China's War with Japan

The Persistence of Conflict: China's War with Japan and Its Impact, Memory, and Legacy, 1931 to the Present

The Second World War in China was the single most wrenching event in modern Chinese history. The conflict is often termed the second Sino-Japanese War, and known in China as the War of Resistance to Japan. There are arguments that the conflict began with the invasion of Manchuria in 1931, but between 1937 and 1945, China and Japan were at total war. When Japan was finally defeated in 1945, China was on the winning side, but lay devastated, having suffered some 15 million deaths, massive destruction of industrial infrastructure and agricultural production, and the shattering of the tentative modernization begun by the Nationalist government.

This research group was based on a concept grounded in the discipline of history, but with rich implications for our understanding of postwar and contemporary China – that China’s conflict with Japan in the mid-twentieth century must be brought to the forefront of our understanding of the wider path of Chinese modernity, and that to do so will bring about significant new historical and political insights, not only for the academic world, but also for the wider public understanding of China, a major commercial and diplomatic power in the twenty-first century.

In spring 2007, the Leverhulme Trust generously awarded a major grant to this project under its Research Leadership Award Scheme. Over the period 2007-12, a dedicated research programme involving postdoctoral Research Associates, doctoral students, and research assistants worked on publications, fieldwork, and international collaborations including conferences and workshops. The programme was directed by Rana Mitter (Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China).


Keeping the Nation's House: Modern China book cover

In recent years, Oxford has rapidly become one of the world’s most important centres for the study of China. Oxford has been the beneficiary of several generous awards in recent years, including a Leverhulme-funded Contemporary Chinese Studies Project, a HEFCE-funded award to establish new programmes in Modern Chinese Studies (2000-05), and the new British Inter-University China Centre (BICC), held jointly between Oxford, Manchester, and Bristol (2006-11).

In 2006, a new Oxford China Centre was initiated to coordinate these initiatives. Oxford’s connections with China go well beyond these programmes, including collaborations in medical research and training for a new generation of government officials.

Programme Director

Research Associates

Dr Sherman Lai - Sherman Lai gained his PhD from Queen’s University at Kingston, Canada (2008). His doctoral thesis concerns the growth of the military and financial strength of the Chinese Communist Party in Shandong province during Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Born in Shanxi province, China, in 1962, he obtained his BA in history from Nankai University (1984), MA from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (1987). He then joined the Chinese army, worked, at the Foreign Military Studies, the Academy of Military Sciences, as a translator, a sub-editor, an analyst on US security policy in the Western Pacific (1995-96). He also served as a deputy commander of an infantry company in China's Vietnam War (1989) and a UN peacekeeper in Western Sahara (1991-1992). He retired as a lieutenant colonel to emigrate in 1997. He landed in Montreal in Jan 2000, obtained his MA in the War Studies from Royal Military College of Canada (2002) and did his internship at Lester B. Pearson International Peacekeeping Centre (2002). He has numerous publications in Chinese on military and history.

Dr Helen Schneider - Dr Helen Schneider, a native of Washington, DC, received her BA from Swarthmore College and her PhD in History from the University of Washington in Seattle. She also spent time studying at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center in Nanjing, at the Mandarin Training Center in Taipei, in Harbin and in Beijing. She is currently on leave from her position as an Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Virginia Tech (in Blacksburg, Virginia) where she teaches East Asian history. Helen’s first monograph uses the discipline of home economics as a lens to examine how educated Chinese women interpreted their domestic and professional identities and created careers to meet the needs of the nation over the course of the twentieth century. Her current projects include the cross-cultural professional interactions of home economists in the United States and China, a study of Nationalist women’s mobilization for social relief during the Sino-Japanese War, and the role of international aid in China during and immediately following the war.

Research Assistants

Dr Annie Hongping Nie - Dr. Hongping Annie Nie came from China and did her graduate study in the United States (MA, Calvin College, Michigan, 1995; PhD, Biola University, California, 2005). She has been a tutor on Chinese Politics for different colleges at the University of Oxford since 2005. She was also a research assistant at the Department of Politics and International Relations and a language instructor at the Institute for Chinese Studies before she joined the project. Her research interests include nationalism, citizenship education, foreign relations and diplomacy in contemporary China.

