China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Recent research on twentieth-century conflicts in China has rarely extended its analysis beyond China’s experience of the Second World War into the Cold War and its aftermath. Taking a broader view, our projects together capture how a diverse set of social groups in China experienced war as a dreaded eventuality, personal experience, and collective memory from the mid-twentieth century into the present day. The four papers of our panel examine how the people on the ground dealt not only with the experience and memory of war but also with the state’s particular ways of militarization and memorialization.
Our panel starts off with Vu’s paper that examines how the Nationalist enterprise of mythologizing the fervor of civilian resistance shaped war memories, militarized the general population, and transformed the nature of violence in modern China. Heilmann takes the panel across the 1949 divide by investigating the selective use of World War II memories in the Mao era campaign to construct air-raid shelters in anticipation of war against the Soviet Union and the United States. Meyskens examines China’s Cold War militarization of everyday life in a remote military industrial complex that the Communist Party built to protect Shanghai from a potential attack by its Cold War enemies in Moscow and Washington. Dawson brings the panel into Xi Jinping’s “New Era,” arguing that a commemorative turn to a forgotten past of war preparation by officials in China’s Southwest offers the first example of a Maoist campaign being curated to serve the present.