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How China Started the Second Sino-Japanese War: Why Should Japan Apologize to China? Part 2 – The Marco Polo Bridge Incident and the Battles of Shanghai and Nanking

By Moteki Hiromichi,

Part 2 – The Marco Polo Bridge Incident and
the Battles of Shanghai and Nanking
The Battle of Shanghai: The true starting point of the war
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident is usually considered to be the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War. There is no mistake that this incident served to trigger the Sino-Japanese conflict, but the incident itself was only a small skirmish—it cannot be called the start of a full-blown war. Consequently, it would be inaccurate to claim that the fighting at the Marco Polo Bridge “spread” to Shanghai.
After the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, the Japanese Army sent three divisions from Japan and units of the Kwantung Army to northern China in the hopes of restraining the nonstop ceasefire violations of Chinese soldiers in the area. Japanese forces occupied Tianjin, but they did not advance beyond, or make any attempt to advance beyond, the city of Baoding, just southwest of Beijing. Furthermore, on August 5, the Japanese government made a landmark peace proposal with the Chinese and planned to hold its first meeting with Chinese leaders in September. Therefore, the Chinese Army’s attack on Shanghai, carried out on August 13, can hardly be called a natural extension of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. Rather, the Chinese attack on Shanghai should be seen as a dramatic new crisis sparked by Chiang Kai-shek’s determination to wage full-scale war against Japan.
Rather than a clash of local units, an all-out, state-dictated military offensive constitutes “war” under international law. The existence of an official declaration of war is not the defining factor. On August 13, 1937, Chiang’s regime launched a full-scale offensive against the Japanese naval landing force, which was stationed in Shanghai to protect Japanese residents, with an army of 30,000 regular soldiers. On August 15, Chiang Kai-shek issued an order of general mobilization and was appointed commanding chief of the Army, Navy and Air Forces. This, therefore, should be considered the official starting point of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Historian Edwin Reischauer concurs that the Battle of Shanghai was the engagement which marked the beginning of World War II.
Who, then, caused the actual war between China and Japan?
The following report by The New York Times special correspondent Hallett Abend was published on August 31, 1937:
Foreigners Support Japan – Official foreign observers and officials of various foreign governments who participated in various conferences here in seeking to avoid the outbreak of local hostilities, agree that the Japanese exhibited the utmost restraint under provocation, even for several days keeping all of the Japanese landed force off the streets and strictly within their own barracks, although the move somewhat endangered Japanese lives and properties. ‘Opinions may differ regarding the responsibility for the opening of hostilities in the vicinity of Peiping early in July,’ said one foreign official
who was a participant in the conferences held here before Aug. 13, ‘but concerning the Shanghai hostilities the records will justify only one decision. The Japanese did not want a repetition of the fighting here and exhibited forbearance and patience and did everything possible to avoid aggravating the situation. But they were literally pushed into the clash by the Chinese, who seemed intent on involving the foreign area and foreign interests in this clash.’
The tenor of The New York Times article was critical of Japan and sympathetic toward China in accordance with the general trend of the time. Nonetheless, the article confirms that the start of the fighting in Shanghai was due to a unilateral attack by the Chinese Army.
The unmistakeable aggressor was China
As was reported in The New York Times, there can be no question that it was China that embarked on an unprovoked war against Japan.
In the Shanghai International Settlement1, there were over 30,000 Japanese citizens working in a variety of businesses and industries protected by a 2,200-man Japanese naval landing force. When the naval landing force realized that the Chinese Army had infiltrated a large number of soldiers into the demilitarized zone outside the settlement, in violation of the ceasefire agreement,2 it was rapidly reinforced with another 2,000 men. When the previously mentioned article noted that Japan was “keeping all of the Japanese landed force off the streets”, it was referring to these roughly 2,000 reinforcements.
On August 9, the Chinese Army murdered two members of the Japanese naval landing force, Sublieutenant Oyama Isao and Seaman First Class Saito Yozo, who were carrying out an inspection while in their car. The Chinese insisted that they had been attacked and returned fire, dragging out the body of a Chinese Peace Preservation Corps soldier as “evidence”. However, the corpse clearly indicated that it had been shot at from the Chinese side, a fact also confirmed by multiple foreign reporters on the scene. The critically acclaimed biography, Mao: The Unknown Story, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, explains that the incident was orchestrated by General Zhang Zhizhong in order to force Chiang Kai-shek to attack Japanese forces. Zhang, who was the defensive commander of Nanking and Shanghai, was also a member of the CCP who had infiltrated Chiang’s high command.3
1 The International Settlement was a settlement of foreign residents in China which had the rights of self-government and extraterritoriality. In addition to the International Settlement, where British, American, Japanese, and other foreigners lived, there was also the French Concession.
2 The Shanghai Ceasefire Agreement was approved by Japan and China on May 5, 1932 following the Shanghai Incident. A joint committee was formed of American, British, French, and Italian members working alongside Chinese and Japanese members to observe that the terms of the treaty were carried out. The location for stationing troops of both Japan and China was decided by the agreement.
3 According to page 198 of Mao: The Unknown Story (New York: Anchor Books, 2006), “But on 9 August, at Shanghai airport, an army unit hand-picked by ZZZ [Zhang Zhizhong] killed a Japanese marine [sic] lieutenant and a private [sic]. A Chinese prisoner under sentence of death was then dressed in a Chinese uniform and shot dead at the airport gate, to make it seem that the Japanese had fired first. The Japanese gave
More than 30,000 Chinese regulars surrounded the concession. The core of the Chinese force was the elite 88th Division, which had been trained by German military advisors. On August 13, the offensive began, and on the 14th the Chinese began simultaneous aerial bombardment as well. Later, I will show how these attacks led to the outbreak of full-scale war.
In any case, it is clear that the Chinese were the ones who set the course for war, and that the Japanese were dragged into a war they did not desire.4 The launching of a concentrated attack by regular army troops against civilians and soldiers stationed in accordance to a previously established treaty is an “act of aggression” under international law, regardless of where the troops are stationed, whether inside or outside their home country. Therefore, we must conclude that, even though it took place on Chinese territory, the Second Sino-Japanese War was a Chinese war of aggression.
China’s orchestration of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident
The article in The New York Times stated: “Opinions may differ regarding the responsibility for the opening of hostilities in the vicinity of Peiping early in July.” It stated this because, at that point, the facts about the clash at Marco Polo Bridge, which was the impetus for what followed, were not yet sufficiently known. In reality, this too was undoubtedly an incident orchestrated by the Chinese.
China’s responsibility was unambiguously recorded in the local ceasefire agreement signed four days after the clash on July 11 by Qin Dechun, Deputy Commander of China’s 29th Route Army, and Matsui Kyutaro, Chief of the Japanese Army Beijing Special Service Agency. The three clauses of the ceasefire agreement were:
(1.) The representative of the 29th Route Army expresses regret and will punish those responsible. He affirms his intention to take responsibility for preventing further such incidents in the future. (2.) The overly close proximity of the Chinese Army to Japanese soldiers stationed in Fengtai has increased the likelihood of such incidents. Therefore, China will station no soldiers on the east bank of the Yongding River in the vicinity of Marco Polo Bridge and the Peace Preservation Corps will maintain security there. (3.) Because this incident was in many ways inspired by the work of anti-Japanese organizations, including the Communist Party and the so-called Blue Shirts Society,5 China will undertake countermeasures and a thorough crackdown against them.
every sign of wishing to defuse the incident, but ZZZ still bombarded Chiang with requests to launch an offensive, which Chiang vetoed.”
