Mapping China under Japanese Occupation: Spatial Configurations of State Power during Wartime (1937-1945)

Présentation de David Serfass (post-doctorant CCJ-CECMC) dans le cadre d’une série de séminaires organisés à l’Université de Nottingham par Jeremy Taylor, directeur du projet COTCA : Cultures of Occupation in Twentieth Century Asia.


  • Jeudi 24 janvier 2019, 16h-18h


  • Université de Nottingham, UK
    B7 Hemsley


Carte Chine centrale

Japanese occupation of China, between 1937 and 1945, was first and foremost about state building. From 1938 on, the state-building process aimed at integrating these organizations behind the façade of a “new central government in China”. First designed as a loose confederation of local regimes, the occupation state was reshaped in 1940, at least on paper, to become a centralized state headed by Wang Jingwei. While previous research has examined many aspects of this process, little is known about how it resulted in successive and often conflicting conceptions of China’s administrative map. The notion of “mapping” is used here in the sense of defining the spatial configuration of the occupation state; actual maps being only one medium among others for doing so. This paper makes the case that our understanding of the occupation state could greatly benefit from fully taking into account the spatiality of state power and the way conflicting political strategies translated into different topographies of the state apparatus. It does this by focusing on three stages in the remapping of China under Japanese occupation. The first part presents a late 1938 Japanese memorandum promoting the Confederate States of China, which includes an allegorical sketch of China as a potato plant. The second part addresses the spatial aspect of “huandu” (return to/of the capital), i.e. the Wang Jingwei regime’s main propaganda slogan. The location of the capital was not only an issue regarding the fierce competition between Beijing and Nanjing, but also between major cities in each province to become the seat of the provincial government. The third part examines the circumstances in which the Wang regime decided to create the Huaihai province. Ultimately, the paper argues that a better understanding of the occupation state in space also allows us to reassess its place in time. Far from being the historical anomalies described by Chinese historiography, “puppet” regimes are an integral part of the longue durée of the Chinese state. In this regard, the Wang regime’s efforts to map China in order to reconcile nominal authority, administrative efficiency and Japanese encroachments were similar in nature to those of the Nationalist Government in the 1930s. Likewise, this study is more broadly intended as a contribution to the history of Japan’s colonial and wartime empire by shedding new light on how the spatial configuration of the occupation state adapted to both Chinese existing map and Japanese institutional structure.

Voir l’annonce sur le site du projet COTCA

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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