Van de Ven, Hans J.
Van de Ven, Hans J.
East Asia Institute, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, professor of modern Chinese history.
Lilienthal Prize, Institute of East Asian Studies, 1993, for From Friend to Comrade: The Founding of the Chinese Communist Party, 1920-1927.
(Editor, with Tony Saich) New Perspectives on the Chinese Communist Revolution, M.E. Sharpe (Armonk, NY), 1995.
(Editor) Warfare in Chinese History, Brill (Boston, MA), 2000.
(Editor) War and Nationalism in China, 1925-1945, Routledge Curzon (New York, NY), 2003.
Historian Hans J. Van de Ven specializes in political and military developments in nineteenth-and twentieth-century China. In From Friend to Comrade: The Founding of the Chinese Communist Party, 1920-1927, he challenges the view that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was from its formation in 1921 a centralized organization structured along Marxist-Leninist lines. Using materials from archives that had only recently been opened to western scholars, which included party documents from the 1920s, Van de Ven argues that the CCP began as a collection of study groups that did not cohere into a viable organization until 1927. Members were motivated at first not so much by Marxist ideology as by frustration over government corruption. From Friend to Comrade was well received by critics. David Strand, writing in the American Historical Review, found the book's thesis "useful and thought-provoking," adding that "Van de Ven has done scholars an invaluable service by freeing them from the simple search for deviations from an orthodoxy that was late in coming and from a leadership that was as much a function of who did not follow it as it was of who did." In the China Quarterly, Arif Dirlik described From Friend to Comrade as a "noteworthy contribution to our understanding of this important phase in the history of Communism in China."
New Perspectives on the Chinese Communist Revolution, which Van de Ven edited with Tony Saich, represents "some of the best scholarship currently being done outside China on the history of the Chinese Communist Revolution," according to Pacific Affairs reviewer Michael Schoenhals. Pointing out that the book's contributors had access to a wider range of evidence than had been available to earlier scholars, Schoenhals observed that the book is a "significant work that effectively challenges and overturns many past explanations of the CCP's victories—and failures—in the decades leading up to 1949."
Warfare in Chinese History, a collection of conference papers edited by Van de Ven, covers a broad span of history from the Han dynasty to the Communist Revolution. As Van de Ven notes in his introduction, the book shows the need to reexamine many popular assumptions about China's military history, including the belief that China has generally been unwilling to wage war. China Review International contributor Joanna Waley-Cohen considered the book "a very useful volume containing a wealth of new research." In Pacific Affairs, Dennis Showalter described it as a "comprehensively researched challenge to conventional Western wisdom on the Chinese Nationalist government's performance in the War of Resistance against Japan from 1931 to 1945." Journal of Military History reviewer Lewis Bernstein wrote that the book's essays are "uniformly superb," and concluded that "this collection sheds new light on warfare in Chinese history [and] will force the reader to abandon many preconceptions and drastically modify what is not abandoned."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, April, 1993, David Strand, review of From Friend to Comrade: The Founding of the Chinese Communist Party, 1920-1927, pp. 544-545.
Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, January, 1994, K.K. Shum, review of From Friend to Comrade, pp. 185-187.
China Journal, January, 1997, Pauline Keating, review of New Perspectives on the Chinese Communist Revolution, pp. 219-223.
China Quarterly, December, 1993, Arif Dirlik, review of From Friend to Comrade, pp. 1029-1030.
China Review International, fall, 2001, Joanna Waley-Cohen, review of Warfare in Chinese History, p. 557.
Journal of Asian Studies, May, 1994, Marilyn A. Levine, review of From Friend to Comrade, pp. 547-548.
Journal of Military History, July, 2001, Lewis Bernstein, review of Warfare in Chinese History, pp. 776-777.
Pacific Affairs, autumn, 1996, Michael Schoenhals, review of New Perspectives on the Chinese Communist Revolution, pp. 405-406; winter, 2004, Dennis Showalter, review of War and Nationalism in China: 1925-1945, p. 737.