4 See the book The Reluctant Combatant: Japan and the Second Sino-Japanese War (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 2014) by Kitamura Minoru and Lin Siyun.
5 The Blue Shirts Society was a terrorist and espionage organization under Chiang Kai-shek’s direct control.
People still ask the question of who fired the shots at Marco Polo Bridge, but the answer should be obvious based on the terms of the ceasefire agreement which were published in contemporary newspapers. Because this was an agreement, it was approved by mutual consent and does not represent the view of the Japanese side alone. The agreement stated clearly that responsibility for the incident laid with the Chinese.
It has been said that the ceasefire agreement was forced upon China due to pressure from Japan, but that is an untenable argument which ignores basic facts. The 29th Route Army, commanded by Song Zheyuan, was a force of roughly 150,000 men which dominated North China. The opposing Japanese China Garrison Army6 numbered a mere 5,600 men, so one could not possibly describe the Japanese as an overwhelming force in a position to impose an unreasonable ceasefire deal. China would later stridently insist that there had never been a ceasefire agreement, but the document itself leaves little doubt of its existence.
The work of putting the particulars of the three-point ceasefire agreement into operation went forward later, and a fleshed-out version of the pact was concluded on July 19. In fact, Japan labored throughout this time to observe the terms of the agreement, even while frequent violations were taking place. However, nothing could be done about China’s repudiation of the existence of the agreement. In other words, not only did the Japanese military not provoke the fighting, all of the blame for escalating the crisis rested squarely on the shoulders of the Chinese.
China’s need to attack Japan
In the first place, Japan had absolutely no reason to attack China. It goes without saying that it would have been sheer folly for the 5,600 Japanese troops stationed there to attack the 150,000-man 29th Route Army. The full might of the Japanese Army in mainland Japan, Manchuria, Korea, and China would have been roughly 250,000 men. Compared to this, China had about 2.1 million men, 500,000 of which formed modernized units trained and equipped by German military advisors. What’s more, Japan’s greatest potential enemy was the Soviet Union, and the Soviets had a large military force of 1.6 million, 400,000 of which were deployed in the Soviet Far East. Given all these conditions, it would have been insane for Japan to open hostilities in northern China. Japan had no reason, much less plans, to do any such thing.
In China at that time, however, those who advocated war against Japan dominated. Excluding the peasantry, the urban residents of China had a burning desire for war and were confident of victory. The idea that Japan invaded a weak China and that the war
6 The Boxer Protocol, signed in 1901 following the Boxer Rebellion, permitted eight countries including France, the United States, Great Britain, and Japan to station soldiers in China in order to protect their citizens. At the time, the United States had 1,200 soldiers and France had 1,800 soldiers stationed in China. Japan had 5,600 soldiers because the Japanese were, with 33,000 people, the largest foreign community in the vicinity of Beijing. In terms of the ratio of civilians to soldiers, Japan was 6:1, America 2:1, and France 1:3. Proportionally speaking, of the eight countries, Japan stationed the smallest military force.
expanded from there is a highly distorted view of history—entirely refuted merely by looking at any contemporary Chinese newspaper. The book, The Reluctant Combatant: Japan and the Second Sino-Japanese War, provides a detailed account of this.
The sabre rattlers of the time can be broadly broken down into three groups. First, there were the radical intellectuals, students, and urban citizens, second, members of the CCP, and third, provincial military cliques. The objective of the CCP and the military cliques in advocating war was to enhance their position vis-à-vis Chiang Kai-shek by currying favor with radical public opinion leaders such as the intellectuals.
The CCP in particular used its anti-Japanese stance as its most powerful political weapon. The Chinese Soviet Republic, which was established in November 1931 in Ruijin, Jiangxi Province, issued a proclamation of war against Japan in the name of the central government on April 26, 1932. For good measure, a so-called “official” proclamation of war was also announced by telegram on September 18. In addition, the CCP issued a declaration of anti-Japanese patriotism in August of 1935 in accordance with the Comintern’s order to organize “anti-fascist popular fronts”. Then, in December 1936, the Xian Incident took place.7 While setting out to urge his soldiers to fight more vigorously in the subjugation of the CCP, Chiang Kai-shek was detained by Zhang Xueliang, the commander of the Northeast Army. Zhang, who had been plotting with the CCP, pressured Chiang into working with the communists to fight Japan. Consequently, the Nationalist Party dropped its confrontational line toward the CCP, and in its place grew anti-Japanese resistance.
The outbreak of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident
Given the circumstances, it was only a matter of when and where the attack would come. The first shots were fired on July 7, 1937 at the Marco Polo Bridge.
The 135 men of the Japanese China Garrison Army’s 8th Company, having given prior notice to the 29th Route Army, conducted manoeuvres on the dry riverbed near the Marco Polo Bridge. As the map (attachment 1) shows, they began their manoeuvres in front of the bridge at a position about 400 meters distant from the Marco Polo Bridge wall (the Wanping Fortress wall) and an embankment studded with Chinese pillboxes. At around 10:40 PM, just before the manoeuvres were to end after a 400-meter advance, several shots were fired into the Japanese positions. After that, ten-odd shots were fired from the direction of the embankments, and a few hours later at 3:25 AM, there were three more shots. At 5:30, after taking fire a fourth time, the Japanese forces finally responded with their own fire. This was seven hours after the first shots had been fired.
It was, therefore, only natural that the 29th Route Army would admit total culpability in the ceasefire agreement signed on July 11.
7 In December of 1936, Chiang visited the city of Xian in order to encourage Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng to make an all-out attack on the communist Red Army’s headquarters, but the two of them instead switched sides and proceeded to kidnap and imprison Chiang.
As noted earlier, the third clause of this ceasefire agreement stated, “Because this incident was in many ways inspired by the work of anti-Japanese organizations, including the Communist Party and the so-called Blue Shirts Society, China will undertake countermeasures and a thorough crackdown against them.”
The commanders of the 29th Route Army were also not entirely certain who had really fired the shots, but the text of the ceasefire agreement implies that they suspected the CCP.
It was natural that the CCP, which continued to cry for full-scale anti-Japanese action, would continue to provoke clashes, but the truth was that at the time the CCP found itself facing a serious predicament. To be sure, with the Xian Incident, Chiang Kai-shek ceased attacking the communists and promised to forge a cooperative relationship with the CCP. However, Chiang proceeded to thrust strict conditions, one after another, at the CCP, and half a year later, around June 1937, relations between the Nationalist and Communist Parties were on the verge of breakdown.
Edgar Snow8 wrote, “Following Chiang’s release the Communists were in fact soon again placed at his mercy… By June, 1937 Chiang Kai-shek… again was blockading the Reds… Once more they now seemed to face the choice of total surrender or encirclement and disaster, or retreat to the northern desert.”9
The CCP secretly implemented a bold scheme to escape their existential crisis. The idea behind their strategy was very simple. Basically, the CCP would provoke a conflict between the Japanese Army and Nationalist China while keeping their own role in the plot hidden. In case of success, the Nationalists would have no choice but to leave the communists alone and divert the brunt of their military to the war with Japan. It is now known from publications released in China that the CCP had infiltrated many party members into the 29th Route Army, including staff officers such as a battalion commander, the chief of intelligence, the deputy chief of propaganda, and, most importantly, Vice Chief of Staff Zhang Kexia.10
8 Edgar Snow was an American journalist. Thanks to a letter of introduction from Song Qingling, Snow was admitted into the CCP’s base in Yan’an in 1936. Gaining Mao Zedong’s trust, Snow was able to interview him and ended up writing a series of articles and books reporting favorably on the Chinese communist movement led by Mao. Representative works of Snow’s include Red Star Over China, a favorite book of Franklin Roosevelt, and The Battle for Asia.
