Part III (1937-1949)
Sino-Japanese relations and the War of Resistance (World War II): Substantial scholarship on Sino-Japanese relations in the 1930s includes Donald Jordan, Chinese Boycotts versus Japanese Bombs: The Failure of China’s “Revolutionary Diplomacy,” 1913-32 (University of Michigan Press, 1991); essays in David P. Barrett and Larry N. Shyu, eds., Chinese Collaboration with Japan, 1932-1945 (Stanford University Press, 2001); Youli Sun, China and the Origins of the Pacific War (St. Martin’s Press, 1993); such works of Akira Iriye (a tri-lingual scholar both indefatigable and wise) as China and Japan in the Global Setting (Harvard University Press, 1992) and After Imperialism: The Search for a New Order in the Far East, 1921-1931 (Harvard University Press, 1972); and, again, Parks M. Coble, Facing Japan; and Prasenjit Duara, Sovereignty and Authenticity. The reluctance of the powers to rebuff Japan is discussed in C. Thorne, The Limits of Foreign Policy: The West, the League and the Far Eastern Crisis (Hamilton, 1972). For the war itself, also see Hsi-sheng Ch’i, Nationalist China at War: Military Defeats and Political Collapse, 1937-1945 (University of Michigan Press, 1982); James C. Hsiung and Steven I. Levine, eds., China’s Bitter Victory: The War with Japan, 1937-1945 (M.E. Sharpe, 1992); and David P. Barrett and Larry N. Shyu, eds., China in the Anti-Japanese War, 1937-1945: Politics, Culture, and Society (Peter Lang, 2000).
More general works on China’s foreign policy and U.S.-China relations include Michael Schaller, The United States and China in the Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 1990); and his The U.S. Crusade in China, 1938-1945 (Columbia University Press, 1979); John Gittings, The World and China, 1922-1972 (Eyre Methuen, 1974); and Warren I. Cohen, America’s Response to China: A History of Sino-American Relations (Columbia University Press, 2000).
For the war in its various dimensions (social and political as well as military), the classic account is Lloyd Eastman, Seeds of Destruction: Nationalist China in War and Revolution, 1937-1949 (Stanford University Press, 1984); see also the essays in James Hsiung and Steven Levine, eds., China’s Bitter Victory: The War with Japan, 1937-1945 (M.E. Sharpe, 1992), and Diana Lary and Stephen MacKinnon, eds., Scars of War: The Impact of Warfare on Modern China (University of British Columbia Press, 2001). Focusing on the Nationalist’s military from the late 1920s, new research convincingly describes the limits and contingencies that the Nationalists faced and gives greater credit to Chiang Kai-shek’s strategic thinking through the anti-Japanese War (1937-1945)—though it seem to me this then implies we must give the Communists even greater credit for their military victory in the civil war (1946-1949). See Hans J. van de Ven, War and Nationalism in China, 1925-1945 (RoutledgeCurzon, 2003). For workers in Chongqing, the Nationalists’ wartime capital, see Joshua H. Howard, Workers at War: Labor in China’s Arsenals, 1937-1953 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004).
The still controversial case of the Nanjing massacre is soberly discussed in Joshua A. Fogel, ed., The Nanjing Massacre in History and Historiography (University of California Press, 2000); and David Askew, “New Research on the Nanjing Incident” in the eJournal JapanFocus (http://japanfocus.org/article.asp?id=109), 2004. For general background on the Japanese side, see the essays in Peter Duus et al., eds., The Japanese Wartime Empire, 1931-1945 (Princeton University Press, 1996); also Louise Young, Japan’s Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime (University of California Press, 1998); and Rana Mitter, The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, Resistance and Collaboration in Modern China (University of California Press, 2000). A close-up and personal view of an American general (largely conveying his own point of view) in Barbara W. Tuchman, Stillwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45 (Macmillan, 1971).
