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China’s Good War

China’s Good War

How World War II Is Shaping a New Nationalism

Rana Mitter

ISBN 9780674984264

Publication date: 09/15/2020

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A Foreign Affairs Best Book of the Year
A Spectator Book of the Year

Chinese leaders once tried to suppress memories of their nation’s brutal experience during World War II. Now they celebrate the “victory”—a key foundation of China’s rising nationalism.

For most of its history, the People’s Republic of China limited public discussion of the war against Japan. It was an experience of victimization—and one that saw Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek fighting for the same goals. But now, as China grows more powerful, the meaning of the war is changing. Rana Mitter argues that China’s reassessment of the World War II years is central to its newfound confidence abroad and to mounting nationalism at home.

China’s Good War begins with the academics who shepherded the once-taboo subject into wider discourse. Encouraged by reforms under Deng Xiaoping, they researched the Guomindang war effort, collaboration with the Japanese, and China’s role in forming the post-1945 global order. But interest in the war would not stay confined to scholarly journals. Today public sites of memory—including museums, movies and television shows, street art, popular writing, and social media—define the war as a founding myth for an ascendant China. Wartime China emerges as victor rather than victim.

The shifting story has nurtured a number of new views. One rehabilitates Chiang Kai-shek’s war efforts, minimizing the bloody conflicts between him and Mao and aiming to heal the wounds of the Cultural Revolution. Another narrative positions Beijing as creator and protector of the international order that emerged from the war—an order, China argues, under threat today largely from the United States. China’s radical reassessment of its collective memory of the war has created a new foundation for a people destined to shape the world.

Praise

  • One of Britain’s foremost historians of modern China…A detailed and fascinating account of how the Chinese leadership’s strategy has evolved across eras—and how its recent overtures to regional and international audiences have corresponded to shifts in domestic education and internal propaganda about World War II…China’s Good War is at its most interesting when probing Beijing’s motives for undertaking such an ambitious retooling of its past in the first place.

    —Howard W. French, Wall Street Journal

Author

  • Rana Mitter is the author of several books, including A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World and Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937–1945, named a Book of the Year in The Economist and Financial Times. He has commented on Asia for the BBC, NPR, CNN, the New York Times, the History Channel, and the World Economic Forum at Davos. S.T. Lee Professor of US-Asia Relations at Harvard Kennedy School, he is also a Fellow of the British Academy and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press

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