The China Quarterly


“To Serve Revenge for the Dead”: Chinese Communist Responses to Japanese War Crimes in the PRC Foreign Ministry Archive, 1949–1956

Adam Cathcart and Patricia Nash


Using newly available documents from the PRC Foreign Ministry Archive, this article traces the evolving legacies of the War of Resistance in the first seven years of the People's Republic. Analysis is offered of PRC campaigns against Japanese bacteriological war crimes, criticisms of American dealings with Japanese war criminals, and the 1956 trial of Japanese at Shenyang. Throughout, behind-the-scenes tensions with the Soviet Union and internal bureaucratic struggles over the Japanese legacy regarding these matters are revealed. The article thereby aims to shed light on how the War of Resistance affected post-war China's foreign relations, demonstrating how the young Republic advantageously used wartime legacies as diplomatic tools in relations with the superpowers and within the orchestrated clangour of domestic propaganda campaigns.

Adam Cathcart is assistant professor of history at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. In addition to his ongoing research into war memory and Sino-Japanese relations in the 1950s, he has published multiple articles on Sino-North Korean relations in such outlets as the Journal of Korean Studies.

Patricia Nash is an independent researcher in St. Louis, Missouri. She works regularly in archives and state libraries in Beijing and Northeast China, and was awarded a Freeman Foundation ASIANetwork Student–Faculty Research grant in 2007.