The Nanking Massacre

Japan began to embark on its own imperialistic endeavors in Asia. First, Japan took over the southern part of the Korean Peninsula during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895). In 1905, Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905) and gained control of Manchuria. Defeating a European nation empowered Japan to renegotiate its trade treaties with the United States and Europe as equals. Japan took over southern Manchuria, legitimized its control of Korea, and absorbed the southern half of Sakhalin Island. By 1910, Japan had colonized the entire Korean Peninsula.

During World War I, Japan joined the Allied Powers and sent ships to fight Germany. In 1914, while the European powers were embroiled in conflicts at home, Japan became an industrial power. In 1931, the Mukden Incident ceded Manchuria to Japan. In 1937, Japan invaded China during the second Sino-Japanese War. By 1940 it had consolidated its control of Vietnam. On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor to draw the United States into World War II. By 1942, Japan controlled the islands of Indonesia and the Philippines.

Several of these events remain controversial. Many Japanese historians believe Japan was responding to U.S. and European hostility during this period. Meanwhile, Chinese, European, and American historians accused the Japanese Imperial Army of massacring 50,000 to 300,000 civilizations and raping 20,000 women during the Nanking Massacre, also called the Rape of Nanking. Many Japanese historians deny this massacre occurred or believe the number of casualties has been exaggerated.

Read this article to examine arguments for and against the validity of the Nanking Massacre.


Japan was supposed to obey the law during the second world war. However, the Nanjing Massacre still happened. Hirohito, the Japanese emperor, deliberately avoided mentioning the International Treaties in the imperial rescript of the Great East Asia War in 1937. The Nanking Massacre was carried out according to the Japanese army's interpretation of the imperial rescript. Such a legal interpretation was rooted in the idea that Japan had to educate the Chinese and transform China by killing its people in order to pursue a Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere led by Japan. In the film Black Sun: The Nanking Massacre (1995), we can see both a justification of and an opposition to killing. In this paper I am going to show how the imperial rescript is used to justify this mass killing is and how opposing arguments are used to show its cruelty and absurdity, which is taken as a means to achieve a greater good.

Source: Lung-Lung Hu,
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