Thursday, January 31, 2013

China in the 20th Century

The Rape of Nanking 
by Iris Chang

Japanese soldier uses bayonet to kill Chinese civilian 
who has been tied to a pole, Nanking, 1937.

          If you live near Rockport, and you are interested in our world and what is going on, and what has been going on, come join us for a meeting of the History Book Club. 
            Read a book about Israel and Palestine in the 20th and 21st Centuries, or one about any aspect of Israel and the Israelis, or anything about Palestine and the Palestinians.  Read about efforts to bring Palestinians and Israelis together, or about the wars between Israel and their Arab neighbors… about Gaza or the Six Days’ War, or Hezbollah, Fatah or Hamas. 
            On Wednesday, February 27th we’ll meet at the Rockport Library and discuss what we’ve read.  7 p.m., in the Trustees’ Room.
            Perhaps you have personal experience in the region.  Come and join the discussion!

            In March, we’ll read a book of our individual choices about Mexico or Central America from 1900 to 2013.  You pick the book, read it and come and join the discussion, Wednesday, March 27th

            In April, we’ll read about Africa, from 1900 to 2013.  Any subject—the independence movement of the 1960s, Rwanda, the Congo, Zimbabwe and Mugabe, South Africa and Mandela, Idi Amin and Uganda, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Angola, Tunisia, Algeria  ---- your choice!  We’ll meet April 24th.

            In May we’re looking at BRIC-- four big, powerful countries all in a similar stage of advanced economic development:  Brazil, Russia, India and China.   We’ll meet May 29th.
            We had a great discussion at our meeting this week.  Our topic was China in the 20th Century. 

            Dick Verrengia reported on the life of Richard Baum.
China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom  by Richard Baum
University of Washington Press, Mar 15, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 342 pages.

            Unless you live there, and speak perfect Chinese, it’s hard to understand China, but we gain great insight from people like Richard Baum, who had dedicated his life to being a “China Watcher”.
            This illuminating memoir reflects on 40 years of learning about the People's Republic of China through China watching, the process by which outsiders gather and decipher official and unofficial information to figure out what's really going on.

            Dick Verrengia gave us a tremendous bonus, and it’s the kind of thing that makes our meetings so interesting. 
            At the end of World War II, Japan was defeated, and the United States and its allies were the victors.  However, there were still some 1 million Chinese soldiers all over China, and the United States military had the job of making sure they evacuated rapidly.  Our job was made much more difficult because in China the Nationalists (Kuomintang, under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek) and the Communists (People’s Liberation Army, under Mao Tse-Dung) were fighting their own war.  All during World War II they’d been fighting each other as well as the Japanese.
            Dick Verrengia was a young Marine, part of the First Marine Division, sent to North China.  It became a Marine regiment sent to protect the Chinese rail lines, carrying coal between Beijing and the coast.  Shipping millions of tons of coal was vital  for the millions of shivering Chinese in that first winter after World War II ended.  Young Dick found himself as a train guard, riding trains loaded with coal.  A lot of his time was spent in the city of Qinhuangdao a port city in northeastern Hebei province of North China. It is about 300 km east of Beijing, on the Bohai Sea, the innermost gulf of the Yellow Sea. Its population in 1945 was some 300,000, but now (2010) it is 2,987,605.  
            Dick related how one day a quarter of a million Chinese communist troops came marching in, led by a fat Chinese general in a fur coat, riding in a Packard open-top sedan. 
            The general demanded that the Americans leave at once.  Dick’s commanding officer, a Lieutenant Colonel who was drunk most of the time, speaking through an interpreter, demanded that the Chinese leave or his Marines (some 150) would drive them (some 250.000) out. 
            Cooler heads prevailed, however, and the American Marines evacuated. 

            Next, Beverly Verrengia reported on The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers by Richard McGregor.   HarperCollins, Jun 8, 2010 - History - 336 pages.
            This is an investigation into China's Communist Party and its integral role in the country's rise as a global superpower and rival of the United States.
            In The Party, Richard McGregor delves deeply into China's inner sanctum, showing how the Communist Party controls the government, courts, media, and military, and how it keeps all corruption accusations against its members in-house. The Party's decisions have a global impact, yet the CPC remains a deeply secretive body, hostile to the law, unaccountable to anyone or anything other than its own internal tribunals. Richard McGregor offers a captivating portrait of China's Communist Party, its grip on power and control over China, and its future.