Although “collaboration” remains a painful topic and is largely neglected by Chinese sources, the breakthrough volume is Timothy Brook, Collaboration: Japanese Agents and Local Elites in Wartime China (Harvard University Press, 2005). Brook not only reveals a variety of Chinese responses to Japan’s invasion and occupation but also illuminates the complexities of resistance, the sheer destructiveness of the invasion, and the difficulties the Japanese faced in making the occupation work even with a compliant population. Some of the essays in David P. Barrett and Larry N. Shyu, eds., Chinese Collaboration with Japan consider the Chinese point of view of as well. More theoretical issues such as nationalism’s production of morality and postwar claims to legitimacy are well introduced in a symposium in Japan Focus headed off by Brook: (http://japanfocus.org/_Timothy_Brook-Collaboration_in_the_History_of_Wartime_East_Asia), 2008.
Also, Shanghai during the war is well described in Poshek Fu, Passivity, Resistance, and Collaboration: Intellectual Choices in Occupied Shanghai, 1937-1945 (Stanford University Press, 1993); Parks M. Coble, Chinese Capitalists in Japan’s New Order: The Occupied Lower Yangzi, 1937-1945 (University of California Press, 2003); and the essays in Wen-hsin Yeh, ed., Wartime Shanghai (Routledge, 1998); and Christian Henriot and Wen-hsin Yeh, eds., In the Shadow of the Rising Sun: Shanghai under Japanese Occupation (Cambridge University Press, 2004).
The Communist (Chinese) Revolution: Greater access to CCP documents and local archives has given historians a more nuanced picture of the revolution since the 1980s and especially the 1990s. The fault-lines of earlier academic debates are often blurred as various approaches are synthesized in such works—all based on specific localities—as Yung-fa Chen, Making Revolution: The Communist Movement in Eastern and Central China, 1937-1945 (University of California Press, 1986); David Goodman, Social and Political Change in Revolutionary China: The Taihang Base Area in the War of Resistance to Japan, 1937-1945 (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000); Ralph Thaxton, Salt of the Earth: The Political Origins of Peasant Protest and Communist Revolution in China (University of California Press, 1997); Odoric Wou, Mobilizing the Masses: Building Revolution in Henan (Stanford University Press, 1994); as well as the essays in Chongyi Feng and David Goodman, eds., North China at War: The Social Ecology of Revolution, 1937-1945 (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2000); and, again, in Tony Saich and Hans van de Ven, eds., New Perspectives on the Chinese Communist Revolution; and Kathleen Hartford and Steven M. Goldstein, eds., Single Sparks. Again, Elizabeth Perry’s Rebels and Revolutionaries and Stephen Averill’s Revolution in the Highlands cannot be ignored.
An older work still worth grappling with is Chalmers Johnson, Peasant Nationalism and Communist Power: The Emergence of Revolutionary China, 1937-1945 (Stanford University Press, 1962), where he presents his thesis that the key to the Communists’ victory was neither Russian machinations nor land reform but “peasant nationalism”—a view that managed to break out of the Cold War ideology of the day but that appeared simplistic as early as the 1970s. A key work attacking the peasant nationalism thesis and emphasizing the Communists’ abilities to meet the needs of peasants was Mark Selden, The Yenan Way in Revolutionary China (Harvard University Press, 1971). Some of the new historiography is discussed in the introduction of the revised edition of Selden’s monograph, China in Revolution: The Yenan Way Revisited (M.E. Sharpe, 1995) as well as Suzanne Pepper, “The Political Odyssey of an Intellectual Construct: Peasant Nationalism and the Study of China’s Revolutionary History,” Journal of Asian Studies vol. 63, no. 1 (February 2004), pp. 105-125. (See also the works listed under “civil war” below.)
A breakthrough in comparative analysis of the Chinese revolution was achieved by Barrington Moore’s Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (Beacon Press, 1966). This work can be criticized today for adhering too closely to Chalmers Johnson’s “peasant nationalism” thesis, but it succeeded in placing the Chinese revolution in the context of the great Western revolutions. Moore’s student Theda Skocpol emphasized the role of the state-building in the making of the revolution in States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China (Cambridge University Press, 1979). Specific topics like peasants can also be studied comparatively, for example Joel Migdal, Peasants, Politics, and Revolution: Pressures Toward Political Change in the Third World (Princeton University Press, 1974).