Affiliated Researchers

Dr Matthew Johnson - Matthew D Johnson (PhD, UC San Diego, History) is Departmental Lecturer in the History and Politics of Modern China, Faculty of History. His research interests include international political communication, propaganda, Cold War studies, the League of Nations, and modern state formation. He is currently writing a book manuscript entitledBefore Soft Power: International Image-Making and the Chinese Communist Party, 1928-1980. Matthew has published reviews and articles on contemporary filmmaking in China, co-edited a special issue of the Journal of Chinese Cinemas, and is involved in a variety of projects on the political uses of media during the twentieth century. He is a former employee of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University, U.S. Department of Education Jacob K Javits fellow, U.S. Fulbright IIE student fellow, and visiting researcher in the Department of History, Peking University.

Dr James Reilly - James Reilly was a Research Associate on the China's War with Japan programme in 2008-09.  He is now Lecturer in International Relations of East Asia at the University of Sydney.  He received his PhD from George Washington University in August 2008 in Political Science. Dr. Reilly researches Chinese foreign policy, China-Japan relations, and state-society relations in China. He is currently preparing a book manuscript for publication based upon his dissertation: The Role of Public Opinion in China’s Japan Policy: 1997-2007. Dr. Reilly’s research, supported by a Fulbright-Hays dissertation grant, explores the role of public opinion in the foreign policy of authoritarian countries by drawing upon Chinese public opinion poll data, quantitative content analysis of Chinese publications, and extensive interviews with Chinese and Japanese scholars, officials, businesspeople, and activists.

Dr. Reilly has published articles in The Washington Quarterly, China: An International Journal, Asian Survey, Survival, and several chapters in edited books. From 2001 through 2007, he was based in Dalian, China, where he served as the East Asia Representative of the American Friends Service Committee. He was a Fulbright Scholar based at Renmin University of China for the 2007-08 academic year. He holds an MA in East Asian Studies from the University of Washington, and a BA in History from Guilford College.

Dr Federica Ferlanti - Federica Ferlanti was a Research Associate on the China's War with Japan programme in 2007-09. She is now Lecturer in Moden Chinese History at the University of Cardiff. Federica Ferlanti’s research field is Modern Chinese History and specifically China’s state-building and political history during the 1930s and 1940s. Federica holds BA Hons from Università di Venezia (DSAO, 1995), M.Phil. from University of Cambridge (Oriental Studies, 1996), and PhD from Università di Cagliari (DiSPI, 2003). Her doctoral thesis "The New Life Movement and the Politics of the Guomindang in Jiangxi Province, 1934-1936"' explores the development of the New Life Movement, its long-term impact on political and administrative institutions, along with its contribution in shaping citizenship and national identity. Federica has taught Modern and Contemporary Chinese History at Università di Venezia at Treviso (2003-2004) and has been a recipient of the Post-doctoral Fellowship awarded by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange (2004-2006) with a project entitled "New Life Movement, civilian mobilisation, and state-building during the War against Japan, 1937-1945." Her current project explores the Nationalist government’s commitment to the organisation of popular resistance during the war against Japan, society’s response to the mobilisation in support of the war, and the impact of the war on Chinese society.

Dr Aaron William Moore - Aaron William Moore (PhD Princeton 2006) is a specialist in modern East Asian history. In 2008-10 he was a postdoctoral Research Associate with the China's War with Japan programme, and in February 2010 he took up an appointment as Lecturer in Chinese History at the University of Manchester.

His research, transnational in approach, primarily involves the critical study of subjectivity and diary writing during the Second World War, including texts written by Japanese, Chinese, and American servicemen. He is also working on nineteenth century Japanese anthropology, children's writings and language, work diaries in 1950s mainland China, and the intersection between popular Chinese, Japanese, and Russian genres such as science fiction with broader discourses on social management, gender, technology, and the body. His publications currently include "Essential Ingredients of Truth" (Japan Focus, August 2007), "The Chimera of Privacy" (Journal of Asian Studies, February 2009), "Talk about Heroes: Expressions of Self-Mobilization and Despair in Chinese War Diaries, 1911-1938" (Twentieth Century China, Spring 2009) as well as reviews and translations. Moore's current manuscript project is provisionally entitled, "The Peril of Self-Discipline: Chinese Nationalist, Japanese, and American Servicemen Record the Rise and Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1937-1945." His research languages include Chinese, Japanese, and Russian.

