Occupying North Korea, Witnessing Massacre? Military Sources and the Question of US/UK Forces in Sinchon

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Korean War / North Korean border region / US-North Korea relations / War Crimes
Operational Maps Cover Page WO308, 57

The North Korean state claims that US troops arrived in Sinchon, Hwanghae province, on 17 October 1950 and promptly began butchering civilians, culminating in over 35,000 dead by the time of their retreat on 7 December. To my knowledge, no serious writing outside of North Korea has been made to determine if the body count is accurate. However, writers and scholars like Hwang Sok-yong and Kim Dong-choon, respectively, have engaged in efforts to describe the violence as more communal in nature. In other words, this was a case of Koreans killing Koreans in the fog of war, not an American attempt to wipe out an entire county of communists through medieval methods.

North Korea has pumped significant resources into a refurbished museum in Sinchon and has increased its output of international propaganda about the massacre in recent years, but the narrative remains the same, and the state is extremely unlikely to open up its historical archives for external researchers.

Why, then, should we still try to verify any aspects whatsoever of the North Korean account? Because the North Koreans continue to believe their version of events, and “our” version of events is hardly clear.  By using sources available to researchers in South Korea, London, and Washington, D.C., I propose to get closer to understanding what happened — and what could not have happened — in and around Sinchon in the fall of 1950.

First, the North Korean narrative claims that the Americans arrived in Sinchon on 17 October 1950. I have yet to find any evidence of an American unit entering Sinchon county, but, if the troops arriving were in fact British, the day of the arrival appears to be plausible.

Roy E. Appleman’s standard official history of the US Army in the Korean War describes in some detail the US/UN advance north. (Appleman’s book is available in full as a free pdf.; the following page numbers refer to the 1961 print edition.) After the Inchon Landing of 15 September 1950 and some notable internal US/UN debate about the course and purpose of the war, it took a couple of weeks to fight north of the 38th parallel.

A map of some of the major cities / battlefields discussed in this post, via Google.

A map of some of the major cities / battlefields discussed in this post, via Google.

Appleman describes how the battle for Kumchon ended with a North Korean defeat about 20 kilometers north of Kaesong on 14 October. This was the opening of a floodgate north for the US/UN forces. The full invasion of Hwanghae province promptly commenced. Forces raced for Haeju/Ongjin in the south of the province, and Sariwon further north. Sariwon was a crossroads and seen as the gateway to Pyongyang.

Sinchon had been noted by MacArthur’s staff as being of minor importance (more on that in another post), and was off of the main invasion route from the south toward Pyongyang. However, it was only about 35 km south of Sariwon, the main goal of US and UN fighting units, and 15 km from Chaeryong, which was the main route of the invasion of Sariwon. In sum, it was off of the main route of invasion, but close enough to be of interest to US military commanders.

It is difficult to adequately convey just how quickly North Korean state structures evaporated in Hwanghae province in mid-October 1950. Haeju [海州/해주], a major administrative center along the coast and a key of strong DPRK military build-up in 1948-1950, fell to US/UN forces in a single afternoon (October 17), having been defended by only 300 North Korean troops (Appleman p. 642).

Likewise, Sariwon fell easily on the same day, with a raid on a handful of troops in an orchard by the UK’s Argyll 1st Division, who then endured a very strange night involving North Koreans arriving into the city from the south, unaware that it had already fallen, and the British soldiers being taken as the personification of hope: Arrival of Soviet troops to help, at last!  Those North Koreans, having for a moment lived the dream of reciprocal socialist obligation, were quickly taken prisoner. Appleman describes the “weird night” that transpired in Sariwon on pp. 644-645 of his book. Meanwhile, Kim Il-sung had fled to Kanggye and was issuing orders for commanders to shoot any troops who tried to desert. (His role in Sinchon as event and myth will be taken up later; Appleman quotes the order, which was picked up by ATIS as a broadcast on 14 Oct., on p. 631.)

