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China, Japan open German front in diplomatic war

BEIJING -- One hundred years after the outbreak of World War I, China and Japan are ripping selected pages from Germany's history — including the Nazi period — as they seek to demonize each other in their modern-day diplomatic battles.

Beijing's state-controlled media has compared Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Adolf Hitler, using shrill rhetoric that analysts say exploits Tokyo's mixed messages about its past aggression in China and elsewhere.

At the same time, they urge him to emulate Germany's post-war contrition for the evils of Nazism.

Abe, for his part, has raised the specter of 1914, saying at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland that relations between Japan and China resemble those of Britain and Germany as they stumbled towards war.

Tokyo and Beijing are locked in an increasingly acrimonious dispute over small, uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that Japan controls but China regards as its territory, with their militaries warily eyeing each other.

Commentators have likened China, a rising power, to Germany in the early 20th century and portrayed the islands as Sarajevo, site of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that triggered the Great War.

In Davos, Abe pointed out that war broke out in 1914 despite strong economic relations between Germany and Britain.

“I think we are in a similar situation. We don't want an inadvertent conflict arising between these two countries,” he told reporters.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang roundly rejected the simile Thursday. “Actually in history China was already a major country in the Tang and Song dynasties (from the seventh to the 13th centuries), so there is no so-called 'China is becoming a major country,'” he said.

“There is no need to make an issue of the Britain-Germany relationship.”

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