Chinese opinions on Hiroshima and Nagasaki


The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened this week 74 years ago, on August 6 and 9, respectively. This week’s Kuora comes from one of Kaiser’s answers originally posted to Quora on December 2, 2014.

How is the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki viewed in China?

On balance I think Chinese who hold an opinion on the use of the atomic bomb by the U.S. to compel a Japanese surrender don’t have qualms about it and believe it was necessary.

In many conversations I’ve put the critical case to my Chinese friends (not that I necessarily would have opposed the bombing myself), suggesting that a Japanese surrender was imminent anyway, and that it was just the specter of Stalin making gains in Japan after the Soviet entry into the war that really prompted Truman to drop the bombs, or that the Nagasaki bomb was just gratuitous, or that neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki was a legitimate military target and this was just about wreaking horrific civilian death — something immoral even in war — but most of my Chinese friends won’t be swayed, and believe that, like Americans who argue that it saved hundreds of thousands of American lives by making an invasion unnecessary, it also saved countless Chinese lives.

I’ve met some people in China who think that the loss of civilian life was regrettable, but almost no one who thinks the U.S. never should have dropped the bomb. They’ll bring up the Nanjing Massacre or the heinousness of Unit 731 in Manchuria (which conducted cruel and flat-out inhumane biological experimentation on Chinese prisoners) and draw a moral equivalence.

Kuora: The Nanjing Massacre, where ‘all Chinese, regardless of sex or age, seemed marked out as victims’

Kuora is a weekly column.