How did the leadership of the Japanese Communist Party, which had been ruthlessly oppressed since the late-1920s, emerge suddenly after defeat in 1945 to become one of the most organized and powerful political groups in post-imperial Japan? In a guest seminar, Professor Suzuki Norio of Aichi University presented his latest research on the postwar Japan Communist Party and the idea of postwar revolution. Suzuki began with a discussion of the state of archival material on the Japan Communist Party, as well as ongoing efforts of Japanese historians to document party activities during the early-Cold War. In particular, Suzuki’s presentation broke new historical ground by focusing on the hitherto neglected role of the Tokyo Preventive Detention Center as the wartime crucible of the banned Communist Party, from where party leaders and affiliated members debated the shape of the postwar world, the future role of the emperor system, as well as objective conditions for revolution in Japan and East Asia. Through the lives of postwar Japanese Communist Party leaders, such as Tokuda Kyuichi, Nosaka Sanzo, and Ito Ritsu, this presentation revealed the way individual lives and political careers rose and fell with shifts in political and ideological alignments between Moscow and Peking. Bringing together the strands of the wartime and postwar Japanese Communist Party, Suzuki provided a powerful demonstration of the need to see late-imperial and postwar Japanese political history as international history. (The talk and discussion were held in Japanese).
In this annual research seminar, the research team of the ERC Project “The Dissolution of the Japanese Empire” and guest researchers gathered to share their research findings and discuss future collaboration and projects.
Principal Investigator Dr. Barak Kushner opened the seminar by summarizing the project activities in the past year. His introduction was followed by a presentation by Mr. Hao Chen, a PhD researcher, who talked about the progress of his research on the rivalry for international recognition between the PRC and ROC. Dr. Andrew Levidis, research associate, then introduced his ongoing projects, including his book manuscript on the life and legacy of former prime minister Kishi Nobusuke, as well as his recent research article. The next presenter was Ms. Aiko Otsuka, a researcher on the project, who is close to completing her PhD dissertation on the topic of regimental histories in the Imperial Japanese Army. Following this, Dr. Sherzod Muminov provided an overview of his research activities in the past year, mentioning publications, invited talks, and conferences. Finally, the guest of the seminar, Mr. Ernest Leung, who is a researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, shared his investigations into the economic cooperation in East Asia in the 1920s. The presentations were followed by questions and debate.
When the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik in October 1957, the world took notice. This scientific feat enhanced the USSR’s international prestige and promised a bright future for the socialist bloc, which lagged far behind the West in economic terms. But the Eastern bloc was not a united front, and the Sputnik gave rise to jealousies – nowhere more so than in China, where Mao Zedong tried to beat the Soviets in economic development. The launch of the Sputnik thus triggered an era of economic craze in the socialist bloc, intensifying the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.
In this guest seminar, Sergey Radchenko, a Professor of International Relations at Cardiff University, presented some of his latest research to the members of the ERC Project and other Cambridge colleagues. Radchenko discussed not the traditional Cold War rivalry – the one between the United States and the Soviet Union, but the no less important competition between Mao Zedong’s China and Khrushchev’s post-Stalinist USSR. Based on an extensive reading of multilingual archives, Radchenko suggested new readings of the events of half-century ago. The presentation was followed by a lively debate on one of the chapters from Radchenko’s current research project.
Aaron Peters, PhD student at the University of Toronto presented his doctoral research concerning Japan and Indian relations in the first half of the twentieth century. Marshalling archival research from across the Commonwealth and Japan, Peters explored the role of Indian nationalists in the activities of Japanese pan-Asianists, deepening our understanding of ambivalent historical figures such as Subhas Chandra Bose and the Indian National Army. Crossing the political divide of 1945, Peters thoughtfully highlighted the encounters of Indian soldiers in the BCOF (British Commonwealth Occupation Force) with Japanese civilians and Korean refugees in occupied Japan, particularly western Honshū and Shikoku. Bringing together the strands of the prewar and postwar eras, Peters posed important questions of how the politics of memory and comparison were mobilized by India and Japan to disentangle themselves from an imperial encounter with the Western powers.
Next, Dr. Barak Kushner of the University of Cambridge presented his next research project, “The Spectacle of Justice in East Asia and the Theater of Law: 1945-2015.” Bringing together the strands of his five-year ERC research project and the themes of his most recent monograph “Men to Devils, Devils to Men: Japanese War Crimes and Chinese Justice” (Winner of the American Historical Association’s 2016 John K. Fairbank Prize), Kushner explored how the complex web of national and international trials in the aftermath of World War II in Asia sowed the seeds for the birth of postwar Asia. Excavating the trials, memorials, archives, and prisons that served as the symbolic stage for the dissolution of the Japanese Imperial state, Kushner weaves together a chronicle of the history of East Asia after 1945 with the pursuit of “competitive justice.” In doing so, he resurrects the forgotten Chinese jurists and legal minds role in the Tokyo Trials to bring to light how the East Asian process of adjudicating Japanese war crimes intersected fatefully with the quest for domestic legitimacy and the spread of global jurisprudence beyond Europe.
Members of the ERC Project “Dissolution of Japan’s Empire,” led by Principal Investigator Dr Barak Kushner, presented a panel at the Annual conference of the Association for Asian Studies on March 16, 2017. The conference, held this year at the Sheraton Centre Hotel in Toronto, Canada, is the largest gathering of scholars of Asia from all over the world, with over 3,000 participants attending talks and discussions over three days.
The Project panel, titled “Phantoms of Japan’s Empire: Rethinking Transitions from World War to Cold War, 1945-1950,” aimed to reconsider Japan’s transitions from war to postwar, empire to Cold War. Based on a wide range of archival materials in Japanese, Chinese, Russian and English, which the project team have been consulting in their investigations, the panel papers scrutinised the complicated processes of dismantling Japan’s empire after defeat in World War II. They traced empire’s seeming disappearance, arguing that the transition from imperial era to the post-empire was a lot messier than acknowledged by the existing scholarship in the English language, that the crumbling of the imperial order did not happen overnight, that its many legacies continue to haunt the East Asian region to this day. Professor Toyomi Asano of Waseda University expertly chaired the panel, emphasising in his remarks the importance of the panel topic to the broader scholarship. Continue reading →