The Chinese Communist Party again and again accuses Japan of being in denial about its World War Two history and being insufficiently repentant about its crimes of that by-gone era. In a speech at Nanjing recently, Chinese president Xi Jinping was at it again, attacking Japan for atrocities committed 77 years ago band charging that it continues to fudge or deny the facts of the matter. ‘History will not be altered as time changes and facts will not disappear because of any chicanery or denials,’ he declared to an audience of thousands.
He was referring specifically, in his speech, to the famous atrocities by Japanese forces after the fall of the Chinese Nationalist capital, Nanjing, in 1937. All informed sources agree that very large numbers of people were killed, often with appalling barbarity. Estimates range from about 140,000 up to 300,000. It was the largest single atrocity committed by the Japanese in a long and brutal war. It is quite natural, therefore, that it would be remembered and deplored in China and that perceived Japanese denial would be resented.
But the Chinese Communist Party has been responsible for vastly more killing and death in China than the Japanese invaders ever committed and it continues to this day to seal archives, suppress documentation, discourage and even punish inquiry, ignore and denounce scholarship which exposes the truth. When it comes to accusations of trying to make facts disappear through chicanery and denial, the Communist Party doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
Chicanery and denial have been standard Party practice throughout its brutal history. Atrocities every bit as savage and far larger in number than those committed by the Japanese are sealed up in Party archives and all inquiry into them discouraged. The surest way for Xi to encourage a more open and confessional stance on Japan’s part would be to set a good example by opening up the huge can of worms that is the history of his own dictatorial Party. There is no sign that he has any intention of doing so.
When the Communist armies besieged Changchun, in central Manchuria, in 1948, their commander, Lin Biao, ordered that it be turned into ‘a city of death’. An estimated 160,000 people died from hunger and disease during his blockade of the city, as he prevented the escape of any civilians in order to keep pressure on the defending garrison. The Party has never countenanced any open inquiry into this matter, much less admitted that it constituted an atrocity on an immense scale. Officially, it never happened.
At a conservative estimate, some 2,000,000 ‘landlords’ or ‘rich peasants’ were killed in a revolutionary agrarian terror in the late 1940s. They were buried alive, tied up and dismembered, strangled or shot. In a wave of terror directed against ‘bad elements’ and ‘counter-revolutionaries’ in 1950-52, in which Mao Zedong issued ‘quotas’ for killings by general categories of people, another 2,000,000 people were executed, perhaps more. There were purges, confiscations and imprisonments on a vast scale, in the name of ‘liberation’. The scale of it all and the details remained sealed up in Party archives.
In 1957, the Party attacked the intelligentsia in an extraordinary manner and confined an estimated half a million of them to Mao’s mushrooming GULAG. The lack of intelligence in his national development policies was then revealed when he imposed and the Party enforced the so-called ‘Great Leap Forward’, causing a famine in which at least 35 million people died of starvation, between 1959 and 1961.
To this day, the Party discourages either inquiry into or discussion of this monumental catastrophe, which was wholly its fault. Only non-Party scholarship has established the reality of the matter. Mao Zedong, meanwhile, remains an icon and his portrait sits above Tiananmen Square; his embalmed body in a mausoleum in that same public space.
You would think that someone who causes tens of millions of deaths by starvation would, at the very least, lose his job. But Mao remained the head of state and proceeded to inflict the Cultural Revolution on the country, in the mid-1960s, in which far more people were killed than by the Japanese at Nanjing. By Deng Xiaoping’s later estimate, some 100 million lives were severely disrupted. Is any of this a matter of open and critical inquiry today? Not remotely.
History will not be altered as time changes and facts will not disappear because of any chicanery or denials, the Chinese leader declares. Very well, then; let us have an unexpurgated history of the Party, Master Xi; cleansed of chicanery and denials. That would be something to behold. Of course we can’t expect anything of the sort from the dictatorial and propagandist machinery of the Party; but we should all scoff at the rank hypocrisy of its demands on Japan.