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A powerful element in twentieth-century Chinese politics has been the myth of Chinese resistance to Japan's seizure of Manchuria in 1931. Investigating the shifting alliances of key players in that event, Rana Mitter traces the development of the narrative of resistance to the occupation and shows how it became part of China's political consciousness, enduring even today.AA powerful element in twentieth-century Chinese politics has been the myth of Chinese resistance to Japan's seizure of Manchuria in 1931. Investigating the shifting alliances of key players in that event, Rana Mitter traces the development of the narrative of resistance to the occupation and shows how it became part of China's political consciousness, enduring even today.After Japan's September 1931 military strike leading to a takeover of the Northeast, the Chinese responded in three major ways: collaboration, resistance in exile, and resistance on the ground. What motives prompted some Chinese to collaborate, others to resist? What were conditions like under the Japanese? Through careful reading of Chinese and Japanese sources, particularly local government records, newspapers, and journals published both inside and outside occupied Manchuria, Mitter sheds important new light on these questions....

Title : The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, Resistance, and Collaboration in Modern China
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ISBN : 9780520221116
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 306 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, Resistance, and Collaboration in Modern China Reviews

  • Chin Joo
    2018-10-16 08:45

    A little after 10.30 pm on September 18, 1931, a bomb went off at a section of the railway line belonging to the Southern Manchuria Railway. Although located in Manchuria, the railway was the property of the Japanese, having secured it from the Russians after the Russo-Japanese War. The event was the brainchild of two army officers from the Kwantung Army, Ishiwara Kanji (石原莞尔) and Itagaki Seishiro (板垣征四郎). Their intention was to create an excuse for the Kwantung army to send their troops into Mukden (now Shenyang) as part of their plan to occupy Manchuria. This is today known as the Mukden Incident or Manchurian Incident (9-1-8 Incident as known to the Chinese, 九一八事变). This incident would launch the 15-Year War with China, as it is known in Japan.Manchuria was made up of the Three Eastern Provinces of China (东三省) and was the power-base of Zhang Xueliang (张学良), popularly known as the 'Young Marshal' (少帅). Zhang had a good-size army, but was told not to resist the Japanese. Zhang himself was not in Fengtian, the capital of Shenyang when the incident took place and neither were his deputies. In a short time, the Kwantung Army occupied Fengtian and in a few months, the rest of the three provinces.The Incident would precipitate a long list of discussion topics and scholarly research including the effectiveness of the League of Nations, the motivation of Chiang Kaishek, then leader of China, the stain on Zhang's reputation hence, and so on. Few, however, ventured into the lives of the Chinese caught in the unexpected turmoil, fewer have explored their attitudes towards the occupation.In this book, Professor Rana Mitter attempted just that. But more, he wanted to explore why many in the occupied provinces even collaborated with instead of resisting the Japanese. This is dangerous grounds to tread. No Chinese today today would admit to not resisting or at least hating the Japanese during the occupation. As such, the author could only look to official documents, newspapers, records and also known events to reconstruct the climate in Manchukuo, as the three occupied provinces were known after they were made a puppet state by the Japanese. Prof Mitter's research question was this: how was the Kwantung Army, with relatively few troops in the area, able to control an area over 350,000 square miles with a population of 30 million with it own strength alone? Did they enlist the help of the local population since help was unlikely to come from Japan given the Japanese government's extreme disapproval of the incident?Indeed the Kwantung Army was able to enlist widespread collaboration of many Chinese including the elites (pg. 6), local leaders (pg. 72), local warlords like Ma Zhanshan, and one might even argue, Chiang himself, for his assent to the Tanggu Truce was tacit agreement to the Japanese occupation. The commoners were however, largely indifferent; this applies to those from either side of the border separating intramural China (关内) from the three eastern provinces. The elites and students in intramural China were indignant to the occupation but the commoners were not really concerned.This is a complex problem. Although in contemporary China, everyone considers the three eastern provinces as integral to China, this was not always the case. While the Qing Dynasty was by then no more, in the 1920s and 30s, the Manchus, who originated from the three eastern provinces, after differentiating themselves deliberately from the Han Chinese, made it difficult for the Han Chinese to see the three provinces as part of China proper. The occupation of the provinces did not appear to many Chinese as a violation of their own country (pg. 187). Even among those living in the occupied provinces, who by then were overwhelmingly Han Chinese (pg. 23), there was little evidence of active resistance. This might be down to two principal reasons. Firstly, the fear of reprisal. The Japanese were ready to take extremely brutal measures against those suspected of engaging in subversive activities (pg. 112-113). Secondly, non-resistance could mean that life went on as usual and in some cases, life even got better than under Zhang (pg. 56, 119, 122, 124). Adding to this is the fact that only a small portion of the locals had enough knowledge to understand what was going on (pg. 99), it therefore came as no surprise that Manchukuo was more or less peaceful in its years. This state of affairs was similarly depicted by Cordes (2013) in his travelogue where he described the indifference he witnessed among the Chinese in Manchukuo, painfully living their cheap lives which could be taken away from them at any moment. This was also more or less how Chi (2004) depicted the lives of the Chinese in her novel. Some were resentful of the Japanese, but they largely went on living their lives by avoiding the Japanese where possible.Which goes counter to the contemporary narrative from China about the determined resistance and even uprising against the Japanese. And if there was indeed resistance, it was mainly through propaganda efforts made by the elites and students in intramural China, far away from Manchukuo. Armed resistance was carried out by bandits who were ever ready to plunder the commoners when necessary and at times they would think nothing of switching sides (pg. 175). Organised armed resistance was dominated by people with nothing to lose, the bankrupt peasants and bandits (pg. 197).But lest one thinks that Chinese were generally unpatriotic and would gladly identify with the Japanese, it must be stressed that they were never in doubt of their identity. Against the reality of the non-resistance policy of Chiang, what could a commoner do? Help was not forthcoming from the own government (KMT) nor from their most recent ruler (Zhang) and even less likely from an noncommittal League of Nations (see the findings of the Lytton Commission). Life had to go on, so most went about it pragmatically, fully aware of the Japanese presense and brutality but finding a way to cope.Prof Mitter can be an engaging writer. This is evident from his other book, Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1941 (Mitter 2013). But the book under review is adapted from this PhD thesis and I must say that theses are seldom written to engage. While I'm sure this book has been edited for readability, the thesis undertone is still widely felt. Having said that, one must recognise the value of the work. If nothing, it presents the complexity of nationalism in China then. In contrast to what is popularly brandished about today, Chinese in all strata of the society were able to adjust and accommodate the reality of Japanese occupation. We are not talking about a few black sheeps, we are talking about a whole society. This is unlikely to be palatable to the Chinese government of today. They have conscientiously sought to portray that part of history as one of Japanese brutality and Chinese resistance. Some strategies they have used include blaming Chiang for his policy of non-resistance (correctly in my view) and instead using his army to pursue the Communists, and fervently referring to Manchukuo as 伪满洲国 (fictitious Manchukuo) to stress its illegitimacy (compare the title of Chi's novel in the Chinese and the Taiwanese editions). The truth, at least at the commoners' level, is more of ambivalence on one side of the border and trying to maintain life as usual on the other.Chi, Z. J. (迟子建) (2004). 伪满洲国. Beijing, China, 人民文学出版社.Cordes, E. (柯德士) (2013). 沉睡的与惊醒的“满洲国”. Liaoning, China, 辽宁人民出版社.Mitter, R. (2013). Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945. NY, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.