At Oxford, he explored the wartime diaries of American, Chinese, and Japanese servicemen during the Second World War, focusing his efforts on the critical period 1939-1945 in mainland China. His work will contribute to an ongoing discussion among area specialists on the nature of the Japanese occupation, the effectiveness of Chinese resistance, and the successes and failures of mobilization efforts on either side. In particular, he shows how individual servicemen described their experiences during this period, and how these descriptions affected their concepts of soldiering, warfare, and the self.

For Spring 2009, Moore won funding to support two conferences at Oxford. The first concerned the role of the wartime generation in the construction of historical memory in East Asia. The second examined representations of humans and machines in twentieth century China, Japan, the USSR, and Asian North America.

Dr Tehyun Ma - Tehyun Ma received her BA from the University of Pennsylvania and just completed her PhD in History at the University of Bristol. Her research probes the ideological and administrative preoccupations of Chinese Nationalist leaders as they strove to mobilise Taiwan for conflict with the Communists after 1945. Her current project explores how the Nationalist Government planned the rehabilitation and reconstruction of territories occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War. Tehyun has taught at the University of Bristol and has held an Overseas Research Studentship and a Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation dissertation fellowship.

Graduate Students

Ms Lily Chang - Lily Chang is a currently the Henry Lumley Research Fellow in History at Magdalene College, University of Cambridge, where she concurrently serves as a research associate with the joint Centre for History and Economics. She was formerly a postgraduate student on the programme from 2008-2011, where she read for a DPhil in History. She holds a MA from Harvard University (Regional Studies-East Asia), an MSt from the University of Oxford (Oriental Studies), and a bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies (with high honours) and Politics from Oberlin College, OH.

Her DPhil thesis was entitled: “Contested Childhoods: Law and Social Deviance in Wartime China, 1937-1945.” The thesis examined how the outbreak of China’s War of Resistance against Japan (1937-1945) served as a catalyst to an increase in criminality involving juveniles. Drawing on over 400 previously unexamined legal case records and archival materials from four different Chinese archives, the study demonstrated how the social circumstances of war served as an important catalyst to the recognition and institutionalisation of ideas about children and childhood within the judicial and legal settings. She is currently working a monograph that compares the development of a juvenile justice system in China, Japan, France, Germany, and the Netherlands during the Second World War.

Ms Sha Hua - Sha Hua was born in China, grew up in Germany, and went to school in Wales. She has obtained degrees from the London School of Economics and Political Science and Harvard University. Before coming to Oxford, Sha has been funded by the German National Academic Foundation with various scholarships as well as participated in the Carlo Schmid Programme, which took her as an intern and eventually programme assistant to UNESCO Office Beijing. At the moment, she is pursuing a DPhil in Modern Chinese History. Her research interests are socialist youth in the 1950s and 1960s, post-War political culture, and the process of nation-formation both within the Chinese domestic as well as global Cold War and decolonization context.

Ms Elina Sinkkonen - Elina Sinkkonen graduated (MSocSc, 2008) from University of Helsinki, where her major was political science. She wrote her master’s thesis on national identity construction in China, for which she conducted her fieldwork in Beijing. In addition to Helsinki, Elina has studied Chinese language and culture at the Renmin University of China (Beijing) and at the Fudan University (Shanghai). Her research has been funded by among others Kone Foundation, Joel Toivola Foundation and various University of Helsinki’s funds. From 2007 to 2009 Elina worked as coordinator of Asia-Pacific Studies at the University of Helsinki, where her responsibilities included teaching BA/MA level courses both in English and in Finnish. In her DPhil thesis Elina analyses national identity construction in Chinese and Japanese top universities with an emphasis on the role(s) history and its representations play in identity construction. More information on Elina can be found from her personal webpage at www.elinasinkkonen.com

