2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 162

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What Worked and What Didn’t: Wartime Mobilization Across Social Strata

Organizer and Chair: Yan Lu, University of New Hampshire, USA

Discussant: Diana Lary, University of British Columbia, Canada

This panel expands the recently widened exploration of the social and human dimensions of the Sino-Japanese War by focusing on mobilization. Our work pays particular attention to transnational dimensions of wartime mobilization, discussing the scope of the Chinese National Salvation Movement, tensions between state and civil society, the relationship between the elite and the masses, and on-the-ground methods of wartime mobilization. “Chinese National Salvation Movement in British Hong Kong” by Lu Yan suggests that the National Salvation Movement was more than a China-only phenomenon. Instead, it must be seen as a global movement that involved Euro-American activists as well as Chinese citizens throughout Greater China. In “How Not to Do It,” Caroline Reeves examines the case of the Chinese Red Cross Society and argues that wartime mobilization enabled tighter control of civic organizations by the state, thereby intensifying antagonism between the two. John Watt’s “Mobilizing and Training China’s Military Health Workers” uses the case of Lin Kesheng to show that, for the first time, China started a nation-wide program to train health workers for both military and civilian needs during the Sino-Japanese War. In “Women and the Development of International Relief Networks in Wartime China” Helen Schneider explores the connections forged between elite educated Chinese women and international groups for the provision of relief. With the war serving as a catalyst of social change, the panel suggests, wartime mobilization became an occasion to reveal and heal deep-seated divisions within Chinese society, while opening up new opportunities for postwar transformation.

Chinese National Salvation Movement in British Hong Kong
Yan Lu, University of New Hampshire, USA

This paper revisits China’s National Salvation Movement in the 1930s and attempts to reorient the elite-centered approach of existing scholarship to it. It focuses on a rarely examined case, British Hong Kong, and explores organizational formation and social mobilization in the 1930s. During China’s national crisis of foreign invasion, activists and refugees arrived from the mainland and made Hong Kong a center of the National Salvation Movement. Although British authorities in Hong Kong declared neutrality in the Sino-Japanese conflict, some Europeans and Americans in the colony not only sympathized with China’s resistance but also became active participants in the National Salvation Movement. Through a network of high society, business associations, schools, and trade unions, local and mainland activists formed charity organizations and raised funds for China’s resistance. The paper draws upon memoirs, newspaper reports, and official documents. It argues that the National Salvation Movement was a moment of citizen participation across class lines and, in Hong Kong’s case, across ethnic lines as well. It was a movement that became a springboard to popular participation in wartime resistance, and an organizational link to postwar grassroots activism.

How Not to Do It: Alienating Local Elites in Red Cross Mobilization in the Sino-Japanese War
Caroline Reeves, Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, USA

On the eve of the Sino-Japanese War, the Chinese Red Cross Society was an active, nationally and internationally recognized philanthropic group with hundreds of chapters across China, founded and run by a Chinese elite. Well-versed in helping the wounded and displaced of war, the Chinese Red Cross Society afforded its participants considerable local, national, and even international autonomy as social welfare actors. Chinese governments valued the international respect and recognition afforded by the existence of the Red Cross group, and thus rarely interfered with the workings of the organization despite its nominal subordination to the Ministry of War, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of the Exterior. During the war, however, the situation changed in part because of the pressing need to mobilize and organize support against Japanese invasion. The central Red Cross administration was co-opted by GMD actors, and local elites became alienated by a new and uncomfortable lack of autonomy. Although the Red Cross survived in a new incarnation as a military medical appendage to GMD and CCP armies, the national philanthropic network disintegrated, and the Red Cross began its devolution into a state-controlled organization. The effect of the state’s arrogation of power on the country’s charitable actors shows the still-relevant delicate balance needed when enlisting and encouraging civic actors in state-directed activities.

Mobilizing and Training China's Military Health Workers, 1937-1945
John R. Watt, ABMAC Foundation, USA

The Japanese military assault during late 1937 to early 1938 overwhelmed Chinese military resistance, causing tens of thousands of Chinese soldiers to die on or off the battlefield. At that time Chinese armies had virtually no medically trained personnel. Consequently a major task during the War of Resistance was to mobilize thousands of people to work as trained army medical aides. In May 1938 Dr. Lin Kesheng, director of the Chinese Red Cross Medical Relief Corps, organized an Emergency Medical Service Training School to provide much needed basic medical training for civilian and military service employees. The initial school operated from Guiyang and expanded through 1942 to include five branch schools. Later, other schools were set up to support campaigns in Burma and Southwest China. These units provided basic training in battlefield triage, nursing, sanitary work, delousing of clothes, purification of water, and anti-malarial activities. Some also offered basic training in handicrafts and agricultural work to help army medical employees with post-war transition to civilian life. Over 16,000 people received health training through these programs. Dr. Lin intended this mobilization to last beyond the war, by creating a body of people who would bring the preventive health strategies of state medicine to benefit rural people in both Mainland China and Taiwan.

Women and the Development of International Relief Networks in Wartime China
Helen M. Schneider, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, USA

As the Chinese prepared for war in the mid-1930s, it became clear that any conflict involving Japan would necessitate the mobilization of different sectors of its population, including educated women. These women were called on, and called for, participation in a number of social education and relief projects designed to strengthen the Chinese nation. After the full-scale invasion of 1937, women across different political spectrums accelerated their efforts to organize within China, and drew upon their connections to women’s organizations in the West for both moral and financial support. This paper will show that, although small in number, educated women established international networks of support and cultivated burgeoning professional contacts as they mobilized against Japan. Using archival papers, newsletters, and journals from the late 1930s and 1940s it will explore Chinese women’s efforts to provide relief and to expand connections to American and British women’s organizations. This paper will also suggest that the wartime networks developed by professional Chinese women, both domestically and with others from Allied nations, helped pave the way for China’s engagement in post-war international systems such as the United Nations’ Refugee and Rehabilitation Administration and the Food and Agriculture Organization. Because these relationships between Chinese and Westerners grew outside the formal political and diplomatic channels, they have been overlooked in previous discussions of the Second World War. However, these connections were arguably central to mobilizing society for victory, creating a sense of Allied unity, and to establishing a post-war international order.