War celebrations not meant to vex Japan, says official

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 July, 2005, 12:00am

Spokesman highlights cultural links shared by both countries

Mainland celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the end of the Sino-Japanese war are not aimed at fanning anti-Japanese sentiment at a time of strained bilateral ties, a mainland official said yesterday.

Zhao Qizheng , minister of the State Council Information Office, said the patriotism advocated by Beijing as the theme of this year's anniversary celebrations should not be viewed as being in deliberate opposition to Japan.

'China is simply one of the countries in the world that is marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war. We should not link it with Sino-Japanese ties,' Mr Zhao said.

He said Beijing would hold a photographic exhibition in Tokyo to mark the 'friendly ties' between the two countries since the end of the Sino-Japanese war.

He said the two countries had many similar cultural traditions and most people in both countries welcomed closer cultural links.

'Cultural exchanges are the foundation for comprehensive communication [between China and Japan]. We should strengthen our existing cultural links and not let the positive momentum be affected by the strained political relations,' he said.

'We should acknowledge differences and treasure common ground so as to conduct dialogue.'

He warned that economic links between the two countries would be affected by territorial disputes and disagreements over history.

'The economic ties will not be sustainable' if ties are not improved, he said.

Mr Zhao will open the photo exhibition in Tokyo this month.

'I will make clear [to the Japanese government and its people] that the Chinese government attaches importance to the bilateral ties. However, I will let them know that we are not happy with the Japanese leader's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine,' he said.

Although Beijing insists China's resistance to the Japanese invasion was a major contribution to the outcome of the second world war, Mr Zhao said there were no plans to invite any foreign heads of state to take part in the country's anniversary activities.

As part of the nationwide commemorative activities, a major exhibition to be held next month in Hong Kong will break a long-held mainland taboo by highlighting the positive contributions of Kuomintang troops.

'We should respect history and be truthful to it,' Mr Zhao said. 'The KMT troops' fight against the Japanese invaders was part of the Chinese people's anti-Japanese war and their loss of life was among the sacrifices made by the Chinese people.'

Mr Zhao, 65, tipped to retire soon after serving as Beijing's world spokesman for seven years, expressed his hope for a stronger Chinese voice on the world stage.

'We cannot solely rely on our own media because the Chinese language is used in rather limited areas around the world.'