"On this day in 1945, Japan announced unconditional surrender." The official account of China Central Television posted this information on Weibo, one of China's largest social media platforms, and it quickly spread. Three trending posts, with a combined 236,000 retweets, identified the day's significance and emphasized the number of Chinese who had been wounded and killed during the war -- 35 million by China's official estimates.
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Within an hour, the hashtag "#NeverForgetNationalHumiliation" began to trend, drawing a mix of patriotism, anger, and confusion. User @谭兵林 asked, "How can you not mention to whom the Japanese surrendered?" Others criticized the appropriation of a day thought to be a victory to remember a period of national humiliation: "Many people have told me that today is a day of national humiliation," wrote @Cepheus的旁座-ELF, "but ... isn't today the day Japan surrendered? How can Japan surrendering be a day of national humiliation?"
How much of this anti-Japanese sentiment is real, and how much manufactured? All three trending articles were posted by state-run media, with some users complaining that "50-cent party" users -- those alleged to write pro-government posts for money -- played a role in spreading and promoting the anti-Japan comments. Yet much of the reaction was organic. In last year's round of anti-Japan protests, Chinese authorities sought to promote such protests, but also control them, fearing public anger might spiral out of control. While the government may be seeking to use public sentiment, perhaps as a distraction from domestic issues, Chinese dissatisfaction with Japan is not entirely manufactured; it has sharply increased over the last year, while public support for Japan among Chinese has fallen 12 percentage points over the last five years, according to a recent Pew survey.