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Reviewed by:
  • China at War: Regions of China, 1937-45
  • Yoshihisa T. Matsusaka (bio)
China at War: Regions of China, 1937–45. Edited by Stephen R. MacKinnon, Diana Lary, and Ezra F. Vogel. Stanford University Press, Stanford, 2007. xix, 380 pages. $65.00.

Academic, public, and popular historians have devoted increased attention to the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) since the 1990s. A range of factors account for this surge in interest, including the end of the cold war and a reconfiguration of international relations in East Asia, as well as a tradition of giving special weight to the fiftieth and sixtieth anniversaries of signal events. The passage of time has also given greater urgency to the demands of an aging generation of wartime survivors that their voices be heard, their experiences remembered, and their grievances redressed before they pass on. English-language publications alone include volumes on China's conduct of the war of resistance, the management of Japan's wartime empire, the Rape of Nanjing and other Japanese atrocities, Japanese labor conscription in wartime Asia, and the social, cultural, and psychological impact of the war on the Chinese people.1China at War, a new collection of essays [End Page 176] edited by Stephen MacKinnon, Diana Lary, and Ezra Vogel, adds to this body of work and contributes a useful regional and local perspective to an understanding of this cataclysmic conflict.

As Lary points out in her introductory essay, people in various regions of China suffered war and Japanese occupation in very different ways. Given the heterogeneity of China's economic, social, and political conditions at the onset of hostilities as well as the subsequent division of the country into Japanese-, communist-, and Guomindang-controlled areas, a diversity of experiences is not surprising. Nonetheless, the editors of this volume argue that the regional dimensions of the war have received inadequate attention in past work, and, as MacKinnon suggests, a myth of shared experience has tended to obscure differences. The dynamics of collaboration and resistance depended greatly on the timing and nature of the Japanese occupation. Resistance took forms in secure rear areas that contrasted sharply with those under full Japanese control. Urban experiences differed significantly from rural. Regions with fragile ecologies or those confronting chronic poverty suffered double and triple blows under rapacious Japanese occupiers, whereas richer areas suffered less economic privation. Areas with a longstanding tradition of exporting migrant labor found themselves more readily enmeshed than others in the coercive, Japanese labor-conscription machine. Japanese policies of administration and resource extraction varied according to the depth and stability of regional control as well as the changing demands of a deteriorating war situation. In addition, the Japanese government applied, from the start, significantly divergent frameworks of policy to Taiwan, Manzhouguo, Inner Mongolia, and China south of the Great Wall.

The editors structure the regional coverage in this volume using a three-part organizing scheme based on the chronology and extent of occupation: "early occupied areas," "later occupied areas," and "unoccupied or partially occupied areas." The early occupied areas include Taiwan, explored in an essay by Shao Minghuang about mobilization, conscription, and forced assimilation. Also in this section, Tsukase Susumu and Xie Xueshi each examine aspects of the Manzhouguo regime and its problematic operation at the local level, while Lu Minghui looks at Mongol Prince De's troubled collaboration with Japanese military agents in Inner Mongolia. The rubric of "later occupied areas" coincides with north China and includes three essays. Ordoric Wou contributes a detailed and nuanced analysis of Japanese grain [End Page 177] expropriation practices as well as the complexities of Chinese adaptive responses in Henan, a province simultaneously suffering from flood and famine. Ju Zhifen and Zhuang Jianping each contribute essays on forced labor mobilization in north China.

The third category, "unoccupied or partially occupied areas," contains some of the more intriguing studies. Wei Hongyun delves into the commercial relations of the communist-controlled Jinjiluyu base area in central China and illuminates its extensive trade with neighboring Japanese- and Guomindang-controlled areas. The late Frederic Wakeman's powerful and elegantly written essay on occupied Shanghai explores the experience of a prominent doctor of Chinese medicine, Chen...


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