Why does the history of World War II matter so much in China today? One of the most notable changes in historical interpretation in China in recent decades has been the new concentration on the history of China’s War of Resistance against Japan (1937-45), the Chinese aspect of World War II. Controversies within that period, such as the relative records of the Nationalist and Communist parties, the role of collaborators with Japan, and issues of gender and class based engagement with the wartime effort, have emerged in China’s academy but gone on to shape debates among China’s senior leaders, from Hu Qiaomu to Xi Jinping. Historiography of the Second World War II has become intricately linked to reflection on the PRC’s present. China’s relations with the US and its Asian neighbours are shaped by a powerful factor: the changing meaning and memory of China’s wartime experience against Japan . Looking at a variety of frameworks ranging from diplomacy to literary nonfiction to social media to cinema, this book argues that understanding China’s continuing reassessment of the war years is a key element of understanding the country’s contemporary actions at home and abroad.
Rana Mitter OBE FBA is the Director of the University China Centre and Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford. He is the author of several books, the most recent of which is Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013: UK title, China’s War with Japan), which won the 2014 RUSI/Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature and was named a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title and a Book of the Year in the Financial Times and Economist. He holds a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship for 2019-22, during which time he will write a book on the making of the postwar Asian order.