Winning Over the Puppets: Intro

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 3:24 pm

This posting is part of a series of postings which comprise a draft dissertation chapter. Read more about it here.

Nowhere in the Japanese Empire was military collaboration more important and carried out on a larger scale than in occupied China. By 1945, there were over 900,000 Chinese men under arms garrisoning towns and strongholds on behalf of the Japanese Expeditionary Army and its Chinese client regime in occupied Nanjing. In accounts of Japan’s conquests on the Chinese mainland from 1931 to 1945, these Chinese soldiers are remembered for their incompetence, their treason, and their cruelty. They not only prolonged the Japanese occupation, but contributed to its brutality as active participants in mop-up campaigns throughout the countryside. While Japanese training and discipline may have curbed some of their excesses, that of violence was not among them.

For the Chinese Communist Party, these military collaborators played an important role in the Party’s postwar political struggle. They served as the most direct link between the repression of the Japanese invaders, and that of a returning Nationalist government which integrated the Chinese collaborationist armies into its own forces. By doing so, Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government inherited a stain of treason, widely invoked in variations of the phrase, “the Chiang conspiracy to merge with the enemy and puppets” (jiang di wei heliu de yinmou). In Communist propaganda, the Nationalist government was to be remembered not for leading the national resistance, but for colluding with the enemy and reabsorbing its despised henchmen.

This chapter does not fundamentally challenge this portrayal of the Nationalists. No shortage of Chinese war criminals and other unsavory officers made their way from allegiance to Japan to fight for the Nationalists in the civil war of 1945-1949. Indeed, many of them began their careers in units at least nominally loyal to the Nationalist government. Returning to the fold, they found good company and familiar assignments among the executioners of Nationalist pacification teams. Deployed once more into the field, they were asked to exterminate the real traitors: Communist bandits (gongfei).

Instead, the focus here will be on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) response to military collaboration with Japan both as seen in its central party directives, and as carried out more locally in the Shandong Base Area. The CCP and its resistance forces in Shandong province understood the vital role played by military collaborators in preserving Japanese control over occupied areas, especially after 1942. They also understood how valuable these armed groups could be as sources of information, supplies, and in the end, of fighting men. As the chapter will show, the Party placed tremendous emphasis on “winning over” (zhengqu) or else “disintegrating” (wajie) Chinese units under Japanese command. Historians, including the accepted narrative put forth by the CCP itself, often emphasize the greater success–or treachery–accomplished by the Nationalist party in absorbing these Chinese forces in the immediate aftermath of Japanese surrender. However, this often ignores the considerable numbers of military collaborators who covertly cooperated with or defected to Communist control.

That some of these commanders were responsible for horrendous violence against civilians was no insurmountable problem, even when the Party had helped mobilize rallies condemning these same men for their brutality. Instead of being targeted by the local teams of the “treason elimination bureau,” (chujianbu) which dealt with informers, spies, trotskyites, and collaborationist officials, military collaborators with Japan were wooed by agents of the “enemy work bureau” (digongbu) who offered very generous terms for those who defected in time. After being “won over” collaborationist units were in many cases not dissolved or disarmed, nor was it official policy to do so.

Following a common practice in Chinese military campaigns well into the 20th century, these units were simply renamed and their commanders allowed to remain in control. Following Japanese surrender, reform and trials of those who failed to submit in time were carried out under an official policy of magnanimity, though sometimes, as we shall see, calls for vengeance by the communities who suffered at their hands during the occupation made this a challenge. Those who survived, or by defection avoided the first round of retribution would remain easy targets for every wave of revolutionary violence in the movements to come.

Next: Puppet Soldiers

A Draft Chapter

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 3:15 pm

I haven’t been posting much here but I am very happy to see Frog in a Well is alive and well. Alan Buamler, Jonathan Dresner, Sayaka Chatani, John DiMoia, and Charles Hayford have been especially great at serving up some great content. I have been focused on the completion of the dissertation.

I long ago promised myself to try to be open about the writing process and share what I was writing as I wrote it. I have always been deeply frustrated by the culture of fear around me against this kind of openness which argues that ideas might get stolen, foolish mistakes ridiculed, or publishers frightened away.

Up to now, however, I haven’t shared much of the dissertation, which has taken an unexpected Southeast Asian turn. Now that I’m finally finishing up a draft chapter that is appropriate for one of these three blogs, I thought I would experiment by posting it here. I’ll divide the chapter up into pieces and share them in a series of postings spread across a week or two.

The overall dissertation looks at the politics of retribution against treason and war crimes in several places occupied or colonized by the Japanese empire, especially where these two overlap in the case of military collaborators. Excluding the special case of Taiwanese and Korean soldiers who fought in the Japanese Army, the military collaborators who were guilty of some of the worst kinds of repression we associate with Japanese rule faced retribution as traitors more often than as men guilty of illegitimate violence. My work explores the way that this distorted efforts to confront the violence of occupation and colonization.

The draft chapter I’ll be sharing here is on Chinese Communist policies towards the “puppet armies” (伪军), especially the work of the Enemy Work Bureau (敌伪工作部) in occupied Shandong province. It is the only chapter which deals with the wartime as well as the early postwar period when the work of retribution and reform was handed over to the Traitor Elimination Bureau (锄奸部) that is the central topic of research I have decided to attempt to publish separately.

I welcome your comments and corrections but since I’m under the deadline gun, I apologize in advance if I’m not able to respond to everything. Also, to save time I will not be converting all the footnotes (which are not all yet well written out anyways) into the format that is understood by WordPress, but if there is a source you are interested in following up on, I’m more than happy to share. At any rate, when I finish the diss, it will be available in its entirety as a PDF download from my homepage.

Winning Over and Reforming the Puppet Armies of Shandong, China, 1937-1947

Puppet Soldiers
Military Collaboration in Shandong
The Puppet Armies of Laiwu
Wu Huawen’s Crooked Road to National Salvation
The Seven Captures of Meng Huo
The Enemy and Puppet Work Bureau in Shandong
Megaphone and Frontline Propaganda
The Registry of Good and Evil
Zhu De and the Prices of Betrayal
The Wartime Gains of the Bureau
Traitors, Puppets, and Divided Responsibilities
Magnanimity, Repentance, and Reform
The Eight Great Disorders and the Oppose Treason Campaign

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