Friday, December 29, 2006

Nanjin massacre in perspective

Q: In your two essays ["Convergence or Divergence? Recent Historical Writings on the Rape of Nanjing" and "Challenges of Trans-National History: Historians and the Nanjing Atrocities" (see Works Cited)], you extensively covered the scholarship on both Japanese and Chinese sides and mentioned there has been some convergence among Japanese and Chinese historians. Is there still a long way before the two sides reach a transnational consensus on this particular incident?

Yang: First we should be aware that there is no such simple division as Japanese and Chinese side. Among Japanese themselves there are various positions and they've been debating each other....

This is a very sensitive and emotional issue for Chinese. Especially the number issue [the number of victims (see In the 1990s)] is very sensitive in China. And secondly, Chinese scholars are not fully up-to-date on Japanese research or Japanese sources. In a sense they are handicapped to appreciate the kind of research done in Japan.

On the Japanese side I still see people primarily use the Rape of Nanjing as a political tactic. So not everybody in Japan is treating the Rape of Nanjing as a scholarly subject. In turn that creates a vicious cycle making it very difficult for Chinese scholars to accept or appreciate different views or conclusions in Japan.

Q: Is there any positive prospect?

Yang: I see indications. There has already been some joint work, so to speak, done by some Chinese and Japanese scholars. For example, Professor Kasahara [at Tsuru University] and his colleagues participated in a conference in China even though their specific conclusions are not exactly as Chinese conclusions.

I also think that as more and more sources come out, especially the diaries and new battle records discovered in Japan, then translated into Chinese, these new materials serve as very convincing sources that help establish the parameter of the atrocities in the sense that these are the kind of sources that all sides can agree on.

Q: You mentioned the number of victims is still very sensitive (see In the 1990s). What is the latest scholarship on that particular issue?

Yang: It is not probably a good idea to begin with numbers. I think that's very difficult. I think we should begin with the general understanding that, given the passage of time, given the disappearance of many critical documents, given the fact that to fully understand how many people died, you really have to ask those who got killed, it's impossible, basically.

So we have to understand the limit of what historians, 50 or 60 years later, or even ten years later, could do in order to establish the exact scale of massacred victims....

We also have to be aware that the atrocities are not just about people being killed. Rape, looting, destruction of property, I think it is more important to understand the whole picture of the Atrocity....

I think it's possible and probably a good idea to leave a certain ambiguity within a range. There is sometimes the view that the more precise the figure, the better. I think it's a very naive misconception.

Q: According to what I have read, Chinese soldiers also extensively torched houses and buildings in the name of a "scorched earth" policy and they looted some shops before the city fell (see Fall of Nanking). In my impression, this is something rarely mentioned by Chinese scholars and always mentioned by "deniers" and other very conservative scholars in Japan. What is your standpoint on the Chinese soldiers in Nanking?

Yang: The scorched-earth policy was a politically strategic decision taken by China and it had enormous costs on the Chinese part. But, on the other hand, in some cases, I'm not talking about this case, but in some military situations, a scorched-earth policy may be the only way to stop the enemy. You can talk about when Russians defeated Napoleon.... Of course, throughout the Sino-Japanese War, Chinese were extreme....

There are two aspects to this [Chinese looting]. Discipline of Chinese forces was generally not very good in the Republican period after 1927, especially after Chiang Kai-shek consolidated his power. Some of his best troops, shall we say, behaved better than those locally recruited forces. So there were differences in discipline among the Chinese. Some were pretty bad. Some were pretty good. Whatever the case, it is true that there were Chinese looting. It is undeniable.

However, the question is what we make of this fact.... Of course some people can say, look, the Japanese troops' behavior wasn't that bad because there was looting on the Chinese side. To some extent this is true. We should not expect any troops to be saints. In a way it is important to bring that aspect out so that we can understand the condition of the battle better.

So in general I am in favor of bringing those aspects out. I don't think Chinese historians are going to defend the reputation of those Chinese forces. But they would probably say we have to put it into perspective.* see note

Q: The descriptions of the Rape of Nanjing in Japanese history textbooks are also another issue that often comes up in the polemic. Could I ask your opinion on this?

Yang: Of course there was initial misreporting by Japanese press. Those wordings were not changed in 1982. But I think it is generally true that there was a tendency on the part of Ministry of Education to downplay the aggression the Japanese Imperial Army committed, and the atrocity committed. That has, of course, alarmed the Chinese government. Yes, there was misinformation but it was not entirely groundless. There was something, I think, Japanese historians like Ienaga Saburo pointed their fingers at.

On the other hand, I have to say that Japanese have, since the textbook incident, changed considerably for the better, in general, in terms of inclusion of accounts of wartime atrocities. I am not saying that they should all repeat what Chinese are saying. I think it's not necessary as long as they are facing squarely the dark side of the country's history, which I think every country should do.

I think the textbooks in general have been taking a positive development, and hence you have more backlashes from the conservative forces of

I think he is fair. Nothing is wrong with debating historical issue, but history is history and politics is politics, the confusion between the two will bring about the devastating result.

On the one hand, I think so-called denier went extreme. Just because there are exaggeration and the distortion, it does not follow that there was no Nanjin massacre.
Even Justice Pal, who sentenced 14 A criminals not guilty at Tokyo trial admitted that there was a massacre in Nanjin.

