26 April 2004

Mining Muninn: Shanghai in August 1945

While perusing the archives of the Muninn blog I recently discovered, I came across another interesting bit of historical detail posted on 26 March, which describes the content of the newspaper Shenbao in Shanghai in August 1945:
You pick up the most circulated newspaper in Shanghai on August 15th, 1945, the day of Japan's surrender. What do you see? Well, the news of the surrender hasn't made it for the day's issue. Instead, in the days leading up to the end of the war the newspaper focuses on the Russian advances in Manchuria, or the arrival of B29 bombers attacking Japanese targets in China. Of course, you still see the usual advertisements for CPC Coffee, and various brands of penicillin. But how will the newspaper change in the next few days as Japan's control over Shanghai comes to an end? While this wasn't a question related to my research, it was at the back of my mind as I skimmed through an important Shanghai newspaper called 申報 from the second half of the year 1945....

CPC Coffee, which had long had very recognizable, if somewhat boring, advertisements depicting a can a coffee, finally join the victory bandwagon on the 21st by getting rid of the can image and replacing it with three victory slogans for the Allies, China, and Chiang Kai-shek. They scrap this on the 26th and add an image of a caucasian drinking coffee. Prices still look kind of inflated on the 26th. Meimei Si is selling coffee for 18,000 yuan and 'Victory' sundaes for 40,000. Also on the 26th we see the sudden appearance of radio channel advertisements, promising the latest news from San Francisco or India. Not far from Meimei Si's victory sundaes is a very short article noting the mass suicide of a group of Japanese soldiers in front of the imperial palace. The editorial of the day emphasizes the need to preserve social order and reminds everyone that Chiang Kai-shek has ordered that no-one is to show hostility towards the surrendered Japanese soldiers. Thousands of them are still wandering around with their weapons, some have yet to officially hand over control of the cities they control. Most of them are not disarmed until weeks or months later and some of them end up helping one side or the other in the conflict to come. In these early postwar days, the KMT and the Communists are in a mad nation-wide rush to get their troops into each Japanese controlled area to accept the hand-over of power first. While the two sides were nominally allied during the war against the Japan, the country is on the verge of a new civil war between the two. In the first few weeks, however, we see Mao and Chiang inviting each other to tea parties and banquets.

No comments: