Whether peaceful or menacing, China’s rise is a fact. To help us understand the new China, we must look at its past; by studying its complicated history and its relationships with the United States and its Asian neighbors we can begin to understand the principles and actions of this ancient yet vibrant country and thus facilitate US policy making. In the summer of 2013, the Hoover Institution Archives began holding summer workshops on modern China to bridge the gap between Hoover’s archival materials and academic research by opening Hoover’s collection to scholars around the world, thus strengthening the tie between historical exploration and public policy.
The first workshop was held on August 5, 2013, at which time Rana Mitter, professor of the history and politics of modern China at the University of Oxford, discussed the importance of Hoover’s modern China collections to shaping East Asian modernity, as well as the vital role Hoover’s historical treasures have played in forming new connections between the past and present in China. Rana Mitter’s forthcoming book, Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-45, carefully researched and explored some of Hoover’s unique collections, including the personal papers of Nym Wales and T.V. Soong, the personal diaries of Chiang Kai-shek, and the records of Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) to illuminate how the Sino-Japanese war helped create modern China and how the circumstances of that war made the concept of the nation, as well as personal identification with it, urgent and meaningful for the Chinese people. The ghosts of the war with Japan have still not been laid to rest in China, with Chinese leaders using the past as a stick with which to beat their neighbor. How China, now in a position of strength, will deal with its old enemy will be crucial to shaping the region in the twenty-first century. Mining Hoover’s rich historical holdings, Mitter avers, will be an important step toward understanding the complex issues involved.