SAN FRANCISCO－Florence Fang, 86, paused to hold back her tears while delivering a speech at the reopening ceremony of WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall.
After a 16-month hiatus in operations brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the two-story corner building in San Francisco's Chinatown reopened on July 7 with a new exhibition titled National Memories: US-China Collaboration During WWII.
"During WWII, the United States and China were allies. We fought shoulder to shoulder together against aggression. This is our lasting memory," says Fang, the initiator and curator of the memorial hall.
"I cannot agree more with the theme of today's ceremony, memories of past collaboration lead to future collaboration," says Wang Donghua, Chinese consul-general in San Francisco. "History is a mirror and the best teacher. A memorial hall like this is the best of classrooms."
Inaugurated on Aug 15, 2015, the 70th anniversary of Japan's unconditional surrender in World War II, the memorial hall is the first of its kind outside China commemorating the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).
"It offers so much to not only the Chinese American community in Chinatown, but also non-Chinese people who visit Chinatown. They have a chance to see something that they probably didn't expect to see," says Jeffrey Greene, chairman of the Sino-American Aviation Heritage Foundation.
The mission of WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall also helps preserve the memory of US-China solidarity in fighting against a lethal aggressor and to force all to dwell on how the two great nations should collaborate in response to threats that endanger global peace and prosperity in the coming decades.
At the reopening ceremony, several US representatives shared their views virtually on China-US collaborations in the past and future.
The seminar was hosted by Yawei Liu, a senior advisor on China at the Carter Center. He says the epic collaboration in fighting a common enemy during WWII was vital for both countries at that time.
According to Liu, the engagement between the US and China since the 1970s brought the longest period of peace and prosperity in Asia and the Pacific community in recent history. "We have to do everything possible to wage peace between our two nations and interconnect our exceptional characteristics. This is the anchor of future peace and prosperity."
Sometimes memories can be too selective and too few Americans know the story of US-China collaboration, says Clayton Dube, director of US-China Institute at the University of Southern California.
"Our societies need to do a better job of saving the whole, of helping people understand the whole. That's something that this memorial hall contributes to in an important way," he adds.
Dube argues that, when facing planetary problems like climate change, the two countries have no choice but to cooperate.
"We only can work together to address it. It is absolutely essential," he says. "It's important that we remember our successful collaborations in the past, so as to strengthen our resolve to collaborate together for a better tomorrow."
"We need to seek guidance from history to show the way forward in the future," consul-general Wang said in his speech at the event. "Today's global challenges and threats remind us of cooperation in the spirit of solidarity. It's the only way that can lead us out of difficulties and crises."
By working together, China and the US can make many great things happen in favor of both countries and the rest of the world, Wang adds.
"The door to each other must remain wide open and cannot be closed," Liu says. "This is why we are all here to celebrate the reopening of the WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall."
On the guestbook at the door, Wang wrote,"Looking back on history enlightens the future. Win-win cooperation serves the law of nature."