China’s President Xi Jinping wants to visit the Holocaust Memorial during his state visit to Berlin at the end of March – to expose Japan.
"And back there is the Holocaust Memorial!" Chancellor Merkel and then-Vice President Xi in Berlin, October 2009. photo: ap
Most Chinese are well informed about Japan’s crimes during World War II. Pretty much everyone knows about the Nanjing Massacre, in which Japanese soldiers laid siege to China’s then capital for six weeks in 1937, killing 140,000 to 300,000 people. The atrocities committed by the Nazis, on the other hand, are largely unknown to most Chinese.
But for some weeks now, the crimes of the Germans have also been increasingly picked up by the Chinese state media. However, they are not so much concerned with German history. Rather, they have found in the issue an instrument to expose Japan. Now China’s President Xi Jinping is apparently also joining in this campaign.
According to diplomatic sources, Xi also wants to visit the Holocaust Memorial during his visit to Berlin at the end of March. China wants to focus on World War II during the visit to Germany, they say. The Foreign Office in Berlin does not confirm this information.
"Germany is very much looking forward to Xi Jinping’s visit," a spokesman said. However, nothing could be said about details yet.
Current island dispute between Beijing ud Tokyo
China and Japan have been engaged in fierce disputes for years over an uninhabited group of islands in the East China Sea. Both countries claim the islands for themselves.
The dispute reached a new climax in December when Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe knelt in Tokyo in front of the Yasukuni War Shrine, which also commemorates convicted war criminals.
China’s state television has been increasingly broadcasting documentaries on Germany’s postwar reappraisal policy in recent weeks. Commentators in Chinese state newspapers are calling on Japan to take the Germans as an example.
It is true that Japan, too, has apologized to its neighboring states for its crimes on several occasions in the past. But revisionist statements by top right-wing conservative politicians repeatedly raise doubts about how serious Japan really is about its repentance.
The current prime minister, Abe, caused additional trouble not only with his visit to the shrine at the end of December. At the World Economic Forum a week later, he compared China to Germany before the First World War. China and Japan, he said, are in a "similar situation" to that of Britain and the German Empire in 1914, and China’s rising military spending in particular is a major source of instability in the region.
Hamburg-based sinologist Kai Vogelsang, who researches Chinese historiography, believes the comparisons of the two sides are inappropriate.
Expert: "Simplification of highly complex situations"
"The politically carefully planned and industrially executed genocide in the Third Reich is certainly not the same as the atrocities of a Japanese army gone wild," Vogelsang says.
In turn, he described the comparison of China with Germany before 1914 as a "simplification of two highly complex situations in which far more states were involved in both cases."
What bothers the sinologist above all is the way Xi and Abe ignore the role of their own country. China, he says, has done as little to come to terms with the mass killings during the Mao era as Japan did with its war crimes.
"When Abe compares China to the German Empire, he completely ignores the fact that not only one great power has risen in East Asia in recent years, changing the regional power structure, but a second: Japan."