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China and Inner Asia
In Session: New Perspectives on the Wang Jingwei "Collaborationist" Regime (1940-1945) and Its Significance: Politics, Culture, Literature, and Education
4: "Cleansing the Countryside": Rural Pacification as Cultural Project in Wang Jingwei's China, 1941-1944
Friday, March 26, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Jeremy E. Taylor
University of Nottingham, United Kingdom
The Rural Pacification campaigns were introduced by the Wang Jingwei regime, in concert with the Japanese, in the summer of 1941. The campaigns' initial aim was the eradication of resistance in the villages of the Lower Yangtze Delta. Based on pre-war Nationalist programs to wipe out communism in Jiangxi, these campaigns included violent purges in rural east China through until 1944, and the introduction of news systems of surveillance and control.
Much overlooked, however, is the extent to which Rural Pacification was perceived by those who initiated and managed it as a cultural project, particularly in its later phases (i.e., from late 1942 onwards). Under these campaigns, Nanjing-trained cadres studied and collected the rural "folk culture" that they encountered, repackaging these for urban Chinese audiences; they also sought to use visual forms of cultural expression that they believed would appeal to peasants (e.g., graphic art, woodcuts, cinema, etc) to increase support for the Wang regime in the very areas that were being "pacified."
Drawing on material from Nanjing's Second Historical Archives, as well as publications produced by Rural Pacification cadres themselves, this paper will show how culture (and particularly visual culture) represented a central, if hitherto neglected, element in the Wang regime's attempts to "cleanse the countryside" (qing xiang). In doing so, it will suggest that any attempt at re-interpreting the cultural history of the Wang regime needs to include an appreciation of this administration's efforts at reaching a regional audience via Rural Pacification.