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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
1: Democracy through Collaboration? Constitutional Mirage and Party Hegemony in the Wang Jingwei Regime
Friday, March 26, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Inalco-IFRAE (Paris), France
Of all the promises made by Wang Jingwei when he formed his "collaborationist" government in 1940, that of adopting a long-awaited constitution and to end a GMD one-party system in favor of democracy is often regarded as the most hollow. To be sure, this was a stillborn project which seemed to confirm the "puppet" nature of the Wang regime. However, challenging previous studies, this presentation will argue that, far from being a failure not worthy of attention, Wang's constitutional promise is a key element for understanding the formation of his government. This was not simply a propaganda stunt but a complex political process through which the Wang group hoped to fight its way into occupied China.
More broadly, this topic sheds light on the forgotten role of the Wang regime in the overall history of constitutionalism in wartime and postwar China. Indeed, as I will show, both Chongqing's constitutional debate and Mao's New Democracy were partly conceived in response to Wang's "return" to Nanjing in 1940. Ultimately, this paper contends that studying the Wang Jingwei "orthodox" GMD's use of this "constitutional mirage" provides a better understanding of the hegemonic nature of Chinese party-states in general. As in the case of Chiang Kai-shek's GMD and Mao Zedong's CCP during periods of political transition, the Wang group resorted to this strategy in order to strengthen its power within a pro-Japanese "United front", and with no intention of relinquishing one-party rule.