Chinese City and City People during and after World War II

Chinese Cities and City People during and after World War II

The effects of World War II on Chinese cities were transformative. In addition to horrendous devastation, the war years were marked by significant cultural exchange, the reconfiguration of social hierarchies, and experiments in governance. All of these phenomena shaped the subsequent establishment of the new Communist regime in Chinese cities beginning in 1949. Drawing on a novel set in a wartime provincial capital, Li Jieren’s Dance of the Heavenly Devils, this talk explores the transformation of Chinese cities as a result of the war, with particular emphasis on the relationship between the built environment and human social relations.

Kristin Stapleton is Professor of History at the University at Buffalo, SUNY. A native of Michigan, she learned Chinese as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan (though her uncle taught statistics at Michigan State for many decades and still lives in East Lansing). She continued her studies at Harvard University, the National Taiwan University, and Sichuan University. She recently completed a five-year term as editor of the journal Twentieth-Century China and has long served on the editorial board of the journal Education About Asia. Her research interests include Chinese and comparative urban administration, the history of Chinese family life, and humor in history. She is the author of Civilizing Chengdu: Chinese Urban Reform, 1895-1937 (Harvard Asia Center 2000) and Fact in Fiction: 1920s China and Ba Jin’s Family (Stanford 2016). Her current research concerns Chinese cities during WWII and Sino-Soviet cooperation in designing and managing “socialist cities” in the 1950s. She is a fellow in the Public Intellectuals Program of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and an avid tennis player.