I work on the emergence of nationalism in modern China, both in the early twentieth century and in the present era. China has always drawn on its past to draw lessons for the contemporary political scene; I believe that to help us understand the new China, we must look at its past.
I am currently Director of the University China Centre. I am the author of several books, including Modern China: A Very Short Introduction (2008, new ed. 2016), and the award-winning A Bitter Revolution: China’s Struggle with the Modern World (2004). My most recent book China’s War with Japan, 1937-45: The Struggle for Survival (US title: Forgotten Ally) was named as a 2013 Book of the Year in the Financial Times and the Economist, was named a 2014 CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title, and won the 2014 RUSI/Duke of Westminster’s Medal for Military Literature.
I present and and contribute regularly to programmes on television and radio, commenting on contemporary Chinese politics and society. My television documentary “The Longest War: China’s World War II” was broadcast on the History Channel Asia in summer 2015. My reviews and essays have appeared in newspapers including the Financial Times, International New York Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Caijing, and Outlook (India).
China’s War with Japan, 1937-45: The Struggle for Survival (Allen Lane, June 2013).
Different countries give different opening dates for the period of the Second World War, but perhaps the most compelling is 1937, when the 'Marco Polo Bridge Incident' plunged China and Japan into a conflict of extraordinary duration and ferocity - a war which would result in many millions of deaths and completely reshape East Asia in ways which we continue to confront today.
With great vividness and narrative drive Rana Mitter's book draws on a huge range of new sources to recreate this terrible conflict. He writes both about the major leaders (Chiang Kaishek, Mao Zedong and Wang Jingwei) and about the ordinary people swept up by terrible times. Mitter puts at the heart of our understanding of the Second World War that it was Japan's failure to defeat China which was the key dynamic for what happened in Asia.
Modern East Asian history
History of World War II in Asia
Contemporary Chinese politics
Rana Mitter has published on the political and cultural history of twentieth-century China, and is currently working on the connections between war and nationalism in China from the 1930s to the present. His interests include the Republican period (1912-1949), the Cold War and Sino-Japanese relations.