Massacre as Method: The National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims and China’s Drive for Regional Power
Hindel, Hannah Elisabeth
In December 2014, Chinese President Xi Jinping presided over China’s first state commemoration of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. The decision to hold this event, made months prior in February at the National People’s Congress annual meeting, seems counterintuitive in light of China’s recent progress in deescalating tensions with Japan. However, this move was part of a strategy to reclaim national prestige and regional status through the assertion of historical claims. After tracing the establishment of the Nanjing Massacre Commemoration Day and exploring the particular significance of the Nanjing Massacre in Sino-Japanese relations, I propose four other benchmarks that demonstrate a larger bank of policies to achieve this goal. Though this decision may seem indicative of a strong current of domestic nationalism or China’s desire for contrition from Japan, I argue that neither alternative convincingly accounts for the timing or content of this push for regional status. China’s insistence on periodically reviving the Nanjing Massacre does not bode well for the future of Sino-Japanese relations.
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