An original version of this article appeared in Hong Kong Free Press on July 2, 2015:
China’s state broadcaster CCTV was seen using images of manned “mobile suit” robots from Japanese science-fiction franchise Gundam on Tuesday during a programme about alleged Japanese military aggression towards the country.
The programme, Focus Today, invited experts to discuss the threat posed to China by Japanese military expansion. It criticised Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wish to expand the “right to self-defence” and allow Japan to possess a full military. It also reported media claims that the prime minister had said the military expansion plan was “directly aimed at China.”
During a discussion with a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the programme showed footage of the Japanese military. It included images of Japan’s navy and air forces, which it said were published by Japan’s self-defence force.
Then, in between the footage, the programme showed images of Gundam mecha units.
Netizens wondered if China would see the import of Gundam animes as an act of military aggression by Japan.
— Titus Leung (@EmperorTitus) July 2, 2015
In May 2013, Chinese state media published images of a new Japanese military helicopter. The images, which appeared in Xinhua and Global Times, were discovered to be the work of a Singapore-based graphic artist who shared the designs on the DeviantArt online community.
In June 2014, a China Military News posting on Weibo (Chinese Twitter) accused Japan of promoting its militarism through its gunkanmaki sushi.
In the post, it said: “Sushi is a deeply rooted culture in Japan. Making sushi into shapes of vessels employed by the Imperial Japanese Navy during World War II reflects some people’s attitudes within the Japanese nation. The commemoration of weapons used during imperial Japan best demonstrates the revival of militarism in the country.”
Chinese state media have repeatedly expressed concern over the threat of the Japanese military. They frequently refer back to the Second Sino-Japanese War that continued for more than eight years from 1937 to 1945, when massive areas of China were under occupation by Imperial Japan. Under its post-World War II constitution, imposed by the American occupying authorities, Japan was prohibited from having its own military and could only retain a self-defence force. Incumbent prime minister Shinzo Abe is currently seeking to amend the provision.