British veteran and military historian Antony Farrar-Hockley goes into greater depth about Sariwon on pages 241-45 of his book The British part in the Korean War. Vol.1, A distant obligation [1990]. The British historian describes the level of resistance en route to the city as being extremely thin, consisting of a handful of snipers who were all rooted out in short order, and a skirmish in an orchard. The US/UN forces were picking up large numbers of surrendering Korean People’s Army soldiers. Appleman (p. 646) describes how the fall of Sariwon promptly put 1700 KPA soldiers and thirteen female nurses into the hands of the US/UN forces.

All of this surrounding action, and in particular the role of captured North Korean soldiers, seems to play little if any role in contemporary DPRK narratives of the Sinchon massacre. These elements are deemphasized in favor of discussing a handful of resistive guerrilla elements in the countryside around Sinchon (UK intelligence appears to have estimated that there were about 2600 North Korean troops scattered around Hwanghae in late November 1950). However, at this point of the war, if there were indeed Americans or British troops in Sinchon, they certainly would have had captives from the KPA 19th or 27th armies, and would have needed to manage that population as well.

Situation Map No. 11, 20 October 1950, in 'Situation Maps, Historical Section of the Cabinet [Top Secret],' War Office file WO308/57, United Kingdom National Archives, London.

Situation Map No. 11, 20 October 1950, in ‘Situation Maps, Historical Section of the Cabinet [Top Secret],’ War Office file WO308/57, United Kingdom National Archives, London.

But we have not yet answered the key question: Were there American or British troops in Sinchon on 17 October, or shortly thereafter?  (Keep in mind that the massacre in Sinchon is said to have been spread over a period of six full weeks; we are only now concerned with the initiation of contact between foreign armies and the people of Sinchon.)

It appears that the closest troops to Sinchon were the US 19th Regiment of the 24th Division, who had been ordered by General Frank Milburn to take up a position on the left of the 1st Cavalry and advance on Sariwon from the south. I have yet to dig into the relevant documents in the US National Archives for this regiment; Bruce Cumings has previously said he has found nothing in the archives about a US occupation of Sinchon, but that doesn’t mean the papers don’t exist.

In the National Archives of the UK in London, I have gone through several ‘War Diaries’ describing postings and positions of British forces during this phase of the war.  These sources have not provided me with anything like full clarity on the question, but they certainly indicate the speed and temporary nature of the occupation of the North.

Far more useful have been the operational maps, which, for the study of Sinchon and Hwanghae province more generally, go well beyond the level of detail described by Appleman and Farrar-Hockley, both of whom, like the troops they studied, seemed breathless to get to Pyongyang. And that is the precipice upon which I shall conclude this post.

Dandong Discourse: China-DPRK Trade Fair, and Rumblings in Xinchengqu

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Borderlands / China / North Korea / North Korean border region
Dandong Trade Fair Guanggao, July 2015

Historians have surely seen better days between the Chinese Communist Party and the Kim-centric Workers’ Party of [North] Korea, but business continues apace today in the borderland. The main item seen in the past few weeks (i.e., something “new” that hasn’t yet made it yet into our wonderful Anglophone discourse) is the subject of today’s post. And the news is that the China-DPRK Trade Fair and Culture/Tourism Expo will indeed be held this coming October, and is entering its fourth year. The Chinese website for the event, without much irony, uses the same slogan as in previous years (fairs and slogans analyzed here in an English essay for the Korea Economic Institute), and offers page after page of discussion of the Korean minority in China under headings that actually promise “enter North Korea.”

Discussing the Dandong Trade Fair puts one into the zone of perpetual risk. After all, it is tempting to engage in overreading any single piece of data which may confirm or deny an assumption that the North Korean regime is tending toward economic reform and opening up.

Dandong: Is Kim Jong-un the great modernizer, each moment of exchange with China an irrevocable step forward toward North Korean marketization? Or, is any North Korean participation in an event like the trade fair in Dandong just a feint toward outside public opinion, so that South Korean companies will at least openly consider moving to Hunchun to get around sanctions, so that Chinese comrades will not stop completely the clotted spigots of present investment and aid, so that Beijing will be somewhat less angry the next time a cruise missile nearly knocks down a regional jet flying from Shenyang to Japan, or a North Korean border guard goes AWOLWW (Absent without Leave, with a Weapon) into Chinese rural border communities of Yanbian whose youth have all already cleared out for the bright lights of South Korean’s labour markets?

Goodness knows these debates matter, because North Korea’s actual direction, and the methods used by China to harness, encourage, engage, and exploit North Korean participation in the Chinese economy and beyond are (or arguably should be) a huge part of the overall picture.

But enough of the framing; stuff has actually happened.

The going-forward of the 2015 fair was announced in Dandong at a hotel by the city’s vice-mayor; no North Koreans were listed as attending. Nor were any DPRK officials in attendance (you know, like a vice-mayor of Sinuiju, or perhaps even a governor or Party Secretary from North Pyong’an province, the kind of people Jang Song-taek used to bring with him.)

So this may yet another fine example of North Korea ducking anything remotely public to bang the drum for investors or domestic exporters, leaving the stage to Chinese officials who then do the heavy lifting — to the extent that such events require anything more than showing up, reading a bland statement of friendship or economic aspiration.

However, aspiration may be the wrong phrase; and local Liaoning officials trying too hard to create maximum change in the shortest possible time might attract distrust. What do I mean by that? The event will be held in the Xincheng district of Dandong, which itself is undergoing a bit of a scandal having to do with government mismanagement. Just across from the rather dead North Korean Special Economic Zone of Hwanggumpyeong, construction moved very quickly after Wen Jiabao’s pioneering visit to North Korea in October 2009. Since then, the pace has slowed significantly as it has become clear that the white elephant of a bridge stretching from the district into the wet and rural outskirts of Sinuiju would not be opening.

The present dilapidated state of a property in Xinchengqu in Dandong, near the new bridge to North Korea. Below is an architectural drawing for how the property was planned to look. Source: People's Daily, Beijing.

The present dilapidated state of a property in Xinchengqu in Dandong, near the new bridge to North Korea. Below is an architectural drawing for how the property was planned to look. Source: People’s Daily, Beijing.

In a rather clear signal that the almighty Central Government in Beijing is unhappy with the administration of the new development district of Xincheng, Zhongguo Jingji Zhoukan (China Economic Weekly) magazine has put out a rather extensive look at land appropriation which really ought to be read by anyone worth their salt whose professional habits include deciphering Chinese receptivity to North Korea’s erratic economic strategy and China’s receptivity to it amid the unpredictable muddy tempests of the Yalu River estuary.

Will China Disintegrate? A British Assessment in 1947

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China / Chinese communist party / Chinese nationalism / EU-East Asia relations
Liberation of Shanghai, 1949

On either side of an energizing North Korea public event I did this past Friday in London, I make two treks out to the UK’s National Archives in Kew Gardens. My goal was explore Foreign Office papers about the U.S. occupation of Japan with a focus on war crimes tribunals and Chinese public opinion, and the Korean War with a focus on atrocities in South Hwanghae province.

In the coming weeks, I hope to share a handful of interesting finds from the archives on those subjects, since there were ample documents and more than a few surprises. Today’s document stems from the files originating in China in the late 1940s.

As might be expected, the men writing reports from British outposts in cities like Shenyang and Nanjing in the period of the Chinese civil war collected an array of information. At times, anonymous reports would funnel in (usually, but not always, bent toward a Kuomintang-friendly perspective). At other times, counterparts in the Dutch, Canadian, French and American embassies would share insights and intelligence.

Back in London at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, notes would be read, and, occasionally, vigorously responded to on a cover sheet. A.L. Scott was among the most active writers of marginalia. One of his flowing scripts follows, emerging out of his disapproval of a memorandum’s interpretation of the Chinese Communist Party, circa 1947:

‘I regret to see that the War Office still attempts to discriminate between one Chinese communist and another. To the W.O. the Chinese Communists still seem to wear the threadbare garments of ‘agrarian reformer.’ In fact, if any distinction exists it will be the more radical communists who will gain the upper hand, as they did in Russia, at the expense of their more moderate good and more ‘Chinese’ brethren, who will be liquidated as unorthodox as soon as they have outlived their usefulness. Nor do I think that the Chinese people will be able to react effectively ag’st Communism; certainly they will not succeed without outside assistance. Their efforts will be spasmodic and uncoordinated, and will be doomed to failure ag’st a cohesive and strongly directed force. One cannot apply Chinese principles to China where Communism is concerned only Communist principles, which are the same all over the world.’

