China's War Reporters: The Legacy of Resistance against Japan
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When Japan invaded China in the summer of 1937, many Chinese journalists greeted the news with euphoria. For years, the Chinese press had urged Chiang Kai-shek to resist Tokyo’s aggressive overtures. This was the war they wanted, convinced that their countrymen would triumph.
Parks Coble recaptures the experiences of China’s war correspondents during the Sino-Japanese War of 1937–1945. He delves into the wartime writing of reporters connected with the National Salvation Movement―journalists such as Fan Changjiang, Jin Zhonghua, and Zou Taofen―who believed their mission was to inspire the masses through patriotic reporting. As the Japanese army moved from one stunning victory to the next, forcing Chiang’s government to retreat to the interior, newspaper reports often masked the extent of China’s defeats. Atrocities such as the Rape of Nanjing were played down in the press for fear of undercutting national morale.
By 1941, as political cohesion in China melted away, Chiang cracked down on leftist intellectuals, including journalists, many of whom fled to the Communist-held areas of the north. When the People’s Republic was established in 1949, some of these journalists were elevated to prominent positions. But in a bitter twist, all mention of their wartime writings disappeared. Mao Zedong emphasized the heroism of his own Communist Revolution, not the war effort led by his archrival Chiang. Denounced as enemies during the Cultural Revolution, once-prominent wartime journalists, including Fan, committed suicide. Only with the revival of Chinese nationalism in the reform era has their legacy been resurrected.
published many of his dispatches from the battle of Shanghai. Yang contrasted the heroic stand of August 1937 with the capitulation to the Japanese in the 1932 fighting at Shanghai. Yang felt that China’s resistance meant that the Chinese could have complete confidence in the ultimate victory.29 The famous writer Guo Moruo echoed similar themes in an open letter to the youth of Sichuan he published in June of 1938. “What are the results of eleven months of war? It looks as if we have encountered
reflected in political moves in Chongqing. Sun Ke, son of Sun Yatsen and a man of prominence if not power in the Guomindang government, attacked capitalism in general from his post as head of the Legislative Yuan. Always searching for a means of enhancing his political position, he no doubt saw the dissatisfaction with China’s capitalists as a popular position during wartime. In a lecture on November 2, 1940, Sun stated: “We should understand the differences between people’s livelihood (minsheng
their fate in the Pacific and celebrated the fall of the Tojo cabinet in Tokyo, this news could not mask the pessimism at home.36 The final thrust came in September 10, 1944, when Japanese forces entered Guangxi Province. Although China had 170,000 troops to defend northern Guangxi, morale collapsed and units simply disintegrated. The British ambassador telegraphed London on September 26 from Chongqing: “Chinese are at present going through a period of intense pessimism, for which one has to
Japanese and an end to the civil war. Yet Chiang appeared committed to his policy of “first pacification, then resistance” well into the autumn of 1936. Under the terms of the HeUmezu agreement and the “Goodwill Edict” China had been forced to EUPHORIA 17 issue, Nanjing was required to suppress the anti-Japanese National Salvation Movement, a loose coalition of leftist forces that included many CCP members. The movement’s demand for a united front agreement came after Stalin had ordered
would first have learned about the skirmish two days later on July 9. But most of the newspaper’s coverage during that week was on a meeting of Chiang Kai-shek and 250 key government and military leaders being held at Lushan, a summer mountain retreat in Jiangxi Province favored by Chiang, as well as articles celebrating the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Shanghai municipal government. And while the newspaper headlines suggested the fighting was serious, reports of negotiations were