I think it's said that why some books become sensations and other do not have a strong degree of chance, and so it must seem that Iris Chang's 1997 work is a case of "perfect timing", sweeping through academia right when the "alternative story" of the Pacific War was ready to be said. based on literary theory involved, you can analyze this book's impact as a case of "reception theory" or even possibly historical determinism; or chance.
the western view of world war ii is that is begins in 1939 with Hitler's invasion of Poland, to become intensified in Dec. 1941, and then to culminate in 1945 with Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
the Chinese argue for as early as 1931 (although this ignores the fact that 1931-1937 was small-scale fighting), and then are faced with the odd little fact that if 1937 marks the beginning, "technically" the Chinese began the second Sino-Japanese war with Chiang Kai-shek's attack on the Japanese garrison in Shanghai.
BUT see, says the modern reader of history, how could a country start a war by attacking a foreign military within its borders? so the paradoxes of history are never unraveled, and we are doomed to fight each other endlessly.
(minor fact-- 70% of Chinese agree with Iris Chang's political positions, more or less)
I went to an academic conference in Princeton following publication of this book, and the Japanese historians eventually refused to speak any further, as the (mostly) Chinese audience erupted into boos and hisses.
if you want to see sparks fly, bring all your japanese and chinese friends into a room, and bring up this topic.
the degree to which the massacre, which most western historians agree did occur, was a matter of 300000 dead (chinese) or some 50000 (many japanese historians), whether it was a hiroshima-level holocaust-level genocide or an act of a decimated army committing atrocities such as were occuring all over civil war china (many japanese historians), will be a question that inspires TEETH-CLENCHED RAGE AND FIST FIGHTS!
believe me... there is no touching this landmine.
I am an East Asia specialist. i have 2 years of japanese living experience, 4 years of china, 1 year of korea. i can speak conversational Japanese and Korean, and basic tourist level Chinese.
if you want to start a riot, bring up this topic!
other issues: diaoyu / senkaku
we are standing in the leadup to the third sino-japanese war!
they're going to tear each other to pieces!
i am an american and proud, and I support the 2nd Amendment.
i am armed to the teeth, and will not suffer any rice-eating Orientals to intrude upon my Western-sized personal space !