In France, when divisions sharpened after the November 1942 Allied invasion of North Africa, collabo became a general term of opprobrium. Occupied China began during 1938 to witness a similar polarization between the "warriors" of resistance and the "traitors" of collaboration—a polarization that reinforced a spirit of mass national unity by blaming collaboration on a small group of misbegotten traitors. This can be seen, for example, in a lengthy series of letters supposedly written by a young woman, "the daughter of a traitor," to her lover, "a warrior of the resistance."
Lying in bed in the moonlight she repeatedly calls out his name, "Jian," to tell him of her pain and grief. "Even though I am the daughter of a traitor, I am certainly not a traitor myself." Who could have thought that this quiet place would fall into enemy hands? How could she have possibly foreseen that her father would "passively" become the head of the puppet Maintenance Association (Weichi-hui)?
By the time she realized that she was in the lair of the Japanese "demons" (emo), it was too late: she had already been seized by the god of misfortune. She had thought of committing suicide, but instead she had coped by pretending to be happy and sympathetic whenever she had to talk with "them." How could they ever possibly know the internal pain she was suffering? In this bitter environment, she secreted her three years with Jian, when they promised each other to be forever like two stars twinkling in the summer sky, never to be extinguished unless the heavens themselves perished. The memory of that love kept her alive, ready to seek an escape. "I don't blame you," she tells Jian, for despising her as a Japanese soldier's mistress. "No one could understand the circumstances I have been in." She constantly thinks of his life as a warrior. When "they" lament guerrilla victories, she secretly exults, happy that "you are one of our aweinspiring Chinese men." When she hears that "our armies increase in strength," her heart is entirely soothed.
At one time, she thought of running away and joining Jian, but she is watched too closely. And even if she could join the guerrillas, she is not sure that Jian would forgive her. Besides, she can use her position in the enemy's camp to do more effective work than she could as a guerrilla. "You don't believe that?" Does Jian think that "the weak daughter of a hanjian" couldn't possibly have the strength to do significant work? The truth is, she already has accomplished something that no one—not even her father—knows about. Because the "demons" banzhang (Japanese hanchō, squad leader) believed that the deputy Maintenance Association chief was extorting too much from the people, the "demons" had him shot in order to maintain their reputation. But it was really she who "exterminated the traitor with a borrowed knife" (jie dao chu jian) by tricking the "demons."
She has to confess that ever since the deputy chief was killed, she has been afraid that his ghost would return, especially on nights like this in the moonlight, which makes her hair stand on end. But then she loses her fear of that "thing" (dongxi), because she knows the souls of "our brave warriors" of the resistance are striking down his ghost in the underworld. He is to be abominated, not feared. When you are full of zealous hatred, fear is gone.
Now she has reached a critical phase, which is also her greatest opportunity. She wants to use the last, minute fraction of her life to fulfill this soul-satisfying task. Three times "demons" have wanted to "eat me up," but she survived each time: "If I were a weakling—Jian! Before, I often told you that I was a weakling, that I was an absolutely helpless and absolutely passive weakling. But now I have to deny it. I believe that I'm not only not a weakling, I'm not one of those ordinary, backward women weaklings. Rather I am a strong-willed and determined person, a bold and imposing Chinese person. Don't you see? If I were still a weakling, how could I have been eaten up, invaded, and yet not have committed suicide? But I am still alive today, and I will not be eaten up, I will not be invaded." Her plan is to kill the Japanese squad leader who has ravished her; for "demons always will be demons—they lack the rational ability of civilized human beings."
The metaphor of the ravished or "eaten" woman applied to an invaded China is not, of course, new. Even before Zou Rong's Revolutionary Army (Geming jun), it appears in variant in the poetry of Wu Weiye and the dramaturgy of Kong Shangren. And it was certainly a common symbol, as numerous scholars have recently pointed out, during the 1930s and ′40s. Here, however, it gives form to feelings about the Japanese, who have literally raped their way up the Yangzi River, that spill over onto their collaborators. The Japanese are "demons" who "eat up" Chinese women; they are beings without souls or reason. The hanjian, fit to be denounced by their own daughters, are turned into hungry ghosts, "things," who deserve to be slaughtered in life as in death. Indeed, to renounce them and to kill the enemy is to cease being a "backward" weak woman and to become an "imposing" and virile Chinese warrior.
