Group Decision and Negotiation

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 663–691 | Cite as

Humanitarian Negotiation to Protect: John Rabe and the Nanking International Safety Zone (1937–1938)



In the late months of 1937 and in the beginning of 1938, John Rabe, German CEO of Siemens China, engages in humanitarian negotiation with many actors, as the Japanese troops approach and then occupy Nanking, the capital city of Nationalist China. His responsibility as a leader and negotiator is guided by one purpose—the protection of the Chinese poorest of the poor. It motivates him in all his negotiation moves, whether he leverages principles, values, needs, interests, relationship and culture to persuade his interlocutors. The ten humanitarian negotiation situations that he faces suggest a three-step process: a planning stage to create a safety zone, an implementation stage to operationalize it and, finally, an exit stage to properly end the mission. Rabe’s ongoing questioning and doggedness, as well as that of the other twenty-one members of the International Safety Zone Committee, made a difference to protect 250,000 Chinese men, women and children. At the time, his heroism owed him the honored name of a living Buddha, and, sixty years later, of “The Schindler of China.” He was a pioneer of the responsibility to protect, and of corporate social responsibility.


Humanitarian negotiation Nanking World War II  John Rabe Purpose Protection of civilians Negotiation moves Questioning International safety zone  The responsibility to protect Corporate social responsibility Responsible leadership Responsible negotiation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alan B. Slifka Chair of Coexistence and Conflict Resolution, The Heller School for Social Policy and ManagementBrandeis UniversityWalthamUSA
  2. 2.The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law SchoolCambridgeUSA

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