War, State-Building, and International Connections in Nationalist China

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In a recent survey of modern China, historian Rana Mitter noted: “The war between China and Japan may have been the single most important event to shape twentieth-century China”. This perspective hasn't been around for very long. The relevance of China's War of Resistance against Japan ( KangRi zhanzheng ) has been revaluated by historians in recent years, a prime example of this being Mitter's book on the subject and the work of Hans van de Ven. For years, the victory of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949 was crystallised into a crucial turning point and the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party/KMT) was seen as corrupt and ineffective, as epitomised by Lloyd Eastman's studies. Eastman's verdict is not entirely contradicted by some of the new scholarship, although important revisionist works have led to a reassessment of the KMT state-building efforts, in particular during their pre-war decade in power, the so-called Nanjing decade (1927–1937). Although the ‘rediscovery’ of the war came later in the English-language than it did in Chinese, it is undeniable that recent years have seen a growing interest in the period, both in academia and in popular culture. The three monographs under review here are, in many ways, illustrative of the best new research on the conflict. They provide comprehensive insight on the impact of the war on the Nationalists' state-building efforts in fiscal policy, propaganda, and justice. All are first monographs, springing from meticulous doctoral and post-doctoral research anchored on a plethora of new primary sources. They make important contributions to our understanding of the impact of the war in China, as well as to economic history, media studies, and legal history more broadly.

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ON APRIL 6, 1946, THE SHANGHAI-BASED NEWSPAPER SHENBAO DEVOTED most of its front page to the trial of Chen Gongbo, China’s most prominent hanjian (literally “traitor of the Chinese people,” generally translated into English as “collaborator”), which was taking place at the Jiangsu Higher Court in the nearby city of Suzhou. 1 Chen Gongbo was a well-known political personality in China, having been a longtime leader of the ruling Nationalist Party (Guomindang, or GMD) and the minister of industry from 1932 to 1936. In 1940, together with Wang Jingwei—also a prominent longtime leader of the GMD and chairman of the Executive Yuan, the executive branch of the Nationalist Government, from 1932 to 1936—he had established a government in Nanjing in collaboration with the Japanese: the Reorganized Nationalist Government, or RNG (1940–1945). Chen had held important positions within this collaborationist organization, and after Wang’s death in November 1944, he had succeeded him as its acting chairman. 2 Chen was accused primarily of “plotting with the enemy” and “opposing the central government.” In his defense, he described his work with the RNG as negotiating with the Japanese in an attempt to preserve China’s resources, protect its people, and slowly erode Japan’s control over China. Although he admitted that he had not ultimately been successful in achieving his goals, he portrayed himself not as a col
The Chinese Customs Service was a central pillar of the foreign presence in China, 1854–1949. Its far-reaching responsibilities included collecting duties on foreign trade, establishing China's first postal service, participating in international exhibitions, and even diplomacy. This is the first book-length study of the 11,000 expatriates from twenty-three different countries who worked for the Customs, exploring how their lives and careers were shaped by imperial ideologies, networks and structures. In doing so it highlights the vast range of people for whom the empire world spoke of opportunity. In an age of globalisation, the insights that this book provides into the personal and professional ramifications of working overseas are especially valuable. Empire Careers considers the professional triumphs and tribulations of the foreign staff, their social activities, their private and family lives, their physical and mental illnesses, and how all of these factors were influenced by the changing political context in China and abroad. Customs employees worked across the length and breadth of China, from the cosmopolitan commercial hub of Shanghai to isolated lighthouses. They thus formed the most visible face of imperialism in China. Contrary to the common assumption that China was merely an ‘outpost’ of empire, exploration of the Customs's cosmopolitan personnel encourages us to see East Asia as a place where multiple imperial trajectories converged. This book will be of interest to students and scholars of imperial history and the political history of modern China.
This chapter examines retribution in Shanghai, China, during the war in the 1930s and 1940s. It offers a close look at patriotic deeds on the streets of Shanghai as wild-eyed young men were recruited as assassins for the military intelligence service of the Nationalist government in Chongqing under the leadership of Dai Li. It suggests that while many leading “traitors” were tried and killed, a number of prominent collaborators were able to buy their way out on the spurious grounds such as having been secret members of Dai Li's Loyal and Patriotic Army.
In 1937, the Nationalists under Chiang Kaishek were leading the Chinese war effort against Japan and were lauded in the West for their efforts to transform China into an independent and modern nation; yet this image was quickly tarnished. The Nationalists were soon denounced as militarily incompetent, corrupt, and antidemocratic and Chiang Kaishek, the same. In this book, van de Ven investigates the myths and truths of Nationalist resistance including issues such as: the role of the US in East Asia during the Second World War the achievements of Chiang Kaishek as Nationalist leader the respective contributions of the Nationalists and the Communists to the defeat of Japan the consequences of the Europe First strategy for Asia. War and Nationalism in China offers a major new interpretation of the Chinese Nationalists, placing their war of resistance against Japan in the context of their prolonged efforts to establish control over their own country and providing a critical reassessment of Allied Warfare in the region. This groundbreaking volume will interest students and researchers of Chinese History and Warfare.
This is an in-depth account of the Chinese Imperial Maritime Customs Service, a uniquely cosmopolitan institution established in the wake of China's defeat in the Opium Wars (1842 to 43), and a central feature of the Treaty Port system. The British-dominated service was headed by the famous Robert Hart who founded a far-reaching customs administration that also encompassed other responsibilities such as marine and harbour maintenance, quarantine, anti-piracy patrols and postal services. This institution sat at a crucial juncture between Chinese and foreign interests, and was intimately linked to British interests and fortunes in the Far East. Following the establishment of the Republic in 1911 there were grave misgivings as to whether the foreign element of the Service would survive. Yet the Service grew in influence and strength, ensuring the foreign inspectorate a continued role in China's affairs. Delivering an overview of the Service, its bureaucracy, fiscal responsibilities and life for foreigners in its employ, focusing especially on the later years of the Service, Donna Brunero draws on the experiences of the foreign administration of the Service as it attempted to negotiate between Chinese and foreign expectations and interests.
The origins of the Foreign Inspectorate of the Chinese Maritime Customs are well known; the succession crises after Inspector Generals Hart and Aglen well covered in the literature; and the Maze Inspectorate has received a good deal of attention. However, one significant feature of the newly opened Inspectorate Archives is the weight of post-1937 material it contains, and the light it can throw upon the administration of Lester Knox Little, inspector general in 1943-50, on the Japanese-controlled Customs in occupied China, and on the erosion of foreign and especially of British dominance in the service. This paper outlines the rocky transition from Sir Frederick Maze to Little (and in Japanese-occupied China to Inspector General Kishimoto Hirokichi), and explores the impact of this transition and of the Sino-Japanese war on the position of the Customs and on its activities between 1941 and 1945. The Customs found a role for itself in unoccupied China, and remained a useful tool for the Guomindang state, although British diplomats surrendered their long-held claim that a British national should run the service. What preserved a foreign role in the Customs after Pearl Harbor was not the support of foreign diplomats, but the relations of senior staff with high-ranking Chinese government officials.
Working for the Chinese Customs Service, 1854-1949; citation_author=Ladds
  • Careers
  • Kushner
  • Coble