Mao and Maoism: Of many works on Mao, especially useful are Stuart Schram, ed., Political Thought of Mao Tse-tung (Praeger Publishers, 1969), a critical edition of Mao’s early writings with Schram’s annotations. More analytical are Brantly Womack, The Foundations of Mao Zedong’s Political Thought, 1917-1935 (University of Hawaii Press, 1982); and Raymond Wylie, The Emergence of Maoism: Mao Tse-tung, Ch’en Po-ta, and the Search for Chinese Theory, 1935-1945 (Stanford University Press, 1980). Tough-going in places, but worth the effort are Frederick Wakeman, History and Will: Philosophical Perspectives of Mao Tse-tung’s Thought (University of California Press, 1973); and David E. Apter and Tony Saich, Revolutionary Discourse in Mao’s Republic (Harvard University Press, 1994). See also the essays in Arlif Dirlik, Paul Healy and Nick Knight, eds., Critical Perspectives on Mao Zedong’s Thought (Humanities Press, 1997).
[N.B.: The bestselling biography by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, Mao: The Unknown Story (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005) is overwrought and under-documented; its portrait of Mao as the devil incarnate is unconvincing if only because incomplete. Whilst the authors certainly capture some part of Mao’s character, the book’s reliance on anonymous rumors makes it more a guide to certain strands of Chinese thinking in the 1990s than a record of Mao’s life. The book, as Gregor Benton and Steve Tsang remark, is “bad history and worse biography” (“The Portrayal of Opportunism, Betrayal, and Manipulation in Mao’s Rise to Power,” The China Journal 55, January 2006, p. 96)—but what matters for those who would understand modern China is that it is simply bad history. It reduces complex and contingent historical events to individual pathology. In the final analysis, regardless of Mao’s personal character, we need to understand what forces shaped Mao and above all what other forces, aside from the predilections of one man, shaped modern China. After all, if Mao was such a monster, why did sensible people not simply lock him up? As for Chang and Halliday’s claim to offer a new portrait of Mao himself, what is reliable in their book has long been known while what is new is seldom supported by believable documentation.]
Civil war: A kind of prelude to the civil war is discussed in Gregor Benton, Mountain Fires: The Red Army’s Three-year War in South China, 1934-1938 (University of California Press, 1992); while the war is well discussed in Odd Arne Westad, Decisive Encounters: The Chinese Civil War, 1946-1950 (Stanford University Press, 2003), as well as the earlier Suzanne Pepper, Civil War in China: The Political Struggle, 1945-1949 (University of California Press, 1978). More focused accounts include Steven Levine, Anvil of Victory: The Communist Revolution in Manchuria, 1945-1948 (Columbia University Press, 1987); and Joseph K.S. Yick, Making Urban Revolution in China: The CCP-GMD Struggle for Beijng-Tianjin, 1945-1949 (M.E. Sharpe, 1995).
The difficult position of intellectuals ‘squeezed between’ the GMD and the CCP is highlighted in Edmund Fung’s In Search of Chinese Democracy, while Carsun Chang [Zhang Junmai], The Third Force in China (Bookman, 1952) provides a first-hand account.
Accounts by foreign observers of the civil war and revolution from the 1930s through the 1940s remain a corrective to excessive revisionism. See Jack Belden, China Shakes the World (Monthly Review Press, 1970); Edgar Snow, Red Star Over China (Grove Press, 1961); William Hinton, Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village (Vintage Books, 1966); and Isabel and David Crook, Ten Mile Inn: Mass Movement in a Chinese Village (Pantheon Books, 1979). A memoir of the period through the Maoist years is Sidney Rittenberg, Sr. and Amanda Bennett, The Man Who Stayed Behind (Duke University Press, 2001).