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Revolution and Reaction in China and Japan during the Interwar Period

Fri, April 1, 10:30am to 12:30pm, Washington State Convention Center, Floor: 2nd Floor, Room 206

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel


Twentieth-century fascism heralded a new world born from revolution while premising national rebirth on the redemption of timeless traditions. The paradox of revolutionary reactionism was particularly manifest in fascist efforts to create a new social order while also violently crushing liberal and leftwing movements. Fascism's disposition between revolution and reaction assumed additional layers of complication outside Europe, where movements typically defined their agendas against Western civilization and even fascism itself.

This panel explores paradoxes of fascism in interwar China and Japan. It underscores the importance of understanding Chinese and Japanese fascisms as similar to and different from one another, and to and from European fascisms. Brian Tsui's paper examines the narratives of ex-communist and Guomindang (GMD) writers that worked to de-politicize communism and strengthen the GMD’s image as defender of a virile national community. Turning to Japan, Max Ward explores the competing fascisms that emerged from the writings of ex-communist converts who translated their earlier revolutionary ardor into a new politics of imperial restoration. Reto Hofmann's paper examines how links between Japanese and Italian fascism conceptualized by Japanese thinkers prior to 1945 were severed by postwar discourses of Japanese “ultranationalism” which established Japanese fascism as a distinct type. Finally, Maggie Clinton addresses the fraught inevitability of employing rubrics developed to explain metropolitan fascisms to the semicolonized context of China, stressing how the developmental nationalism of key GMD factions harbored the same regenerative fantasies as metropolitan fascisms but with a different consciousness of dispossession.

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