The Shenyang Trials of 1956: Presenting the Resurrection of Defeat in Heidelberg

The University of Heidelberg will be hosting a conference later this month on post-1945 war crimes trials in East Asia, at which I will be presenting. An abstract and bio follow:

The Shenyang Trials of 1956: The Resurrection of Defeat 

Using now-closed files from the Chinese Foreign Ministry Archive and contemporary sources in Chinese, this paper, investigates the role of the Shenyang Trials of 1956 in configuring China’s postwar position and asserting a specifically Chinese communist response to Japanese war crimes. Within the matrix of East Asian war crimes trials of Japanese defendants, the Shenyang Trial was peculiar in that it served as the preeminent Chinese forum for prosecuting crimes committed under the auspices of the Japanese colonial experiment of Manchukuo. While the Khabarovsk Trials of December 1949 also exposed crimes committed in Manchuria with an emphasis on bacteriological weapons research, the Shenyang Trials held up Pu Yi, the puppet emperor, and various officials throughout the broader Manchukuo system to scrutiny. With the Shenyang Trials, the CCP sought to move China beyond gratefulness for the Soviet intervention which had, in fact, crushed the puppet state and on toward a more assertive portrayal of Chinese Communist Party justice. They also exemplified how the government used show trials in the 1950s to undergird public support, serve as instruments of propaganda internationally, and frame a model of Japanese postcolonial guilt in the face of rather contingent Chinese benevolence that persists to this day in the People’s Republic of China.

About the speaker:

Adam CATHCART is Lecturer in Chinese history at the University of Leeds (UK). Under the supervision of Donald Jordan, he wrote his dissertation on the subject of early postwar Chinese responses to Japan, and subsequently researched in the PRC Foreign Ministry Archive, publishing a handful of articles on investigations and politicized trials of Japanese war crimes in the early PRC. He also maintains an active research program in Sino-North Korean relations and transnational aspects of the Korean War, with a focus on eastern Manchuria.

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