The Chinese Revolution and Military Mobilization: Reexamining Modern China through Armies and Regional Societies

Sep 29 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Anami Yusuke (Professor, Department of Law, Tohoku University, Japan; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair and Discussant: Elizabeth Perry (Director, Harvard-Yenching Institute; Henry Rosovsky Professor of Government, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

The victory of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the Civil War of the 20th century has been perceived as a “revolution”, based on the understanding that the CCP’s armed struggle was backed by mass military mobilization which was linked with social reform. It has been widely believed that social reform, which was called “land reform” or “land revolution”, should be the key factor to explain the Communist victory in China.

Although writing history along the Marxist theory of class struggle has drastically diminished in recent years, and history of revolutions in France and Russia have been under revision for quite a while, the established theory regarding the “Chinese Revolution”, which emphasizes social reform as the foundation for mass military mobilization, hasn’t been thoroughly challenged.

However, during the past two decades, research focusing on various regional societies during the civil war period is uncovering abundant evidence showing that, in reality, land reform was by and large not so successful, if not disastrous. The area and period which this kind of research covers is rapidly expanding. This has ignited a debate in Japan about how, and to what extent, land reform actually contributed to the armed struggle of the CCP. In recent years, a number of Japanese scholars have come to claim that land reform only played a marginal or supplementary role.

If that is the case, then where did all those soldiers who composed the Chinese Red Army come from? Yusuke Anami, who has been conducting archival research for the past decade on army-building in certain areas of China (mainly Guangdong and Jiangxi) during the Republican Period, will talk about the reality of military mobilization and armed struggle during the “Land Revolution War”. He will also discuss his hypothesis regarding the relationship between the CCP’s armed struggle and social reform, to provide an alternative to the explanation of the CCP’s victory and to add a new perspective to discussions about contemporary China.