BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday lauded the contribution of the Czech people during World War Two in a meeting with the country's head of state, the only Western leader to attend a massive military parade in Beijing this week.
Other Western leaders stayed away, nervous about sharing the stage with dignitaries such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, and about China's message to a region worried by its growing military assertiveness over claims in the South China Sea.
Meeting Czech President Milos Zeman in the Great Hall of the People, Xi said his appearance at the parade "showed a spirit of respecting historical fact", state news agency Xinhua said.
"On the European battlefield, the Czech people never yielded, and many anti-fascist heroes sprang up that all are familiar with," Xi said.
Xinhua quoted Zeman as saying he was "very happy" to have appeared at the parade and that his country paid great attention to developing ties with China.
The Chinese government did not raise a fuss in public about the snubbing of the parade by Western leaders, saying it was up to each country to decide who it sent and that those who did come would be welcomed.
But grumbles did appear in state media that such absence was a sign of disrespect to the millions of Chinese who died in the war, especially because countries such as the United States and Britain fought with China against Japan.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez