Saturday 18 October, 12.00 until 13.00, Free Stage, Barbican BoI 2014
Bookshop Barnies have become a fixture of intelligent debate in London in recent years. Austin Williams invites the author of a recent book to defend their ideas, first in an irreverent and probing one-to-one discussion and then against questions and comments from the audience. The result is a highly entertaining and thought-provoking session that brings the written word to life.
In this special Bookshop Barnie@theBattle, Rana Mitter, Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China will explain the story in his latest book, China’s War with Japan 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival.
British history teaches us that WWII started in 1939. However, Mitter points out that for China, the war started with the Japanese invasion in July 1937 and around 14 - 20 million Chinese had died by 1945. Is it legitimate for China to see Japan as their major hate figure after all these years (what about Britain’s imperial barbarism during China’s century of humiliation, for example)? Should China forgive and forget? Should Japan acknowledge and apologise? Should the world be worried about their current territorial and political tensions?
As many reviewers have pointed out, China’s suffering in the war was not a secret, so why is the West empathising now. Published in America as Forgotten Ally, why are we so keen to feel China’s pain? Could it be that America is shifting its historic Japanese allegiances?
The Independent calls this book “a real masterpiece”; the Spectator suggests that Mitter lets Mao off the hook. All acknowledge that this is a great read. Come and join in the debate. Let a hundred schools of thought contend.
Dr Rana Mitter
director, University China Centre, University of Oxford; author, China’s War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival
associate professor in architecture, XJTLU University, Suzhou, China; director, Future Cities Project; convenor, Bookshop Barnies; founding member of New Narratives