With China-Japan tensions showing no signs of abating, the Chinese government is continuing its plan to gain the moral high ground. China’s strategy centers around reminding the world about Japanese atrocities during its invasion of China. As such, Nanjing has become a focal point in China’s battle for popular international opinion.
Nanjing (romanized as Nanking at the time) was the capital of the Republic of China government during World War II. As such, it was a target for the invading Japanese army. Nanjing was captured on December 13, 1937, and for the next six weeks was the site of murder, rape, and looting by Japanese soldiers — at least, according to China. Some in Japan, most recently NHK Governor Naoki Hyakuta, have denied that the Nanjing Massacre happened. Disagreement over the scale of the atrocities, or whether they occurred at all, is a potent symbol for broader arguments between China and Japan over the legacy of World War II. Accordingly, drawing attention to the Nanjing Massacre has become shorthand for China’s efforts to discredit Japan on the international stage.