China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Given the physical destruction, carnage and emotional trauma caused by the Nanjing Massacre, how did the Wang Jingwei government seek to bring about social order and restore “normalcy” to the city? One answer to this question lies in the Wang regime’s implementation of a corporatist labor strategy inspired by fascist ideology and pre-war Nationalist government labor techniques. Corporatism sought to prevent labor union autonomy, stifle class-based sentiment and the pursuit of class interests (whether on the part of capitalists or labor), insure government control and loyalty to the state, and promote production. An analysis of approximately one hundred labor-capital arbitration cases mediated by the Shehui yundong zhidao weiyuanhui [Social Movement Guidance Committee] during the early 1940s suggests state control over labor and capital had mixed results. Most of the cases involved essential artisanal industries, such as basic foodstuffs, clothing, and joss sticks used for funeral rituals, needed to restore social order. Contrary to much of the Chinese historiography on occupied Nanjing, which emphasizes either social repression or resistance, one finds that in most cases state authorities readily granted labor unions’ economic demands for higher wages. The state encouraged a “labor movement” and provided workers a modicum of agency while pressuring commercial associations to accept worker demands. In response to inflation and to preserve their breadwinner status, male artisans actively participated in these corporatist strategies. Workers’ agency may not have reflected an endorsement of Wang Jingwei’s regime, but was a tacit form of consent and low-level collaboration.