            Next, Rick Heuser reported on
The search for modern China by Jonathan D. Spence. Norton, 1991 - 876 pages.

            In this widely acclaimed history of modern China, Jonathan Spence achieves a fine blend of narrative richness and efficiency. Praised as "a miracle of readability and scholarly authority," (Jonathan Mirsky) The Search for Modern China offers a matchless introduction to China's history.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              
          Next, it was my turn.

Chang, Iris, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II.  1997. New York, NY: Basic Books. 290 pp.

            My family and I lived for three years in JapanActually, we lived in the home that had once been occupied by the commander of the Imperial Japanese naval base in a city near Nagasaki.  I never, not one time, ever caught even a tiny glimpse of the characteristic of the Japanese military that led them to do the horrible things that they did countless times during World War II.
            The Rape of Nanking is the story of how the Japanese army in December 1937 systematically raped hundreds of thousands of women, then killed them; in mass killings they murdered men, women and children, shooting them, bayoneting them, whacking off their heads by sword, then dumped hundreds of thousands of corpses into the Yangtze river, until the river ran red with their blood. 
            The author of this book, Iris Chang, was a young Chinese American woman, and she received many awards for this book, and for others she wrote. Her grandparents barely escaped death in Nanking.
             This book appears to be well researched.  She went through hundreds of drawers of files to find the story of how the Imperial Japanese Army attacked Shanghai, then marched overland to seize the capital city of Nanking (Nanjing).  The Japanese Army promised Chinese army troops humane treatment, then bound their hands, and marched them off to be machine-gunned and bayoneted, hundreds at a time.   This horror took place over six weeks in the city of Nanking.  The Japanese murdered some 300,000 civilians during this time.
            The Japanese Army committed atrocities in many other places in their invasion of China.  They are quoted in numerous records of saying that they did not look upon the Chinese as humans, but rather like pigs, “except you could eat pigs.”
            Ms. Chang writes about a few Americans and Europeans living in Nanking who were responsible for creating a safety zone in the city that saved hundreds of thousands. One particularly helpful person was a German named John Rabe.  He was a member of the Nazi party, and used his swastika armband to intervene when Japanese were about to kill Chinese.  While the Japanese sometimes ignored the pleas of other foreigners, the sight of that Nazi armband usually did the trick.  Ms. Chang called him the “Oskar Schindler of Nanking.” (Schindler was the Nazi who saved some 100,000 Jews from the Holocaust in Europe.)  She tells stories of an American woman, Minnie Vautrin, and a Nanking-born American surgeon named Robert Wilson, who risked their lives countless times to save many thousands of Chinese.
            Ms. Chang writes about “A Second Rape” in noting how American schoolchildren learn about Hitler’s gas chambers, about the diary of Ann Frank, and about our bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but they know nothing about Nanking in 1937.  In Japan, there is a “soothing perception” of history that either ignores the Japanese massacre at Nanking, or puts a decidedly Japanese spin on the actions of the military. Japanese ultranationalists have threatened everything from lawsuits to death, even assassination, to opponents who suggest that these textbooks are not telling the next generation the real story.  And it is not just the ultranationalists in Japan who have tried to airbrush this part of their history. 
            In her epilogue, Ms. Chang sets down three lessons from Nanking:
1.      Civilization itself is tissue-thin. Japan’s behavior during World War II was less a product of dangerous people than of a dangerous government.  The Japanese Army for years had created a Samurai culture of unspeakable cruelty to each other, for starters.
2.      The role of power in genocide.  Those who have studied the patterns of large-scale killings throughout history have noted that the sheer concentration of power in government is lethal.
3.      The third lesson, one that is perhaps most distressing of all, lies in the frightening ease with which the mind can accept genocide, turning us all into passive spectators to the unthinkable.  The Rape of Nanking was front-page news across the world, and yet most of the world stood by and did nothing while an entire city was butchered. The international response to Nanking was eerily akin to the more recent response to the atrocities in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Rwanda.  And, since publication of this book, the massive killing now in Syria.
            Ms. Chang’s book has received harsh criticism from some quarters, particularly in suggesting that the Japanese have tried to soft pedal or suppress this part of their history.  She was hounded and criticized harshly, and became very depressed.
            In November, 2004 Iris Chang took her own life… perhaps one more victim of The Rape of Nanking.


