University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term > Owning up to the Past: The KMT's Role in the War Against Japan and the Impact on CCP Legitimacy

Owning up to the Past: The KMT's Role in the War Against Japan and the Impact on CCP Legitimacy

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This article examines the emergence of an increasingly vociferous public debate in China over the true contribution made by the KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party) in the war against Japan (1937-45). Following years of rigid adherence to the traditional Maoist line that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) won the war almost single-handedly, the CCP has finally moved towards a more honest assessment that recognises the pivotal contribution made by the KMT , historically a sworn enemy of the CCP after the civil war of 1945-49. The rationale for conceding this point is ultimately linked to the question of nationalist legitimacy. At a time of increasing socio-economic uncertainty and in an effort to fill the ideological void left by the demise of Chinese Marxism, the CCP is trying hard to bolster its nationalist credentials. One way that it is doing this is by presenting a united patriotic front on the war against Japan, with itself at the helm. However, things have not materialised in the way the CCP had anticipated. Along with strong expressions of national pride in China’s war effort, some members of the public have responded with sympathy towards the KMT veterans who fought the Japanese. But with this sympathy has come antipathy towards the CCP who are accused of persecuting KMT soldiers after 1949, of re-writing the history of the war for its own propaganda purposes and of betraying the nation by, amongst other things, avoiding armed conflict with Japan and leaving the KMT to fight the war on its own. In light of this growing public reaction, I argue that instead of fortifying the CCP ’s nationalist legitimacy, the official reappraisal of the KMT ’s role in the war runs the risk of eroding that legitimacy.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term series.

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