9 See Random Notes on Red China, 1936-1945 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1957) by Edgar Snow, page xiii.
10 See Zhongguo Gongchandang Zuzhishi Ziliao Huibian [Collected Documents on the History of the Structure of the Chinese Communist Party] (Beijing: Hongqi Publishing Company, 1983) edited by Wang Jianying and Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo Zhiguanzhi [List of Official Positions in the People's Republic of China] (Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Publishing Company, 1993) edited by He Husheng.
The CCP’s secret plan was to use these infiltrated agents provocateurs to incite anti-Japanese sentiment within the units of the 29th Route Army and to provoke shooting incidents while mingled into crowds of regular soldiers. This is what happened at 10:40 p.m. on the night of July 7.
The smoking gun: The CCP’s “7-8 circular telegram”
We now have the “smoking gun” that leaves no doubt that it was the CCP that engineered the incident at Marco Polo Bridge.
On the 8th, the day after the shooting, the CCP sent a long telegram from Yan’an in the name of the Central Committee to those affiliated with the Nationalist Government, the army, the newspapers, various other organizations, and all persons in positions of power in China from Chiang Kai-shek on down. In official CCP histories, the telegram is given special mention, as the “7-8 circular telegram”. Moreover, on the same day, the same kind of telegram was sent under the names of Mao Zedong and six other military leaders to Chiang Kai-shek, General Song Zheyuan, and others.
As mentioned before, the Japanese Army first began to return fire at 5:30 on the morning of the 8th. Until that point, the Japanese had begun negotiations at Marco Polo Bridge wall and other locations, and had made preparations to respond to repeated shootings, but no fire had yet been returned.
Even though Japan’s counterattack began on the 8th, due to the circumstances of transmission there is no way that the 7-8 circular telegram could have been prepared the same day. After having received word of the Japanese counterattack, the communists would still have had to write up their lengthy appeal to arms in the form of an official telegram, include all the details of the counterattack within it, gain the approval of the Central Committee, and transmit it across China.
The only way the telegram could have been distributed so quickly is that it was prepared in advance. The CCP must have written an outline in advance, confirmed that everything had gone according to plan, and then finalized it in the form of an official message.
In fact, we have evidence proving that this was indeed the case.
Colonel Akitomi Jujiro, the Chief of the China Expeditionary Force Intelligence Department Beiping (Beijing) Office, told the newspaper Sankei Shinbun, as reported in its September 8, 1994 evening edition, that, “Late at night immediately following the incident, the Tianjin Special Intelligence Section radio operator intercepted an urgent wireless transmission from a transmitter believed to be on the grounds of Beijing University to the CCP military headquarters in Yan’an. It repeated ‘Chenggong-le [success!]‘ three times.”
Akitomi stated that, at the time, they had no idea what the transmission might have meant. It is clear now. The transmitter informed Yan’an that the stratagem at the Marco Polo
Bridge succeeded. Immediately afterward the circular telegram was drawn up in Yan’an. Then, on the morning of the 8th, after having confirmed that Japan had begun firing back, it was wired en masse to locations across China. Thus, the group responsible for masterminding the Marco Polo Bridge Incident was none other than the Chinese Communist Party. An alternative theory, which holds that the incident happened by accident, assumes that the communists were fools who would never have attempted such a scheme. However, this theory really gives the communists too little credit.
Edgar Snow wrote about the Marco Polo Bridge Incident as if the Japanese Army had caused it, thus incidentally rescuing the CCP from its great predicament of June. Snow wrote, “Now a second stroke of luck opened up the broadest and most fertile opportunities for them [the communists]. For it was in the following month that they were extricated from their precarious position only by Japan’s ‘providential’ major invasion of China, which gave Chiang no choice but to shelve any and all plans for another annihilation drive.”11
Snow should have known that the incident was staged by the CCP, but he nonetheless repeatedly referred to the Japanese attack as “providential”. To reiterate, it was the Chinese, specifically the CCP, who caused the incident. Above all, there is no way that a Japanese force numbering a mere 5,600 could have launched a “major invasion” of China—which is not what happened. Snow could write these sort of lies plausibly by claiming that the facts were not yet known, but because President Franklin Roosevelt was a fan of his book, Red Star Over China, he was appointed in 1942 as an unofficial intelligence provider. What was truly outrageous was that Roosevelt exploited Snow’s false reports to wage war on Japan.
Although a ceasefire agreement was signed on the 11th, the agreement was repeatedly broken by the Chinese, either by the Chinese Army itself or by persons unknown. This soon culminated in large-scale violations by the Chinese Army such as the Langfang Incident12 and the Guang’anmen Incident.13 On July 27, the Japanese government, which had consistently followed a non-expansionist policy since the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, finally made a decision to dispatch three army divisions into the Chinese interior. On the 28th, Japan sent notice to the 29th Route Army that a state of war had begun.
The CCP’s plans to escalate the crisis
Though the so-called “major invasion” of the Japanese Army never took place, Snow let it slip in his writings that such an invasion was exactly what the communists had wanted. They were delighted that Chiang Kai-shek had had no choice but to abandon his operations to wipe them out, but, going beyond that, their true goal was to have Chiang fight the
11 See Snow, op. cit., page xiii.
12 In the vicinity of Langfang, Japanese units had gone to repair a severed army telegraph line, but even though they had notified the 29th Route Army in advance, they were attacked and suffered fourteen casualties.
13 Japanese Army units were attempting to enter their barracks inside the walls of Beiping after having received permission from the 29th Route Army. However, after two thirds of the Japanese troops had entered the city, the gates were abruptly shut and the Japanese were attacked. They suffered nineteen casualties.
Japanese for them. A Comintern order issued after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident included the following two instructions:14
“1.) You must staunchly avoid localized resolutions and instead lead the way to a full-scale confrontation between China and Japan. 2.) You must use every possible measure to accomplish the above goal, and eliminate leading figures who are betraying the liberation of China through localized resolutions and compromises with the Japanese.”
From this, one can see clearly that, in addition to their immediate objective of extricating themselves from their precarious position, the true goal of the communists was to use the Marco Polo Bridge Incident to cause a full-scale outbreak of hostilities between Japan and China. Even though the leaders of the CCP were calling for resistance against Japan, they had no intention of directly engaging with the Japanese military themselves. Rather, their true goal was to cause a full-scale war between the Japanese Army and Chiang Kai-shek’s army.
By doing this, the communists could achieve their objective of weakening the Japanese Army and guaranteeing the security of the Soviet Union. This was all part of their long-term strategy of winning power by having the armies of Japan and China wear down and destroy one another. Needless to say, the Comintern’s global strategy, which was promoted by the CCP to further its ultimate goals, finally came to fruition in 1949. For all of these reasons, the CCP was hell-bent on provoking and escalating war between China and Japan.
The North China Incident and the Tongzhou Incident
The conflict in China expanded just as the CCP had planned. Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Government went ahead with plans to send its army north, and as I have previously noted, Japan was also forced to alter its policy of non-expansion of hostilities by dispatching three divisions on July 27 and notifying the 29th Route Army on the 28th that a state of war existed. Though outnumbered, Japan’s forces received some reinforcements from the Manchurian Kwantung Army and the Japanese Korean Army, and they soon gained total control of the Pingjin area (the vicinity of Beijing and Tianjin).
14 Below is a full copy of the Comintern order of July 1937, as recorded in the book Kominterun ni Kansuru Kihon Shiryo [Basic Documents on the Comintern] (Tokyo: Koain Seimubu, 1939).