The Personal Navigator offers these books:

Lydia Ann's Autograph Book, 1849-1910    1841    New York, NY: J.C. Riker, 129 Fulton St. 35 + 4 pp.  15.5 x 19.4 cm. Elegant little autograph album with full-page floral illustrations and (mostly)  full-page sentimental writings of Lydia Ann's friends over the years, from 1849 to 1910. Inscriptions begin with Sarah from South Natick in 1849, include Lizzie W. from Boston, 1857; Sue Parker and Mary Odiorne in Cohasset, 1860; Priscilla in Boston in 1852; Carrie S. Watson in Lynn, 1867; Delia Wilson in Lynn, 1866; M.F. Palmer in Lynn, 1868; more. Leather album with elaborate gilt embossed design and six floral illustrations and tissue guards. Leather album with embossed gilt decoration, boards warped, slight wear to heel and toe of spine, very good. (5827) $65.00.  American Originals/Autograph Book
To Lydia Ann,

“Forget me not,”
When thy lovely form is kneeling,
When at eve the prayer is stealing,
“Forget me not.”

When  thine eye is fondly beaming,
And the burning tears are streaming,
When thy soul of heaven is dreaming,
“Forget me not.”

Lizzie W.         Boston, July, 1857

North Atlantic Patrol, The Log of a Seagoing Artist by Coale, Griffith Baily, Lieutenant Commander, USNR 1943            New York, NY: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. 51 pp. 19 x 27 cm.     Designated as one of four combat artists commissioned by the U.S. Navy in 1941, LCDR Coale made the fateful North Atlantic Patrol that ended in the sinking of USS Reuben James on Oct. 31, 1941.  Coale's book describes, in words and his black and white drawings, life on patrol, in ports, and especially the rescue of 44 members of the Reuben James.  Woody Guthrie wrote a song about the Reuben James sinking that became a patriotic rallying cry during World War II. Decorated cloth on board, clean, text block clean, but dust jacket fastened to back cover by adhesive at top. Book is good, nonetheless, but dustjacket is in two pieces and poor. (5801) $24.00. Navy/World War II       

Early Starrs in Kent & New England  (With Starr Family Association booklet, 1937)        by Ballou, Hosea Starr  1944 Boston, MA: Starr Family Association. 141 pp. + 8 pp.    15.5 x 23.2 cm. Compilation of a series of articles on the forbears of the Starr family in the U.S. and England, together with an 8-page Starr Family Association booklet published in 1937. Includes articles on English Ancestry, Early Life in County Kent, English Baptismal Records, Dr. Comfort Starr Arrives in New England, The Monhegan Island Episode, Rev. Comfort Starr Graduates from Harvard, more.Includes frontispiece photo of author.  Red cloth on board with gilt lettering, moderate wear, text block tight and clean, inserted papers very good, book very good. (8310) $50.00.  Biography                        
Enigmas of Life by W.R. Greg Greg, William Rathbone 1873     Boston, MA: James R. Osgood and Company. Greg (1809-1881) offers in this book some suggested thoughts, based upon his outlook after having reached the age of 60. In his Preface he sets forth the framework for his thought: " becomes possible at once to believe in and worship God, without doing violence to our moral sense, or denying or distorting the sorrowful facts that surround our daily life." Greg takes on Malthus' discouraging theory of geometric progression of populations against arithmetic growth of sustenance, in "Malthus Notwithstanding". He takes on Darwin in "Non-Survival of the Fittest".  322 pp. 12.6 x 19.4 cm. Maroon cloth on board with Gilt titles, minor wear and blotches on cover. Inscription on front endpapers: "Louise Grant, 1873". Very good. (8297) $27.00. Educational/Philosophical

Looking Backward 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy 1889 Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin and Company. Author Bellamy in this wildly popular (in 1887) looks a century into the future in his fictional account by a man, born in 1857, who goes to sleep and awakens 113 years later at the end of the 20th Century.  He describes radically new social and industrial institutions, in a very upbeat and optimistic look backward, yet into the future. There is a strong look of socialism in this "new world", one which Marxists quickly admired.  Includes a Postscript by the author responding to a review of his book in the Boston Transcript of March 30, 1888.            475 pp. 12.4 x 19 cm.    Dark green cloth on board with black lettering. Moderate wear. Bookplate and inscription on front free endpaper: "F.E. Porter".Very good.         (8298) $96.00. Fiction/Philosophy

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