• Fri
  • Nov 28, 2014
  • Updated: 4:09pm

Germany won't be dragged into row between China and Japan, envoy says

As President Xi Jinping arrives in Berlin, ambassador to China warns that row over wartime history between Beijing and Tokyo is off limits

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 March, 2014, 5:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 March, 2014, 2:45am

Germany does not want to be involved in the bitter exchanges between Beijing and Tokyo over their wartime history, the country's ambassador to China says.

Beijing has pointed to the European nation's atonement for its aggression in the second world war as an example Japan should follow to make amends for its invasion of China.

Michael Clauss told the South China Morning Post - as President Xi Jinping arrived in Germany - that Berlin welcomed Chinese interest in how Germans had dealt with their history.

But he added: "We do not want to see our approach to history exploited to stir up tensions between Tokyo and Beijing. That is a different matter."

Berlin had close relations with both of Asia's leading economic powers and saw "no reason why we should be drawn into their bilateral territorial conflict".

Germany's position was well-known in Beijing, Clauss said.

The remarks came as Xi arrived on the first visit by a Chinese president to Germany.

Xi held talks with German Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel and was due to sign several economic and trade agreements. Chinese officials earlier denied overseas media reports that Xi wanted to visit the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

Beijing stepped up its diplomatic offensive against Tokyo after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates the nation's war dead, including 14 leading war criminals.

Beijing drew a comparison between the shrine visit and the Nazis, with Chinese state television showing footage of former West German chancellor Willy Brandt falling to his knees in front of a memorial to victims of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising while on a visit to Poland.

Rebuking China, Abe compared Japan's relationship with China to that of Britain and Germany on the eve of the first world war. Clauss said that analogy did not mean war was inevitable, but he urged China and Japan to engage in substantial dialogue to reduce the tensions.

Reconciliation in Europe after the second world war was not only the result of Germany's efforts but the effort of all European nations, he said.

We don't want to see our approach to history exploited to stir up tension
Michael Clauss, German ambassador

"After all the catastrophes of the 20th century, Europeans finally realised that they had to find a different way," he said.

"Germany had to come to terms with its wartime history, and at the same time it was essential that other European nations took steps towards reconciliation and accepted Germany's sincere apologies."

Clauss said European nations had also created a system of rule of law, settling disputes through the European Court of Justice or negotiations.

Abe has said his government will adhere to apologies for wartime behaviour made by past cabinets in 1993 and 1995.

While in Germany, Xi was expected to cover a wide range of issues in talks with Merkel, with the situation in Ukraine likely to be prominent, Clauss said.

China abstained in a UN Security Council resolution condemning the Moscow-engineered referendum that led to Crimea joining Russia, a move that Clauss said was a signal Beijing had no intention of taking a stronger line on the issue. "China seems ambivalent. On the one hand it is trying not to step on Russian President Vladimir Putin's toes, and on the other hand China avoids openly supporting Russia," he said.

But Germany and China could still discuss ways to prevent the conflict from escalating, he said. "It is important we prevent the situation in Ukraine from deteriorating and rein in Russian ambitions."

An expansion of bilateral trade and financial co-operation will be discussed during Xi's visit. Companies of both nations, including carmakers, are set to sign a series of agreements, and a deal to make Frankfurt a centre for offshore trade in yuan was signed yesterday.

Chinese companies have invested €1.2 billion (HK$12.85 billion) in Germany and Clauss expected the figure to grow.

"We believe that foreign investors buying up domestic companies is a healthy process and should not be subject to restrictions on either side, neither in Germany nor in China," he said.

Human rights were also part of ties, Clauss said, adding Germany saw "some worrying developments" with the arrest in China of peaceful activists.

Clauss said Merkel was expected to visit China in summer and Premier Li Keqiang would visit Germany in October.


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This article is now closed to comments