In her last letter to Jian, the "daughter of a hanjian" reveals her final plan. The emo has asked her to marry him. She consents, telling the Japanese "demon" that
The polarization of "heroes" and "traitors" served the United Front well. Candidly admitting that after the retreat from Wuhan in December there were numerous "wavering elements" (dongyao fenzi) among the Chinese, the resistance press stressed the importance of "sharing a bitter hatred of the enemy" (tongchou dikai)—that is, hatred of both the Japanese occupiers and their hanjian puppets— in order to close ranks around a United Front that had brought the Communist Party back into national politics. On January 1, 1939, the Nationalist government in Chongqing issued an announcement "strictly dealing with hanjian":
Since the beginning of all-out war with Japan, there is not a single one of the soldiers and civilians of the entire country who does not share a bitter hatred for the enemy. Taking the nation and the people as the foundation, they steadfastly resist and vow never to waver. Now, there is a small number of perverse and demented [sangxin bingkuang] followers who are willing to be used by the enemy invaders and to slavishly serve the foe like a ghost [seeking out victims] for the tiger [weihu zuochang] in an utterly loathsome way. The government has already explicitly ordered the Military Affairs Commission to investigate, order the arrest of, and severely punish according to the law those [who] have participated in each area's puppet organizations. Moreover, it has already promulgated regulations regarding the punishment of hanjian and clearly designated each of the criminal sanctions for collaborationist acts, issuing orders that they be implemented in order to clean out the traitors. Now, just as the circumstances of the War of Resistance take a turn for the better, the Japanese invaders have one layer of crafty schemes after another. If we don't root out the scoundrels, then how are we going to maintain social order?
The Nationalist government was willing to forgive those former traitors who "washed their hearts" (xixin), because it believed in the possibility of self-renewal. But those who continued to be traitors to the people (minzu pantu), who continued to act publicly as puppets or to behave clandestinely as hanjian, not only risked the wrath of Heaven, but they also faced public elimination by their fellow citizens.
The increasing polarization of Nationalist heroes and puppet traitors was one result of the defection of Wang Jingwei from the Chongqing régime and his launching of a "peace movement" (heping yundong) to hold talks with the Japanese. Yet even as his enemies styled him a hanjian in increasingly absolutist terms, Wang
According to Zhou Fohai's diary, on May 13, 1940, Wang Jingwei remarked outside the Japanese military headquarters in Hankou that back in Chongqing people called each other "national heroes" (minzu yingxiong), while he was being styled a hanjian even though he and his allies thought of themselves as "national heroes" too. The fact of the matter was that whether or not one ended by being a minzu yingxiong depended on whether one ended by "saving the country" (jiuguo). Wang and his friends believed that the only sure way to "save the country" was to seek a peaceful solution: "If I end up as a national hero, then there will forever be peace between China and Japan. If I end up as a traitor, then we will never be able to resolve the discord between China and Japan."
Later that year, on September 2, Wang said in Beiping: "One group of Chinese wants to kill me. One group of Japanese also wants to kill me. Each has their own evidence [to justify this]. This proves my position correct. The Chinese wanting to kill me proves that I am not advocating a War of Resistance. The Japanese wanting to kill me proves that I am not a traitor [hanjian]." According to Zhu Zijia, this same attitude colored the thinking and behavior of Wang Jingwei's entourage. They tried to hold fast to the notion of their being "national heroes," but the environment around them finally convinced them that they might well end up being vilified as "traitors."
Wang's brother-in-law, Chu Minyi, initially believed that there were two aspects to the war against Japan: one was military resistance, which was Chiang Kai-shek's task, and the other was peace negotiations, which was Wang Jingwei's assignment. After all, Chiang himself had said that "resistance was easy, peace was hard." That was why Chu had decided to join the peace movement and "compromise out of consideration for the general interest" (weiqu qiu quan): "If I don't descend into hell, then who else will descend into hell?" Li Shengwu, minister of education for Wang, declared during his trial in 1946, "At that time most men of resolve [zhishi] said that if Mr. Wang really could protect the nation's position, penetrating deep into the enemy's rear area, pursuing the task of saving the country, it could well be of modest benefit to the War of Resistance."
