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Politics & Law

China seeks WWII focus on Japan during visit to Germany, but Germans feel uncomfortable about it

A model and a photograph of John Rabe, sometimes call "China's Schindler", are seen in a museum, during a reporting trip in Nanjing, Jiangsu province

A model and a photograph of John Rabe, sometimes call “China’s Schindler”, are seen in a museum, during a reporting trip in Nanjing, Jiangsu province

China wants to make World War Two a key part of a trip by President Xi Jinping to Germany next month, much to Berlin’s discomfort, diplomatic sources said, as Beijing tries to use German atonement for its wartime past to embarrass Japan.

China has increasingly contrasted Germany and its public contrition for the Nazi regime to Japan, where repeated official apologies for wartime suffering are sometimes undercut by contradictory comments by conservative politicians.

Ties between the two Asian rivals worsened when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine on December 26, which China sees as a symbol of Tokyo’s past militarism because it honours wartime leaders along with millions of war dead.

Xi will visit Germany in late March, as well as France, the Netherlands and Belgium, Beijing-based diplomats said. China’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Xi’s agenda as the trip has yet to be formally announced.

“China wants a strong focus on World War Two when Xi visits Germany and Germany is not happy,” said one diplomatic source who has been briefed on China’s plans for the Xi trip.

The German government declined to comment. But the diplomatic sources said Germany did not want to get dragged into the dispute between China and Japan, and dislikes China constantly bringing up Germany’s painful past.

A second diplomatic source with knowledge of the trip said China had proposed Xi visit the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. When that was immediately rejected by Germany, Beijing suggested Xi go to Berlin’s Neue Wache Memorial, which honours war dead but not recognised war criminals.

“The Holocaust is a no go area,” the source said, adding it was unclear if the Neue Wache Memorial visit would go ahead.

Germany does not want the negative legacy of the war to dominate or take centre stage during a state visit, the source added, explaining the objection to the Holocaust Memorial visit.

China wanted German officials to go to Japan and tell them how to cope with history, the source added.


It is not clear exactly what Xi wants to say about the war while in Germany, which has strong commercial links with China, but Chinese leaders have mentioned the subject in recent visits to Europe.

In 2012, then premier Wen Jiabao went to the former Auschwitz death camp, located in what was then Nazi-occupied Poland, saying: “Only those who remember history can build a good future.”

Japanese leaders have repeatedly apologised for suffering caused by the country’s wartime actions, including a landmark 1995 apology by then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama. But remarks by conservative politicians periodically cast doubt on Tokyo’s sincerity.

Taking questions in parliament on Thursday, Abe said his government would stick by past apologies.

“As I’ve said before, in the past many nations, especially those in Asia, suffered great damage and pain due to our nation. Our government recognises this, as have the governments that have gone before, and will continue this stance,” Abe said.

Sino-Japanese ties are not just plagued by China’s bitter memories of Japan’s occupation of parts of the country before and during World War Two, but also by a territorial row and regional rivalry. Relations chilled after a feud over disputed islands in the East China Sea flared in 2012.

Some experts say China’s campaign against Japan has helped Beijing shift some of the debate away from its growing military assertiveness in Asia, including double digit defence spending increases and the creation of an air defence identification zone in the East China Sea that was condemned by Tokyo and Washington.

China pressed home its propaganda offensive against Japan last week during a government-organised visit for foreign reporters to the site of the Nanjing massacre.

Reporters were taken to see the house where a German businessman called John Rabe lived, a man lionised in China for his role in protecting Chinese from Japanese troops who rampaged through the city, then known as Nanking, in late 1937.

China says Japanese troops killed 300,000 people. A post-war Allied tribunal put the death toll at 142,000.

“Any group of people can make a historical mistake, but the Germans have admitted to it and said that they wouldn’t allow such a thing to happen again,” said Zhu Chengshan, curator of the memorial hall for the victims of the massacre.

“This is an amazing historical perspective that the Germans have. The Japanese, on the other hand, are exactly the opposite.”


Part of China’s campaign has been to highlight German contrition.

State television recently showed footage of former West German chancellor Willy Brandt falling to his knees in front of a memorial to victims of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, when the Germans brutally crushed a Jewish revolt.

Asked about China’s comparison of Germany and Japan, a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Japan would continue to tread a peaceful path and that it was China’s recent provocative actions that were raising concerns in the region.

