The Japanese Army committed numerous atrocities during its pitiless campaigns in China from 1931 to 1945. When the Chinese emerged victorious with the Allies at the end of World War II, many seemed ready to exact retribution for these crimes. Rather than resort to violence, however, they chose to deal with their former enemy through legal and diplomatic means. Focusing on the trials of, and policies toward, Japanese war criminals in the postwar period, Men to Devils, Devils to Men analyzes the complex political maneuvering between China and Japan that shaped East Asian realpolitik during the Cold War.
Barak Kushner examines how factions of Nationalists and Communists within China structured the war crimes trials in ways meant to strengthen their competing claims to political rule. On the international stage, both China and Japan propagandized the tribunals, promoting or blocking them for their own advantage. Both nations vied to prove their justness to the world: competing groups in China by emphasizing their magnanimous policy toward the Japanese; Japan by openly cooperating with postwar democratization initiatives. At home, however, Japan allowed the legitimacy of the war crimes trials to be questioned in intense debates that became a formidable force in postwar Japanese politics.
In uncovering the different ways the pursuit of justice for Japanese war crimes influenced Sino-Japanese relations in the postwar years, Men to Devils, Devils to Men reveals a Cold War dynamic that still roils East Asian relations today.
Using newly available sources from both China and Japan, Kushner examines the complex motives that shaped the Chinese trials.
Kushner has written a superb book, underpinned by rich research in Chinese and Japanese, that will force historians seriously to reassess the story of Cold War Asia. At a time when relations between China, Japan and Taiwan continue to be tense, Kushner’s book is a timely reminder that relations in the region have always been in a state of flux.
Men to Devils is formidable in scope and convincing in its conclusions regarding the postwar pursuit of justice. In lucid, engaging prose, Kushner presents the trials and their ramifications as a vital component in sculpting political mindsets in Japan, China and Taiwan. For anyone interested in the political maneuvering between the power brokers in postwar East Asia and how it affected contemporary Sino-Japanese relations, this book is a valuable resource.
A fascinating and reliable account of the ending of the long war between China and Japan in 1945, with particular emphasis on how the Chinese dealt with Japanese war criminals—and how the Japanese failed to come to terms with their own war crimes. As Kushner shows, Chinese authorities were eager to show themselves as knowledgeable about international law rather than seeking revenge, which often resulted in their hesitation to conduct lengthy trials of a large number of Japanese, who on their part had little awareness of their war crimes, even viewing themselves as having been ‘victims’ of circumstances. This book is must reading for anyone interested in understanding the still tortuous relationship between the two countries.
Men to Devils, Devils to Men breaks through national boundaries to show how war crimes and the question of war guilt reshaped East Asia after the Second World War. It is a major book on an important and timely topic, and will spark serious debate about the Cold War, law in Asia, and the end of empire.
- 2016, Winner of the John K. Fairbank Prize in East Asian History
- 416 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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