Germ Warfare and Panda Diplomacy in Tokyo: Unit 731 Excavations

This is a cross-post from my Japanese War Crimes blog. — AC

Unit 731, the bacteriological warfare research wing of the Kanto Army in Manchuria, has been discussed in Japan with varying degrees of postwar intensity, but this discovery in Tokyo last week (via the Guardian) seems poised to bring the activities — and the difficult subject of history in Sino-Japanese relations — back out into the open.

Some good reads on the topic include this article by Mainichi Shimbun, this analysis from a Taiwan website I plan to revisit more frequently, and, most interestingly, a first-hand account from the hard-hitting culture blog, Tokyo Damage Report, about a walking tour in Tokyo that includes Unit 731 commemoration (with photographs).

Xinhua is currently downplaying this potentially usefully inflamatory story, probably in order to focus on the happy happy China China trope of two Pandas making their way from Chengdu to Tokyo.  As one Japanese commenter pointed out to me, the CCP is not just downplaying the Unit 731 story while trying to temporarily mend fences with Tokyo, it is because there is no need to create yet another reason for people to be out waving banners in the street.

Meanwhile, Chinese microbloggers seem to be more focused on the fact that Japanese adult film star Sara Aoi recently opened a Weibo account, quickly garnering one million slavering Chinese fans.  Such is the state of the communications environment in which the Unit 731 revelations find their way into public.

But if you’re looking for more serious fare, Frederick Dickenson in Japan Focus describes the evolution of Unit 731 investigations and awareness in Japan.

In the print world of peer-reviewed journals, see:

Adam Cathcart, “’Against Invisible Enemies’: Japanese Bacteriological Weapons in China’s Cold War, 1949-1952,” Chinese Historical Review Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring 2009): 101-129.

Adam Cathcart and Patricia Nash, “’To Serve Revenge for the Dead’: Chinese Communist Reflections of the War of Resistance in the PRC Foreign Ministry Archive, 1949-1956,”  China Quarterly No. 200 (December 2009).

1 Comment

  1. the story shows “japan,” or at least part thereof, being willing to face up to its imperialist past. so thats one more possible reason why xinhua wouldn’t print the story.

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