To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
In Session: National Identity in East Asian Museums
2: Translating Regional to National Struggle: The September 18th History Museum and the PRC’s Evolving Discourse on the War of Resistance against Japan
Thursday, March 25, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
University of Virginia, United States
“The September 18th Incident became the origin of the Chinese people’s War of Resistance against Japan and began the global Anti-Fascist War.” This quote from Xi Jinping, which looms large on the homepage of the September 18th History Museum, leaves no doubt as to the CCP’s stance on the event in question. The CCP is now prioritizing the Manchurian Incident (September 18, 1931) as the official start date of the War of Resistance against Japan and is simultaneously choosing to incorporate this into a larger, global narrative on World War II.
Public museums are powerful conduits of state propaganda in the PRC and as such are useful mechanisms for gauging shifts in national discourse. This paper examines how the permanent exhibits in the September 18th History Museum display an expanded timeline of the War of Resistance against Japan, ostensibly all under the aegis of CCP leadership. Previously, this museum narrative was part of a discourse largely limited to the Northeast. Now, however, these “14 years of anti-Japanese struggle” have been incorporated into the greater national imaginary to further underscore the CCP’s salvific role in rescuing both the Chinese people from the “century of humiliation” and the world from the growing global specter of fascism. In focusing on the interplay between the regional and national narratives, this paper adds to the scholarship of Kirk Denton, Rana Mitter and Wang Zheng on the portrayal of the War of Resistance against Japan as a key component of patriotic education in the PRC.