“We have to reflect on the past but cannot live only in the past,” spokesman Masaru Sato said. “Reconciliation requires not only a former perpetrator’s sincerity and gesture of atonement, but also a former victim’s acceptance,” he said, adding Tokyo wants dialogue with Beijing.

Numerous diplomatic sources say China has been putting pressure on Western embassies in Beijing to get their governments to condemn Abe’s Yasukuni shrine visit.

Abe has repeatedly said he did not visit the shrine to honour war criminals but to pay his respects to those who died for their country and to pledge Japan would never again go to war. His visit prompted a rare statement of “disappointment” from Washington on the day he went.

Last month, following a regular meeting between the Chinese and German defence ministries, Chinese state media said the German side expressed their “understanding for China’s position”.

“For Germany, the lessons of history have been bitter. Germany went through deep reflection and exerted much effort, thus winning the trust of the international community,” Chinese newspapers cited unnamed German officials as saying.

It is all getting a bit much for Germany.

“The Germans are really uncomfortable with this kind of thing,” said a third diplomatic source, referring to the defence ministry meeting. “They don’t like China constantly comparing them with Japan and going on about the war.”

China’s ambassador to Germany, Shi Mingde, in an interview with a German newspaper last month, drew a comparison between Abe’s shrine visit and the Nazis. “Imagine that the German chancellor would visit Hitler’s bunker instead of the Holocaust Memorial to lay flowers. That would be unthinkable,” Shi said.

Japanese spokesman Sato, noting that Yasukuni honours 2.5 million war dead from conflicts including both world wars, said it was wrong to suggest the Yasukuni visit meant Japan was unrepentant. “Comparing the two nations by simply referring to a visit to the shrine is wrong,” he said.

Source: Reuters “Exclusive: China, eyeing Japan, seeks WW2 focus for Xi during Germany visit”

About chankaiyee2

Author of the book "Tiananmen's Tremendous Achievements" about how with the help of Tiananmen Protests, talented scholars with moral integrity seized power in the Party and state and brought prosperity to China. The second edition of the book will be published within a few days to mark the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Protests All the parts in the first edition remain in the second edition with a few changes due to information available later and better understanding. There are also some changes for improvements of style. The new parts are Chapters 12-19 on events in China after the first edition was published: The fierce power struggle for succession between reformists and conservatives; Xi Jinping winning all elders’ support during his mysterious disappearance for 2 weeks in early September, 2012; and Xi Jinping Cyclone. Chan Kai Yee's new book: SPACE ERA STRATEGY: The Way China Beats The US An eye-opening book that tells the truth how the US is losing to China. The US is losing as it adopts the outdated strategy of Air-Sea Battle while China adopts the space era strategy to pursue integrated space and air capabilities: It is losing due to its diplomacy that has given rise to Russian-Chinese alliance. US outdated strategy has enabled China to catch up and surpass the US in key weapons: Hypersonic weapons (HGV) that Pentagon regards as the weapon that will dominate the world in the future. Aerospaceplane in China’s development of space-air bomber that can engage enemy anywhere in the world within an hour and destroy an entire aircraft carrier battle group within minutes. Anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons, anti-ASAT weapons, stealth aircrafts, drones, AEW&C, etc. The book gives detailed descriptions of China’s weapon development based on information mainly from Chinese sources that the author monitors closely. U.S. Must Not Be Beaten by China! China is not a democracy. Its political system cannot prevent the emergence of a despotic leader or stop such a leader when he begins to bring disasters to people. A few decades ago, Mao Zedong, the worst tyrant in world history did emerge and bring disasters to Chinese people. He wanted to fight a nuclear war to replace capitalism with communism but could not bring nuclear holocaust to world people as China was too weak and poor at that time. If a despot like Mao Zedong emerges when China has surpassed the US in military strength, world people will suffer the misery experienced by Chinese people in Mao era. China surpassing the US in GDP is not something to worry about as China has the heavy burden to satisfy its huge population, but China surpassing the US in military strength will be world people’s greatest concern if China remains an autocracy. US people are of much better quality than Chinese people. What they lack is a wise leader to adopt the correct strategy and diplomacy and the creative ways to use its resources in developing its military capabilities. I hope that with the emergence of a great leader, the US can put an end to its decline and remain number one in the world. China, US, space era strategy, air-sea battle, space-air bomber, arms race, weapon development, chan kai yee

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