BEIJING/TAIPEI (Reuters) - World War Two was a victory for all Chinese people and Nationalist veterans from Taiwan will be warmly welcomed at a military parade next week, China’s Defence Ministry said on Thursday, as Beijing prepares to welcome a former senior Nationalist leader.
In China’s official narrative, the wartime contribution of Nationalist government troops in battling occupying Japanese troops is hardly mentioned.
Official propaganda focuses almost entirely on the Communist forces, who were also fighting an on-off civil war with the Nationalists. This has upset the government in Taiwan, where the same Nationalist party now governs after their ancestors fled there in 1949 after losing the civil war.
In July, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who is from the Nationalist Party, said it was Nationalist forces who won the war, a fact nobody should distort.
Speaking at a news briefing, Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said the war was a “great victory” for all Chinese and that the audience at a parade rehearsal over the weekend rose to their feet in applause when the Nationalist veterans passed by.
“This fully shows the whole country’s respect for the war veterans,” Yang said, without saying how many of the Nationalist veterans would be coming from Taiwan.
The Nationalists will be represented indirectly by Taiwan’s former vice president, Lien Chan, who will also meet Chinese President Xi Jinping while in Beijing, an aide close to Lien said on Thursday.
But Lien is coming a private citizen on a low-profile trip, said aide Chang Jung-jung, adding that Lien had received an invitation in February.
“China is holding the event to pursue peace,” Chang added. “It’s the whole Chinese people who fought the war against Japan during World War Two, rather than some political party.”
Major Western leaders are not attending, however, unnerved by the Chinese show of force, leaving Xi to stand with leaders and officials from Russia, Sudan, Venezuela and North Korea at his highest-profile event of 2015.
Chinese spokesman Yang said he hoped people in both China and Taiwan could join hands to mark the event together.
Lien’s trip has sparked criticism in democratic Taiwan, where many remain wary of autocratic China’s claims on the island and some want a formal declaration of independence, something Beijing says it will never countenance.
“Taiwan’s defence ministry sees China as an enemy,” said Chou Ni-an, a lawmaker of the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union party.
“By meeting the Chinese leader, Lien has made it clear he sees Taiwan’s dignity as nothing and he has given up on Taiwanese people.”
Editing by Nick Macfie