- Negotiating China's Destiny in World War II eds. by Hans van de Ven
By bringing in scholars from Asia, Europe, and North America, three premier experts on Chinese history—Hans van de Ven, Diana Lary, and Stephen R. [End Page 70] MacKinnon—have masterfully put together this edited volume on China's experiences in World War II. The result of their efforts is a collection of well-researched essays answering many important questions left out of previous studies. The book is divided into three parts, each of which comes with its own theme.
The first part, titled "Old Empires and the Rise of China," focuses on China's transition from a country dominated by Western imperialism to one playing a significant role in the war against the Japanese aggression in Asia. It begins with Marianne Bastid-Bruguiere's and Rana Mitter's research that reveals the gradual decline in the influence of Britain and France in Asia, especially in China and Vietnam, as they themselves were under assault from Germany. It proceeds with Chang Jui-te's analysis of China's growing awareness of the significance of protecting China's vast territory, including Tibet. The section continues with Yang Kuisong's research on the intricate relationship between the Soviet Union and the Chinese Communist Party in the midst of the Soviet attempt to rely on the Nationalist government to fight the Japanese. It ends with Diana Lary's work on the evolving relationship between China and Canada during the war. Together, this group of scholars attempts to show how a China that used to lack confidence in international affairs became active in reaching out to some Western countries for support against the Japanese after the war broke out. As the essays clearly indicate, the pivot point for China's transition was when the Nationalist government moved its headquarters to Chongqing, which allowed its leader, Chiang Kai-shek, to realize not only the urgency of having such support from countries including Canada but also the importance of maintaining the integrity of China's vast territory.
The second part, "Negotiating Alliances and Questions of Sovereignty," starts with Tsuchida Akio's discussion of the reasons for the lack of intervention from the United States before the Pearl Harbor incident, as well as China's refusal to declare war on Japan. It continues with Yang Tianshi's and Li Yuzhen's examinations of Chiang Kai-shek's undertakings in international diplomacy: while Yang targets Chiang's relationship with Indian prime minister Nehru, Li examines Chiang's effort in soliciting help from the Soviet leader, Stalin. Following these two studies is Xiaoyuan Liu's analysis of U.S. strategies in East Asia, one of which was to use China's frontier regions for the anti-Japanese effort. This part is grounded on Nishimura Shigeo's research on how the country's northeast region became an issue of sovereignty in the minds of Nationalist leaders. As all these researchers successfully demonstrate, the international environment China was in since the beginning of the war was by all means complex. The complexity derived as much from internal politics in countries like the United States and Britain as from the frequent changes in the world that led to the emergence of a new power structure before World War II, characterized by the formation of the Allies and the Axis. Caught in the middle of these changes among the northern Atlantic countries, China went from being denied support from the United States and Britain in the [End Page 71] initial fighting against the Japanese to being depended upon by the Allied nations as an important force to counter Japanese aggression in Asia. While taking advantage of this shift in the international arena, Chiang Kai-shek stepped up his effort to gain international recognition. With the help of his wife, Mei ling Song, Chiang largely succeeded in his endeavor and thus became one of the world leaders in...