In a recent survey of modern China, historian Rana Mitter noted: “The war between China and Japan may have been the single most important event to shape twentieth-century China”. This perspective hasn't been around for very long. The relevance of China's War of Resistance against Japan (KangRi zhanzheng) has been revaluated by historians in recent years, a prime example of this being Mitter's book on the subject and the work of Hans van de Ven. For years, the victory of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1949 was crystallised into a crucial turning point and the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party/KMT) was seen as corrupt and ineffective, as epitomised by Lloyd Eastman's studies. Eastman's verdict is not entirely contradicted by some of the new scholarship, although important revisionist works have led to a reassessment of the KMT state-building efforts, in particular during their pre-war decade in power, the so-called Nanjing decade (1927–1937). Although the ‘rediscovery’ of the war came later in the English-language than it did in Chinese, it is undeniable that recent years have seen a growing interest in the period, both in academia and in popular culture. The three monographs under review here are, in many ways, illustrative of the best new research on the conflict. They provide comprehensive insight on the impact of the war on the Nationalists' state-building efforts in fiscal policy, propaganda, and justice. All are first monographs, springing from meticulous doctoral and post-doctoral research anchored on a plethora of new primary sources. They make important contributions to our understanding of the impact of the war in China, as well as to economic history, media studies, and legal history more broadly.
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