Rana Mitter

  • “British diplomacy and changing views of Chinese governmental capability over theSino-Japanese War, 1937-1945,” In Hans J. van de Ven, Diana Lary, and Steven R. Mackinnon, Negotiating China's Destiny in World War II(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014)
  • China’s War with Japan 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival (London: Allen Lane, 2013), published in North America as Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
  • “Imperialism, transnationalism and the reconstruction of postwar China: UNRRA in China, 1944-7,” Past and Present (supplementary edition 2013).
  • “Relief and Rehabilitation in wartime China,”special edition of European Journal of East Asian Studies 11:2 (December 2012)
  • “Picturing victory: the visual imaginary of the War of Resistance, 1937-47.” European Journal of East Asian Studies 7:1 (2008).
  • China in World War II, 1937–1945: Experience, Memory, and Legacy. Special Issue of Modern Asian Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 
  • "Changed by War: The Changing Historiography of Wartime China and New Interpretations of Modern Chinese History". The Chinese Historical Review, v.17 (Spring 2010).
  • “Writing war: Modernity, disaster and narrative strategies in wartime China, 1937-46.” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 2008.
  • “Aesthetics, Modernity, and Trauma: Public Art and the Memory of War in Contemporary China,” in Vishakha Desai, ed., Asian Art History in the Twenty-First Century (Williamstown, MA: Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2008).
  • “Le Massacre de Nankin: Mémoire et oubli en Chine et au Japon.” (translated by Bruno Poncharal) Vingtième Siècle 94 (April-June 2007), pp. 11-23.

Sherman Xiaogang Lai

Helen Schneider

  • “Women and Family Education Reform in Wartime China, 1937-1945,” The Chinese Historical Review, 20:2 (November 2013).
  • Keeping the Nation’s House: Domestic Management and the Making of Modern China (University of British Columbia Press, 2011). 
  • “The Professionalization of Chinese Domesticity: Ava B. Milam and Home Economics at Yenching University” inChina’s Christian Colleges: Cross-Cultural Connections, 1900-1950, edited by Daniel H. Bays and Ellen Widmer. (Stanford University Press, 2009) pp. 125-146.

Annie Hongping Nie

  • "Gaming, Nationalism, and Ideological Work in Contemporary China: online games based on the War of Resistance against Japan", Journal of Contemporary China, May 2013
  • The Dilemma of the Moral Education Curriculum in a Chinese Secondary School. University Press of America, 2007.

Matthew Johnson

  • “Cinema and Propaganda During the Great Leap Forward,” in James A. Cook, Joshua Goldstein, and Sigrid Schmalzer, eds., Visualizing Modern China (forthcoming).
  • Co-editor (with Paul G. Pickowicz, UCSD), Journal of Chinese Cinemas special issue: “Exhibiting Chinese Cinemas in the World” (forthcoming 2009).
  • “‘A Scene beyond Our Line of Sight’: Wu Wenguang and New Documentary Cinema’s Politics of Independence,” in Paul G. Pickowicz and Yingjin Zhang, eds. From Underground to Independent: Alternative Film Culture in Contemporary China (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006).
  • Reviews, entries, and articles for The China Quarterly, Dianying yishu [Film Art], Journal of Third World Studies, The China Journal, Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, and The China Beat.

