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2014 Wiles Lectures - Prof. Rana Mitter

Lecture 4: Remembering and forgetting Chongqing: wartime memory and 21st century China

Saturday 31 May, 11am: Peter Froggatt Centre Room G/024, QUB

In the early 21st century, why is there so much attention in China to Chongqing’s wartime history? Under Mao Zedong, the history of China’s wartime capital was almost forgotten.  But from the 1980s, there was a new upsurge in the city itself in the history of the years from 1937-1945.  Memory of Chongqing’s role in the resistance to Japan is being used to fuel a new sense of nationalism.  But it is also being used in the Chongqing of today to create a stronger sense of local identity.  Contemporary politics of development is being combined with the memorializing of buildings and sites from the wartime years, creating a new type of 'wartime heritage'.  Films and television also glorify the wartime years.   In an act of immense irony, the wartime record of Chiang Kai-shek, Mao’s old enemy, is being used to boost China’s geopolitical position today, and in current disputes with Japan, China’s World War II history is much more potent than it ever was during the Cold War.