The Military and the Militarization of Republican China

DATE: September 27–28, 2013

PLACE: Institute of East Asian Studies, 2223 Fulton Street, UC Berkeley

SPONSORS: Institute of East Asian Studies, Institute of Research Department of the Republican China Modern History, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Center for Chinese Studies



The Republican period in Chinese history saw wars on multiple fronts, with invasions from without and civil strife from within. The period was shaped by wars that traumatized and transformed society. Papers by scholars from China, the US, and Europe, including work informed by new archival materials and interdisciplinary in approach, analyze the issue of "militarization" and look into the way wars, and the institutionalization or routinization of violence, might have shaped the culture of Republican China.



Download a copy of the agenda here.


7:00 PM — Welcome Dinner
Comal Restaurant
2020 Shattuck Ave Berkeley


10:00 AM — Welcome Remarks
Kevin O'Brien, Political Science and Director, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Jin Yilin, Research Department of the Republican China, Institute of Modern History, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

10:10–11:30 AM — Session 1
Chair: Wang Chaoguang

He Wenping, History, Sun Yat-sen University
"The Banditry Problem and the Conflict of Armies and Local Society in the Pearl River Delta in the early Republic of China:A case study on Jiujiang Event (1923–1925)"

Brooks Jessup, Graduate School of East Asian Studies, Free University of Berlin
"A Bodhisattva Descends to Hell: The Buddhist Collaboration of Wen Lanting in Wartime Shanghai"

Discussant 1: Luo Min

Discussant 2: Kevin Landdeck


11:30 AM — Lunch Break

12:30–1:50 PM — Session 2
Chair: Wen-hsin Yeh

Duan Ruicong, Business and Commerce Department, Keio University
"Chiang Kai-shek and the Construction of the General Mobilization System in the Early Stage of the Anti Japanese War"

Joshua Howard, History and International Studies, University of Mississippi
"Music for a National Defense: Making martial music during the Anti-Japanese War"

Discussant 1: Shana Brown

Discussant 2: Brett Sheehan


1:50–2:05 PM — Break

2:05–3:25 PM — Session 3
Chair: Jin Yilin

Luo Min, Institute of Modern History, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences
"Chiang Kai-shek and Local Power Elite in China's Southwest"

Kevin Landdeck, Ethnic Studies, Sarah Lawrence College
"Chicken-footed Gods or Village Protectors?: Conscription, Community, and Conflict in Rural Sichuan, 1937–45"

Discussant 1: He Wenping

Discussant 2: Margaret Tillman


3:25–3:35 PM — Break

3:25–5:00 PM — Session 4
Chair: Wen-hsin Yeh

Wang Chaoguang: Recent Trends and Major Findings in Sino-Japanese War research

Discussant: Hans van de Ven

Q&A and Discussion

5:00 PM — Adjourn

5:15 PM — Dinner
Arabica Restaurant
2115 Kittredge St., Berkeley


10:00–11:20 AM Session 5
Chair: Kevin Landdeck

Wang Anzhong, Institute of History, Hunan Academy of Social Sciences
"The Way to Victory for CCP's War Industry 1945–1949"

Shana Brown, History, University of Hawaii
"The Mirror of the Military: Photographic Portrayals of Military Leadership in the Republican and Wartime Period"

Discussant 1: Li Zhiyu

Discussant 2: Joshua Howard


11:20–12:20 PM — Lunch Break

12:20–2:20 PM — Session 6
Chair: Hans van de Ven

Margaret Tillman, History, University of Mississippi
"US Aid for Child Welfare in the Post-war and Civil War Years"

Li Zhiyu, History, East China Normal University
"Political Work in the Nationalist Army during the Northern Expedition"

Brett Sheehan, History, University of Southern California
"Dongya Corporation and its Christian Spirit, Military Discipline Slogan"

Discussant 1: Duan Ruicong

Discussant 2: Brooks Jessup

2:20–2:35 PM — Break

2:35–5:00 PM — Session 7
Chair: Wen-hsin Yeh

2:35–3:20 PM — Comments and Discussion
Hans van de Ven

3:20–5:00 PM — Open Discussion

5:00 PM — Adjourn

5:30 PM — Dinner
Bistro Liaison Restaurant
1849 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley



Shana Brown, University of Hawaii
The Mirror of the Military: Photographic Portrayals of Military Leadership in the Republican and Wartime Periods
This talk is part of a larger project which examines the political uses of Chinese photography in the twentieth century. Since the earliest years of the Chinese Republic, military portraiture has been an important photographic genre. Portraits of military leaders and their troops were significant speech acts at every end of the ideological spectrum. They can be examined historically as discursive statements that allowed individuals and parties to work towards domestic political goals, mark diplomatic initiatives, and display ideological commitments. My goal in this talk is to define and explore the implications of military portraiture as a Chinese photographic genre, to discuss its history in the middle of the twentieth century, and to look at its lasting political and cultural implications.

