World War II

The album owner when he was 17 and 18 years old.

A Japanese soldier’s photo album: To the hell of war and back

If pictures tell a thousand words, these images tell the harrowing tale of wartime units set up by the Japanese in northeast China to conduct experiments, allegedly on humans, in its chemical warfare programme. Yet sending a chill down the spine, they also depict the banality of life that soldiers return to after war. Life goes on but for aggressors and victims alike, the wounded are never the same again.
Nadine Hwang, who led a storied life, was known as the 'Chinese Joan of Arc'.

The story of Nadine Hwang: The ‘Chinese Joan of Arc’

Photo collector Zou Dehuai tells the story of Nadine Hwang, a half-Chinese woman who was a rare breed in every sense of the term. Her dramatic life took her from Madrid to China and the salons of Paris, to a concentration camp in Germany, and eventually to Belgium. Amid the tragedy of war, she found love, and through it all, lived life with great spirit.
Li-Ning's Fall/Winter collection included some looks reminiscent of WWII Japanese army uniforms. (Li-Ning/Weibo)

Chinese netizens chastise Li-Ning for Japanese military-style fashion

Some outfits at a showcase of Li-Ning’s Fall/Winter collection said to resemble uniforms worn by the Japanese military during their invasion of China have sparked a wave of controversy, and this is made worse by the fact that a member of Li-Ning’s senior management is Japanese-Chinese. Are the Chinese netizens too sensitive or is Li-Ning too insensitive?
The Xuanzang Temple in Nanjing. (Internet)

Corruption in China seeps into the Buddhist world

Amid the controversy over honouring Japanese war criminals, Xuanzang Temple in Nanjing has found itself in more hot water as its former abbot Chuanzhen was exposed for his connections in the business and official circles. Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu gives a profile of this senior monk and what his secular activities mean for the temple and for Buddhism.
Aisin Gioro Puyi and wife Wanrong, 1925.

[Photo story] Puyi: The last emperor of China

The tragic life of the last emperor of China has been the subject of much popular culture, not least the movie The Last Emperor. But why was he often thought of as a political puppet and how did he go from emperor to commoner? Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao provides a glimpse into the final period of China’s imperial rule.
In June 1937, German leader Hitler received China’s Finance Minister H.H. Kung at the Kehlsteinhaus in the mountains, representing the peak of China-Germany military cooperation. Kung was the special personal representative of Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek.

[Photo story] The secret pre-World War II diplomacy between China and Germany

Before World War II, an unlikely alliance and friendship sprang up between China and Germany. As diplomatic ties warmed, Germany provided China with arms and equipment against the Japanese invasion. However, because China and the Soviet Union were military allies, Hitler drew closer to Japan, resulting in the subsequent deterioration of China-Germany relations, and the division of camps in WWII.
12 May 1945, San Francisco — During the meeting of the UN Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), delegates of four countries who would serve and sit on the UN Security Council look over a document: (from left) British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Robert Anthony Eden, US Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr, Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Vycheslav M. Molotov and Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Soong Tzu-wen.

[Photo story] The establishment of the United Nations and its significance to China

The establishment of the United Nations was a major step towards forging a new world order after the chaos of World War II. For China, it was a chance to recover from the humiliation of the two Opium Wars, the First Sino-Japanese War and World War II, where it was forced to cede territory and submit to Western powers. Not only was China able to sign equal treaties to take back its land, it became a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and took its place on the world stage.
25 November 1943, Cairo — State leaders of the US, the UK and the Republic of China and their chiefs of staff pose for a group photo before the Mena House Hotel in Cairo. Madame Chiang Kai-shek served as the interpreter for President Chiang Kai-shek. The one standing behind US President Roosevelt is Wang Chung-hui, secretary-general of the Chinese Supreme Defence Council and a former minister of foreign affairs.

[Photo story] The Cairo Conference and Taiwan’s liberation

In 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. Fifty years later, amid World War II, Taiwan was returned to China following the Cairo Conference involving the US’s Franklin D. Roosevelt, the UK’s Winston Churchill and the Republic of China’s Chiang Kai-shek. Historical photo collector Hsu Chung-mao gives us a glimpse into those times.
A pedestrian walks on a street near Hamamatsu station in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, on 6 October 2021. (Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg)

Is the ‘rise of China’ to blame for shifting China-Japan relations?

It is easy to see persistent Japan-China tensions as an effect of the rise of China and a tilt in the balance of strength between both countries. But Toh Lam Seng reminds us that from the time of the Meiji Restoration of 1868 onwards, Japan had been coveting mainland China and the Korean Peninsula, and thus Japan and China were never on amicable terms. While Japanese politicians and the media like to play up the China rise factor, China-Japan relations really worsened in the late 1990s when the US and Japan redefined the US-Japan Security Treaty. Is the hawkishness we’re seeing today but an upgraded version of those readjustments?