Source: A.L. Scott, marginalia on ‘Will China Disintegrate?’, a War Office memorandum from Major P. Macmillan to Mr. Kitson, 12 August 1947, in National Archives (Kew Gardens, London), FO 371 / 63326, File F10513/76/10. 

Image: Communist dramatists skewer the ‘four families’ of Nationalist China in newly liberated Shanghai, 1949.

From Hyesan to London: Hyeonseo Lee and the New North Korea Defector Memoir

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EU-East Asia relations / human rights / North Korea / North Korean border region / Yanbian
June 23 Abulouwang Hyeonseo Lee

Hyeonseo Lee has produced an excellent memoir, a text which, along with John Sweeney and Emma Graham-Harrison, I will be discussing with her at an event organized by The Guardian in London tomorrow night.

Having worked my way through a review copy of the text this past week, I am happy to convey that the book goes beyond some of the now-stereotypical gestures of the suddenly expanding ‘North Korean defector genre’. Through the book, readers are given a strong sense of the pull of the North even for those who have escaped it — for instance, well after establishing themselves in South Korea as new settlers, both Hyeonseo and her brother end up in Changbai, gazing back in to their hometown of Hyesan. The pervasiveness of bribery in North Korea is made absolutely clear through Hyeonseo’s discussion of her mother’s work as a cross-border trader for whom methamphetamines are as innocuous as T-shirts; in other words, there is money to be made in their transshipment over the waters of the upper Yalu River, so no shame in their handling.

Most of all, Hyeonseo’s long years in China and the people she meets there give a very good sense of both the perils and the half-comforts of edging toward a Korean-Chinese identity outside of Yanbian. The existence of the ‘Korean minority’ in China gives Hyeonseo no absolute safety, but a kind of cultural shield or identity into which (or under which) she can occasionally retreat.

The narrative style is tasteful and effective — throughout, one gets the sense of a seasoned older woman looking back at her own mistakes and bravery. Most of all, the text does not make the common error of trying to bludgeon the reader into submission with pedantic observations about the horrors of life in the DPRK. Instead, North Korea’s flaws — as a society first, and as a state secondarily — come through organically, and are thus more complex and powerful. This is not a story of the gulags, nor is it a dubiously alluring ‘insider account’ of the Kim family court. In criss-crossing the Yalu River and living in Changbai, Shenyang, and Shanghai, the book reveals the web of communications and emotional connectivities between North Koreans living illegally on the Chinese side of the border, as well as the agonies experienced when that communication is broken. I would encourage readers of this blog to pick up the book and read it for themselves.

Image: Via Abuluowang, ‘The North Korean defector who saw an execution at age 7,‘ 23 June 2015. 

Opera North and ‘The Flying Dutchman': A Review

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Art / Cultural Politics / German / Opera
Middle Wagner

While having ostensibly little to do with the East Asian themes that normally permeate this website, the following post is connected to my interest in German classical music and specifically opera. Regular readers more interested in Northeast Asia can trace Wagner’s relevance for studies of state-driven culture in the region more fully via my article ‘North Korean Hip-hop? Reflections on Musical Diplomacy and the DPRK‘ (Acta Koreana, 2009).  — Adam Cathcart, University of Leeds 

Opera North and ‘The Flying Dutchman': A Review

For listeners seeking a vein into the psychological, witnessing a performance of Richard Wagner’s early work can be a mystifying experience.  The Italianate melodic gestures, uncomfortable resemblance to ‘number opera,’ maudlin approach to drama, and logical chasms in plot construction seem inevitably primed to disappoint.  It is Wagner’s creative rebellion against these conventions which we today find worthwhile. Perhaps it is for reasons of properly anchoring Wagner as a man of his time — and to indulge a certain personal penchant for darkness — that we attend productions of his early work.