I might mention in this connection that even the published accounts of Nanking "rape" could not be accepted by the world without some suspicion of exaggeration. Referring the the same incident, even as far back as November 10, 1938, Colonel Stewart (in the chair) at Chatham House considered that such things as happened as Nanking were regrettable, but that he "could canst his mind back to 1900, and see that whatever was happening now, it was probable that the Japanese learned it from other nations."
Referring to the same incident, Sir Charls Addis on that occasion could say:
"Between two counties at war there was always a danger that one or other of the combatants would seek to turn public opinion in his favour by resort to a propaganda in which incidents, inseparable alas(!) from all hostilities, were magnified and distorted for the express purpose of inflaming prejudice and passion and obscuring the real issues of the conflict."....
,,,,,If we scrutinize the evidence about Nanking rape carefully, similar suspicion would again be unavoidable.
The two main witness of Nanking atrocities are Hsu Chuan-Ying and John Gillespie Magee.......
It seems these witness accepted every story told to them and viewed every case as a rape case. .....
I am not sure if we not here getting accounts of events witnessed by excited of prejudiced observers.
If we proceed to weigh the evidence carefully we shall find that in many cases the opportunity for observing the happening must have been of the most fleeting kind; yet the positiveness of the witnesses is sometimes in the inverse ratio to their opportunity for knowledge. In many cases, their conviction was induced only by excitability which perhaps served to arouse credulity in them and acted as a persuasive interpreter of probabilities and possibilities. All the irrelevance of rumors and canny guess became hidden under a predisposition to believe the worst, created perhaps by the emotion normal to the victims of injury.
Keeping in view everything that can be said against the evidence adduced in this case in this respect and making every possible allowance for propaganda and exaggeration, the evidence is still overwhelming that atrocities were perpetrated by the members of the Japanese armed forces against the civilian population of some of the territories occupied by them as also against the prisoners of war.Dissentient Judgement of Justice Pal/page 606-608

On the other hand, CCP's historians can not deny the denier's point that there were atrocities on Chinese side too.

As the professor above said, there was looting and torching by Chinese troops.
They also tend to forget to mention the Massacres by Chinese troop just before the Nanjin massacre in Shanghai and in Tongzhou
And Chinese soldiers putting off the uniform with the arms smuggling into the safety zone made the massacre of civililian more fierce.

I don't think something is to be gained if Chinese wants to demonize Japanese or they want to use it politically ; though, nobody can deny the atrocities were demonic.

But this is not all. American people tend to regard the incident as something unrelated to them. But when it comes to Atomic bombs, and the mistreatment of German POWs, they tend to fiercely deny it.
I wonder what is the big difference?

Matsui thought it was necessary to take over Nanjin to end the war.
Matsui warned Nanjin to surrender.
Matsui did not intend to massacre civilians.

Truman thought, so it is argued, it was necessary to nuke Japan to end the war.
Truman bombed without warning.
Truman targeted civilian districts.

Now I have no intention to demonize Americans. For that matter, I have no intention to whitewash Nanjin Massacre by bringing the attention to other sides.
And someone might argue the comparison is iandequate. But the point is that the attention should be put in wider perspective. And if that is done, I think we'll know there is nothing to be gained politically by making history the political agenda.

Photos document brutality in Shanghai
September 23, 1996
Web posted at: 10:15 a.m. EDT (1415 GMT)

From Bangkok Bureau Chief Tom Mintier

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- Relations between Japan and China, strained in recent months over a disputed chain of uninhabited islands, may fray even further because of 18 small, grainy black and white photos taken 59 years ago.
(113 sec./937K QuickTime movie - Warning: contains violent images.)

The photos, taken by a Swiss photographer near Shanghai in 1937, all depict the brutality of Chinese soldiers toward Japanese prisoners and Shanghai residents accused of helping the Japanese as they began their military conquest of China.

The photos are so disturbing that Tom Simmen, who was in Shanghai on business and asked to witness the executions by the Chinese, kept them hidden away. But he told his son to make them public. Check out
the Vivo movie

Photos document brutality in Shanghai - Warning: contains violent images.

Download a player
Vivo's technical FAQ

"It was his wish that I publish it," said John Simmen. "He said it would finance his stay in the hospital."

John Simmen is now trying to find a publisher for the graphic photos. He said that he has been offered 3,000 German marks per photo, but that his primary concern is to let people know what his father told him happened in Shanghai.

"They enjoyed it," Simmen said. "They (were) waiting for the head to get cut off, then they took the head and played football ... I mean that was a terrible thing." (13sec./134K AIFF or WAV sound)Image of decapitated bodies.

Simmen's father told him that the Chinese soldiers used a variety of torture methods on prisoners, including suspending them in wooden cages by the neck until they died of starvation. Image of man being tortured.

Some were shot, and their bodies stacked for mass burials. Others, mostly Chinese nationals accused of aiding the Japanese, were beheaded with a large sword.Image of bodies in a cart.

"For a Chinese," Simmen said, "somebody collaborating at that time with Japanese was worse than the Japanese because he sold out his own people."

Simmen said that his father destroyed the negatives before leaving China, and that his then-pregnant mother smuggled the prints out under her clothing.

The photos, Simmen said, will most likely reopen the wounds of war for many Japanese and Chinese with connections to Shanghai in 1937. But unlike the atrocities committed by the German Nazis during World War II, he said, too many have forgotten what happened in China

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