Wartime China’s Resistance against Japanese Aggression: Changing Interpretations and Perspectives

Justin Fortin, Thomas Pagliarini

Abstract


In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria and established the puppet state of Manchukuo in northeast China. Hoping to avoid an all-out war with Japan, China pursued a policy of appeasement and did not resist the occupation of Manchuria. Nonetheless, in 1937, the Japanese launched a massive attack against Beijing and the eastern coastal cities of China and continued its assault until World War II ended in August 1945. This period, known as the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression, has seen many shifts in its historical narrative. After Japan surrendered, a full-fledged civil war broke out between the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Nationalists/Kuomintang (KMT). The 1949 victory of the CPC and subsequent Mao Zedong era (1949-1976) limited the Chinese memory of the war against Japanese aggression. However, following the death of Mao, China began a “new remembering” of this war. Our research examines the changing interpretations and perceptions of wartime China in the Mao and post-Mao eras. In addition to academic literature on the subject, our paper draws upon our first-hand exploration of Chinese government-sponsored wartime museums and sites from our research trip to China in June, 2010. Our paper also evaluates the challenges that the Chinese government has encountered as it works to advance a comprehensive history that details the contributions of both the Nationalists and the Communists in the War against Japanese Aggression.

Keywords


China, Historiography, “New Remembering”

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