The Atlantic’s Brian Fung picked up an amazing photo essay by Jason Lee of Reuters. Lee apparently visited a Chinese theme park that puts the attendees in the role of Mao Tse-Tung’s (we use Wade-Giles here, as used in Free China, so sue us) 8th Route Army during the Japanese occupation. Or, for some of them, in the role of Japanese occupiers (“You be the Japs!”)
The martial-themed park is ostensibly all about a war between China and Japan then, but Fung notes it has particular resonance with China and Japan at sword’s point over territorial disputes now. It doesn’t take much to amp up anti-Japanese sentiment in China, thanks largely to the barbarous conduct of the Japanese Army here and the reputation it earned. Most every other nation in East Asia has memories of Japanese occupation, and in no case are these positive enemies.
Ironically, most of the weight of the war in China was carried by Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalists and by independent warlords nominally subordinate to Chiang. Mao’s army fought the Japanese when it must, but mostly husbanded its strength for its real battle — the one with Chiang’s forces that would drive them across the Taiwan Straits in 1949.
Fung’s introduction to the $80-million park follows. But you would be well advised to read the whole thing, and look at the other photos taken by Lee.
What would you get if you were able to mix Red Dawn with both a Civil War battle reenactment and Disneyland, and then translated the whole thing into Chinese? At the Eighth Route Army Culture Park in Shanxi province, named after the Communist military unit that fought behind Japanese lines in the 1940s, visitors can dress up as either Chinese or Japanese troops and pretend to blast away at each other with toy guns.
Has the US, or any American entrepreneur, ever considered creating, say, a “Marines Culture Park” where you can play US Marine or Imperial Japanese soldier on Iwo Jima? We don’t think so. But if the answer is, as we think, “no,” the next obvious question is: should somebody?
Really don’t know what category to put this one in, so it’s going to drop into “uncategorized”. We’re still trying to figure out how to categorize a park for the general public that turns them into reenactors for a day.