The ambiguity—and ambivalence—of collaboration was explored twenty years after Pearl Harbor by Zhu Zijia in the preface to the fourth volume of his memoirs on the Nanjing régime. In a complex culturalist response to the stigmatization of hanjian, he wrote:
One other objective in writing this book is to speak to all of the descendants of the Yellow Emperor and let them know that this group of people called hanjian are not the demons portrayed in propaganda or in their imaginations. Chen Gongbo said, "It is right to resist, but there is no alternative to peace." Zhou Fohai also said, "The War of Resistance is meant to save the nation. Peace is also meant to save the nation." Consequently, in this entire book I have absolutely never found fault with the
But all of that complex cultural equivocation was wiped away at the time by the direct and simple issue of national betrayal. On January 5, 1939, Li Zongren described Wang Jingwei as someone who "betrayed his party and country" (beipan dangguo). Others accused him of selling out his country for personal gain, of becoming the Franco of the Far East, and of being a Japanese "yes-man vermin" (yingshengchong). So many Chinese had compromised with the Japanese in north China because they had lacked self-esteem, because they had thought they were an inferior race (liedeng minzu), because they had been told they were the "sick man of Asia" (dongya bingf u). The Chinese had to cast aside such self-doubt and prove they were humankind's "most excellent race" (youxiu minzu) by repudiating the traitors in their midst—even if they were members of one's own family.
The attack on hanjian would not only restore self-esteem; it would also corroborate the patriotic identity that Chinese shared under the Occupation. Shanghai newspaper editors declared in December 1938, "Coexisting on an isolated island, we feel all the more that we are Chinese, and that our responsibility to be Chinese citizens is all the heavier. We also feel that, with the exception of shameless hanjian, we are all the more cordial and kind to each other." Although "Chinese do not attack Chinese," the people must also understand that the "big traitors" (da hanjian) had to be brought to justice.
The editors of Yibao wrote in May 1939, "Ever since Wang Jingwei betrayed the country and fled into exile, all of the country's people have come to recognize the face of a hanjian in his communicating with the enemy and seeking to surrender, and they have unanimously supported the central [government's] sanctions upon him, as the struggle to oppose Traitor Wang is centrally linked to the struggle against hanjian." That same editorial called upon the central government to purge all Wang Jingwei elements, to punish those who suggested compromise with the enemy, to mobilize forces to attack Wang elements in Shanghai, to make Wang the theoretical center of the attack against hanjian, to expose his treacherous activities, and to use the campaign to elevate the morale-building drives then going on in Free China to mobilize support against the Japanese.
By then, the lines were clearly drawn. However sensitive the "peace party" collaborators were to their own ambivalence, word had gone out to one and all that hanjian were simply traitors to be read out of the Chinese race. Solidarity and resistance demanded the traitors be eliminated. Hanjian did not deserve to be killed only because they were "treacherous merchants" smuggling black market rice and driving up the price for decent Chinese; or because they opened up opium supply
Beginning in October 1938, the resistance newspaper Wenxian began to publish lists of puppet officials and local police chiefs, entitled "Investigation Charts to Root Out Traitors [chujian]." In November, the entire roster of Liang Hongzhi's "flocks" (qunchou) of puppets at all levels of the reform government was printed, and that was followed by further lists of the "betrayers of the masses" (qunjian) in north China, Zhejiang, Anhui, Shanxi, and Jiangsu. By January and February of 1939, the newspaper was publishing the local Shanghai office and residence addresses of reform government officials, including bureau and department chiefs of the Shanghai municipal puppet government. In April, Wenxian printed a list of local district chiefs (qugongshuzhang), along with their salaries from the puppet régime, for Pudong, Nanshi, Huxi, Zhabei, Baoshan, Chuansha, and Nanhui. And that was followed in turn by lists of addresses of the managing editors of thirty hanjian newspapers in the Jiang delta and of the owners of fourteen opium shops (and their revenues, which totaled 225,000 yuan per month) in the Caojiadu badlands. Each of these designations amounted to disgrace at best, death at worst—even to those puppets under the tightest protection and in the highest places.
Shortly before dawn on October 11, 1940, the puppet mayor Fu Xiaoan's cook, Zhu Shengyuan, stole silently by the hanjian's bodyguards to slash the sleeping mayor to death with a butcher's cleaver. Zhu had worked for Fu for twelve years, but he had set aside personal loyalty for a higher cause when he was secretly recruited for the Nationalist secret service by General Dai Li.