Nanjing Incident merits deeper discussion, study
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Thursday will mark the 70th anniversary of the Nanjing Incident. Already 70 years have passed since the controversial incident took place. This is a good time for both Japan and China to deepen a cool dialogue on history.
On Dec. 13, 1937, when the Imperial Japanese Army occupied Nanjing, the then capital of China, a great many Chinese citizens became victims of the occupation.
In Nanjing on Thursday, the anniversary of the fall of Nanjing, the Memorial Hall to the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre will reopen after completing a two-year large-scale expansion project. At the same time, a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the event will be held.
Japan-China relations have improved thanks to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to China last year and the visit paid to Japan in April by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. China has been avoiding blatant criticism of Japan, out of apparent consideration for the changing situation. China did not make any negative comments even when the Defense Agency was upgraded to a ministry in January.
At present, 70 years after the event, the Nanjing Incident is not on the bilateral political agenda.
However, there still is a deeply rooted anti-Japanese sentiment among the Chinese public. Surfing China-based Web sites reveals anti-Japanese opinions being expressed by Chinese youth across the country.
Taught to hate?
Since the mid-1990s the Chinese government has been reinforcing its anti-Japan patriotic education. At many memorial halls to the war of resistance against Japan in China, including the Memorial Hall to the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre in Nanjing, the exhibitions and sizes of the halls have been repeatedly expanded.
At the same time, the Chinese government has repeatedly announced its view that patriotic education is for developing a sense of citizenship in young people for the future and that there is no anti-Japanese education. If that is true, there may be many things that China has to rethink.
At war of resistance memorial halls throughout the nation, photos and other materials that emphasize brutal acts by the Imperial Japanese Army have been displayed. It has been revealed by reexaminations of the incident by Japanese scholars that these exhibitions include quite a few fabricated photos made and used by the then ruling Chinese Nationalist Party for its resistance war campaign.
A suprapartisan association of Diet members formed to ask China to remove unfair photos from such memorial halls was launched in June and has already started its activities. The Japanese government, too, should urge China to review such exhibitions as they may invite misunderstanding.
Dispute over numbers
The Chinese government’s official tally of victims of the Nanjing Incident has not been revised from 300,000.
Indeed, when the Japanese forces wiped out the remaining Chinese soldiers hiding in the city, many executions and violence against civilians obviously took place, according to records and testimonies from the time.
However, there are theories that the number of victims was about 40,000 and that only a fraction of those deaths were murders that violated international law.
Recently, even some Chinese scholars say scholarly debate should be deepened on the number of victims. Such a flexible stance has been aired even in China.
The Nanjing Incident is an important area for bilateral joint studies on history conducted by Japanese and Chinese historians. It is necessary for Japan and China to jointly proceed with empirical research toward the final report to be compiled next year.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec. 11, 2007)
(Dec. 11, 2007)