“1.) You must staunchly avoid localized resolutions and instead lead the way to a full-scale confrontation between China and Japan. 2.) You must use every possible measure to accomplish the above goal, and eliminate leading figures who are betraying the liberation of China through localized resolutions and compromises with the Japanese. 3.) You must undertake operations to stir up a mass movement among the lower classes which will leave the Nationalist Government with no choice but to launch a war against Japan. 4.) The CCP must extend its anti-Japanese boycott throughout China and also threaten with boycotts any third-party nations aiding Japan. 5.) The CCP must recruit common people, as well as ordinary soldiers, noncommissioned officers, and low-ranking leaders from the army of the Nationalist Government, in order to achieve a party strength exceeding that of the Nationalists.”
However, soldiers from the Chinese Peace Preservation Corps took advantage of the redeployment of Japan’s outnumbered forces in order to carry out a massacre of Japanese residents in Tongzhou.
The town of Tongzhou, located some twelve kilometers east of Beijing, was home to 420
Japanese residents. Because its Japanese garrison had launched an offensive on nearby Nanyuan on July 29, less than 110 Japanese soldiers remained there. The men of the local Peace Preservation Corps, affiliated with the pro-Japanese autonomous government of Yin Rugeng, seized the opportunity to turn their guns on unarmed civilians and the few remaining Japanese soldiers in Tongzhou. They suddenly swooped down on the town and savagely massacred them.
It was later established that Zhang Qingyu, the First Unit commander of the Peace Preservation Corps, and Zhang Yantian, the Second Unit commander, had been in contact with the Nationalist Party before the massacre. Many books have claimed that the rebellion of the Peace Preservation Corps was sparked when the Japanese accidentally bombed them, but, in fact, that incident was dealt with after it had taken place. The true cause of the massacre was the treachery of Zhang Qingyu and Zhang Yantian, who had been waiting for some time for their chance to strike.
All manner of brutalities, including looting, beatings, rape, and murder were directed toward a great number of innocent people, including the old, the young, and women. The number of the slain totaled 223.
Unlike the mythological but highly publicized “Nanking Massacre,” this dreadful atrocity actually did happen. (I will discuss the “Nanking Massacre” in more detail later.) In spite of this, for a long time Japanese history textbooks mentioned only details of the “Nanking Massacre,” in line with the Chinese government’s outlandish wartime propaganda, but they said nothing about the real-life Tongzhou Massacre. This bizarre situation continued until the year 2015 when a proper history textbook, which finally corrected this fault, was approved for use in middle schools. That textbook was the New History Textbook: Revised Edition, published by Jiyusha. Unfortunately, the problem remains uncorrected in other textbooks.
The Tongzhou Massacre
I will now recount some of the horrible events of the Tongzhou Massacre, as recorded in sworn affidavits of witnesses summoned to the Tokyo War Crimes Trials who were at the scene of the massacre.
Firstly, there is the following excerpt from the testimony of Kayajima Takashi, who at the time of the massacre was commander of the Tianjin Infantry Unit and the 2nd Infantry Regiment of the Japanese China Garrison Army. After having joined the Battle of Nanyuan, he rushed to rescue the inhabitants of Tongzhou on the afternoon of July 30.
“In Asahiken (a Japanese restaurant), there were seven or eight women between the ages of forty and seventeen or eighteen who had all been raped. They had been shot dead and were naked with their privates exposed. Four or five had been stabbed in their privates with bayonets. Almost all of the Japanese men’s bodies left in businesses and government offices showed signs of having been strangled with ropes. Blood spattered the walls. It beggars description.”
Katsura Shizuo, acting unit commander in the 2nd Infantry Regiment in charge of relieving Tongzhou, gave this testimony.
“At the entrance to Kinsuiro (an inn), I saw the body of a woman who looked to have been the proprietress. Her legs were pointed toward the entrance, and only her face was covered with a newspaper. I remember that it seemed as if she had resisted considerably. The upper and lower parts of her body were exposed, and stab wounds from four or five bayonet thrusts were visible. It looked like her privates had been gouged out with an edged weapon, and there was blood everywhere… The bodies of four Japanese women, who appeared to be maids, lay in the maid-servants’ room. It looked like they had all died in agony. They had died lying on top of one another, and only one of the women was turned upwards with her privates exposed. At the front desk and pantry there were two women and one man who had died face up, face down, and sprawled sideways. There was clear evidence that they had fought their killers. The man’s eyes were gouged out and the upper half of his body appeared to have been riddled with bullets. Both of the women had bayonet wounds in their backs… In the house of a Japanese family behind it, two people, a parent and child, had been butchered. All the fingers of the child had been cut off. At the store of a Japanese citizen near the South Gate, the body of what seemed to have been the proprietor had been left in the street with his ribs exposed and his organs scattered.”
Sakurai Fumio was a platoon commander in the 2nd Infantry Regiment who arrived in Tongzhou with the main force of his regiment on July 30. According to Sakurai,
“As soon as we came through the garrison’s East Gate, we were enraged to see the bodies of murdered male and female civilians sprawled out on the ground every several meters in front of us. We went around checking each house, while shouting out ‘Are there any Japanese people here!’ In trash cans and ditches all over the place, we kept on finding corpses, including a child with a wire run through his nose like a cow, an old woman with one of her arms cut off, and a pregnant woman whose belly had been ripped with a bayonet. In one restaurant, a whole family had been slaughtered with their hands and heads chopped off. Every woman older than fourteen or fifteen years of age had been raped. The sight of it was unbearable… In a pond near the East Gate, there were the bodies of six family members with ropes around their necks and hands pierced together with barbed wire. There was clear evidence on the bodies that they had been strung together and dragged over the ground.”
Since my readers may be getting sick to their stomachs, I will leave it at that. However, other eyewitness accounts have been written by Japanese women who married Chinese men and were living in Tongzhou at the time of the massacre. I wanted to reprint them here, but ultimately chose to omit them because they are rather long and might be traumatic to my readers. Those who are interested in reading the accounts can consult the book Tenno-sama ga Naite Gozatta [Tears of the Emperor] by Shirabe Kanga.
What about the Nanking Massacre?
Some readers might find the preceding descriptions of unspeakable horror and fiendish violence in Tongzhou to be eerily familiar. Indeed, these same scenes appear in accounts of the Nanking Massacre. The writings of Iris Chang and like-minded individuals contain countless similar examples.
Nevertheless, as I will explain later, the so-called “Nanking Massacre” is an illusion, nothing more than war propaganda. Throughout its history, Japan has never had the same sort of “massacre culture” as China. Japanese people may kill one another, but it would be fair to say that no large-scale, indiscriminate slaughters have ever occurred in Japanese history. By contrast, massacres of tremendous scale are not at all unusual in Chinese history.
By reading the book A History of Massacres in China: What Makes the Chinese Such Lovers of Murder? by Shi Ping,15 a graduate of Beijing University, we learn that in China massacres far exceeding anything in Japanese history were frequent occurrences in ancient, medieval, and modern times, extending to present day communist China. Particularly interesting is the fact that there was a Nanking Massacre in Chinese history, not in 1937, but in 1864 during the Taiping Rebellion. Nanking, then the capital of the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, was conquered by an army commanded by Zeng Guofan. After Zeng’s death, one of his staff officers, Zhao Liewen, described what happened after the city’s fall in his book Nengjin Jushi Riji [Diary of a Capable, Quiet Gentleman]:
“Children also became the targets of killing and many soldiers wildly engaged themselves in killing children as if they were playing a game. Regarding women, those who were under 40 served as instruments of carnal pleasure for the soldiers but most of those who were older or very ugly were randomly killed by the sword.”16
Ghastly mass killings, a million slaughtered at the massacres in Sichuan, Yangzhou, Jiading, and so forth, fill page after page. Shi Ping’s book is a must-read to understand China.
