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How the Nanjing Massacre Overhauled Japanese Conservatism

As Shinzo Abe cements his power in Japan’s top political party, William Cheng analyzes how a World War II genocide still transforms Japanese conservatism today. Read the study that won the 2018 MIT INSPIRE research competition.


Arguably the most infamous atrocity committed by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Nanking Massacre still plays a major role in diplomatic tensions between China and Japan. In recent years, denialism of the Nanking Massacre has surged, with prominent conservatives questioning the convictions of Japanese “war heroes” during the Tokyo War Trials and Nanjing Tribunals, and the legitimate existence of the Nanking massacre. This paper studies the historical revisionism that has been carried into the modern age, with the movement climbing and peaking in recent years.

The following research will examine the effects of Nanking Massacre revisionism in three key areas. First, it’s contribution to the right-wing shift in Japanese centrists in the early 21st century. Second, marking the growing political power of older Japanese generations and their responses to Nanking and other Japanese war crimes. Third, tracking the rising nationalist sentiment in Japanese governmental leaders and main political parties. Sources are composed of government statements, data from think tanks and research centers, Japanese media, and historical sources.

Read the full paper here or use the viewer below:

The Effects of Nanjing Massacre Revisionism on Japanese Conservatism by William Cheng

The author would like to thank the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for hosting the 2018 INSPIRE competition. He would also like to thank Dr. Matthew Davis and Jeannie Woller for providing helpful comments, and the Waterford School for providing support in its early stages. All views expressed in this paper are those of the author and do not represent the views of Rootpolicy.