China’s state-owned media have published stinging criticism of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his apparent comparison of Tokyo’s strained relations with Beijing to the British-German relationship before the First World War. The Japanese government had eventually claimed that the transcript of the interview where Abe supposedly made the comment was embellished by the translator, but China has been firm in its response to this.
“Abe’s outright distortion of truth and blatant smearing of China using his gangster logic is proof of Japan’s refusal to recognize its depraved history of imperialist aggression, expansion and colonial domination,” the state-backed People’s Daily wrote in an editorial. The opinion piece was then translated to English and published in Xinhua, the official news agency of the Chinese Communist Party, in an apparent effort for the editorial to be distributed to a global audience. “Abe is wrong,” the editorial added, “but he sought foundation from pre-WWI history like a hungry man who is not choosy about his food.” This editorial comes as tensions between the two largest Asian economies escalate to new heights, mainly over a territorial dispute over islands in the East China Sea and issues regarding Japan’s perspective of its aggression during the Second World War.
The comments in question were made during Abe’s meeting with reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month. The Japanese premier was asked a question regarding the possibility of armed conflict between Japan and China. Abe was quoted at that time by international media outlets as saying that there is a distinct parallel between current Japan-China relations and those of Britain and Germany before World War I. The transcript of the Japanese remarks does not reportedly contain the exact phrasing that was quoted, and Tokyo had later claimed that Abe’s comments had been blown out of proportion by a translator.
An AFP translation of the Japanese remarks, as provided by Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, goes this way: “This year marks the 100th year since the first world war. At the time, Britain and Germany had a strong economic relationship, but they went to war. I mention this historical background by way of additional comment. If something like you suggest were to happen, it would cause serious losses to both Japan and China, but also cause significant damage to the world. We must ensure this will not happen.”