The China Campaign Committee and the Boycott of Japanese Products in Britain, 1938–45

Saturday, January 7, 2017: 10:50 AM
Room 402 (Colorado Convention Center)
Mark Crowley, University of Wuhan
The atrocities committed in China by Japanese soldiers are now receiving greater scholarly attention. This, inevitably, has contributed to debates concerning the nature of mourning and historical memory. Nevertheless, an aspect that has received less attention is the response of western nations to the plight of the Chinese during Japanese occupation. The recent scholarship of Tom Buchanan, East Wind: China and the British Left (2012) goes some way to explore the relationship between left wing movements in Britain and how they forged relationships with the Chinese Communist Party during China’s most challenging time. However, little attention has been paid to how the British Home Front responded to the difficulties faced by China. Buchanan refers briefly to this initiative in his study, but does not explore its implications in detail. It is this gap in the historiography that this paper seeks to fill.

Drawing on a wide range of archival material from the Women’s Library, London School of Economics, the National Archives, London and the Modern Records Centre, Warwick University, this paper examines the response of the specially-created China Campaign Committee in Britain to raise awareness of the atrocities committed in China, and how this led to a deeper relationship between the two nations. It will show how the committee embarked on a significant campaign to boycott Japanese products, and the methods by which they targeted consumers, especially children, in their quest to punish the Japanese through refusing to consume its products. It will explore in detail how women formed the core of its membership and its activity, and assess the extent to which this group were successful in helping both the Chinese war effort and informing the British consumer about the inextricable link between consumption and funding Japanese war activity in China.