Wartime Shanghai

Wartime Shanghai

Wartime Shanghai

Wartime Shanghai

Synopsis

Wartime Shanghai is a lively account of the political and social situation between 1937 and 1946. It explores the deep political rivalries between Nationalist groups, the intrigue of international espionage and how Shanghai society -- from European administrators to Chinese film makers -- collaborated with, or resisted, the Japanese occupation.

Excerpt

Those who lived through this war struggled for survival in an environment of complex politics with diffused meaning. Local politics intersected with national events and international divisions of much longer duration and farreaching scope. Yet local politics was not purely derivative; the locale had its significant role to play in shaping the contests at a higher level. What was so striking about wartime Shanghai was that no single issue or ideological position had been able to lay a sweeping claim on the allegiance or loyalty of all individuals in the city, thanks to this ceaseless mixing and reconfiguring of politics on all levels. Shanghai consequently entered the war not as one civic entity, but as a mosaic of ethnic and sub-ethnic communities each with its own diverse origins and destinations. No black-and-white distinction could be drawn between resistance and collaboration, since few could agree upon what they were standing for, although all recognized in the Japanese a common enemy.

Bernard Wasserstein's chapter (Chapter 3), which examines the conduct of the city's Europeans, including the public administrators of the foreign concessions, shows how many people had readily opted for collaboration instead of resistance. the 50,000-some Europeans in wartime Shanghai had arrived there, first of all, from a variety of places under diverse circumstances. the French, the Russians, and the European Jews (who counted among the city's newest arrivals) were geographically isolated from home and politically at sea with lost bearings. "None could look to a clearly focused political home. None felt a sense of community either with the surrounding Chinese population or with the rest of the deeply fissured European groups in Shanghai. That most of them opted for a policy of accommodation rather than resistance may be regarded, in the circumstances, as a natural and unsurprising response to an impossible situation" (p. 27).

The city's 10,000 or so British and Commonwealth citizens and the smaller number of Americans, who called themselves "Shanghailanders" and traced their connections with the city to a much earlier time, behaved in many ways in just as compromising a manner. Wasserstein shows that despite the availability of opportunities to flee, they stayed on, went along with the

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