Chinese Capitalists in Japan's New Order: The Occupied Lower Yangzi, 1937-1945

Chinese Capitalists in Japan's New Order: The Occupied Lower Yangzi, 1937-1945

Chinese Capitalists in Japan's New Order: The Occupied Lower Yangzi, 1937-1945

Chinese Capitalists in Japan's New Order: The Occupied Lower Yangzi, 1937-1945

Synopsis

In this probing and original study, Parks M. Coble examines the devastating impact of Japan's invasion and occupation of the lower Yangzi on China's emerging modern business community. Arguing that the war gravely weakened Chinese capitalists, Coble demonstrates that in occupied areas the activities of businessmen were closer to collaboration than to heroic resistance. He shows how the war left an important imprint on the structure and culture of Chinese business enterprise by encouraging those traits that had allowed it to survive in uncertain and dangerous times.

Although historical memory emphasizes the entrepreneurs who followed the Nationalists armies to the interior, most Chinese businessmen remained in the lower Yangzi area. If they wished to retain any ownership of their enterprises, they were forced to collaborate with the Japanese and the Wang Jingwei regime in Nanjing. Characteristics of business in the decades prior to the war, including a preference for family firms and reluctance to become public corporations, distrust of government, opaqueness of business practices, and reliance of personal connections (guanxi) were critical to the survival of enterprises during the war and were reinforced by the war experience. Through consideration of the broader implications of the many responses to this complex era, Chinese Capitalists in Japan's New Order makes a substantial contribution to larger discussions of the dynamics of World War II and of Chinese business culture.

Excerpt

Even in a century filled with war, revolution, and death, the eight years of the Sino-Japanese war stand out as a time of great violence and change. From the summer of 1937, when the Japanese swept through the economic and political heartland of China, cities and rural areas alike suffered devastation. the toll in human costs was staggering. Though exact figures will never be known, more than three million Chinese soldiers and probably eighteen million civilians perished. At least ninety-five million became refugees. Property losses are even harder to assess, but one recent estimate is more than us $100 billion. Despite the enormity of this event, the war of resistance (as it is called in China) is probably the least studied and understood period of twentieth-century Chinese history. Within four years of the Japanese defeat, the Communists and Chairman Mao triumphed over Chiang Kaishek (Jiang Jieshi) and the Guomindang. This 1949 divide has nearly eclipsed the earlier war as a subject of scholarly interest. When Western scholarship has looked at the war era, notes Stephen MacKinnon, it “has focused not on the war itself but on the continuing political struggle for supremacy between the Communists and the Nationalists.”

Nor has the situation in China itself been better. For the first thirtyfive years of the People’s Republic, the war was largely ignored, save for commemorating the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Chinese Communist Party in China’s resistance. the sacrifice of millions of soldiers in the Nationalist forces led by Chiang Kaishek was simply erased from . . .

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