China in the Japanese radical gaze, 1945-1955

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Japanese images of China have much to tell us about the way Japan sees its own modernisation and its place in the international system. Contrary to popular belief, Japan did not turn unabashedly toward the USA after 1945. During the first decade after World War II, a number of important Japanese radical historians and thinkers decided that modernisation could be accomplished without the help of the West. Just when many in Japan were looking to America and Europe as exemplars of modernisation, others looked instead to revolutionary China and its past struggles against Japanese colonialism in the construction of a very different historical position from that ordinarily associated with the early post-war years. Certain Japanese historians, inspired by the push toward decolonisation in Asia, set about writing the history of the present in ways that aligned Japan with modern Chinese history. Even though China had just been liberated from Japanese colonial rule, Japanese Marxists saw their own position-under American imperialismas-as historically and politically congruous with China's past war of resistance against Japan (1937-45). Through campaigns to develop a kind of cultural Marxism on the margins of Japanese society, they sought to bring about post-war Japanese national liberation from American hegemony in ways that consciously simulated past Chinese resistance to Imperial Japan. Replacing Japan's own cultural Marxist traditions from the pre-war era with the more palpable and acceptable example of China, they also hoped a new form of Asian internationalism could remedy the problem of Japan's wartime past. The historical irony associated with this discursive twist deferred to future generations the problem of how the Left* would come to terms with the past.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1255-1286
Number of pages32
JournalModern Asian Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Sept
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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