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Monday, July 09, 2007

Politics of Nanjing

The Politics of Nanjing

The Politics of Nanjing: An Impartial Investigation

by Kitamura Minoru
translated by Hal Gold
University Press of America
ISBN 0-7618-3579-2
173 pp
More than 60 years after the fact, the events surrounding the fall of Nanjing to the Japanese Army in 1937 remain clouded in hyperbole and rhetoric. The continuing denial of the "massacre" by the Japanese government continues to fuel tensions between Japan and China, and so it was with some hope of discovering some new facts that I began to read Professor Kitamura's "impartial" investigation. By the second chapter however, it became blatantly clear that this book's claim to impartiality is invalid.
Kitamura has gone through an enormous amount of materials and records with a fine toothcomb and collected together many discrepancies and facts that support his thesis that the massacre is a masterpiece of Chinese propaganda. To further his agenda he fills in gaps in the historical record with opinions that have no basis in fact, and he ascribes meanings to people's actions that are unverifiable and often extremely tenuous. He presents evidence as a prosecutor, rather than as a judge and as the book progresses, any attempt to mask his bias is dropped so that by the end of the book we can read a simple explanation as to why the Chinese claim of 300,000 victims can be dismissed: "The Chinese are reputedly – and unquestionably – cultural exaggerators." One wonders what the good professor makes of the reputed – and unquestionable – inability of the Japanese government to admit to unpleasant truths.
He ends on the subject of "the emotions of memory", and it is worth quoting in full:
"from these ethnocentric emotions, people can easily be lead to a simple choosing of one conclusion concerning history. Then, Sun Gee continues, that if the Chinese continue clinging to this tendency, it makes it impossible for Chinese thinkers to face complicated international political relations, and they cannot participate effectively in living history."
This strikes me as the exact situation Japan finds itself in as regards its relations with its Asian neighbors.
However, if one reads the book with one's critical faculties fully operational, there is some interesting information unearthed by Kitamura. For instance there seems to be a lot of circumstantial evidence linking the Australian journalist Timperley, who was instrumental in reporting on Nanjing to the world and whose reports were influential at the War Crimes Trials, with the Chinese propaganda Ministry, and an interesting section that suggests that some of the more bizarre atrocities claimed by the Chinese may have their roots in Chinese cultural taboos.

Reviewed by Jake Davies
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