Max Diethelm
Why Germany can repent for war-crimes in WW2 is based on two reasons. One was after 1945 Germany was partitioned into 4 parts with the US, France, Britain and the Soviet Union administrating those parts with the Soviet part becoming East Germany (later to be reunited after the fall of the Berlin Wall). The process of deNazification was conducted more thoroughly especially in the Soviet area of control. Although a lot of Nazis escaped to the Americas including some Nazi rocket experts like Verner Von Braun who went to the US, basically Nazis can find no safe refuge in post WW2 Germany. Secondly, most Germans are Roman Catholic and the teachings of religion went a long way in accepting blame and in repenting. In Japan, the USA was the sole occupier and with the outbreak of the Korean war and Cold war was not interested in cleansing Japan of the war-criminals and fascists most of whom were rehabilitated with the help of the 100 Billion USD loot in gold and precious valuables stolen from Asia during Japan's brutal occupation. The rehabilitated fascists went on to form the LDP and some even served as Prime Ministers. So unlike post WW2 Germany in which no Nazis can find refuge, post WW2 Japanese society was full of war-criminals and fascists in control of business and government. This situation continues to this day. The other reason for the difference is religion, where Catholicism stresses confession and repentance, Shintoism in Japan stresses Japanese belligerence.
A Matsui
To expect Japanese rightists and fascists who are infernal liars and provocateurs to accept blame and learn the right lessons from the history of the brutal Japanese occupation and looting of Asia, the barbarism of Imperial Japan when Japan today is ruled by the LDP, a fascist and recalcitrant political party is asking for the impossible. Unfortunately for the world and especially for the Japanese themselves, Japan was occupied by the USA which tolerated the Japanese fascists. Japan would have been better off occupied by the Soviet Union. If so, certainly today Japanese fascism would have been totally eliminated y the Russians. At the very least Hirohito the war-criminal would have been hanged and the Yasukuni War Shrine closed down and the false Shinto religion banned.
Clauss said:
“China seems ambivalent. On the one hand it is trying not to step on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s toes and on the other hand China avoids openly supporting Russia.”
But then, he also said:
"We do not want to see our approach to history exploited in order to stir up tensions between Tokyo and Beijing....no reason why we should be drawn into their bilateral territirial dispute."
Classic hypocrite talking.
ejmciii - Sounds like your version of rosy colored history here. In 1941, what's just the start of WW2 for the US, 27 out of 51 divisions of the IJA were preoccupied in China despite a civil war and rampant warlords. If those 27 divisions were freed up to confront the US, you really think things would have necessarily turned out well for the US? Up until 1940, the US provided 80% of oil used by Japan, oil that powered their military expeditions in China. And has the US say in how Japan was reconstructed gone well? Japan today actively portrays itself as a victim to American aggression in WW2. It goes to CA and NJ to actively try and influence removal of war memorials that stands in their way of revisionist history. How sad is that. Btw, you also mentioned the USSR opening a second front on Japan, can't just say the US conquered Japan alone.
The US had their own civil war, should it be considered pathetic? In fact, maybe China wouldn't have went down the road of internal turmoil with warlords and civil war had it not been for foreign colonial powers peddling their opium, carving up Chinese territory, destabilizing central govt, and creating the environment ripe for a civil war. Even today, what the US/Europe does in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, etc leaves those places in turmoil. Whatever despot deposed, are those places any more stable? Nope. For many ordinary folk in those places, life got much worse.
Why SHOULDN'T Germany be "dragged into this row"? As though this were just some difference of opinion between reasonable people? Would it be so offended if the parties involved were Tutsis and Hutus? Somehow I doubt it. Somehow I think this is just another instance of "Chinese exceptionalism." Is the territorial dispute the only or even the best reason why we want to talk about Germany's contrition? No, but we are wily, vulgar Chinese - that's his point.
By the way, Germany, none of us gets to control how other people use our history. It's there as a matter of record for anyone to point to as an example. So get off your high horse. One would think you'd have learned not to look down your nose at other people by now. "Exploitation" is just an epithet.
Your entire response is premised on Germany agreeing with China, needing, or being asked to be an active participant in the debate. Reread the article again and tell me where that's true.
But that doesn't stop them from feeling entitled to lecture a country like a schoolteacher lectures a child.
True but they do not have to agree to be used in the debate as though they agree with Beijing. No one can stop China in manufacturing its arguments, but that does not mean Germany needs to be actively involved in the debate. Sorry that offends your sensibilities that anyone would be willing to limit his support for China because he wants to maintain a cordial relationship with the nation whose lands China wants to steal. Perish the thought.
get your thinking straight here:
Fair enough if Germany doesn't need to be "dragged into someone else's issue". Why then expect China to be dragged into an issue between Europe and Russia?
what we should do in the most priority is to take care of our nationals simultaneously to protect our developments, lead our socity forward, we chinese derserve better
Well it was the US and not the Chinese who actually conquered the Japanese. You all were too busy fighting the first part of your own civil war rather than fighting the Japanese, relying on the Americans for support and the Americans to bring the USSR into the war to finish off the Japanese forces in China. So if you had not been so pathetic you might have had a say in how Japan was reconstructed. You were pathetic and did not. So it goes.



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