Duan Ruicong, Keio University, Japan
Chiang Kai-shek and the Construction of the General Mobilization System in the Early Stage of the Anti-Japanese War
This article mainly discusses the Chiang Kai-shek's idea of "General Mobilization (zong dongyuan)" in the early stage of the Anti-Japanese War, as well as the institutional transformation of the General Mobilization in Guomindang (GMD) and the Nationalist Government, the establishment of the National General Mobilization Planning Commission (Guojia zongdongyuan sheji weiyuanhui) and its reorganization and disband, and the law-making related to the General Mobilization.

He Wenping, Sun Yet-sen University in Guangzhou, China
The Banditry Problem and the Conflict of Armies and Local Society in the Pearl River Delta in the early Republic of China: A case study on Jiujiang Event (1923–1925)
In the early years of the Republic of China, Guangdong province was a large battlefield in which various political forces were fighting against each other. Revolutionaries led by Sun Yat-sen were also based in Guangdong and established revolutionary regimes in this place for three times. Due to the political turmoil, local armies was divided and reunited, armies from Yunnan, Guangxi, Hunan, Jiangxi, etc. entered into Guangdong one by one, and different local militias were organized. Thereby, the composition of the armies in Guangdong in this period was very complex, and these armies were also becoming a heavy burden on the local society. According to Ding Wenjiang, "Sichuan and Guangdong were the two provinces that suffered most. How these various armies, especially armies from other provinces, established themselves in Guangdong and elsewhere, ways and in which these armies affected local society has not been discussed thoroughly and completely before. The continuous conflict between armies and militias happened in the town of Jiujiang(九江), Nanhai County (南海县) from 1923 to 1925 was very typical among many conflicts of the in the early Republic of China. The conflict resulted from the change of local political and social power structure in Guangdong since late Qing Dynasty, when Guangdong became more and more violent. A detailed analysis on this conflict, with attention to the strategies that various armies utilized to establish themselves in the local society and the challenges they faced, can help us to understand the relationship between armies and local society

Joshua Howard, History and International Studies, University of Mississippi
Music for a National Defense': Making Martial Music during the Anti-Japanese War
In 1936 the leftist songwriter Lü Ji proclaimed the need for a "music of national defense," implicitly criticizing the popular (love) songs pioneered by Li Jinhui and the "academy" style music inspired by European art music. Lu's call not only sparked a fierce debate about the social function of music and its most appropriate style, but would give impetus to the national salvation choral movement and the popularization of military music, especially militant mass songs, during the Anti-Japanese War. This paper uses a collective biographical approach (focusing on the musicians Lü Ji, Zhang Shu, He Shide, Ren Guang, Liu Liangmo, Xian Xinghai, Li Baochen, Ma Sicong and He Luding) to investigate how martial music was used to mobilize soldiers and civilians in both the Communist base areas and Nationalist territories. The limited English language scholarship on wartime songs has appropriately emphasized their important political function for the Communists in stimulating popular nationalism. We know relatively little, however, about how United Front organizations, such as the Third Office of the Military Affairs Commission's Political Department in Wuhan propagated songs across ideological fault lines and how patriotic songs were used in the Nationalist armies, or their role among civilians. We know even less about the emotive qualities of songs and instrumental music that appealed to the public by heightening nostalgia and memories of home. This paper seeks to address such lacunae.

Brooks Jessup, East Asian Studies, Free University of Berlin
A Bodhisattva Descends to Hell: The Buddhist Collaboration of Wen Lanting in Wartime Shanghai
In the occupied metropolis of Shanghai during the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), prominent Chinese officials, urban elites and clergy collaborated with their Japanese counterparts in staging public Buddhist activities associated with salvation of the dead and damned. Although such activities were promoted across the Japanese wartime empire as support for pan-Asian imperial ideology, participation also allowed local Chinese elites to publicly address the human costs and spiritual consequences of war beyond the framework of competing nation states. In particular, Buddhist ceremonies for orphaned souls of the war dead and charitable relief for the destitute poor found powerful resonance among an urban populace suffering under the hellish conditions of wartime violence and privation. Focusing on the story of the Chinese president of the Greater East Asian Buddhist Federation, Wen Lanting, this paper examines public Buddhist activity as an important arena for legitimizing political and social authority in the context of Shanghai's foreign occupation.

