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Nanking Atrocity Analysis Essay

The Nanking Atrocity is a contentious historical event in world history. The two countries in which it involved, China and Japan, both argue vehemently about what events actually occurred and those that have been fabricated. In August of 1937 the Japanese army began their invasion of China’s capital, Shanghai. By mid-November they had conquered the city and they began their march towards the city of Nanking, the capital of Chiang Kai-shek’s regime. This city, however, would not be able to resist the Japanese army and would also fall shortly after Shanghai.

After numerous air raids on the city, Japanese troops invaded the walls of Nanking on December 13th and established military control over the city. In the subsequent weeks, horrendous acts against human rights took place in Nanking. Japanese soldiers killed Chinese civilians and soldiers, raped women, looted, and burned homes and buildings in the city. The estimate of the number of deaths that happened because of the Japanese invasion into Nanking varies widely, from the Chinese claiming 300,000 people, to the International Military Tribunal of the Far East estimating 260,000, to Japanese scholars estimating between 100,000-200,00.

The memory of Nanking and the Japanese invasion is seared into Chinese history. The Japanese are accused of having killed nearly ten percent of the total population in Nanking. Humiliation from all sides took place, from not being able to win the war on their own, to not being able to defend against Japanese imperialism. The events that took place in Nanking between the Japanese and the Chinese have been wholly contested by both countries and those who were involved in the Nanking Safety Zone.

Such high tensions between the two countries between what happened and who collaborated have affected Chinese relations both foreign and domestic. The definition for the term “collaboration” is versatile and has many different meanings when it is used. Politically, collaboration can be used to describe; political cooperation with an occupying power, adaption of the occupied society to new conditions, or the “continuing exercise of power under pressure produced by the presence of an occupying power. ” In the first, politicians of the occupied state conform to and enforce orders for the occupier.

In the second, the society adapts to the rule of the occupier, accepting any and all new rules set into motion. In the third, people living in the occupied state exercise their own power as individuals to collaborate with the occupying state. The third is how a large quantity of the collaboration between the Japanese and Chinese occurred during the Japanese occupation of Nanking. The Red Swastika Society was an organization that imitated the American Red Cross, without Christianity as its central iconography.

The society used the swastika because of its significance in Chinese Buddhism, it is recognized as universal symbol of peace. The Red Swastika Society had two branches that operated within Nanking, one directly in the city and one in Nanking’s river port Hsiakwan, one of the city’s poorest areas. The organization’s main duties were to provide aid to those living in destitute conditions. The Red Swastika Society provided food, clothing, medicines, and shelter for civilians in Nanking. Besides organizing aide in the city, a huge job for the RSS was the burial of abandoned corpses on the streets.

They kept documents on how many bodies they had recovered, buried, and how those people died. Burial workers turned in daily records of the dead they buried to bring about a total of 43,121 bodies buried by the Society by the end of the Japanese occupation. The local prestige of the society made it an organization that the Japanese were willing to work with in order to maintain some form of peace within the city. The Red Swastika Society would be the organization from where the Japanese recruited individuals into the Self-Government Committee, also known as the SGC.

The Self-Government Committee had the great difficulty of trying to provide tens of thousands of refugees with enough grain to sustain them throughout the occupation and was responsible for establishing a form of organization in city life to ease tensions between the Chinese and Japanese. The SGC relied heavily upon monetary funds from the Japanese Army in order to function. This left the SGC with an unreliable source of income because the Japanese Army was not generous with the amount of money they were willing to provide, and over time they would provide significantly less.

The SGC would have to continue to cooperate with the Japanese, but without their monetary support. This left the SGC in a position where they would have to also work together with other organizations that were currently operating within the city. This created a work alliance between the SGC and the International Committee, also known as the IC. The SGC maintained an effective relationship with the Japanese while working in cooperation with the International Committee. The IC was created from some two dozen foreigners that decided to stay behind in Nanking after the regime changed and the Japanese took over.

They commissioned themselves as the International Committee and tried to establish a demilitarized safety zone within Nanking. This Safety Zone took up about one-eighth of the city and established it as a neutral zone, combatants from both sides, Japanese and Chinese, were barred from entry. The International Committee was lead by John Rabe, a German businessman and Nazi party member. John Rabe has been credited with helping save thousands of lives during the Japanese occupation of Nanking and fighting to bring true order to the chaos that the Japanese forces had created.

