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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Serving the occupation state : Chinese elites, collaboration and the problem of history in post-war China Henshaw, Jonathan


This dissertation examines the problem of Chinese collaboration with Japan during the Second World War. It does so by considering the pre-war context of Republican China’s politics, the ways in which political collaboration occurred during the Japanese occupation, as well as collaboration’s aftermath in the Chinese Civil War and as a problem of postwar history and memory. Methodologically, this study adopts a biographical approach, examining four individuals—Kiang Kang-hu (Jiang Kanghu), Chu Minyi, Hao Pengju and Jiang Zemin—whose lives became entangled with the problem of collaboration as it occurred under the Re-organized National Government (RNG) of Wang Jingwei in Nanjing. Since the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, China entered a period of state fragmentation that saw a series of different political parties, movements, and warlords compete for power under a political culture of factional politicking. This provided the context in which the decision to collaborate with Japan made sense for certain members of China’s “alternate elite” whose anti-communism and opposition to military resistance set them in opposition to the Chinese Communist Party and Jiang Jieshi’s Nationalist Party in Chongqing. Once in office, these individuals pursued policies that were often closely aligned with their pre-war political behaviour or beliefs, including advocating for the republican political model, maintaining the symbolism and policy of the Nationalist Party, or establishing military cliques. Despite this consistency, however, taking office in one of the occupation states established by Japan has been framed as an aberration committed by a particular subset of individuals who have been condemned as traitors, or hanjian, for their moral failure and betrayal of the nation. Stepping back from moral judgment, this study shows that the political fragmentation of pre-war China shaped collaboration under the RNG as politicians attempted to turn occupation into an opportunity to preserve the Republican model, even to perpetuate Nationalist Party policies. Although the occupation failed and the RNG was officially discredited, collaboration has endured as a lingering historical controversy that reflects the lengths to which the Chinese state will go to police the allegiance of individuals, even within the realms of history and memory.

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