To repeat, no such massacres have ever taken place in Japanese history. The Chinese have vehemently insisted that the “Nanking Massacre” was the work of the Japanese in spite of
15 An English translation of this book is available on the website of the Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact. (
16 See A History of Massacres in China: What Makes the Chinese Such Lovers of Murder?, page 107.
the fact that the Japanese have no history of engaging in this sort of atrocity. In fact, the tale of the Nanking Massacre was created on the basis of the massacres which the Chinese themselves have repeatedly perpetrated throughout their own history. This is precisely the reason why the stories of the Nanking Massacre, which were fabricated to indict the Japanese Army, are identical to the accounts of both the mass killings that have occurred time and again in Chinese history and the more recent massacre which the Chinese perpetrated in Tongzhou.
Japanese outrage and the rise of the “Punish China” slogan
The Japanese people were enraged at the news of the Tongzhou Massacre. Newspapers throughout Japan carried the headline “Punish China”.17 And yet, though public opinion seethed against the unforgivable atrocity and voices demanding resolute government action grew louder, no attacks on Chinese residents in Japan, like those during the Wanpaoshan Incident in Korea, ever occurred. As I described earlier, in 1931 Korean rioters attacked Chinatowns in Seoul, Pyongyang, and Sinŭiju, killing 109 people. It’s important to remember that in Japan in 1937, no harm ever came to the Chinese quarters of either Yokohama or Kobe.
One might be led to believe that this upsurge in popular outrage against China compelled the Japanese government to go to war with China. However, that is not what happened.
In fact, the government held firm to its non-expansionist policy in spite of the atrocities in China and the incensed public opinion in Japan. In accordance with the Emperor’s suggestions, a landmark peace plan18 was drawn up on August 1. On August 5, the Foreign Minister and the Army and Navy Ministers approved the proposal that would be submitted to China. Japan’s peace plan was a momentous, conciliatory document wherein most of the pending issues between China and Japan to that point, and in particular vested rights in North China, were renounced.
Japan’s peace plan was called the Funatsu Peace Initiative, after Funatsu Tatsuichiro who was selected to be in charge of the negotiations. Funatsu was formerly Japan’s consul general in Shanghai and at the time he was the chairman of the board of the Spinners’ Trade Association in China.
August 9, the day of the first meeting between Kawagoe Shigeru, Japan’s ambassador to China, and Gao Zongwu, head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Asia Office, was also the day that Sublieutenant Oyama was killed. As I mentioned already, this was an act carried
17 This slogan, boshi yocho in Japanese, literally means “punish the violent Chinese”.
18 Draft of ceasefire negotiations: (1.) The Tanggu Truce, the He–Umezu Agreement, the Qin–Doihara Agreement, and any other extant military agreements in North China are cancelled. (2.) Special areas will be established as demilitarized zones. (3.) The administrations in East Hebei and Hebei–Chahar are to be abolished. (4.) The strength of the Japanese forces stationed shall return to their status quo ante bellum.
Draft of diplomatic relations: (1.) China must recognize or acquiesce to the state of Manchukuo. (2.) China and Japan will enter into an anti-communist pact. (3.) Repeal of the free flight of Japanese aircraft, etc…
out by the crypto-communist Zhang Zhizhong, the defensive commander of Nanking and Shanghai, in order to get Chiang Kai-shek to fight the Japanese. It was also meant to be an obstruction to the peace process. The Comintern order had read, “1.) You must staunchly avoid localized resolutions and instead lead the way to a full-scale confrontation between China and Japan. 2.) You must use every possible measure to accomplish the above goal, and eliminate leading figures who are betraying the liberation of China through localized resolutions and compromises with the Japanese.” Through various means, this order was successfully implemented. As intended, the peace negotiations collapsed.
The Sino-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact and secret military agreement
Chiang Kai-shek had moved forward with preparations for war with Japan. His preparations consisted of the formation of a central army, including fifty divisions with modern equipment and training under the direction of a corps of German military advisors led by General Alexander von Falkenhausen, as well as the construction of a solid defensive network of 20,000 bunkers in the suburbs of Shanghai. This came to be called the “Seeckt Line” after General Hans von Seeckt, the fourth leader of the German advisors. Still, Chiang Kai-shek was cautious about starting a real war. Falkenhausen had suggested a preemptive strike, but Chiang distanced himself from that idea, as well as from the continued warmongering of General Zhang Zhizong and others.
Despite this, Chiang had to confront facts outside his control, including the rise of anti-Japanese sentiment and the murder of Sublieutenant Oyama. Finally, he did make the decision to go to war. Many theories exist about when Chiang came to this decision, though it seems that none of them have been definitively proven. Professor Lloyd E. Eastman of the University of Illinois, a leading researcher of modern Chinese history, has argued that Chiang made the decision on August 7 at a meeting with his top military commanders. According to Eastman, “Chiang then made one of the greatest – and most debatable – gambles of his career.”19
I suspect that the main reason why Chiang was willing to make this gamble was the military agreement20 he signed with the Soviet Union as part of the Sino-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of August 21. Under the terms of this agreement, the Soviet Union was bound to provide the following military aid before the end of the year: 360 planes, 200 tanks, 1,500 trucks, 150,000 rifles, 120,000 artillery shells, and 60 million rounds of ammunition, plus technical experts in a variety of fields.
Negotiations for this treaty began much earlier, and it is assumed that the secret items were set in early August at the latest. This promise of such a great quantity of military supplies from the Soviet Union had to have been reassuring to China, which, despite having a large
19 See Lloyd E. Eastman’s book The Nationalist Era in China, 1927-1949 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), page 119.
20 See The Lowdown, issue of January 1939, page 18. The secret agreement seems to have been leaked out at an early stage, because its contents also appear in several other publications.
army of 2.1 million soldiers, lacked the ability to manufacture its own aircraft and tanks. Setting aside the beginning of the hostilities, if the fighting were to be drawn out even a little longer, such supplies would become absolutely essential to the prosecution of the war. Thus, we can surmise that, without them, Chiang Kai-shek would probably not have been able to make the decision to go to war.
Indeed, it would seem that the Soviet Union was pushing China toward war. As we can see from the Comintern orders, that was exactly in accordance with the goals of Soviet strategy. The actual situation of the Second Sino-Japanese War was that China relied entirely on Soviet military aid for the first half of the war, and for the second half on British and American military aid, to continue fighting.21 It was not because mainland China was so huge that the conflict went on and on and became a quagmire, but rather because of the vast military assistance and intervention from the great powers. Still less was it because of Japanese “aggression”.
China’s all-out attack: The struggle of the naval landing force and the dispatch of two divisions
On August 13, 1937, the 30,000-strong elite Chinese force encircling the concessions of Shanghai began its attack on Japan’s 4,200-man naval landing force stationed there. It is often said that the fighting leapt like a flame from northern China to Shanghai, but this manner of speaking is far removed from the truth. Japanese forces in northern China did not move south of Baoding, which was 1,000 kilometers away from Shanghai, and therefore were in no position to threaten Shanghai.
Just as The New York Times described, the Battle of Shanghai was provoked unilaterally by the Chinese, or in other words, by Chiang Kai-shek. On the 15th, Chiang Kai-shek ordered a nationwide general mobilization, established a supreme command headquarters, and assumed the rank of commander-in-chief of all three branches of the military – the army, the navy, and the air force – for waging all-out war against Japan.
