang for your address this evening, and for illuminating some of the challenges faced by the Chinese nation and the Chinese people from that time in 1931 which was the beginning of Chinese resistance to Japanese invasion, something that for those of us who like myself (born and growing up in Europe where we of course think of the second world war as beginning in 1939) we forget there that this was in a sense a global event and there were significant precursors.
We can all reflect I suppose as we sit here (living in one of the most privileged parts of the world in a peaceful society where the rule of law and respect for individual rights is paramount) that we are very very lucky, and very lucky that we have lived in and survived the 20th century because the 20th century was the most bloody century ever faced by humanity—more violent death in the 20th century than had ever been perpetrated by mankind on mankind in history. Therefore it’s very important that we don’t forget that past.
It’s very important that we commemorate it but I think it is absolutely vital that we don’t try to relive that past. We need to recognise that if we relive the past we are likely to repeat many of the errors of the past. Therefore, if we do that, we’re likely to reinstate the conflict and the violence, instead of building on the foundations of peace and mutual respect, on which we would all hope our modern societies are based and can continue to be based.
If we look at Europe today, despite its many problems (its many economic problems, its many social and political problems) we can look back and say “Goodness, what an amazing achievement”. Twice torn apart, absolutely torn apart, in the 20th century. First of all in the first world war, which saw the violent death of millions of soldiers, and of course the subsequent death of millions of civilians in the related 1918-19 flu pandemic, and then the destruction of large parts of the continent of Europe in the second world war. Yet the amazing thing is that the two major nations in Europe, France and Germany, fighting bitterly in the first world war, fighting bitterly in the second world war, but then by the 1950s joined together in a very deliberate and conscious process to build economic, political, social and cultural ties so that the errors of the past could never be repeated. And of course it is now France and Germany that are at the very heart of the European Union. It is those countries that hold the European Union together more than any others (certainly not the country of my birth, the United Kingdom which has a somewhat tenuous and tendentious relationship with the European Union).
We can also see that creation of a common core to a commitment to a peaceful Europe and peaceful co-existence across the European nations (indeed more than peaceful co-existence, actually a growing together of those European nations) didn’t come about by chance. It was a deliberate and conscious process. As Dr Huang mentioned, the United Nations was perhaps the first building block for that process, and the American Marshall Plan, and then a very conscious structure of international (and to some extent bilateral) organisations.
Of course, the formation of the European Community (now the European Union), the development of a network of inter-European agencies (the European bank, a whole load of inter-governmental agencies, NATO as the security organisation) and these then tying in to a set of international agencies (the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other international agencies) are all designed to provide, in a sense, release valves for when the pressure builds up—as it will inevitably do between neighbouring countries—to find a way of releasing that pressure peacefully.
The relationships between neighbouring countries are a bit like the relationships between siblings. They go very very happily for a long time and then in a nanosecond they’re suddenly fighting each other. That’s what happens to siblings, that’s what happens to my two children. I think they have a lovely relationship and then suddenly there are tears and they’re fighting each other. That’s what happens with close relationships and I think there is now an opportunity, as we look at our circumstances here in (as our Foreign Minister Julie Bishop calls it) the Indo-Pacific region, we can think about the opportunities to build more of these multilateral organisations to try to ensure that whilst we remember and commemorate our past we don’t relive it. So there are organisations such as the ASEAN organisation for South-East Asian nations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership which is still a state of negotiation, the Asian Development Bank—an initiative led by China—to try to build the political, the trade, the economic links so that we can continue to talk even if we may have some points of difference.
I think there’s a major role for organisations like this—a major role for Universities in this world today and the world we want to build—because education is a very very powerful force in society. Some would say the most powerful force. And it’s through education and exposure to other cultures that we can help the young people of today learn about their past but also recognise the value of respect, tolerance and understanding for others. That’s certainly something that we try to embed within the University. Here at The University of Western Australia I very much want to promote further international engagement. I would like there to be more international students who spend time here in Perth. I would like more of our Western Australian students to spend more time studying in other countries.
I think if you spend time elsewhere you begin to get an appreciation, not just of the countries that you’re visiting, the society and the culture, but you also get an appreciation of yourself. You get an appreciation of the fact that all the things you thought were normal and sensible and straightforward and commonplace about yourself look pretty weird when you take yourself to another society. So you have to reflect on what it is that you value and how others value other things, and that gives you a different perspective on the world.
I think it is—as we try to focus on understanding, tolerance, and respect and get the young people of today to do that in this increasingly globalised world—so we can then try to focus our collective efforts not on the arguments between this group and that group, this country and that country, this region and that region, but actually on some of the more fundamental issues that the modern world has to face. The issues such as: how are we going to feed 10 million people? How are we going to feed another 2.5 billion mouths by 2055 when we have no more land and probably less usable water? That’s a challenge.
How are we going to deal with the changes to our climate? Putting aside the causation, the fact that the climate is changing is absolutely clear, particularly here in Western Australia. We know that the margin of cultivable land down the Wheatbelt is moving westwards toward the coast because the rains are not regularly going inland. This is climate change: you can track it back at least 60 years here in Western Australia. Climate change is impacting the way in which people live their lives, the way we produce our foodstuffs and so on. These are the big challenges and if we don’t rise to those challenges collectively, in this region (in the Indo-Pacific) and globally, then we will do ourselves a disservice and indeed we may significantly reduce the prospects and life chances of our children and our children’s children.
So Dr Huang, thank you for your address. I found it particularly instructive in terms of giving me a different perspective on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in the Pacific, because it gave me a completely different perspective that shows my ignorance on, in a sense, the beginning of the Pacific war (one might say the precursors of the Pacific war which as you said—with America’s entry into the war—began in 1941). But it also gives me an opportunity to reflect on the challenges that our society faces and the lessons we can learn from the past. As many of you know, I am an historian by training so I love the study of the past, but I am also very conscious that too often we try to relive it.
Thank you very much