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Chicken-Footed Gods or Village Protectors: Conscription, Community, and Conflict in Rural Sichuan, 1937–1945

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Mobilizing men to serve in the army was one of the fundamental tasks of the Nationalist government during the Anti-Japanese War (1937–45). Using ground-level conscription cases from counties around Chongqing, this paper examines wartime rural administration. In interior areas, the draft rested on rural administrators, the recently revived baojia system. The baojia heads were in a difficult position: the state demanded full quotas of draftees, while residents tried to leverage bureaucratic discipline by filing accusations against them with higher ups. Their divided loyalties produced both predation and protection. Alongside the familiar stories of predatory extortion and press-gang conscription, baojia leaders also acted in ways that were protective of their neighbours and communities. The patterns of draft-related cases in rural Sichuan revise our picture of baojia leaders as unchecked bullies and thus throw new light on both the KMT’s war effort and its state-making.


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