Since 4,200 troops could not have been expected to protect the 30,000 Japanese residents of Shanghai, Japan decided on August 13 to dispatch two divisions to China. On the 15th, the Shanghai Expeditionary Army under the command of General Matsui Iwane was formed. However, it was to take nearly ten days at the minimum to mobilize, transport, and land these two divisions, and until then, the naval landing force in Shanghai had to hold out against attacks from an elite force nearly ten times their size. What might have happened if they had been beaten and allowed a Chinese force to penetrate the concession had already been demonstrated in Tongzhou. It would have been a second Tongzhou Massacre. There was a strong possibility that thousands, or even tens of thousands, of civilians might have been slaughtered.
21 See Hata Ikuhiko’s book, Rokokyo Jiken no Kenkyu [Research on the Marco Polo Bridge Incident] (Tokyo: Tokyo Daigaku Shuppankai, 1996).
One Japanese army division finally landed in Wusong near Shanghai on the 23rd. In those ten days, the men of Japan’s tiny landing force defended their positions well.
Thanks to their remarkable bravery, a “Shanghai Massacre” was averted. Chiang reportedly lamented that, “In the first week of the war, we proved incapable of wiping out the enemy in Shanghai even with all our strength.” Evidently, Chiang had been expecting a quick victory in Shanghai.
China’s deadly bombing of the foreign concessions
On August 14, a group of Chinese aircraft, which had embarked on a raid against Japanese warships, wandered off course during a counterattack and instead dropped their bombs in the French Concession and the Shanghai International Settlement. Some of the bombs landed on the road in front of the Palace and Cathay Hotels, killing 729 civilians instantly and leaving another 861 wounded, but an even greater tragedy occurred at the Great World Amusement Center, which was serving as a women’s refugee center. The bombs which fell on Great World killed 1,012 people and wounded another 1,007. The majority of the victims were Chinese, but many foreigners also perished, including the elder brother of Edwin Reischauer.
As usual, the Nationalist Party publicly blamed the attack on the Japanese, but the bombing had taken place in full view of Shanghai’s international community, including a large number of foreign journalists. As could be expected, this lie convinced no one, and the Chinese government ultimately expressed its regret over the incident.
Though Japan’s Shanghai Expeditionary Army had finally gone ashore, it quickly became embroiled in a desperate campaign against nearly 200,000 Chinese soldiers firmly ensconced in over 20,000 bunkers and defensive encampments. The main force of the Chinese Army had received German military training and was supplied with the latest equipment. One of the most formidable challenges for the Japanese Army was dealing with China’s high-quality light machine guns, which were called “Czech guns”. On September 9, the Japanese Army finally began making further progress thanks to an additional three divisions and one brigade in reinforcements. On October 26, the Japanese captured the strongpoint of Dachangzhen and brought most of the city of Shanghai under their control.
However, the victory in Shanghai had been achieved at great cost. Japan’s casualties ultimately totaled more than 41,000, including 10,076 dead and 31,866 wounded, which were the heaviest losses Japan sustained since the Siege of Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). On the other hand, the Chinese Army is believed to have suffered about 400,000 dead and wounded. On November 5, the Japanese 10th Army, composed of three divisions, executed a surprise landing at Hangzhou Bay, sixty kilometers south of Shanghai, in order to cut the Chinese Army off from behind. This manoeuvre succeeded in causing the rapid collapse of the Chinese forces, who fled in disarray towards Nanking. In the end, the Japanese military had committed a force of 250,000 to rout about 600,000 Chinese.
The order to capture Nanking
Because of the non-expansionist policy adopted by the Japanese government and military, Japanese forces could not advance beyond an operation restriction line stretching from Suzhou to Jiaxing. However, as long as this policy was maintained, there was the real possibility that most of the Chinese Army fleeing chaotically from Shanghai would be permitted to escape. Moreover, Chiang Kai-shek had not accepted peace terms Japan offered by way of the German ambassador to China, Oskar Trautmann,22 and was continuing to put up stiff resistance. In Japan, it seemed more and more likely that the war would not be brought to a conclusion unless the Chinese command center of Nanking was occupied. On November 28, the Japanese Army General Staff handed down its decision to capture Nanking.
Matsui Iwane, the commander of the Central China Area Army, which was formed through the combination of the Shanghai Expeditionary Army and the 10th Army, ordered his forces to advance on Nanking on December 1. The Chinese had constructed both outer and inner defense lines between Shanghai and Nanking, but the Japanese Army broke through them one by one in pursuit of the fleeing Chinese forces. On December 9, the Japanese Army completed its encirclement of Nanking and airdropped leaflets over the city calling upon the commander of the Nanking Garrison Force to surrender.
At the same time that the Japanese Army released this ultimatum, an attempt was made from within Nanking to save the city from the ravages of war. On December 9, members of the International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone23 presented a ceasefire proposal to Chiang Kai-shek. Their proposal asked the Chinese Army to withdraw peacefully from Nanking and permit the Japanese Army to enter the city without further bloodshed. Unfortunately, Chiang Kai-shek vetoed the offer. Meanwhile, the deadline of the Japanese ultimatum, set at noon on December 10, passed without a response from the Chinese side. At 1:00 PM, the Japanese Army launched an all-out attack on the walls of Nanking.
Fierce fighting continued, but Nanking had already lost its outer defenses, and its fortress walls, however strong they may have been, were no match for modern weapons. Tang Shengzhi, the commander of the garrison in Nanking, deemed the situation hopeless and fled the city at 8:00 PM on the 12th, abandoning his subordinates to their fates. Nanking fell on the 13th, but without their commander the Chinese soldiers in Nanking scrambled in confusion to escape the city. Often they were shot dead in mid-flight by Chinese barrier
22 The Trautmann Mediation was a peace initiative between the governments of China and Japan that took place between November 1937 and January 16, 1938, under the mediation of the German ambassador in China.
23 The International Committee was established on November 29 by a group of Westerners, mostly Americans, who had chosen to not evacuate from Nanking. Their objective was to create a noncombat zone which would ensure the safety of Nanking’s civilian population. The Committee was composed of a total of fifteen people, including seven from the USA, four from Great Britain, three from Germany, and one from Denmark. The head of the International Committee was a German, John Rabe.
troops. Those who were unable to escape instead cast off their uniforms and went into hiding in the Nanking Safety Zone, an act which was a violation of the international laws of war. In many cases, they were later discovered and executed by the Japanese. Still, very little fighting occurred within the city itself. In fact, at the time the Japanese Army entered Nanking, the city was virtually deserted except for the Safety Zone. Outside the city walls, several pitched battles did occur between the Japanese Army and Chinese units attempting to withdraw, but inside the city it was mostly quiet.
Why do people say that a massacre happened in Nanking?
The Japanese soldiers did not all enter Nanking at once. Instead, only specially selected portions of each unit were permitted to invade the city. For example, the 6th Division from Kumamoto selected two of its battalions to enter the city, and the 20th Regiment selected one of its companies. It has been estimated that the first Japanese soldiers to go into Nanking numbered fewer than 10,000. Within Nanking, there was very little disorder, a fact noted by the nearly 150 Japanese reporters and cameramen who were present in the city at the time it fell.
The soldiers of the units entering Nanking were much more unnerved by the deadly quiet of the wholly abandoned city, a situation described in the diaries and other accounts they left behind. The reason for this was that almost all of the 200,000 inhabitants of Nanking had congregated within the “Safety Zone”, which was administered by the International Committee. No citizens were found anywhere outside the Safety Zone. This should not be surprising, as a directive had been issued by Tang Shengzhi on December 8 ordering all citizens of Nanking except those with special permits to remain in the Safety Zone.
