Resurrecting Defeat: International Propaganda and the Shenyang Trials of 1956
Using now-closed files from the Chinese Foreign Ministry Archive and contemporary sources in Chinese, this chapter investigates the role of the Shenyang Trials of 1956 in configuring China’s postwar position and asserting a specifically Chinese communist response to Japanese war crimes. Within the matrix of East Asian war crimes trials of Japanese defendants, the Shenyang Trial was peculiar in that it served as the pre-eminent Chinese forum for prosecuting crimes committed under the auspices of the Japanese colonial experiment of Manchukuo. While the Khabarovsk Trials of December 1949 also exposed crimes committed in Manchuria with an emphasis on bacteriological weapons research, the Shenyang Trials held up to scrutiny Pu Yi, the puppet emperor, and various officials throughout the broader Manchukuo system. With the Shenyang Trials, the Communist Party of China (CPC) sought to move China beyond gratefulness for the Soviet intervention which had, in fact, crushed the puppet state and on toward a more assertive portrayal of CPC justice. They also exemplified how the government used show trials in the 1950s to undergird public support, serve as instruments of propaganda internationally, and frame a model of Japanese postcolonial guilt in the face of contingent Chinese benevolence that persists to this day in the People’s Republic of China.
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