Yearly Archives: 2018

Between Friend and Foe: Chiang Kai-shek vs Japan and Communist China

5 November 2018

In his talk Professor Huang Tzu-Chin introduced the multifaceted interactions between Chiang, the Japanese, and the CCP, before and after 1945. Introducing the audience to the rich background of Chiang’s formative years living in Japan and interacting with the Japanese, Professor Huang painted a vivid picture of just how deeply Chiang was influenced by his sojourn and study. Providing a nuanced interpretation of such pivotal events in the history of Japanese encroachment in China such as the Manchurian (or Mukden) Incident in 1931, Huang pointed out that Chiang’s well-known reluctance to confront the Japanese at this point was not unique and in fact shared by the autonomous governments in Northeastern China. At the same time, it was clear that from 1933 Chiang prioritized fighting the CCP over confronting the Japanese, and it was only the Xian Incident of 1936 that brought about the united front between the KMT and CCP. Naturally this was an alliance that was forced upon Chiang, and reading from his diary entry on the day of the Japanese surrender in China (9/9/1945), it is clear he found little joy in the occasion and was primarily concerned about the coming confrontation with the CCP. In terms of his attitudes toward the Japanese after 1945, Chiang was keen to influence the Americans in favor of maintaining the Japanese imperial system and not putting the emperor on trial. By finally bringing to the fore Chiang’s vision after 1945 for a strong and unified Japan that could serve as an ally in the coming international anti-communist struggle, the arc of Professor Huang’s lecture provided us with a fascinating outline of the pre- and postwar continuity in Chiang’s ideas about the Japanese and the CCP.



ERC Group Research Meeting

1 November 2018

On 1 November 2018 we held a research meeting where seven graduate students and one postdoc, all connected to the ERC project, presented their research. Several professors and postdocs also attended as guests and were able to offer their feedback and questions. While the topics of the presentations covered a wide variety of subjects, they were held together by the common thread concerning the question of how to approach the legacy of the Japanese empire in East Asia. Presentations covered, for example, the Japanese military legacy on Taiwan; the issue of maritime space in East Asia; Korean immigration in the age of empire and its postwar effects; and postwar Sino-Japanese relations. The discussions took account of large areas of the former Japanese empire. Approaching these disparate geographical areas from the perspective of their shared imperial legacies led to many animated discussions and excellent feedback from a variety of different angles. With eight people introducing their work in three hours, each participant was challenged to present his/her argument in as concise a manner as possible, and many of the questions raised led to further discussions during the dinner that followed the event. Having acquired a clearer idea of everyone’s project, the research meeting will likely prove to be a catalyst for continued debate between students and academics in the weeks and months to come, and help to raise the overall discussion and subsequent publications to a higher level.



The Heisei Period and Japan’s History Issue

Date: 23 October 2018

In his talk Mr. Miura Toshiaki shared his insights gained from several decades of work as a journalist since the 1980s. Concentrating on the history issue in Japan and how it has come to dominate the political debate in East Asia, Mr. Miura related how as a young journalist he had never imagined that writing about history would come to be a central part of his work as a journalist covering international politics. He identified 1994/5 as the watershed year, when progressive forces in Japan seemed to be in the ascendance, culminating in the Murayama statement of 1995 in which Prime Minister Murayama apologised to Japan’s war victims. Unexpectedly, this resulted in a major backlash from the Japanese right, which again contributed to the rise of both former Prime Minister Koizumi and current Prime Minister Abe. Mr. Miura further elaborated on how the Heisei emperor has become central to the debate on history that has come to dominate the era, and how with his progressive views he has come to personify the attachment many Japanese feel to the (pacifist) Article 9 of the constitution. He warned progressives against this sentiment however, since having the emperor as a political figurehead can backfire when a possible a future emperor holds opposite political beliefs. The lecture was followed by a spirited discussion on the topics Mr. Miura addressed, and the event proved a fruitful exchange of ideas gleaned from the perspective of journalism on the one hand, and the perspective of academia on the other.

Workshop Poster


Cambridge Workshop: The Cold War and Post-War Taiwan

Date: 28-29 June, 2018

This workshop brought together scholars from Taiwan, Japan, and Cambridge, and opened with a keynote speech by Professor Andrew Preston (Professor of American History, University of Cambridge), entitled: From Dong Dang to Danang: America’s Thirty Years’ War for Asia. Over the next two days, the topic was approached from different angles by the speakers. The first day saw presentations on a variety of topics related to the US-ROC (Republic of China) security relationship; academic interaction between the two countries; and the ROC’s place in the United Nations, and US support thereof. The presentations on the morning of the second day took a more inter-Asian approach, and looked at the institutionalisation of Japan-ROC ties; Beijing’s views on PRC/ROC rivalry within Japan; as well as De-Japanization and decolonization in postwar Taiwan. The presentations in the afternoon dealt with a variety of topics, such as the reform of rural Taiwanese society with US guidance; the Taiwanese reaction to Beijing’s Ping Pong Diplomacy and the first steps toward rapprochement between Beijing and Washington; and finally an in-depth look at the Cold War roots of the Diaoyutai/Senkaku islands dispute and the role of Taiwan therein. The consensus among the participants, brought together here for the first time to evaluate the multifaceted but under-researched topic of Taiwan’s place within Cold War East Asia, was that these two days of spirited discussion should serve as the start of a continued academic exchange and collaboration, in order to bring many of the important questions raised into sharper focus.

Workshop Agenda


The “Asian-Hand” Journalists of Japanese Newspapers: Japanese Journalists in between Japan, Korea and China in the 20th Century

Date: 4 June 2018

Professor Tsuchiya’s talk identified several different stages in Japanese newspapers’ engagement with East Asia (China, Korea, Taiwan) during the 20th century, concentrating on two stages in particular: from 1911 to the Manchurian Incident in 1931 (stage two), and from 1931 to the end of WWII in 1945 (stage three). While prior to 1911 most Japanese journalists active on the Asian mainland had not been able to speak Chinese or Korean, during the second stage this would change with many major Japanese newspapers placing Asian-hand correspondents with a stronger language background in China and Korea. Additionally there were several independent Japanese-language newspapers published in China and Korea at this time. This stage is characterised by the close ties the Japanese journalists developed with local intellectuals and journalists, and the diversity of opinions expressed through their reporting. This would change during stage three, when from 1931 Japanese newspapers developed a close alignment with the military, and the work of Japanese “Asian-hand” journalists was to a large extent integrated with that of the military.


A clear example of this were two research associations connected to major newspapers and aimed at supporting the goals of the militarists: the “Association for Research of East Asia” founded by Motoyama Hikoichi (Osaka Mainichi Shimbun) in 1929 and the “Association for Research on Problems of East Asia” founded by Ogata Taketora (Tokyo Asahi Shimbun) in 1934. By the late 1930s all major Japanese newspapers had large East Asia sections populated by experienced “Asian-hands” whose reporting was entirely integrated with the war effort. After 1945 these East Asia sections at the newspapers were abolished and their activities largely forgotten. In her conclusion Professor Tsuchiya stressed the importance of questioning why these “Asian-hands” were unable to resist the push towards war, and additionally of contemplating how journalists today can make a more positive contributing to the avoidance of war. Finally Professor Tsuchiya called for the need for further in-depth study of the role of journalism in international relations and international history.

Workshop Poster