Considering that there were 150 reporters and cameramen in Nanking, all energetically reporting on events in the city and sending their stories back to Japan, there is no possibility that they could have failed to witness a massacre in the Safety Zone, which covered an area only about the same size as New York’s Central Park. And yet, none of them wrote a single article describing a massacre, nor did they admit after the war to having seen one. One typical news report was the series of photographs appearing in the newspaper Asahi Shimbun. The first photo in the series was “Peace returns to Nanking”, taken by special correspondent Kawamura on December 17 and reprinted in this book. The next photographs in the series were captioned with “Benevolence to yesterday’s enemies – A scene of amity in Nanking”, “Nanking smiles – A sketch of life within the city walls”, and “Holding hands on New Years’ – Sino-Japanese friendship deepens each day”. These photos certainly seem to reveal the way things really were in Nanking at that time. Controls on the press in Japan were not rigorously enforced, and only two articles were censured on the grounds that they might compromise military operations.
How did the Nanking Massacre take place under such circumstances? How could it have taken place? Common sense alone should allow the reader to answer this question.
Nationalist China’s silence on the “Nanking Massacre”
The International Committee for the Nanking Safety Zone left records of its activities in English. An extra-governmental organ of the Nationalist Party edited these documents in 1939 and published them with Kelly & Walsh Co. in Shanghai under the title Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone. American missionaries held key positions on the International Committee, and their observations are tainted with a heavy anti-Japanese bias, but even so, the following two facts recorded in these documents are extremely important.
1.) The population of Nanking was 200,000 at the time of the city’s fall, and remained at that level for the rest of the month of December. However on January 14, a month later, the population of Nanking was recorded as being 250,000. This is definitive proof, from a contemporary primary source, that no large-scale massacre could possibly have taken place.
2.) Twenty-six cases of murder were recorded on a list of the complaints brought forward by citizens of Nanking. However, only one of those cases had an eyewitness, and it had a note appended to it explicitly stating that it had been a lawful killing. The Safety Zone, which held 200,000 people, was about the same size as New York’s Central Park, and if a massacre had happened there, it could not have gone unnoticed. Nevertheless, there were no eyewitnesses to any massacre.
Those two points alone should make the extent of the massacre hoax clear enough, but for those who need even more proof, there is also the top-secret document “Outline of International Propaganda Operations, International Propaganda Section: from 1938 to April 1941″, which was discovered by Professor Higashinakano Shudo at the Museum of Chinese Nationalist Party History in Taipei.24 This was an internal document of the Nationalist Party, so any hints of propaganda within it are slim. According to the document, during an eleven-month period which included the month when Nanking fell, China’s International Propaganda Section invited foreign correspondents three hundred times to press conferences in Hankou, where the Nationalist Government had retreated after the Battle of Nanking. Even though these press conferences were convened for the purpose of criticizing the conduct of the Japanese Army, not one single time was there any talk of a massacre of civilians or the unlawful execution of prisoners in Nanking. If there had been a massacre, would they really have said nothing about it? That is, of course, impossible.
Though there are many people who seem to be under the mistaken impression that the Nationalist Government condemned the Nanking Massacre in the aftermath of the fall of Nanking, the reality is quite different. It is true that there were covert operations, particularly for overseas audiences, which employed foreigners to disseminate atrocity propaganda that actually came from the Chinese government. However, if the Chinese had carelessly brought up the massacre at any of the aforementioned three hundred press conferences in Hankou, then the foreign correspondents would have gone to Nanking to investigate it themselves. At the time Japan was not at war with other foreign countries like
24 See Higashinakano Shudo’s book The Nanking Massacre: Fact Versus Fiction (Tokyo: Sekai Shuppan, 2005), page 298.
the United States and Great Britain, so as soon as public order in Nanking had been restored, there was nothing to stop them from going there. If they had done that, the Nationalist Government’s lies would have been quickly exposed. In order to maintain its credibility, China would not have been foolish enough to repeat such false claims publicly.
The anti-Japanese group, American Committee for Non-Participation in Japanese Aggression, which was organized principally by the YMCA, released a booklet entitled “America Supports Japanese Aggression” roughly half a year after the fall of Nanking. In 1938, 60,000 copies of it were printed and then distributed to the media, Congress, academic societies, and other groups. The booklet includes an extensive denunciation of Japan’s alleged aggressive acts towards China. Among them is the bombing of Canton, which took place half a year after the fall of Nanking and left a few hundred dead, but though the bombing received thorough coverage, not one word was devoted to the Nanking Massacre. This is yet another powerful piece of evidence that no massacre ever occurred in Nanking.
In short, the Nanking Massacre is simply a trumped-up lie, fabricated by the victors and foisted upon Japan after the war when Japan was occupied by the US Army and unable to effectively object to or rebut the accusation.
Open questions for President Hu Jintao
Research on the “Nanking Massacre” has progressed rapidly in recent years. It has now been proven in a virtually irrefutable manner that the “massacre” was a creation of the Nationalist Party’s wartime propaganda machine. A pamphlet which summarizes all the latest research was published by the Campaign for the Truth of Nanking and is now available in English.25
It is surely very foolish that people continue to harp on about this lie as if it actually happened. To put a stop to this ridiculous situation, the Committee for the Examination of the Facts about Nanking (Kase Hideaki, chair; Fujioka Nobukatsu, secretary general) presented an open letter of inquiry to President Hu Jintao of China when he came to Japan. The five important points of their questions are summarized below, followed by its full text.
(1.) Mao Zedong did not mention the Nanking Massacre one time in his life, a significant fact considering that it was alleged to be one of the largest massacres of the century and not just a trivial incident. Jung Chang criticizes Mao for this in her book Mao: The Unknown Story, but it is those like Chang who still deeply believe this lie who truly deserve the criticism.
25 An English translation of this pamphlet is available on the website of the Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact. (
(2.) The Nanking Massacre was never mentioned at any of the aforementioned three hundred press conferences.
(3.) According to Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone, which consists of the records of the International Committee, the population of Nanking was 200,000 in December and rose to 250,000 in January.
(4.) Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone claims that twenty-six murders were committed in Nanking. However, only one of those cases had an eyewitness, and this case had a note appended to it explicitly stating that it had been a lawful killing in which a Chinese man was shot dead for running away when asked to identify himself.
(5.) It has been demonstrated that none of the several hundred alleged pieces of photographic evidence for the Nanking Massacre prove the existence of any massacre.
This message has been disseminated to the world via press conferences and the Internet. It appears on the website of the Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact in Japanese, Chinese, and English. (The English version is available at It comes as no surprise that Hu Jintao has yet to respond. This is because he cannot respond. With this, the issue of Nanking has, at its essence, been settled.
May 5, 2008
As enthusiastic supporters of friendly relations between Japan and the PRC, we would like to extend the warmest of welcomes to President Hu Jintao on the occasion of Your Excellency’s visit to Japan.
For some years, our organization has been engaged in an investigation into the events that transpired in Nanking in connection with the Battle of Nanking, which took place in December 1937. We are profoundly concerned about the PRC’s position on and approach to these events. Additionally, we are exceedingly uncomfortable with the duplicity of the PRC in its pursuit of friendship with Japan on the one hand, and actions that are most unfriendly in nature — the expansion and renovation of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall in 2007 — on the other. Recent research has proven that there is absolutely no basis for the claim that there was a massacre in that city. We respectfully request Your Excellency’s responses to five important questions, which follow.
1. Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong never referred to a massacre in Nanking. He made exactly one mention of the Battle of Nanking during a lecture delivered at Yan’an six months after the conflict, reproduced in On Protracted War. Chairman Mao criticized the Japanese for failing to annihilate Chinese troops after
having surrounded them. If there had been slaughter in Nanking of a magnitude so great (300,000 civilian victims) as to prompt the description “holocaust of the century,” there is not the slightest chance that he would have been silent on the matter. What are Your Excellency’s thoughts on the facts presented here?
2. In November 1937, during the Second United Front and prior to the Battle of Nanking, the Nationalist Party established a new section at the Central Propaganda Bureau — the International Propaganda Section. We would like to direct Your Excellency’s attention to a top-secret document entitled “Outline of International Propaganda Operations,” which states that the International Propaganda Section held 300 press conferences in Hankou between December 1, 1937 and October 24, 1938 (a period that includes the Battle of Nanking); they were attended by 35 foreign journalists and diplomats, on the average. How does Your Excellency explain the fact that not once during any of these 300 conferences was a statement or announcement made to the effect that a massacre had been perpetrated, or that prisoners of war had been unlawfully killed in Nanking? Does Your Excellency, too, find these circumstances extraordinary?
3. The International Committee cared for the civilians remaining in Nanking, who were gathered in the Safety Zone. Records of the International Committee’s activities were published in 1939 as Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone by a British company in Shanghai, under the auspices of the Nationalist Government’s Council of International Affairs. According to those records, the population of Nanking prior to its occupation by the Japanese was 200,000. That figure remained unchanged, at 200,000, throughout the remainder of 1937. By the end of January, it had increased to 250,000. These statistics completely and utterly destroy the credibility of any accusation of a massacre that claimed 300,000 victims. What are Your Excellency’s views on this matter?
4. Among the records in the aforementioned Documents of the Nanking Safety Zone are detailed complaints about misconduct attributed to Japanese military personnel. They include a total of 26 murders, only one of which was witnessed (to that account is appended a note describing the “murder” as a lawful execution). Can Your Excellency reconcile these records with the PRC’s claim of a massacre with 300,000 victims?
5. Photographs purported to be evidence of a massacre in Nanking are on display at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, at other exhibitions, and in printed publications. However, Analyzing Photographic “Evidence” of the Nanking Massacre by Higashinakano Shudo (Soshisha, 2005) and other recent scientific research reveal that there are no photographs attesting to a massacre in Nanking. If Your Excellency is aware of photographic evidence of a massacre, please have it forwarded to us so that we may examine it.
On the basis of the factual information contained in these five questions, we are completely and totally convinced that there was no massacre in Nanking. We would greatly appreciate Your Excellency’s responses to our questions. Please note that we have selected the
open-question format precisely because the matter at hand is clearly one of the prime concerns of many citizens of Japan and the PRC. Our hopes for friendly relations between our two nations, for all generations to come, rest in Your Excellency’s hands.
Chairman: KASE Hideaki
Secretary-General: FUJIOKA Nobukatsu
Auditors : TOMIZAWA Shigenobu, MOTEKI Hiromichi
Members: ARA Kenichi, UESUGI Chitoshi, KOBAYASHI Taigan, SUGIHARA Seishiro SUGIYAMA Kouichi, TAKAIKE Katsuhiko, TAKAYAMA Masayuki, HANAOKA Nobuaki, HIGASHINAKANO Shudo, NISHIMURA Kohyu, MIZOGUCHI Ikuo, MIYAZAKI Masahiro
Japan’s peace terms after the fall of Nanking and the First Konoe Statement
On December 22, after Nanking was occupied, the Japanese government decided once again to try to resolve differences peacefully, mediated through the good offices of Germany’s ambassador to China, Oskar Trautmann. The following four points were the basic conditions.
1.) China will renounce pro-communist, anti-Japanese, and anti-Manchukuo policies, and will cooperate with Japan and Manchukuo’s anti-communist policies.
2.) Demilitarized zones will be put in place in required regions, and special organizations will be established to administer them.
3.) China, Japan, and Manchukuo will enter into an agreement for economic integration.
4.) China will pay reparations to Japan.
Prior to the occupation of Nanking, the clause on reparations had not been included in the peace talks, but it was inserted after taking into account the demands of the Japanese people. Even so, one cannot say that these were particularly severe conditions. No demands were made for a piece of territory or for certain special rights or interests. Instead, they mention formalizing a relationship of economic cooperation. They also speak of collaborative anti-communism, but since Chiang Kai-shek was anti-communist from the start, this item can hardly be said to have been a harsh one.
Chiang Kai-shek did not accept the agreement probably for fear of how it might affect his relationship with the Soviet Union and the CCP, as well as his relationship with America and Great Britain. Even when the deadline for his reply, January 12, was reached, he did not respond. In the face of Chiang’s stalling, the leaders of Japan’s government, including Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro and Foreign Minister Hirota Koki, concluded that the Chinese side was not negotiating in good faith. On the 16th, the Japanese government cut
off negotiations and issued the First Konoe Statement declaring that, “We will no longer deal with the government of Chiang Kai-shek”.
Japan’s Army General Staff put up strong resistance to this decision, insisting that negotiations with Chiang Kai-shek’s government be carried through to their conclusion. If this view had prevailed and the negotiations had continued, is it possible that at very least the complete breakdown of Sino-Japanese relations could have been averted, and that perhaps some sort of compromise could have been reached? If that had happened, Japan’s conflict with China would not have devolved into the quagmire that it was to become.
It is possible that there was some influence here by one of Konoe’s close associates, Ozaki Hotsumi,26 who was a covert operative of the Comintern. However, I think that it is more likely that Konoe made the decision out of a desire to curry favor with a Japanese public who were fed up with China’s brazen acts.
It has been commonly said that Japan went down the path to war because of the recklessness of the Japanese military, but if we turn to the facts, it seems that in many cases it was the military which acted with great caution whereas it was the civilian government which turned to war in order to appease popular opinion. This was more or less the same reason why the Konoe government issued a tough statement toward China and hinted at dispatching three divisions from Japan on the July 11 following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, even though a local ceasefire had been concluded that very night.
Regardless, the end result was that Japan was drawn into a protracted war against the government of Chiang Kai-shek. Still, calling this a “war of aggression” is wholly unwarranted.
Firstly, it was the CCP that orchestrated the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, and it was also the CCP that expanded the conflict based on their Comintern instructions to “staunchly avoid localized resolutions and instead lead the way to a full-scale confrontation between China and Japan.” Furthermore, it was Chiang Kai-shek’s government that rebuffed Japan’s Funatsu Peace Initiative, amidst growing anti-Japanese sentiment, and set the course for full-scale war in Shanghai.
Thus, the Second Sino-Japanese War was caused entirely by China. Even after the outbreak of the war, Japan again made peace overtures, but they were all flatly refused. The onus for
26 Ozaki Hotsumi was a reporter for the newspaper Asahi Shimbun. As a member of Prime Minister Konoe’s brain trust and especially as a recognized expert on the China question, Ozaki exerted influence on Japan’s government from the time of the Second Sino-Japanese War until World War II via his contacts with some of Japan’s highest-ranking and most influential political figures. Just before the outbreak of war with the United States, Ozaki was exposed as being the mastermind behind Richard Sorge’s Soviet spy ring. He was arrested, put on trial, and executed. In his personal recollections, Ozaki states that, “I believe that World War II will lead inevitably to a world revolution.” It was for this reason that Ozaki supported the idea that Japan should advance into Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
the war lies primarily on the Chinese side, and the result was that the fighting dragged on. No matter how one looks at it, describing Japan’s actions as aggressive is undeserved. Under international law, the aggressor is the one making lawless attacks or unprovoked war, and thus by this standard, it was China that was the aggressor even though the war took place on Chinese soil.