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Chiang's strategy was to follow the suggestion of his German advisers to draw the Japanese army deep into China and use China's vast territory as a defensive strength.
Chiang planned to fight a protracted war of attrition to wear down the Japanese in the hinterland of China.
By mid-November the Japanese had captured Shanghai with the help of naval bombardment.
The General Staff Headquarters in Tokyo initially decided not to expand the war due to heavy casualties and low troop morale.
In a press release to foreign reporters, Tang Shengzhi announced the city would not surrender and would fight to the death.
Tang gathered about 100,000 soldiers, largely untrained, including Chinese troops who had participated in the Battle of Shanghai.
Although the massacre is generally described as having occurred over a six-week period after the fall of Nanjing, the crimes committed by the Japanese army were not limited to that period.
Many atrocities were reported to have been committed as the Japanese army advanced from Shanghai to Nanjing.