Monthly Archives: May 2014

China’s War with Japan 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival by Rana Mitter

I started to read books about China and worked my way through this quite quickly. It was well written.

It told me things I had not appreciated before.
The Qing dynasty policy to defeat the Taiping had made the warlord era easier. The Qing policy of working with military leaders with a regional base. This was necessary for the Taiping war, but had consequences later.

The Yangtze is central to much of China, not just economically, but politically. The river was central to the Taiping war, and similarly it played a large role in the Japanese war. Ie the Nationalists steadily retreated up the river.

I hadn’t known much about Chinese collaborators, but they were quite a big thing, if rather tragic. I had not heard about Wang Jinwei for example. Of course, this is all the background to Lust Caution.

Chinese troops made a significant contribution in Burma during WW2. It is amazing just how negative Stilwell was. He had a terrible relationship with Chiang and general disparaged everyone, esp Chinese, British etc… It’s amazing that he lasted as long as he did.

I was familiar with the role Chiang played in international conferences etc…, but I hadn’t really thought about the visit he made to India just in early 1942. That is quite interesting, meeting Nehru and Gandhi, it really was not so common for non-western leaders to meet. It is also worth comparing China and India.

The material about the legacy on the war was worth thinking about. I remember in Xian being surprised how Chiang was held in high regard. That is a new thing, obviously nearer to the war between the Nationalists and the Communists this would not have been the case. But other aspects, such as the CCP paying little attention the Nanjing Massacre, not the case now.

Music for the Revolution: Musicians and Power in Early Soviet Russia by Amy Nelson

This was quite a technical and detailed book but interesting. It shed light on the role that music plays in any society not just Soviet Russia, with questions about elitism versus popularity, and modernity versus reverence for the classics. In general it seems that despite many efforts musicians were on the whole left to their own devices and suffered much less interference compared with other intelligentsia (such as poets or authors). Later in the purges, musicians connected to Trotsky didn’t necessarily suffer, those connected to Tukhachevsky were not so lucky.

In the end it was probably hard to make a consistent party line for a subject as abstract as music, even if it might have had connections with middle class bourgeois life. The only intervention was for an opera, the famous Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, incident.

It is interesting to see the reverence they gave to Beethoven, relevant for the centenary of his death in 1927. He was deemed to be a composer whose works were closely linked to the aspirations of Soviet socialist culture.After him bourgeois art beng to decay and hide its ideological emptiness in luxurious virtuoso forms.