New Publication: Interpreting Japanese War Crimes in the Early PRC

One of my scholarly articles was published this week in The China Quarterly, a journal which defines itself as “the leading scholarly journal in its field, covering all aspects of contemporary China.”  The full text of the piece, footnotes and all, appears to be available here.


The article, entitled ‘To Serve Revenge for the Dead’: Chinese Communist Responses to Japanese War Crimes in the PRC Foreign Ministry Archive, 1949–1956,” is summarized in the following abstract:

Using newly available documents from the PRC Foreign Ministry Archive, this article traces the evolving legacies of the War of Resistance in the first seven years of the People’s Republic. Analysis is offered of PRC campaigns against Japanese bacteriological war crimes, criticisms of American dealings with Japanese war criminals, and the 1956 trial of Japanese at Shenyang. Throughout, behind-the-scenes tensions with the Soviet Union and internal bureaucratic struggles over the Japanese legacy regarding these matters are revealed. The article thereby aims to shed light on how the War of Resistance affected post-war China’s foreign relations, demonstrating how the young Republic advantageously used wartime legacies as diplomatic tools in relations with the superpowers and within the orchestrated clangour of domestic propaganda campaigns.

Chillingly fascinating, isn’t it?  I, for one, am intrigued. But intrigued enough to finish my other piling-up manuscripts on other topics of Sino-Japanese vintage?  Only time will tell, my friends!

Eliezer Gurarie, a Seattle/Helsinki quantitative ecologist with whom I am pleased to collaborate musically, approaches his own article publications with equanimity, noting that each new article renders one’s previous research obsolete.  Obsolete or not, I had an excellent time in the archives for this particular piece, and my co-author remains stalwartly fixed upon the notion and persistence of anti-Japanese sentiment in China.

Ironic, isn’t it, that this somewhat-unprecedented type of examination of the PRC’s documentary record with regard to Japan and Japanese war crimes in the 1950s arrives when Xi Jinping is in Japan, going palm to palm with Akihito?  Or when Xi Jinping is voicing cautious yet unmistakable approval of the Japanese Prime Ministers’ proposals for a common East Asian Community à la the EU?

The CCP is nothing if not flexible and pragmatic with its approach to Japan.  Dogma and nationalism and personal feelings of Chinese leaders are forces, to be sure, but when the occasion calls for it, friendship can be in the offing and the entire sweep of Sino-Japanese relations reinterpreted with a sweep of the hand and declarations of friendship and cultural exchange dating back to the great Prince Shitoku / 聖徳太子.

Here’s to publications, further publications, and the perpetual evolution of the gamut of China’s relations with Japan.  中日友好不是口号。


  1. I know I’m not that frequent of a commenter on blogs either counting this or related to this, but it’s worth a congratulations for this! I’m reading the article now, and enjoying it, and hoping there’s more to come. Thanks for the work you put into it, and congratulations on the award, from a stranger. Good on ya!

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