Rana Mitter wins top book prize for China’s Good War: How World War II is Shaping a New Nationalism

Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China Rana Mitter has won an award for his book China’s Good War: How World War II is Shaping a New Nationalism at the 2021 International Convention on Asia Studies (ICAS) Book Prize.

Nearly 1,000 titles were submitted for the prize and Rana’s book was awarded the title ‘Most Accessible and Captivating Work for the Non-Specialist Reader Accolade’.

His book shows that whereas Chinese leaders once tried to suppress memories of their nation’s brutal experience during World War Two, now they celebrate the “victory”—a key foundation of China’s rising nationalism. 

For most of its history, the People’s Republic of China limited public discussion of the war against Japan. It was an experience of victimisation—and one that saw Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek fighting for the same goals.

But now, as China grows more powerful, the meaning of the war is changing. This study argues that China’s reassessment of the World War Two years is central to its newfound confidence abroad and to mounting nationalism at home.

Rana said: “I am honoured by this award and very pleased that it marks the ability of the book to speak not just to specialists on China, but on those who work on issues of ideology, nationalism and memory more broadly.” 

Rana is currently working on a new book supported by a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship. Titled The War that Changed Asia, it is a study of China’s changing role in the years 1945-55, and reassesses a range of issues from China’s role in shaping ideas of international economic development to the rise in revolutionary identity that accompanied the civil war and communist victory of that era.