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Competing Visions of the Modern: Urban Transformation and Social Change of Changchun, 1932-1957


Examining the urban development and social change of Changchun during the period 1932-1957, this project covers three political regimes in Changchun (the Japanese, the Nationalist, and the Communist), and explores how political agendas operated and evolved as a local phenomenon in this city. I aim to reveal connections between the colonial past and socialist "present". I also aim to reveal both the idiosyncrasies of Japanese colonialism vis-à-vis Western colonialism from the perspective of the built environment, and the similarities and connections of urban construction between the colonial and socialist regime, despite antithetically propagandist banners, to unfold the shared value of anti-capitalist pursuit of exploring new visions of and different paths to the modern.

The first three chapters relate to colonial period (1932-1945), each exploring one facet of the idiosyncrasies of Japanese colonialism in relation to Changchun's urbanism. Chapter One deals with the idiosyncrasies of Japanese colonialism as manifested in planning Changchun are the subject of the next chapter. Chapter Two charts out the plurality of architectural styles in the city, and analyzes the diversities, ambivalences, and ambiguities in the practice of statecraft and urban construction. Chapter Three gives a picture of how the downtown of Changchun was reconstructed to meet new political agenda when Socialist Realism took sway of aesthetic program. I also examine in this chapter the nature of Japanese colonialism in Manchukuo from the perspective of rituals and pubic pageantries, by using Yamamuro's analogy of the client state to a hybrid beast of chimera.

The last two chapters examine Changchun's development since 1945. Chapter Four pictures how the downtown of Changchun was reconstructed to meet new political agenda. Chapter Five explores Changchun's urban expansion under Maoism: the construction of the First Automobile Works, a key project of Maoist industrialization. The purposes of the dissertation have been anchored by an overall objective to fill up this vacancy from the perspective of urban construction and urban life.

This dissertation has unfolded a proliferation of competing formulations of the modern in Changchun's urban history, some inspired by Western creations but more competing with Western concerns. In the competition for the dominance of the world, Japanese colonialism in Manchukuo and Chinese socialism both represented massive anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist qualities.

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