Combat and Collaboration: The Clash of Propaganda Prints between the Chinese Guomindang and the Japanese Empire in the 1930s-40s.
Historically, Sino-Japanese cultural exchanges were dominated by a China-oriented mentality. This relationship shifted abruptly in the late nineteenth century with Japan’s rapid westernization and industrialization, which coincided with the cultural and political implosion of the Qing Dynasty, and was further inverted as Japan became a world power and China struggled to reassemble itself. It was thus with a sense of justification that the Japanese advertised themselves as the legitimate protector of East Asian culture, and key Chinese cities under their occupation became a battleground for what Japan called the New Order in East Asia. Some Japanese and Chinese were able to agree on a working relationship under a new structure of political authority, and a number of propaganda posters were produced to reflect these negotiations. After 1938, the Chinese Guomindang also began to pay attention to propaganda art. Based on original archival research of primary historical documents and visual analysis of important icons in those propaganda images, this article examines the subsequent war of propaganda prints between the Guomindang and the Japanese militarists during the 1930s and 1940s, and demonstrates how the Chinese were able to utilize a variety of signs, symbols and art techniques to create their own propaganda prints in the effort to break from New Order in East Asia.