Kevin Landdeck, Ethnic Studies, Sarah Lawrence College
Chicken-footed Gods or Village Protectors?: Conscription, Community, and Conflict in Rural Sichuan, 1937–45
Mobilizing men to serve in the army was a fundamental task of the Nationalist government during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45); examining conscription in rural Sichuan affords a view of state-making and loyalty to the Nationalist regime on the most local level as well as on the contours of social conflict and community during war. In interior provinces, which supplied the majority of China's 14 million conscripts, the draft rested on village and township administrators, the revived baojia system. This paper examines the relationship of wartime conscription to rural administration and, specifically, the village baojia leaders. These men were in a difficult position: the state demanded full quotas of bodies for the front, while aggrieved neighbors and residents attempted to leverage bureaucratic discipline by filing an avalanche of accusations and petitions with higher ups. Looking at cases from counties around Chongqing reveals patterns and tensions within the draft that complicate the stereotypical picture of the baojia as only rapacious bullies. I argue that alongside the predatory practices of extortion and press-gang conscription, baojia leaders also engaged in actions that should be acknowledged as protective of their neighbors and communities. Wartime baojia heads carried out a delicate balancing act between their own self-interests, their (administrative) loyalty to the Nationalist state, and the interests of their communities. These intricate webs of interest nudged the rural draft into patterns of predation and protection that often resulted in social conflict between communities.

Li Zhiyu, History, East China Normal University
Political Work in the Nationalist Army during and after the Northern Expedition
This article attempts to discuss the political work in the military of KMT during and after the Northern Expedition (1926–1928) from those following aspects: 1. The characteristics and the differences of the political work in the Nationalist army during and after the period of "the Northern Expedition". 2. The shortcomings which existed in the political work system during the Northern Expedition that might have led to the decadence of political work after the war. 3. The ideas of KMT's leaders such as Wang Ching-wei and Chiang Kai-shek on the political work system and the practices as well as difficulties about reconstruction of political work after the Northern Expedition. We hope this examination of the political work system in Nationalist Army may offer an opportunity to understand deeply the attempt that KMT in building a united and effective political control of the schismatic armed forces in Republican China, the difficulties they faced, and the relationship between the failure of the political work in KMT army and the failure of KMT itself in fighting for the regime of China.

Brett Sheehan, History, University of Southern California
Whose Wars?
This paper will look at a variety of sources from Tianjin in the 1930s to compare different viewpoints in regard to China's military and military conflicts. The viewpoints range from vociferous patriotism of the Dagong Bao newspaper, to a kind of "carnival war" promoted in the Beiyang Huabao, to the studied concerns of the banker Bian Baimei trying to maintain financial stability and calm, to the training of Japanese soldiers stationed in North China about how they were supposed to interact with Chinese civilians. The paper shows a large variety of attitudes and approaches to militarization while at the same time showing how militarization and military conflict became part of everyday lives.

Margaret Mih Tillman, History, University of Mississippi
US Aid for Child Welfare in the Post-war and Civil War Years
This paper examines child welfare relief undertaken by the United Nations Relief Rehabilitation Organization (UNRRA) and its sister organizations, the Chinese Relief and Rehabilitation Organization (CNRRA), headed by the Nationalists, and the Chinese Liberated Areas (CLARA), headed by Communists. The Chinese Civil War broke down the interaction between these organizations and hindered efforts to bring child welfare to the population devastated by the Second Sino-Japanese War. Three major types of problems arose out of the context of the Nationalists' reliance on international relief organizations: distribution problems; funding problems; conflicting goals and manpower issues. At stake were issues of the professionalization of a welfare bureaucracy and the construction of a modern state, and these issues influenced ideas about the military potential and the sentimental value of childhood. Finally, because of the cultural and political significance of childhood, difficulties with child welfare relief contributed a negative memory of Nationalist leadership during the Communist era.

Wang Anzhong, History Institute, Hunan Academy of Social Science
The Way to Victory for CCP's War Industry 1945–1949
China's Civil War lasted for more than three years, but the final overthrow of the KMT regime came with amazing speed. Why the KMT fall so rapidly? The reasons are extremely complex; among them the chaos of the political system, bureaucratic corruption, military strategic mistakes, even weakness in key areas of intelligence. The reasons for the victory of the communist party are complex too, though certainly among them was the effectiveness of its political and military strategy and the strong party organization. With deeper research, scholars are gradually paying closer attention to such factors as the military industry. This paper contributes to this study of the military industry, and considers the ideas of the prominent western military theorist von Clausewitz in an effort to illuminate aspects of this study.



