Category Archives: Workshops

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


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

Wartime Everydayness and Decolonization of the WWII

Date: 9 March 2018

Hans van de Ven, professor of Modern Chinese History at the Faculty of Asian and Middle East Studies in Cambridge, delivered a talk elaborating on his new book China at War and vision for the next project on “wartime everydayness.” Following a sincere effort to incorporate the “China theatre” in the general account of WWII historiography, Prof. van de Ven first reviewed various issues in his monograph: contact between Chinese and Japanese military officials over the course of Japan’s surrender in 1945, Chinese Nationalist-Communist negotiations for peaceful post-war settlement following the dissolution of the Japanese Empire, Chiang Kai-shek’s “benevolent” policies towards post-war Japan as a “virtuous” leader, the applicability of “Clausewitzian victory” in China’s war, and the meaning of the Japanese downfall to the areas outside the China theatre. Prof. van de Ven acutely pointed out that “Japanese defeat” was only one of the issues in postwar Asia. He argued that Japanese imperialism in East and Southeast Asia during WWII and the immediate post-war era projected a new “opportunity” for former colonies under both Japan and European empires to reconceive their own state formation, and thus swiftly unleashed the decolonization process.

Prof. van de Ven then progressed to the second half of the lecture concerning his next project on “wartime everydayness,” which will be an ambitious plan to examine both living environments and the national consciousness in wartime societies across East and Southeast Asia. At the macro-level, Prof. van de Ven broadly compared Japanese de-imperialization to European counterparts in Asia, building on previous scholarship by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper. At the micro-level, he referenced memoirs and literary works written by Chinese Nationalist elites at war, such as Chi Pang-yuan (齊邦媛), Chen Yinke (陳寅恪), and Chen Kewen (陳克文), to name just a few. He suggested that WWII in China (and other East Asian regions) did not just create turbulence and impose violence. The war also precipitated geopolitical diversity in East as well as Southeast Asia, and fermented cultural vibrancy (widely defined) created by diasporic Chinese intellectual elites. The talk and ensuing discussion concluded that there is an increasing demand for research on “wartime everydayness” that will spur future scholars to examine the nuanced social complexity of WWII and postwar East Asia that might overcome the constraints imposed by conventional narratives that focus on confrontation and calamity.

Workshop Poster