Opera North’s new production of The Flying Dutchman (Der Fliegender Hollander) presented the composer as a creative artist in flux. The program notes, presented in an attractive bundle, laid out the matter exquisitely — and economically. At £5, it was money well-spent, marred only by General Director Richard Mantle’s use of the adjective ‘taut’ to describe the drama rather than his ideal audience’s perception to it.

In this a beautifully coordinated and semi-staged affair at Leeds Town Hall, the symphonic powers of the Opera North Orchestra were on full display. Attacks and releases were precise; the dynamic range and intonation (on a rather hot stage, no less) were impressive. The wind playing was very fine, with the exception of a couple of predictable gulps from the French horns lost in the excitement of a fortissimo. The strings scrubbed away admirably, seemingly never fatigued by the staggering amount of chromatic passagework present in the score. (The bulky singers often blocking my own view of the principle string players, I resorted to watching the back desks of the violoncello and bass sections, all of whom showed extreme left-hand nimbleness in the task.) A cameo appearance by off-stage piccolos during a third act storm was appropriately alarming.

Writing a fair review of singers of Wagnerian opera is practically impossible: The roles are massive, the vocal demands great, and the tradition equally daunting.  Those engaged by Opera North acquitted themselves well. The Swedish bass Mats Almgren proved a tremendous Daland, whose gaunt and steely persona gave the drama an immediate injection of verve and longing for land. Along with his jocular male chorus, he surely would not have appeared out of place drinking a pint a century ago in some Hull pub for sailors. Marc Le Brocq was an adequate Steersman, appropriately deferential, but often sinning against the guild by failing to end his phrases with the necessary consonants.

Occasionally events beyond the hall will colour how one listens and perceives the drama. Fortunately the audience last night was completely rapt; there was minimal coughing, and no cell phones (or moaning, as listeners to a January Halle orchestra performance of Brahms 4th Symphony in the Town Hall will recollect) from the gallery. The peal of ambulance sirens, however, did cut through the civic musical space at at least three times during this performance, reminding the listeners of that cruel world lurking beyond the stage curtains. Thus Senta, the female heroine being married off by her father, took on attributes of an ISIS bride in Bradford. She has become enchanted by the picture of an ideal man, a warrior-type, whom she has never met. Even before her father barters her off for a bit of jewelry, she is fantasizing about being swept away into the totality of death which this man, her ideal husband, represents.

Erik, her current love interest, is a structural afterthought, only existing to create a bare minimum of dramatic tension in Acts II and III.  Yet, as performed by Mati Turi, an outstanding tenor from Estonia, the role takes on real heft, and Erik becomes a pre-Siegfried in gestation. Turi’s descending arpeggios elicited audible gasps from the women sitting behind me in the left balcony, who had been otherwise silent throughout the performance. The duets between Senta (performed by Alwyn Mellor, born to do Tosca) and Erik brought out the best of the Italian side of the opera. To cue the euphemism generator used by the Opera North General Director, it is indeed here that ‘Wagner’s cosmopolitan influences are more clearly discernible than perhaps they are in his later works.’

One would have wished that the massive glowing screen behind the players might not have been lit during the overture, whose glorious apex was inexplicably  overshadowed by the image of a dry (dry!) human skull amid the waves. Death and deathlessness are at whatever philosophical core this opera possesses, however, and Bela Perencz’s fulfillment of the role was dark, boomy, and emotionally cavernous. His Dutchman was the picture of anguished male solitude, all-too-easy joy at the acquisition of an unknown woman, and passing shades of guilt at the deaths he had caused along the way. With his restless ambition, brooding over ‘Zahllose Opfer / countless victims’ and oddly shabby jeweled coat, The Dutchman’s attraction to certain young viewers of opera in early 20th century Vienna would have been strong.

Finally, a word is in order about the opera’s female chorus, whose productive traditionalism forms the centerpiece of Act II. With impeccable German diction and tasteful deployment on either side of the stage, the women’s chorus of Opera North filled the emotional void opened up by Act I and brought an end, at least temporarily, to the suicidal laments of The Dutchman. It occurred to me that the motif used during their ‘spinning song’ was later borrowed and transformed by Gustav Mahler in his 4th Symphony, set to a text ‘Wir genießen dem himmlischen Freuden.’ Fitting stuff: There is indeed pleasure in production, and among society. The Opera North has brought to bear yet another unforgettable Wagner production.

Regional Government and Political Integration in Southwest China, 1949-1954: A Review

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Borderlands / China / Chinese communist party / Tibet

Dorothy J. Solinger: Regional Government and Political Integration in Southwest China, 1949-1954: A Case Study. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977.

Review by Li Wankun, University of Leeds

In traditional Chinese histories, the Southwest has often been considered as the most independent area in China, labeled as “the land of barbarians”(manhuang zhidi / 蛮荒之地). Accordingly, the concept and boundaries of “the Southwest” (xinan/ 西南) has fluctuated greatly over time. Anchoring the region is the province known today as Yunnan, which shares a long border with Burma (Myanmar). Histories of the Ming dynasty tend to connote rather mysterious elements to Yunnan, describing it as the area with a vile miasma of forest and minority tribes that ride on the elephants later made famous by Marc Elvin’s book.

Following the military occupation of the region by the Ming dynasty, the central government implemented the Bureaucratization of Native Chieftain system (gaitu guiliu / 改土归流). As the title of the policy implied, the gaitu guiliu aimed to strengthen the control over the region by replacing local hereditary headmen (tusi /土司) with officers from the court. The policy also mandated the opening of the Imperial Examination (keju zhidu/ 科举制度) to the empire’s new subjects, stretching from Qinghai to Guizhou, etc.

In today’s mainland academic discourse, such benefits are very explicitly tied to “shaoshuminzu zhengce” or “minority policies” in which the nation-state has existed in its present benevolent form, essentially back to the 16th century. From then on, the Southwest began a long process of contested integration with the mainland, a process recently written productively about by such scholars as Thomas Mullaney (Stanford University) and Gray Tuttle (Columbia). In many ways, Southwest China remains still the most independent area even today, whether or not one considers the Tibetan Autonomus Region part of the construction of the Southwest, the area is rich with diverse “national minorities,” which reward further study.

The Southwest, has been consolidated, fragmented away, and reconsolidated again with the Chinese polity multiple times over the centuries. Therefore, it would be expected that any study of the “return” of the Southwest to governance from the Chinese metropole (be it Nanjing or Beijing, dynastic, Republican, or communist) would bring controversy and represent serious institutional challenges. Dorothy Solinger approached this task in the late 1970s, and was the first person to use newspapers to research the integration of Southwest China, from the view of the Great Administrative Regions, which existed from 1949 to 1954.

Solinger explains the process in detail, using the label of integration, which happened, she argues, in two phases. Along with the transition from the Military Administrative Committee (junzheng weiyuanhui) to the Administrative Committee (Xing Zheng Wei Yuan Hui) and its abolition in 1954, Southwest China lost much of its special administrative character during its integration into the nation as a whole. To her credit, the author stays rather disciplined in the writing, not getting lost in the intricacies of Guangxi’s labyrinthine factional politics just prior to the CCP victory. Instead, she looks at how inner localities, connected to each other through toward trade, national minorities and roving counter-revolutionaries, were eventually pulled together and disciplined into the nation.

Solinger conceives the book into two parts, elaborating regionalism and integration in the Southwest after 1949 phases, which she labels Integration I and Integration II. While readers more accustomed to archivally-based treatments of the Chinese civil war by authors like Odd Arne Westad may find such a technique to be bordering on simplistic, we should recall that as a preliminary framework written in 1977, this conceptualization was surely innovative for its time. Solinger tracks back to pre-1949 China, finding that in every field, from geography or commercial to political affairs, there was no region, which existed at the supraprovincial level of “Southwest.” At the same time, the respective roles of political middlemen and new administrative structures were designed to bind the Southwest region with the national CCP and PLA. With solving different problems in the three interlinked areas of trade, minority nationalities and counter-revolutionaries, the internal subsystem integration was established by localities.

