China aims for Nanjing's history to speak loudly on Japan

NANJING, China Thu Feb 20, 2014 7:37am EST

1 of 2. Journalists and visitors look at skeletons of victims of the 1937 Nanjing massacre at the Nanjing Massacre Museum during a media trip, in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, February 19, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Aly Song

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NANJING, China (Reuters) - China pressed a propaganda campaign against Japan this week with a guided visit to the site of the 1937 Nanjing massacre, holding up proof to refute doubts by some in Japan about the extent of the atrocity or even that it happened at all.

China's ties with Japan have long been poisoned by what China sees as Japan's failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China before and during World War Two.

China is determined to sustain the memories.

Japanese leaders have made repeated apologies for the suffering that Japan's Imperial Army inflicted but remarks by conservative politicians have cast doubt on Japan's sincerity.

Japanese troops battling Chinese forces captured Nanjing in late 1937. The city, then known as Nanking, was the Chinese capital.

China says in the weeks that followed, Japanese troops killed 300,000 people. A post-war Allied tribunal put the death toll at 142,000.

To the fury of China, some conservative Japanese politicians and academics deny that the massacre took place, or they put the death toll much lower.

Just this month, China criticized a member of the board of Japan's state broadcaster for saying the massacre did not happen.

China's anger over the past is never far from the surface of relations that have deteriorated sharply over the past 18 months because of a dispute over a chain of islands in the East China Sea.

Ships from both countries shadow each other around the islets and Japan has scrambled jets numerous times in response to Chinese aircraft, raising fears of a clash.

Ties have worsened since China demarcated an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea and a visit in December by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine honoring war criminals among war dead.

Compounding China's suspicion is the belief that Abe is intent on revising Japan's pacifist constitution adopted after its World War Two defeat.


On a two-day trip to Nanjing which ended on Thursday, Chinese officials reminded foreign reporters of Japan's aggression, showing them skeletons of victims in a memorial hall and letting them hear the testimony of an octogenarian survivor, Xia Shuqin.

Xia, 83, tearfully recounted how Japanese troops on December 13, 1937, killed her whole family except her and her four-year-old sister.

"There are still Japanese who are so bad," she said. "Some still deny history and call me a fraud. I escaped from the massacre and crawled out from under dead bodies."

"The evidence is not fabricated by the Chinese, there are too many documents including many foreign government documents," said Zhang Xianwen, a Nanjing University historian who worked on a compendium of documents of the massacre.

At the municipal archives, researchers wearing white gloves displayed about a dozen time-worn documents relating to the massacre, pulling them one-by-one from a beige lock-box and holding them up for the group to see.

The documents appeared brittle and tanned with age. Some were hand-written, with red marks from chop used to stamp people's names.

"We are doing this with the purpose of letting the archives talk ... The massacre can never be denied," said Wang Han, deputy director general of the Nanjing Archives Bureau.

"Facts are always facts. I can't help it if some people do not admit to them. Archives are proof of the facts, recordings of the truth are the most forceful form of proof. You could say that the proof of the archives speaks louder than the denials."

As Chinese officials were keeping the history alive in Nanjing, Abe was telling parliament in Tokyo that Japan had caused great pain and his government would stand by past apologies.

"As I've said before, in the past many nations, especially those in Asia, suffered great damage and pain due to our nation. Our government recognizes this, as have the governments that have gone before, and will continue this stance," he said.

(Additional reporting by Linda Sieg in TOKYO; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Comments (12)
Tiu wrote:
The way Japan is rejecting its WW2 terms of surrender are very similar to what Hitler did prior to WW2. I do realize that WW2 was quite a long time ago, but at the end of it Japan was left with only it four main islands. Unfortunately the terms of surrender were not overly well written from what is available to read.
What I can’t understand is the reaction from the west, but there again, that too also has similarities with what was going on prior to WW2. Syria could be playing the part of Spain.

Feb 20, 2014 8:45am EST  --  Report as abuse
carlmartel wrote:
I didn’t know that Reuters was a Holocaust Denier. If China engages in “propaganda” about Nanjing, then the jews must have bombed and gassed millions of people, blamed it on Hitler and the Nazis, and sneaked away to commit ethnic cleansing against Arabs in Palestine. The next atrocity was that the jews bombed Pearl Harbor and murdered Americans during the Bataan Death March and blamed all of this on Japan. We should nuke Israel off the face of the earth for these crimes. Then, we should apologize to the descendants of Hitler, other Nazis, Tojo, and Japan’s other military leaders.

Be careful of “propaganda” because some people may take action based on it. Recently, we had WMD’s that didn’t exist in Iraq and a “No Fly Zone” that became the Libyan Rebel Air Force. Neither situation has turned out well. Ask the 4500 dead Americans from Iraq and Ambassador Chris Stevens from Libya about that.

Feb 20, 2014 3:47pm EST  --  Report as abuse
thelaowai wrote:
Nobody rejects that the Nanjing Massacre happened. What they reject is how China’s exaggeration of the event and constantly babbling on about it. You don’t see the Israeli’s making 20 Jewish holocaust movies every year and having half of their TV shows feature Jewish soldiers murdering German soldiers?

We all know it was a terrible event. And everyone else has gotten over it. China just uses it as a tool to foment anger and divert the attention of small minded people away from fact that much of their personal misery is a result of Chinese government behavior.

It’s one of the oldest tools in the policy handbook. Bush used it to invade Iraq. China uses it for many reasons, none of them good or worthy of your attention.

Feb 20, 2014 7:53pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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