Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact

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An Inquiry into the Truth of the Sino-Japanese Incident

By Nagae Tarô,

This paper’s purpose is to conduct an inquiry into the truth of the Sino-Japanese Incident (or “Second Sino-Japanese War”). The Chinese assert that, “the Sino-Japanese War ? or the Sino-Japanese Incident ? was a war of Japanese aggression. Many Chinese lives and considerable assets were lost due to the invasion by the Japanese Army. The Japanese people need to acknowledge this and apologize from the heart.” In consideration of this, we would like to reply to that assertion with a candid question: “Is this really true?”

What is serious about this problem is that there are many Japanese who believe the Chinese assertion, and there are a great many of the intelligentsia who are in agreement with it. When those who had had actual experience in war were the central figures in Japanese politics and business, there was none of this type of thing. They would shut down any argument with the following four points:

1) Exactly who was it who wanted the Sino-Japanese War? Was it really the Japanese?
2) Given the minor shooting affair at the Marco Polo Bridge, who was it who escalated the troubles in the north of China?
3) Who was the person who decided to turn it into a full-scale war between China and Japan, and chose Shanghai to be the battlefield?
4) Who was it that employed scorched earth tactics even though knowing that expanding the war into the Chinese interior would cause suffering to China’s citizens?

The feature of today’s talk is that we will make clear such questions or problems by means of the official histories of the war kept by both of the parties actually involved in the war. These will be the explanations introduced within the official histories, already published in an illustrated edition, so the answers are not new. The simple fact is, however, that this public, published history has only been read by a few specialists.

The governments of both China and Japan were responsible for the editing and publishing of these war records. The significance of this address being based on the official histories of the war is this:

There are many Japanese (it is a given for the Chinese) who believe that the Sino-Chinese Incident (Shina-Jihen) and the Greater East Asian War were conflicts of Japanese aggression; it is from a lack of study and from not even knowing that official histories of the war exist, that this situation is so. The lack of study about the history of the war by the government officials and the bureaucracy is particularly troubling. Because of this lack, there is no way to calculate how many losses Japan has suffered as a nation.

To give one example, there is the so-called reparations paid to China for chemical weapons abandoned in Manchuria, which totalled 200 billion yen. Since weapons of the Japanese Army ? including chemical weapons ? were handed over to the Soviet Army at the time of disarmament, that should have been an end to it without paying anything. The fact that at the conclusion of the Chinese civil war between the Nationalist and Communist forces, the Communist Chinese Army ordered the population in the area of Halha Peak to take the material and dispose of it, burying it underground, corroborates this. Those who abandoned the arms were not the Japanese Army; they were the Chinese forces.

We must explain a bit more about the official histories. After a war’s conclusion, the governments of the nations involved always compile a history of the war. Compilation of war records is vital research, and some parts are just not available to the public. The results of this endeavor become the official history of the war. All of Japan’s military actions starting with the First Sino-Japanese and Russo?Japanese wars are included in these records.

Japan’s highest-level research center for military history, the Military History Department of the Defense Agency’s National Institute for Defense Studies (at that time, the “Military History Room”), compiled all the information from Greater East Asian War (including the Sino-Japanese Incident [Shina Jihen]) into it, and it was then printed by the Asagumo Newspaper Company. All told, there are 102 volumes. Therein, all of the military operations on the Chinese mainland ? everything from the Manchurian Incident to the start of the Greater East Asian War ? are recounted in the three volumes making up the Shina Jihen Rikugun Sakusen (Continental Military Operations of the Sino-Japanese Incident).

In China, the official history of the war was compiled by the Military History Division of the People’s Liberation Army’s Institute of Military Science (the equivalent of the Military History Department of the Defense Agency’s National Institute for Defense Studies in Japan). It was published in three volumes under the title Zhongguo Kang Ri Zhanzheng Shi (The History of War of Resistance Against Japanese Agression) by Jiefang Jun Chuban (Liberation Army Publishing).

Today, relying on these six volumes of the two countries’ official histories of the war, we would like to clarify several questionable points about the Sino-Japanese Incident which, even though called “Incident,” became in essence a great war between China and Japan.

First we must touch on the terminology of the conflict. Recently, the Sino-Japanese Incident (Shina Jihen) have come to be called the “Sino-Japanese War” (Nitchu Senso). “Sino-Japanese War,” however, originally referred to the First Sino-Japanese War (Nisshin Senso). Outside Japan it is properly called the Sino-Japanese Incident (Nisshi Jihen); but in Japanese textbooks, it is taught only as the Sino-Japanese War. In China it is called the “War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression” (Kang Ri Zhanzheng) rather than “Sino-Japanese War.”

On top of all this, neither side issued a formal declaration of war; so even if there were “incidents,” it wasn’t officially a “war.” The international laws of warfare were not being applied. In the world of academe, it is vital to clearly distinguish and use the proper terminology. This is why, in this address, we are distinct in usage among terms like Sina and China, as well as “attack,” “invasion,” “aggression,” “luring,” etc.

The proper terminology in China may be “War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression”; in Japan is it “The Chinese Incident”; and internationally it would be properly called “Sino-Japanese Incident.”