Japan's official adoption of a new edition of history textbooks Tuesday immediately came under fire in China, which, with a bitter memory of the wartime atrocities of invading Japanese troops, has always kept a watchful eye on its unrepentant neighbor.
Qiao Zonghuai, a senior official from the Foreign Ministry, summoned Japanese ambassador to China Koreshige Anami here Tuesday afternoon, lodging a solemn representation over Japanese government's approval of the history textbook denying historical facts and beautifying invasion.
"The textbook will be vehemently condemned by people from all Asian countries being victimized by Japan including the Chinese," said Qiao, who demanded Japanese government to faithfully honor its serious commitments regarding the issue of history and called for urgent measures being taken to offset the bad impacts of the adoption of the book.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Chinese ambassador to Japan Wang Yi has delivered a representation over the textbook issue to the Japanese government in Tokyo on Tuesday afternoon.
Echoing the government's strong opposition to the newly adopted history textbook, Chinese people from all walks of life also challenged the Japanese way of treating history from various perspectives.
"The just-approved textbooks would disrupt the international order and seriously undermine the confidence of Japan's Asian neighbors in regional peace and security," Wang Xuan, a Chinese activist now leading a legal group to assist World War II victims suing Japan for damages inflicted by its germ warfare, told Xinhua on telephone on Tuesday afternoon.
"It is even more ridiculous that the textbooks have held China accountable for the war," said an outraged Wang. "How could it be possible for a country to invite an invader or start a war on its own land?"
Chinese historians here said that though some 120 revisions had been made to the new textbooks before they got official approval, "their nature of denying historical facts and beautifying invasion has remained unchanged".
They cited the total oblivion or ambiguous narration of the notorious Nanjing Massacre in December 1937, when the Japanese troops slaughtered more than 300,000 civilians and unarmed soldiers after taking the then Chinese capital, as a typical expression of the textbook's "deliberate distortion of history".
Only five of the eight newly-adopted textbooks mentioned the " Nanjing incident", and only one of them mentioned "there are allegedly over 200,000 victims", adding that "there are various allegations about the number of Chinese victims".
"The existence of the tragic massacre is an indisputable fact and has been repeatedly proved by an ever increasing number of historical evidence," said Zhu Chengshan, director of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial in east China's Jiangsu Province, in an exclusive interview with Xinhua Tuesday.
By denying the existence of the Nanjing Massacre, the new textbooks have "tampered historical facts to whitewash Japan's wartime atrocities", added Zhu.
The Tuesday adoption of the new textbooks could also further fuel a spontaneous campaign by the Chinese public to block Japan's seeking of a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council.
Fearing Japan's successful bid for the permanent seat would lead to the revival of its aggressive, militarist past, over 10 million Chinese have signed an online petition to oppose Japan's move after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke in favor of Japan 's entry on March 21.
"For the usually taciturn Chinese, it is the first ever large- scale online signing activity in which so many people are united to voice their opinions since the Internet's debut in China nearly a decade ago," some Chinese media have exclaimed.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang pointed out at a routine press conference on Tuesday afternoon that "the textbook issue largely decides whether Japan can appropriately treat its militaristic history and instills its young citizens with a right perception of history".
The Japanese side should "treat Chinese people's concern over the issue correctly" and "handle historical issues closely related to Chinese people's feelings properly", urged Qin.
When Japan's Education Ministry approved a textbook for junior high school attempting to justify the country's militaristic past from an extremely nationalist perspective four years ago, China, along with other Asian countries suffering from Japan's WWII invasion, also lodged a strong protest to Tokyo via diplomatic channels. Tang Jiaxuan, then Chinese foreign minister, immediately summoned Japanese ambassador to China to make a solemn representation.
Nevertheless, the Chinese government has repeatedly expressed its stand that the current relations between China and Japan were achieved through the "long-term and arduous efforts" of many people and therefore "deserve to be cherished".
At Tuesday's press conference, Qin Gang, the foreign ministry spokesman, called on the Chinese public to express their sentiments and wills "in a reasonable way", and pledged that China would protect life and property securities of Japanese citizens and ensure the normal operation of Japanese ventures in the country.
Bilateral trade between China and Japan approached 170 billion US dollars and the number of personnel visits between the two countries exceeded four million in 2004.
"As long as both sides can follow the principle of 'taking history as a mirror and looking forward into the future', Sino- Japanese relations still enjoy fairly bright prospects," said a diplomatic observer in Beijing.