- Mobilizing Shanghai Youth: CCP Internationalism, GMD Nationalism and Japanese Collaboration by Kristin Mulready-Stone
Recently released in paperback, Mobilizing Shanghai Youth is Kristin Mulready-Stone’s first book and the 104th volume in the series Routledge Studies in the Modern History of Asia. It is a welcome addition to the literature. Meticulously researched and written in clear prose, the text reveals new empirical details regarding the development of youth organizations in war-era Shanghai and related conflicts within and among the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), Guomindang (GMD), and Japanese collaborationist regimes. In addition, the volume provides broader insights into the role of context, the use of propaganda, the development of communism and fascism, and the effectiveness of mobilization strategies.
Dr. Mulready-Stone should be lauded for her comparative approach and for her mining of archival material that has been little studied (and must have been laborious to review—the documents include hand-written notes scrawled on paper scraps). With careful attention to detail, Mulready-Stone draws on primary documents to examine the Shanghai branches of three youth organizations—the CCP-affiliated Socialist/Communist Youth League (SYL/CYL), the GMD-affiliated Three People’s Principles Youth Corps (三青團 Sanqingtuan; SQT), and the China Youth Corps (CYC) affiliated with the Japanese collaborationist regime—between 1919 and the end of the Second World War. She chooses Shanghai for her case studies because it is one of the few locations where all three organizations existed.
Following an introductory chapter that effectively sets the backdrop for the development of the three Shanghai-based organizations, three pairs of chapters, split roughly chronologically, treat each group in turn. Chapters 1 and 2 examine the Shanghai branch of the CCP-affiliated SYL, tracing its expansion, its renaming and reorienting as the CYL, and its subsequent decline. Chapters 3 and 4 turn to the GMD-affiliated Shanghai SQT, highlighting its vibrancy in contrast to other branches more firmly under GMD control and critiquing the many misguided approaches emanating from Chiang Kai-shek’s obsession with inculcating ideological dogmatism and reverence of his leadership. In chapters 5 and 6, Mulready-Stone demonstrates how the Japanese-affiliated CYC managed to attract members, primarily by focusing on practical tasks such as rebuilding infrastructure, providing social services, and maintaining order. In a relatively brief concluding chapter, the book’s overall findings are reiterated: that the varied successes and failures of the three groups can be explained by the fact that “Chinese youth wanted action and results, not preparation and training” or ideological indoctrination (188) and that the SQT in Shanghai served as a “valuable asset” and a “potent resistance organization” precisely because it was “out of reach of the stultifying hand of the GMD” (5).
A key focus throughout the text is the influence of contextual factors on the vitality of the three organizations. One conundrum is that in some cases—namely, the CYL following the violent suppression of Communists during the White Terror of 1927—a lack of security and the need to operate underground were devastating to the organization; in other cases—most prominently the SQT in Shanghai under Japanese occupation—a similar lack of security and covert operation invigorated the group. Meanwhile, Mulready-Stone [End Page E-6] argues, the overt operations of the CYC (made possible due to its sponsorship by the Japanese collaborationist regime) rendered it vulnerable to infiltration that led to its demise. These contradictory findings parallel studies of social movements that highlight the very unpredictable impact of repression: in some cases it effectively squelches activism, and in other cases it fuels greater unrest.
One of the book’s main arguments—that young Chinese were attracted to groups that offered practical “hands-on” action and exhibited little interest in ideological study for its own sake—makes intuitive sense, but is only thinly documented. Mulready-Stone effectively uses archival materials to show fluctuations in membership numbers for each group, as well as the guidelines and policies that structured them...