The 2015 Ford School China Policy Trip offered us a unique experience to visit China’s cultural and historical sites. The National Museum offered an insightful look at China’s deliberate shaping of its historical past. One exhibit, titled “The Road to Rejuvenation” displayed the intentions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The CCP intends to instill a cultural memory of past setbacks and the glorious emergence of a powerful China. While the Road to Rejuvenation emphasized failures in China’s past, the foremost story was one of “overcoming”.
The Nanjing Massacre Museum was another disturbing display of thoughtful historical representation. The Museum was intricately designed, and meticulous in its selective collection of historical photographs, testimonies and artifacts. “Never Forget National Humiliation” was a repeated theme throughout the exhibit. It seemed the Chinese government wanted to invoke an emotional, patriotic response through the messages and inscriptions along the walk leading up to the Museum. Dramatic music and graphic sculptures led the way up to the building. Some of our classmates drew similarities to the Holocaust Museum. I found a comparable exhibit in the Cambodia killing fields- horrific scenes of violence, with a contrast in its overarching message. While the Nanjing Massacre focused on a specific narrative (that over 300,000 Chinese were killed, and that this could never happen again), the Cambodia killing fields lacked any clear message. The Chinese government purposefully designed these exhibits to construct a cultural identity, one which enhances the credibility of the Communist Party, allowing them to shape political discourse through historical memory.
– Amanda J Van Dort, MPP 2015