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  • China's War Reporters: The Legacy of Resistance against Japan by
  • Sheng Mao
China's War Reporters: The Legacy of Resistance against Japan, by Parks M. Coble. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015. 288 pp. US $39.95 (Hardcover). ISBN 9780674967670.

This book addresses writings by Chinese intellectuals concerning the eight-year Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). It might be divided into two parts. The first part focuses on how the war was reported and commented by the leftist Salvationist writers such as Fan Changjiang, Hu Yuzhi, Zou Taofeng, Cao Juren, etc. This part is made up of five chapters. Chapter One demonstrates how these Salvationist writers reacted to the outbreak of the war. Different from most journalists today, who often hold an anti-war attitude, these Salvationist writers actually celebrated the outbreak of the war because they were badly dissatisfied with Chiang Kai-shek's policy of appeasing the Japanese and focusing on the Communists. Chapter Two reveals how these writers reported the defeat of the Chinese army. Although they detailed the suffering of the refugees under the cruel Japanese attack, most reporters were careful not to depict Chinese as merely hopeless victims. To avoid discouraging their morale, writers tended to argue that the result of the war would be different if Chinese army had been properly organized and led. While the war atrocities, such as "Rape of Nanjing" and "comfort women," are the hottest topics on the mass media today in China, that issue was much less prominent in the war reportage and fictions of the day. Chapter Three depicts that the Salvationist writers believed that their main task was not to report the war as objective as possible, but to foster the unity and the strength of the Chinese people. To achieve this goal, they tried not to focus on the civilian suffering that might shatter the confidence of their fellow Chinese in believing that they would sooner or later win the war if not giving up. The main topic of Chapter Four is how intellectuals, businessmen and bankers experienced the wartime movement. The brutality of the war led millions, from rich merchants to poor peasants, to flee the fighting. With different goals in mind, the experiences of these refugees were far from the same. The big range of experiences of mobility in wartime, as the author argues, reflects the complex reality of China during the war. Chapter Five demonstrates the growing pessimism these leftist writers had about the outcome of the war as there seemed to be no way to defeat the Japanese. Even when the war was finally ended, the victory did not bring an immediate sense of elation—so little seemed to change while a civil war was already on its way. [End Page 169]

The second part examines the vast outpouring of academic and popular writing and media production about the war in recent three decades. By this research, the author argues that the narratives of Sino-Japanese War are too contentious to be placed into the framework of modern Chinese history without obscuring the past. Chapter Six demonstrates that during the Mao's era, not only the reportages and comments the Salvationist writers had made during the war disappeared from public memory, but these writers were humiliated and attacked in the political campaigns, and many even committed suicide. The Deng years, however, witnessed a resurface of the issue of the Sino-Japanese War. Not only many academic papers were published, but the topic of the war reappeared in popular culture and public education. The most important factor in the "new remembering" of the war, as the author points out, has been the increasing emphasis on nationalism in China. By doing this, the Chinese government intends to use nationalism to hold the society together, a role the Marxist-Leninist doctrines used to play during the Mao's era. Can the past serve the needs of the present? This is the question Chapter Seven tries to answer. Far different from the approach the Salvationist writers adopted in reporting the Sino-Japanese War at that time, the Chinese government today overwhelmingly emphasizes the issue of Japanese atrocities. The coverage even became a "numbers game...


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