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American Military Misconduct in Shanghai and the Chinese Civil War: The Case of Zang Dayaozi

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In September 1946, an American navy sailor killed a Chinese ricksha puller named Zang Dayaozi in a pointless dispute over an allegedly unpaid fare. The American military shielded the assailant from justice, with the frustrated acquiescence of the Nationalist authorities. This seemingly minor event illustrates that the century-old patterns of personal abuse and legal privilege did not completely evaporate when the “unequal treaty” system ended in 1943. In the context of the Chinese Civil War, the event takes on political significance as well. Critics of the Guomindang government used the episode to illustrate the destructive impact of American interventionism and the callous disregard of the Nanjing government for its own people. Communist propagandists linked Zang's death with the more famous rape of a Chinese college student involving two American Marines in Beiping. The episode further illustrates that American service personnel stationed abroad play multiple roles, interacting with the locals in particular “contact zones” but also serving as the personification of American foreign policy.


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