China wants a ‘strong focus’ on WWII during President Xi Jinping’s trip to Germany next month, sources told Reuters in an exclusive report, while Beijing attempts to use Germany as a pawn in its dispute with Japan by making an example of German atonement for its wartime past—and Germany’s not having it.
Xi is scheduled to arrive in Germany in late March, around which time he’ll be making trips to France, the Netherlands and Belgium, diplomats in Beijing disclosed. Although it’s not clear what Xi wants to say about the war during his stay in Germany, diplomatic sources briefed on Xi’s plans say that he wants to make the topic a key part of his trip.
“China wants a strong focus on World War Two when Xi visits Germany and Germany is not happy,” the source told Reuters.
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 honors war dead but not recognized 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.
This marks the latest of controversies to surface from an ongoing feud between the two Asian powers, worsened when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine on December 26 and shit more or less hit the fan.
China wants German officials to go to Japan and ‘tell them how to cope with history’, sources say, although Japanese leaders have apologized on a number of occasions for the country’s wartime actions.
“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 recognizes this, as have the governments that have gone before, and will continue this stance,” Abe said while taking questions in parliament on Thursday.
Abe continues to defend his visit to the shrine, stressing that the intention of the visit was not to honor war criminals but to pay respects to the fallen and to pledge that Japan will never again go to war.
Meanwhile, China continues to draw parallels between the current conflict and those that ensued in Germany during WWII, even calling the Yasukuni shrine “a symbol of Asian Nazism/Fascism”.
“The Germans are really uncomfortable with this kind of thing,” another diplomatic source told Reuters. “They don’t like China constantly comparing them with Japan and going on about the war.”