The IC took initiative in making demands to the Japanese Army to recognize their safety zone and to establish certain protocols pertaining to the zone. “In order to quickly improve this situation, the International Committee respectfully suggests that the Imperial Japanese Army take the following steps at once: Have all searching done by regularly organized squads of soldiers under [the supervision] of a responsible officer. (Most of the trouble has come from wandering groups of soldiers of groups of 3 to 7 without an officer. At Night, and if possible during the daytime, have guards at the entrances of the Safety Zone (proposed by the Major yesterday) [to] prevent any stray Japanese soldiers from entering the Safety Zone. Today, give us passes to paste on the windshields of our private cars and trucks to prevent Japanese soldiers from commandeering them. ” This section of a letter written by Lewis S. C. Smythe written to the Japanese Embassy was only one of many that were sent on behalf of the International Committee.

The Japanese tended to work with the International Committee because of the diplomatic issues that could arise from ignoring them. In response to the IC’s demands, the Japanese Army decided that they would honor the boundaries of the safety zone and not attack those living inside of it, however they would not recognize it as an actual boundary. “the cottage of Embassy Third Secretary Douglas Jenkins had been ransacked and his Chinese servant, who had remained in the house, killed. It was all too true. The cottage was completely wrecked.

Doors hung on one hinge, windows were broken, books,papers,remnants of sheets, pillowcases and torn rugs were strewn all over the floor. The sign stating that this was American property was torn in half. The servant’s body had been taken away. We found similar conditions in many American homes. One of the largest… had obviously been in the line of fire for there were huge shell holes in several of the walls and much of the roof had been burned off… The Chinese caretaker was still there. His torso lay in the rear garden, his head in the front. ”

It was easy for the Japanese to just simply walk across the lines and take what they wanted or needed, there was no way for the IC to actually create a strong hold or defend against the Japanese Army. If the Safety Zone had become militarized in any way, the Japanese would have had reason to scale a large attack against everyone living there, foreigner or civilian. Reports of rape and robbery within the Safety Zone would continue. The Japanese Army would also continue in their search of Chinese soldiers who had stripped from their uniforms and hidden within the confines of the Safety Zone.

In a series of “mop-up operations,” the Japanese military rounded up and executed “only soldiers that were resistant and assumed a threatening attitude” that were hiding in the Safety Zone. The Japanese Army was not interested in working with the International Committee, in fact it really despised it. This committee was created by Europeans and Americans, completely self-governing, and had popular respect from the people living within the Safety-Zone. The committee also had the great advantage of being foreigners.

They were able to use the media of their homelands in order to spread news around the world of what was happening in Nanking. They gained support from their home governments and consequently the governments put pressure on the Japanese to acknowledge and apologize on behalf of some things that were happening in Nanking. After an incident between Japanese soldiers, United States diplomat John Moore Allison and Charles Riggs gained an official apology from Japan and from an official envoy sent to apologize in person.

The International Committee shared close relations with the SGC and took part in many of their operations. This organizational alliance did not make the Japanese Army jubilant. The popularity of the IC greatly undermined and complicated their legitimacy for invading China in the first place. Japanese propagandists were dispatched to try to indoctrinate the Chinese people into believing that Japan had released them from their great Western humiliation. In places where foreign charitable organizations operate refugee zones, such as South City [in Shanghai], Nanking, and Wuhu, refugees have long been influenced by the compassion of foreign chartiable organizations. This has deepened their reliance on Europe and America and has worked against the intentions guiding pacification under the imperial way. These organizations must be taken over and dissolved as speedily as possible and placed under the direction of the self-government committees. ”

Had the Japanese Army supplied the self-government committee with the money and supplies that it needed in order to function properly from beginning to end, then perhaps the SGC would not have needed to rely so heavily upon the IC. The Japanese in Nanking would have successfully created a situation where the society would have collaborated under the new rule of the Japanese. Due to the influence of the IC and the lack of support for the SGC, the Japanese would have no choice but to collaborate and make concessions to both committees, no matter how much it went against their original agendas.

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