BEIJING/TAIPEI • World War II 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 yesterday, as Beijing prepares to welcome a former senior Kuomintang (KMT) leader.
In China's official narrative, the contribution of KMT 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 KMT.
This has upset the government in Taiwan, where the KMT now governs after its ancestors fled there in 1949 after losing the civil war. Last month, Taiwan's President Ma Yingjeou, who is from the KMT party, said it was KMT 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 KMT veterans passed by.
"This fully shows the whole country's respect for the war veterans," Mr Yang said, without saying how many of the KMT veterans would be coming from Taiwan.
The KMT will be represented indirectly by Taiwan's former vice-president, Mr Lien Chan, who will also meet Chinese President Xi Jinping while in Beijing, an aide close to Mr Lien said yesterday.
But Mr Lien is coming as a private citizen on a low-profile trip, said his aide, Mr Chang Jung-jung.
"China is holding the event to pursue peace," Mr Chang added. "It's the whole Chinese people who fought the war against Japan during World War II, rather than some political party."
Major Western leaders are not attending, however, unnerved by the Chinese show of force, leaving Mr Xi to stand with leaders and officials from Russia, Sudan, Venezuela and North Korea at his highest-profile event of the year.
Mr Yang said he hoped people in both China and Taiwan could join hands to mark the event together.
Mr 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 Mr 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," he said.