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Propaganda and Sovereignty in Wartime China: Morale Operations and Psychological Warfare under the Office of War Information*


During the later years of the War of Resistance to Japan (1937–1945), United States (US) propaganda activities intensified in both Japanese military-occupied and ‘free’ regions of China. One of the most important organizations behind these activities was the Office of War Information (OWI). This paper examines the OWI, and particularly its Overseas Office, as key institutional actors within a broader US total war effort which touched the lives of civilian populations in East Asia as well as combatants, arguing that:

US propaganda institutions and propagandists played demonstrable roles in representing and shaping the experience of war in China;

these institutions, which included Asians and individuals of Asian descent, simultaneously acted to advance US goals in the wartime ‘Far East’;

while cooperation between US and Chinese governments was sporadic in the area of psychological warfare, conflicts over control often undermined or limited operations;

despite these shortcomings, US propaganda institutions (which included both the OWI and offices within the Department of State) had developed comparatively wide-ranging capabilities by the end of the war, and continued operations into the Civil War of 1945–1949.

By 1945 propaganda had become an activity which regularly targeted allied populations as well as enemies. This process was facilitated by the early twentieth-century communications revolution, but was planned and controlled by the new engineers of the post-war order.

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N. Cull (2008). The Cold War and the United States Information Agency: American Propaganda and Public Diplomacy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

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Modern Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0026-749X
  • EISSN: 1469-8099
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-asian-studies
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