Frog in a Well welcomes a guest posting from Sayaka Chatani, who is a PhD student in the History Department of Columbia University. Her research interests are in the transnational history of early to mid-twentieth century East Asia, mainly focusing on the colonization and decolonization of Korea and Taiwan.
For those who missed the August 2007 issue of Sekai, a journal widely read by (mainly left-leaning) Japanese intellectuals, I would like to introduce an article by Marukawa Tetsushi in the volume, who I think shows an interesting way of addressing multiple postwar contexts through a single historical issue.
The main part of the August 2007 issue of Sekai is dedicated to the 70th Anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, with the subtitle of “how we face the memory of the Sino-Japanese War.” A number of historians devoted articles on issues related to the war. Unlike conventional debates on the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, none of them discusses “who started firing first.” It starts with a series of interviews with Chinese people who survived the experience of forced labor under the Japanese occupation; scholars discuss the decision-making of the navy to carpet-bomb Chinese cities after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident; and it also includes comments by activists on the future of Japan’s war responsibility. Among these articles is Marukawa Tetsushi’s discussion on the 八路軍 (the Communist Eighth Route Army during the resistance war against Japan).
Marukawa’s short article, 「改造」と「認罪」−その起源と展開, focuses on the policy of the Eighth Route Army toward Japanese POWs and war criminals, which constituted an integral part of the Chinese Communists’ strategy towards international society during and immediately after WWII. Marukawa argues that the Eighth Route Army, not being recognized as a legitimate actor or army by foreign powers, had no incentive to abide with the Hague Convention on the treatment of the POWs. Nevertheless, the Eighth Route Army adopted a very lenient policy towards the Japanese POWs as a tactic of psychological warfare. Marukawa introduces “the Yan-an (延安) Report,” which American intelligence compiled to learn from the Chinese Communist strategy in fighting Japanese forces. According to this report, the Communists treated the Japanese POWs with medical care, provided them with education and released them as they desired in order to provide a contrast with the indoctrination of the Japanese military. This lenient POW policy was so effective that, the report argues, many Japanese soldiers deserted and defected during the war. Marukawa identifies the nature of the politics of Chinese Communism in this policy of converting enemies into friends, reminding the reader of Mao Zedong’s comment, “Who is our enemy? Who is our friend? This is the most important problem to our revolution.”
Marukawa continues by discussing how Japanese society remembered – or did not remember – the Eighth Route Army POW policy since the war ended. He argues that the Cold War situation distorted the image of the Eighth Route Army. The setting of Tamura Taijirō’s famous novel, “春婦伝 (A Story of a Prostitute)” (1946), was changed under pressure when it was made into a movie, “暁の脱走” (the main character was played by Yamaguchi Yoshiko) in 1950. In the original novel, a Japanese soldier was captured by the Eighth Route Army and released, but the Eighth Route Army was replaced with the Nationalist (KMT) Army in the movie owing to the GHQ censorship. This was a result of the American fear of “brain-washing,” which had just become an established concept during the Korean War, Marukawa argues.
At the same time, Communist China was wholeheartedly promoting the 整風 (zhengfeng) movement to ideologically convert former KMT supporters. It was in this context that the continuous 思想改造 (thought conversion) and the 認罪 (admitting guilt) movement of Japanese POWs and war criminals was posited. In other words, Marukawa recognizes two contexts – the consolidation of the Communist victory of the Civil War, and the continuation of the Eighth Route Army tactic of psychological warfare as operating at the same time as the 戦犯管理 (management of war criminals) policy. It was also a means for the Chinese to engage with international society. Stalin transported about 1000 Japanese POWs to China in the 1950s so that China could demonstrate its ability to adequately manage them to international society. Marukawa argues (somewhat ambiguously) that, dissatisfied with the result of San Francisco Treaty, Communist China further intensified the 認罪 (admitting guilt) program towards the Japanese POWs/war criminals.
Marukawa’s article concludes by reflecting on the stunning leniency seen in the rules of the Shenyang war crime tribunal, as well as the fact that many Japanese soldiers felt responsible and guilty of the crimes that they were only indirectly related to. A round-talk with some Japanese survivors who had experienced Eighth Route Army POW policy and became anti-war activists follows his article in the same volume.
Marukawa Tetsushi, “Kaizō to Ninzai, Sono Kigen to Tenkai,” in Sekai, Iwanami Shoten, August 2007, no.768, pp. 243-252