Publication Date

April 2018


William Johnston


College of East Asian Studies


English (United States)


Wang Jingwei was once a revolutionary hero, a man widely respected and admired throughout the Chinese world for his advocacy of Sunist nationalism and his daring attempt on the life of Prince Regent Zaifeng, the most powerful member of the Qing court. Now, however, few people have a kind word to say about him. What happened? During the Second Sino-Japanese War, known as the War of Resistance against Japan in China, Wang did the unthinkable and the unforgiveable: he collaborated with the Japanese invaders, serving as president of the Nanjing puppet regime. Motivated by greed and lust for power, he sold his country. This, at least, is the narrative of Wang Jingwei the traitor, the hanjian, a narrative that found easy traction among both the Kuomintang and the Chinese Communist Party. Of course, Wang had a different understanding of his actions. Indeed, he believed that his collaboration with the Japanese was really cooperation, and that it was the patriotic choice. The Chinese defense effort was a disaster, and Wang believed that China would forever be the victim of imperialist aggression if a project of urgent economic reconstruction and institutional modernization was not undertaken as soon as possible. For this project to be successful, peace was necessary. Therefore, he believed that by securing peace with Japan, he would be able to lead the reconstruction and modernization of China, and that this would in turn develop a strong and robust Chinese state, eventually maturing into the full-fledged Republic of China of which his late mentor Sun Yat-sen had dreamed. In this paper, I explore Wang?s political thought and its relation to Sunism in order to come a deeper understanding of Wang?s rationale. There are three chapters: the first deals with Wang?s early political career, the second with Sun?s political thought and its relation to the political environment of the 1920s, and the third dealing directly with Wang?s fateful decision.



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