Henriot and Yeh have produced a rich and highly readable volume on Shanghai during the 1937–1945 Japanese occupation period. Many of the path-breaking essays are based on primary sources from newly accessible Shanghai archives.
The volume is divided into three sections, broadly on economic, political and cultural history. In the first section, Christian Henriot and Parks Coble both demonstrate that the Shanghai capitalists left in the city were caught in a tight situation: they had little choice but to co-operate with the Japanese, who wanted to make Shanghai into another economic powerhouse in their Co-Prosperity Sphere but who were also exploitative and driven by military rather than commercial needs. On the other hand, the exiled Nationalists considered Chinese businessmen who co-operated with Japan to be collaborators, rendering them vulnerable to assassination during the war and condemnation after it. Frederic Wakeman explores the way in which smuggling became part of the economic and cultural landscape in supplying wartime Shanghai, and Sherman Cochran looks at a “fixer,” Xu Guanqun, who played for high stakes selling medicines across enemy lines, demonstrating that the neutral “island” of the foreign concessions in Shanghai from 1937 to 1941 was hardly an impermeable one. Allison Rottmann completes this section by rethinking the rural narrative of Communist Revolution, showing that Shanghai helped to supply and shape the politics of the central China base area.
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