Cho Sung-hye got up at 4:10 am on Thursday, excited about her attendance at Beijing's World War II commemoration parade as an honored guest.[Special coverage]
The 57-year-old professor from the Republic of Korea (ROK) traveled to Beijing from Hefei in east China, where she works at Hefei University.
Cho has taught in Hefei since 1996 and became the first ROK citizen to get a permanent residence permit in China in 2006.
"China is a country that respects history and the virtue of gratitude. I think the reason China attaches such an importance to the WWII victory anniversary is that it seeks to join hands with all peace-loving people in the world to face up to history and safeguard future security," said Cho.
Upon arriving in Beijing, she found the whole city immersed in a festive air. Everyone she saw "had a smile on their face."
China and ROK both suffered from Japanese aggression during the war. Tens of millions of people from both countries were tortured, raped and killed by Japanese invaders. The two worked in unity and helped one another achieve victory.
"Through the parade, China demonstrated its ability in safeguarding its economic and social development and that it keeps in mind that we owe the peace and happiness that we have today to our forebears who sacrificed their lives fighting against foreign aggression," she said.
Jay Vinyard, an American pilot who flew supplies to Chinese forces over the Hump during World War II, was among more than 100 foreign WWII veterans, anti-fascist fighters and their relatives invited to the military parade.
Vinyard, 92, maintains a sharp mind and memories of the war. China's WWII commemorations were a rare chance for wartime pilots to meet again in Beijing. China and the United States should join hands to achieve peace and stability in the world, he said.
He said he was 21 when joined the China-American joint service on the Hump Operation, dubbed the "death route" over the Himalayan mountains, which was a major route for bringing supplies from India to southwest China from 1942 to 1945.
"I am lucky to survive the war. At the age of 92, I am still looking forward to living longer. I hope everyone enjoys life and says no to warfare," he said.
While addressing parade attendees, President Xi Jinping said that the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression re-established China as a major country in the world and won the Chinese people respect of all peace-loving people around the world.
It was the first time foreign troops were invited to a Chinese military parade. Nearly 1,000 troops from 17 countries, grouped alphabetically according to their country names, marched at the heels of their PLA counterparts, drawing cheers and applause.
Anastasia Poshinova, from Russia, a postgraduate student from Tsinghua University in Beijing, said she was excited to see Russian President Vladimir Putin attend the parade and Russian troops march past Tian'anmen Square as she watched the parade live on TV.
"I felt so excited! I like the fact that the Russian army went together with other post-soviet countries' armies during the parade," she said.
Shedfar Likoev, from Tajikistan, a postgraduate majored in international relations in Peking University, said he is proud that his country took part in such a great event in China.
"Tajikistan is one of the smallest and poorest countries in the world, but we still get the opportunity to show the best part of us with China. I see this as a great achievement for Tajikistan," he said.
Kobayashi Kancho was among 30 Chinese and foreign veterans and civilians who fought for China in World War II that were granted medals by President Xi Jinping on Wednesday.
At 95, the Japanese native finds it difficult to walk, but still managed to attend the ceremony.
In 1940, Kobayashi landed in east China's Qingdao as a soldier with the Japanese army. He was captured by China's Eighth Route Army in 1941. He tried to commit suicide. However, the muzzle of his machine gun shifted after he pulled the trigger and he survived.
Following his capture, he witnessed Chinese villages burnt by the Imperial Japanese Army and innocent people killed by the Japanese soldiers. He gradually realized the war initiated by Japan against China was a war of aggression and brought tremendous pain and suffering to the Chinese people.
He then decided to join the Eighth Route Army, and helped distribute anti-war leaflets, write slogans and make telephone calls, trying to persuade the Japanese army to surrender.
Kobayashi said he felt regret that right-wing Japanese politicians today still bear "outdated and dangerous" ideologies.
"I will continue to do my best in promoting China-Japan friendship ties. I wish so much to go back to see the places where I fought with Chinese people to put an end to the Japanese aggression war in China," he said.
Mourad Alami, a German professor teaching at Hefei University, said he can't agree more with President Xi's speech at the parade, that without justice, peace can not be permanently installed.
"I am sure that the Chinese will forgive Japan if it has the courage like Germany to say 'Yes, we committed atrocities and cruel things during our invasion in China, and we are sorry,'" said Alami.
He said Germany is now convinced of pacifism and does not want any kind of war.