Aaron Willian Moore

  • Writing War: Soldiers Record the Japanese Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013)
  • China in World War II, 1937–1945: Experience, Memory, and Legacy. Special Issue of Modern Asian Studies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. 
  • “Talk about Heroes: Expressions of Self-Mobilization and Despair in Chinese War Diaries, 1911-1938,” in Twentieth Century China (Spring 2009).
  • “The Chimera of Privacy: Reading Self-Discipline in Japanese Diaries from the Second World War (1937-1945),”Journal of Asian Studies, v. 68, no. 1 (Feb 2009).
  • “Essential Ingredients of Truth: Soldiers" Diaries in the History of the Second World War in Asia and the Pacific,”in Japan Focus (August 2007).
  • Review of The GI War against Japan: American Soldiers in Asia and the Pacific during World War II by Peter Schrijvers (New York University Press, 2002), Journal of East Asian Studies, 7:2 (May-Aug 2007).
  • Translation of Yoshimi Yoshiaki, “Opening the Future by ‘Coming to Terms with the Past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung),’’ Institute of Social Sciences Research Papers, Chuo University, No. 1 (2005).
  • Review of Chinese Reportage: the Aesthetics of Historical Experience by Charles Laughlin (Duke University Press, 2002), Jindaishi yanjiusuo jikan (Bulletin of the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica), vol. 43 (2004).

Federica Ferlanti

  • 'The New Life Movement in Jiangxi Province, 1934-1938', Modern Asian Studies, Forthcoming.
  • Book Review, Revolution in the Highlands: China’s Jinggangshan Base Area, by Stephen C. Averill, The China Journal, Issue 59, January 2008.
  • “La rinascita della nazione: formulazioni teoriche e soluzioni pratiche all’indomani dell’invasione della Manciuria”Reviving the Nation: Theoretical Approaches and Practical Solutions in the Aftermath of the Manchurian Invasion in Laura De Giorgi and Guido Samarani, ed., Percorsi della Civiltà Cinese tra Passato e Presente, Conference Proceedings, (Venezia: Cafoscarina, 2007), pp. 239-251.
  • “Il Guomindang e ‘l’altra Cina’: Nazionalisti e Comunisti nella provincia del Jiangxi negli anni Trenta” The Guomindang and the New China: Nationalists and Communists in Jiangxi during 1930s, in Annamaria Palermo, ed., La Cina e l’Altro, Conference Proceedings, (Napoli: Università degli Studi di Napoli, l’Orientale, 2007), pp. 545-560.
  • “Rivoluzione e amministrazione: la genesi dello stato comunista” Revolution and administration: the genesis of the Communist state, 1927-1934, in Tiziana Lippiello and Maurizio Scarpari, eds., Caro Maestro, (Venezia: Cafoscarina, 2005), pp. 519-531.

James Reilly

  • Strong Society, Smart State: The Rise of Public Opinion in China's Japan Policy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011)
  • “Online Chinese Nationalism towards Japan,” in Online Chinese Nationalism and China’s Bilateral Relations, eds. Shaun Breslin and Simon Shen (Latham, MD: Lexington, forthcoming).
  • “The Rebirth of Minjian Waijiao: China’s Popular Diplomacy toward Japan,” in Public Diplomacy, Counterpublics, and the Asia Pacific, ed. Chiho Sawada (Stanford: Stanford University Press, (March 2009).
  • “The Role of Public Opinion in China’s Japan Policy: 2003-2005,” in Harmonious World and China’s New Foreign Policy, ed. Suijian Guo (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008).
  • “China’s Corporate Engagement in Africa,” in Africa in China’s Global Strategy, ed. Marcel Kittssou (London: Adonis and Abbey, 2007) (with Wu Na).
  • “The Tenuous Hold of China, Inc. In Africa,” The Washington Quarterly 30:3 (Summer 2007) (with Bates Gill).
  • “China’s History Activism and Sino-Japanese Relations,” China: An International Journal 4:2 (Fall 2006).
  • “China’s History Activists and the War of Resistance against Japan: History in the Making,” Asian Survey 19:2 (March/April 2004).
  • “Sovereignty, Intervention, and Peacekeeping: The View from Beijing,” Survival (Autumn 2000) (with Bates Gill).
  • “Contrasting Visions: United States, China, and World Order,” East Asian Institute Report, Columbia University (May 2000) (with Bates Gill).

Amy King

  • 'The future of Japan-China relations', East Asia Forum Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 3, July-September 2012
  • ‘China and the lessons of the past’, East Asia Forum Quarterly, Vol. 2 No. 3, July-September 2010. 

Elina Sinkkonen

  • 'Nationalism, Patriotism and Foreign Policy Attitudes among Chinese University Students', The China Quarterly 216 (4), 2013
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