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China Dismisses WWI Comparison Amid Tense Relations With Japan

Japan China

Screenshot from Youku. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi talks Sino-Japan relations at a press conference on March 8, 2013 in Beijing

China once again bristled at comparing the country’s spat with Japan to Britain-Germany relations prior to WWI, saying that the Japanese leaders must respect “conscience of mankind” and “the bottom line of the international convention”.

In a tightly scripted Q&A presser on Saturday, March 8, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rejected the comparison and said, “2014 is neither 1914 nor 1894, it’s better for [Japan] to regard post-war Germany as a role model than make a fuss about Germany before WWI.”

Wang studied Japanese in university and was the former Chinese Ambassador to Japan. 

Tensions are high between China and Japan as the two countries are locked in a dispute in the East China Sea over a set of islands known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.

In a keynote speech in Davos earlier this year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stunned the audience by likening Sino-Japanese relations to Britain and Germany's rivalry ahead of WWI, a parallel that drew strong reactions from Chinese diplomats.  

Last December, Abe further enraged China after visiting a shrine that honors soldiers including WWII criminals.

Atrocities committed by the Japanese army in China during the WWII are widely documented in Chinese history books and TV dramas. Several massive street protests erupted in major Chinese cities in 2012 after the Japanese government purchased the island in question from a private owner. 

“On issues of history and sovereignty, there is room to make compromises,” Wang Yi warned at the presser. 

Wang also told reporters that the country will continue to pursue a more proactive foreign policy in 2014. 

China last year declared an air defense zone over the East China Sea and requested all aircraft flying through to file flight plans. The move was widely criticized by the West and Japan as unilateral, but vigorously defended by Chinese authorities and public.

The online community in China reacted positively toward Wang's comments.

Nie Weiping, a prominent Chinese chess player, wrote on the popular microblogging service Sina Weibo:

与其拿一战前的德国来做文章,不如以二战后的德国来作榜样。只有认真清算过去,不再出尔反尔,才能走出僵局,开辟未来。————说得真好,到位! 

It’s better for [Japan] to regard post-war Germany as a role model than make a fuss about the Germany before the WWI. Only when [Japan] seriously reflects on its past and keeps its promises can we break the standstill and build a better future—— Well said, very to-the-point!

Huang Shengyou commented:

 王毅这个回答,很给力!

The answer from Wang Yi was very powerful!

Sunshine Aiwei wrote:

外交部部长王毅回答的太精彩!!点赞!!!2014不是1914,更不是1894!!

Comments from Foreign Minister Wang Yi were awesome!! Thumbs-up!! 2014 is neither 1914 nor 1894!! 

Xishuai Conglai Bumaimeng, a resident of southwestern Guangxi, saw the problem from a different angle:

二战后的德国,进北约,建军队,出口军备,日本学哪一样中国的小心脏都受不了啊 

Germany joined NATO and built up its army after WWII, and it also started to sell weapons. Whatever Japan might learn from Germany will not be well received by China. 

  • Kung Tong Tung

    I bet the Chinese aren’t thinking about how well this is going down in Germany. They are essentially telling the Germans how they should have done things that they already did. It is putting the Chinese morality above that of the Germans, who have been solid members of the EU for a long time whereas China has just about pissed off all its neighbours.
    Not a good debate, using one country to historically attack another. The Chinese are beginning to sound like the Jews in the incessant whining (and no that is not meant to be anti-semetic), its just a comparison.

    • Laila

      Wtf China is acting like the Jews so is Korea wtf let go of the past smh. P.S I totally agree with your statement hopefully Asia could have peace one day and not go to war for a piece of fucking rocks. Lol

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