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  • Negotiating China’s Destiny in World War II ed. by Hans van de Ven, Diana Lary, and Stephen R. MacKinnon
  • Thomas A. Breslin
Negotiating China’s Destiny in World War II, edited by Hans van de Ven, Diana Lary, and Stephen R. MacKinnon. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2015. xii, 336 pp. $60.00 US (cloth).

This collection of papers on the Sino-Japanese War of 1937–1945 includes contributions by Western, Chinese, and Japanese scholars and exemplifies a revisionist tide in the historiography of China’s foreign relations. The book focuses on the role of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) during the 1930s and 1940s. Though the image of Jiang’s wife, Song Meiling, is pictured twice on the book’s cover, her important role is much deemphasized as are the roles of other figures. The editors have followed three themes in arranging these fine chapters: the death knell of the old empires and the rise of China, the negotiation of alliances, and sovereignty.

Marianne Bastid-Bruguiere’s, “France’s Deluded Quest for Allies: Safeguarding Territorial Sovereignty and the Balance of Power in East Asia, 1931–1945,” is the first chapter of the collection and is slightly mistitled. She draws on a wide range of French primary sources as well as English, [End Page 640] French, and Chinese secondary sources to examine France’s effort to retain power in Vietnam from 1931 until 1941. Neglected in her contribution is France’s beleaguered religious protectorate in China, which covered foreign and Chinese Catholics.

Rana Mitter’s contribution traces Britain’s reconciliation with the decline of its imperial influence in China. Chang Jui-Te recounts Tibet’s efforts to preserve its de facto independence and complete autonomy and Jiang’s effort to extend Nationalist China to the limits of the Qing Empire through non-violent means.

Yang Kuisong’s chapter closely follows the complicated, turbulent relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and The Communist International (the Comintern) from 1937 to 1943 when Stalin disbanded the latter organization. Yang argues that although, “Mao’s pragmatic policy was focused on winning the revolution in China, a policy not acceptable to the Comintern” (p. 87), Mao “did not break with Moscow or the Comintern” (p. 88).

In chapter five, Diana Lary chooses four Canadians “to encapsulate the nature and scope of Canada’s relations with China in wartime” (p. 97). She examines General Victor Odlum, who represented Canada with its vague, long-term China policy in Chongqing; Robert McClure, a missionary doctor and refugee relief worker; Norman Bethune, a surgeon close to the Chinese Communist Party; and Quan Louie, a military aviator from a leading Chinese family in Vancouver, killed while flying over Germany (p. 97). A quibble: While Lary draws attention to the work of French Canadian Jesuits, she overlooks the Anglophone Canadian Catholic priests of the Scarboro Mission Society who worked in Quzhou, Zhejiang Province with the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception from Pembroke, Ontario. She ends this chapter with some reflections on postwar Canada-China relations, the secularization of Quebec, and the growth of Christianity in China.

In chapter six, Tsuchida Akio puts the refusal of China to declare war on Japan in the context of relations with Japan and Jiang’s effort to consolidate his power (p. 126). Yang Tianshi’s chapter on Jiang and Jawaharlal Nehru highlights the former’s efforts to persuade Indian leaders to “join the world war against the Axis powers together with the Allies” and after the war seek independence from Britain, though he was sympathetic and supportive of India’s independence movement (p. 139). This sympathy curdled postwar, as India maneuvered to consolidate control over Tibet (p. 140). Xiaoyuan Liu demonstrates that for its part, America exhibited “a calculated indifference toward the gmd regime’s dealing with China’s ethnic minorities” (p. 161) and opposed autonomy for Tibet, because it wanted “a strong and stable Chinese partnership in East Asia” (p. 162). [End Page 641]

Jiang shares centre stage with Joseph Stalin in Li Yuzhen’s close study of the relationship of the two war leaders and Jiang’s efforts to draw the Soviet Union into war against Japan. The Soviets...


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