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Power of Propaganda: Rape of Nanking


This is a short premise of a graduation thesis written by a Caucasian New Zealander woman several years ago who asked me to critique it. There is a slight difference in the spelling of some New Zealand and North American English words, like with “s” and “z.”
North American English generally uses the “s” in most words requiring “s” rather than “z” and vice versa.

The rough edition of this thesis was eventually accepted by the professor who in turn had it reviewed and approved by the academic board. However, the author had changed her mind about continuing with it because she felt that it was too controversial and decided to pull it at the last minute.

Apparently, she had thought it would’ve gotten rejected by the teacher, but it didn’t. I kept it stored away in my files. The writing is authentic and 100% her words with a little guidance from me.

“Propaganda is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.” The ‘Rape of Nanking’ is testament to the power of propaganda. Controversy suggests that this statement deserves consideration, if not just to amend and restore respect towards Japan. While the Japanese recognize that atrocities were committed by their ground forces, they maintain that they were not as extreme as the Chinese propaganda machine would have people believe. This essay will discuss propaganda as the powerful war weapon used by the Chinese to reign in western sympathy and support against Japan. On 13 December 1937, Nanking, the capital of Chiang Kai Shek’s Nationalist Chinese Government, fell and Japanese troops entered the city. A Chicago Daily

News story later read:

The story of Nanking’s fall is a story of indescribable panic and confusion among the entrapped Chinese defenders, followed by a reign of terror by the conquering army which cost thousands of lives, many of them innocent ones.

This ‘reign of terror’ lasted for over a period of six weeks. Japanese troops carried out mop-up operations to filter out soldiers and those disguised as civilians, who had sought refuge within the safety zone. As battalions sifted through the city, looting, arson and torture was not uncommon. However, many other acts of wanton cruelty occurred such as the rounding up and killing of combatants and non-combatants by various means.

"Not only did live burials, castration, the carving of organs and the roasting of people become routine, but more diabolical tortures were practiced, such as hanging people by their tongues on iron hooks or burying people to their waists and watching them torn apart by dogs."

It is reported that over 200,000 Chinese were killed by these random killings or systematic massacres. Moreover, females were shown no mercy. "Many soldiers went beyond rape to disembowel women, slice off their breasts, nail them alive to walls. Fathers were forced to rape their daughters, and sons their mothers, as other family members watched."

Between 20,000 – 80,000 Chinese women and girls of all ages were raped; most were murdered following these attacks. This period of time is referred to as the “Rape of Nanking” or “Nanking Massacre” and is known as one of the worst cases of systematic massacre and brutality of civilian against humanity committed by a country in our modern history.

It appears, however, that Japan is not solely responsible for all atrocities leveled at her. The key to resolving the controversy of the Nanking Massacre can be found first within the Battle of Shanghai.
Chiang Kai Shek did not want to lose Shanghai due to it being the core of his political and economic administration, and since no formal declaration of war had been made, and the loss of other territories had occurred, the realisation that China could not defeat Japan single-handedly was realized.

With the major powers not being members of the League of Nations, Chiang Kai Shek’s hopes rested on the Quarantine Speech of Roosevelt’s summoning for an international “quarantine of the aggressor nations”.    His only option was to attract western powers into the war by eliciting international sympathy through courageous Chinese “fight to the death” resistance at Shanghai. However, this did not eventuate and by the end of November, an exhausted, depleted Chinese army retreated to Nanking.

Chiang Kai Shek’s political strategy was directed now towards Nanking; however this strategy would not be the same as the failed one he had used in Shanghai. The new strategy was to be far more manipulative in order to gain the support Chiang Kai Shek so desperately required.
We are now approaching the final juncture, and we must make sacrifices, demonstrating firm resolve and courage. … We, your leaders, must sacrifice ourselves, as must all our fellow countrymen. … We must resolve to reduce every Chinese and every clod of earth to ashes, rather than render them unto the enemy. … We must leave nothing – absolutely nothing – for the enemy to claim.

This speech highlights the barbaric characteristics of Chiang Kai Shek who intended to use his own people – both combatants and non combatants – to win his war and savour victory over the Japanese Imperial Army. The devastating destruction of Chiang Kai Shek’s military strength coupled with the loss of his political leverage resulted in a leader whom would resort to any extreme to achieve his purpose. The creation of the Nanking Massacre was this opportunity. Both Chiang Kai Shek and Commander-in-Chief Tang Shengzhi deserted the city of Nanking without surrendering. This action left their soldiers without command and consequently created chaos.

References Chang, I. (1997). The rape of Nanking: the forgotten holocaust of World War II. New York: Basic Books Higashinakano, S. (2005). The Nanking Massacre: Fact Versus Fiction. Japan: Sekai Shuppan, Inc.


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