Shana J. Brown is associate professor of history at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. Her first visit to China was in 1992, and since then she has been studying, teaching, and writing about that country, focusing primarily on issues related to cultural and intellectual history. In 2011 she published Pastimes: From Art and Antiquarianism to Modern Chinese Historiography, which discussed how scholars in traditional China studied and imagined their own history through the medium of antiquities, including pictorial images of ancient artifacts. This research inspired an interest in Chinese visual culture more generally, and has led to her current work on photographic representation. Her new book project is entitled "Framing Revolution: The Politics of Photography in Modern China."

Joshua Howard received his B.A. in East Asian Studies from Oberlin College in 1988 and his Ph.D. in History from the University of California at Berkeley in 1998. He is currently the Croft Associate Professor of History and International Studies at the University of Mississippi. His book, Workers at War: Labor in China's Arsenals, 1937–1953 (Stanford University Press, 2004) examines the process of class formation in the Nationalist wartime capital of Chongqing. More recent publications on China's labor history include articles on child labor as well as the politicization of women workers during the Anti-Japanese War. Since 2007–2008, when he was awarded a Fulbright Senior Research Grant to study at the Central Conservatory of Music, Dr. Howard has been researching the book project, "Nie Er: Composing Sonic Nationalism and China's Revolutionary Music," which focuses on this radical song writer's involvement in the proletarian arts movement during the 1930s and the political uses of his commemoration and music. Preliminary results have been published in the journal, Twentieth Century China (37:1) as "The Making of a National Icon: Commemorating Nie Er, 1935–1949."

J. Brooks Jessup is assistant professor of history at the University of Minnesota, Morris. He received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 2010. His work focuses on the social and cultural history of religion in modern China. His current research examines the renegotiation of urban modernity by Buddhist social elites in Shanghai from the turn of the twentieth century into the early PRC. He is working on a book manuscript, "Ambivalent Modernity: Buddhist Activism and Urban Culture in Twentieth-Century China," and co-editing a volume with Jan Kiely, "Recovering Buddhist China in the Twentieth Century."

Kevin Landdeck is an Assistant Professor, and the Merle Rosenblatt Goldman Chair in Asian Studies, at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley in 2011. His current research concerns Kuomintang military service, wartime mobilization, and interior society during the Sino-Japanese War (1937–45). He was the recipient of a Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation dissertation grant in 2006–07 for research in the Chongqing Municipal Archives. His dissertation, "Under the Gun: Nationalist Military Service and Society in Wartime Sichuan, 1938–1945," examines the state-making projects embedded within conscription and voluntary enlistment in Chiang Kai-shek's army and is presently being revised for publication. He has recently delivered papers on conscription in Sichuan at the Association of Asian Studies annual conference (2011) and on the political culture of the KMT's Intellectual Youth Army in 1944–45 at the American Historical Association annual conference (2012). Areas of intellectual interest include China's transition from a dynastic empire to a nation-state; the role of war in state-making; modes of political mobilization and their intersection with social organization; and the social, cultural meanings and uses of violence. Although Professor Landdeck teaches primarily modern Chinese history (17th century to present), being at a liberal arts college allows him the freedom to branch out and offer classes on warfare in modern East Asia and on 20th-century Chinese fiction (in translation).

Brett Sheehan is associate professor of Chinese history at the University of Southern California. His research focuses on the intersection of business and economy with social, political and cultural phenomena. He is the author of Trust in Troubled Times: Money, Banking and State-Society Relations in Republican Tianjin, 1916–1937, and numerous articles and book chapters. His new book, Industrial Eden: A Chinese Capitalist Vision explores the relationship between authoritarian developmental states and capitalism in China from about 1900 to 1952 and is forthcoming from Harvard University Press.

Margaret Mih Tillman is graduating with a Ph.D. in History at UC Berkeley in May 2013, and will be a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Mississippi in 2013–2014. Her dissertation, "Precocious Politics: Preschool Education and Child Protection in China, 1903–1953," argues that the introduction of the Western-style kindergarten allowed children to be socialized and shaped politically, as either Qing subjects, or Nationalist citizens, or Communist comrades, outside of the traditional environment of the family home. Long-term structural continuities, allowing childhood to be protected from industrial work, carried over regime changes and revisions to the political content of the kindergarten classroom. Those changes also reflected the increasing militarization of Chinese society.



The conference — The Military and the Militarization of Republican China — will be held at the Institute of East Asian Studies on the UC Berkeley campus, 2223 Fulton Street, 6th Floor conference room, UC Berkeley. The Institute of East Asian Studies is located in the southwest region of campus. Please find IEAS in section D1 of this large campus map.


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