Nanjing (AsiaNews) - President Xi Jinping commemorated with unprecedented solemnity the Nanjing (Nanking) Massacre of 1937, when Japanese troops killed more than 300,000 Chinese, mostly civilians, following the invasion of the country.
China raised the profile of commemorations this year as part of three new holidays to mark major wartime events. A crowd of about 10,000 people attended the event.
In his speech, Xi described the massacre as "a horrendous crime against humanity and a very dark page in the history of mankind."
"Any dismissive attitudes towards the history of the invasion and any comments glorifying the war are harmful to peace and justice of the human race," said Xi, in an apparent jab at Japanese politicians who visit to the Yasukuni shrine.
The structure contains the remains of soldiers deemed "heroes" in Japan; however, some of them are considered "war criminals" in other countries.
Xi stressed that the ceremony should favour peace, not "prolong hatred". Nevertheless, "people should at no time forget the heinous crimes committed by the invaders".
The Nanjing Massacre (which the Chinese often describe as the "rape of Nanjing") is one of the most sensitive issues in Sino-Japanese relations.
According to Beijing, Tokyo has never fully apologised for the crime. Conversely, Japan accuses China of purposefully inflating the figures.
In either case, national leaders appear to be using the past to stir up their citizens against the other country to boost public support for their governments.