For most of its history, China frowned on public discussion of the war against Japan. But as the country has grown more powerful, a wide-ranging reassessment of the war years has been central to new confidence abroad and mounting nationalism at home. Encouraged by reforms under Deng Xiaoping, Chinese scholars began to examine the long-taboo Guomindang war effort, and to investigate collaboration with the Japanese and China’s role in the post-war global order.
Today museums, television shows, magazines, and social media present the war as a founding myth for an ascendant China that emerges as victor rather than victim. One narrative positions Beijing as creator and protector of the international order-a virtuous system that many in China now believe to be under threat from the United States. China’s radical reassessment of its own past is a new founding myth for a nation that sees itself as destined to shape the world.