The postwar settlement further clouded the issue, if only because of the carpet-bagging of the Nationalists who took coastal China back from the Japanese. While Chiang Kai-shek assigned the task of sujian (eradicating traitors) to Dai Li, and while many leading "traitors" were tried and killed, a number of prominent collaborators were able to buy their way out of hanjian status on the spurious grounds of, say, having been secret members of Dai Li's Loyal and Patriotic Army (Zhongyi jiuguo jun). Conversely, because of Dai Li's death in an airplane crash in the spring of 1946, those puppets who actually had been in secret communication with Juntong could not call upon General Dai as a witness to their ultimate loyalty when they were tried and sentenced to death for treason.
The truth was that matters were never quite so distinctly drawn as implied by the polarization between "warriors" and "traitors." Many figures, including prominent Communists such as Pan Hannian and Nationalists such as Miao Bin occupied deeply ambiguous positions as they navigated the mined shoals of the wartime period.
Miao, for example, was one of the founders of the Sun Yatsen Study Society at Whampoa in December 1925. Dismissed on corruption charges as Jiangsu chief of police, he returned to his hometown, Wuxi, married the niece of Rong Zongjing (whose son is now vice president of the People's Republic of China), and became chief manager of the magnate's flour mills. In 1937, Miao Bin joined the puppet régime in Beijing, directed the training unit of Wang Jingwei's Youth League (Qingnian xunliansuo), and organized the pro-Japanese New People's Society (Xinminhui). In 1940 he became president of Wang Jingwei's Examination Yuan,
After VJ day, Miao Bin was at first not treated as a war crimes prisoner but rather was placed in protective custody. In April 1946, after clamorous public censure, Miao Bin was put on trial before the Jiangsu Higher Court. About to be judged guilty and sentenced, Miao was suddenly spared when a letter reached the court from Juntong, confirming that Miao had indeed become a special agent of the Military Statistics Bureau in August 1943. Yet, shortly after his release by the Higher Court, Miao Bin was just as suddenly taken back into custody, transported to Suzhou, rushed to trial, and executed as a traitor for reasons that will probably never be fully known.
Such political murkiness is certainly not peculiar to the hanjian of the War of Resistance. What is specific, in a way that may help us understand what it means to become Chinese, is the paradoxical rigidity and flexibility of the boundary between embracing and renouncing allegiance or loyalty to "Chineseness."
Recognizing the problematical nature of allegiance to the Chinese nation-state after eight years of competing wartime régimes plus the civil war's legacy of divided sovereign entities, we can still roughly distinguish between three different modes of disloyalty: betraying one's primal "natural" identity ("you're a traitor to your race"), betraying one's vocation ("you're a traitor to your calling"), and betraying one's cause ("you're a traitor to your word").
Under the Qing dynasty, elite loyalty was mixed: the dynasty could claim primal allegiance from bannermen and demand vocational loyalty from Confucian officials. There was a degree of personalism, of course: the Qianlong emperor could reward loyal bureaucrats and posthumously punish disloyal ministers. But this discrimination publicly eschewed the issue of primal loyalties. The rise of the Tongmenghui revolutionary movement was about just that, though its ideological solution was insufficient to hold a polity together. In Republican China, a different dissolution formed: the strain between loyalty to one's cause and loyalty to one's identity. This was why Wang Jingwei was in such an excruciating position when he lamented the way in which "popular clamor" killed the "true patriots" of the Ming. "High sounding words are anathema, pride kills victory, modesty averts defeat."
A quisling's lament, Wang's words were only persuasive if one ignored the full implications of what it meant to be a hanjian in the mid-twentieth century, a time in Chinese history in which once-universal cultural loyalty retained a central place, along with a particularly contemporary allegiance to folk and race. Identity—the
In other words, Hanness could get you back in, and the slate might be wiped clean. During and after the War of Resistance, it was the Chinese Communist Party's ability to take over the issue of identity—that is, adopt the cloak of Chinese ethnocultural centrality—that helped it win the hearts and minds of the people. The collaboration issue was thereby muted (though it emerged again in the spy scares and witch hunts of the Cultural Revolution), because all one had to do to remain within the vast mass of limin (black-haired people) was to acknowledge Chinese identity and make amends for past lapses "among ourselves": be it departure for abroad, life under a colonial régime, or service to a government in exile.
If the base meaning of treachery, of being a traitor or hanjian, is cultural and ethnic transgression, then political betrayal can be mitigated by primal loyalties, reasserted through cultural and ethnic integration. Outsiders may be put off by thinly veiled hints of this "we-they" division, but members of the Chinese ecumene can take heart in their capacity to let political bygones be bygones. That is why, in the most down-to-earth and current of ways, the authorities in mainland China continue so obdurately to expect, nay demand, eventual reunification with Taiwan. And that is also why Taiwanese exclusiveness—a refusal, in effect, to admit to being "just" Chinese—is viewed by those same mainland authorities as such a baneful threat to the One China that the two major political parties conjure on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.