In my study, I found that the grain trade growth between Southwest and other areas was growing after 1952. According to the State-planned Purchase and Marketing (tonggou tongxiao/ 统购统销), Sichuan took charge of supplying grains to the major cities of southern China. During the First Five Year Plan, Sichuan procured 10 billion kilograms of grains, and 8.1 billion kilograms were transported to other regions,[1] like Hubei and Shanghai.

The main materials used in writing this book were Southwest China newspapers and journal, such as New China Daily (XinHua RiBao) and New China Monthly (Xin Hua Yue Bao). Given that most archives for the period after 1949 dealing with sensitive minority and national boundary issues are yet unopened for public even today, the author’s choice to use newspapers to study regionalism remains sound. As propagandists, newspaper editors, as Solinger said, would have seen no purpose in falsifying their publications, although the information was certainly published after filtering. Lacking access to local archives, Solinger is thus screened from the most part of regional resentments or failing cases during the integration process.

In one of my research that used the local archives from Chongqing, which city in the east of Sichuan Province, I found that the integration in the counties’ level was quite weak even in the process of collecting agriculture text which was the most important part of fiscal revenue before 1952. This also proved the argument of Solinger’s that the integration of Southwest was be strengthen after 1952 for the more functional type of integration under the Administrative Committee.

However, when Solinger analyzed the abolishment of the Administrative Committee, she ignored the funding of the State Planning Commission (Guo Jia Ji Hua Wei Yuan Hui) of the Central People’s Government, which was responsible for the strategy formulation and concurrently established with the Administrative Committee in 1952. Since 1953 was the first year of the First-Five Year Plan, the Planning Commission was established as a parallel organ with the Government Administration Council (Zhengwuyuan) for economic policy-making. Actually, the Planning Commission occupied a part power of the Administrative Committee, which steered the ship of government to plan and supervise the economic development before 1952. It made the Administrative Committee was much more like an executive branch not supervision. Therefore, the Administrative Committee was more functional after 1952.

About the process of integration, Solinger mentioned the military conflicts in the Southwest, particularly the wiping out of bandits and KMT remnant armies, but she focused on at the beginning of liberation when the CCP took over the Southwest. Actually, the process of integration was not smoothly since the Land Reform Movement to the Collectivization Movement in late 1950s. Especially during the collectivization movement, the cases about revolting to join cooperatives were increasing no matter from Chinese or minorities, and even violent conflicts happened in Qinghai and Tibet. As the remarkable work of Modern Tibet history, in the A History of Modern Tibet, Vol.2, The Calm Before the Storm, 1951-1955, Melvyn Goldstein unveils the conflict between the Southwestern Bureau and the Northwestern Bureau, which shows the arguments and different attitude about the Southwest China from inside. In the Vol.3, Goldstein shows us a much more bumpy road of integration after 1954, which was defined by Solinger as the year of achieving the integration in Southwest.

Solinger’s research into regional integration from the view of the Great Administrative Regions is exceptionally helpful. She examined the transition of the Military Administrative Committee to the Administrative Committee finding the year of 1952 to have been landmark for CCP government organization. In this point, she develops Franz Schurmann’s research about the study of the government organization of PRC, the latter concludes the organization model of Communist China with ideology predictively. Solinger not only introduces the changes of organizations, but also use from the view of the development of the government function to see the integration of Southwest China.

[1] The Annals of Sichuan Province compiled by Sichuan Local Chronicles Compilation Committee, published by Sichuan Science & Technology Press, Chengdu, 1996, Page 4.


Songs, Film, and Ideological Shifts in the DPRK

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Art / North Korea / Propaganda
Rice Plant Flower

Unlike songs which can put forth a new policy line in the space of a day or two, films take longer to congeal and embody ideological shifts. Chinese media covered this film “Rice Plant Flower” 《稻花》with a slight implication that there might be something about wealth accumulation in it, but it looks to be quite orthodox and in no way indicative of the Party’s reported relinquishing of limited control to selected farmers, let alone a fuller return to the NEP line of the Soviet Union in the early 1920s (which would be improvement in the North Korean context, yes?).