Maggie Clinton's objective in revisiting and dissecting the rhetoric, visions, and activities of the CC Clique and Blue Shirts within the Nationalist regime in China during the interwar years is to remind readers that the politics of invoking the glory of the national past is not necessarily “conservative” in nature. In five neatly packaged chapters, she gives a succinct account of how those two familiar—and influential—factions within the Nanjing government, closely aligned with the Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, “positioned themselves as political vanguards through skillful deployment of revolutionary rhetoric and modernist aesthetics” (p. 8).

Leaders of the factions were forward-looking, Clinton notes, eager to usher the country into an age of industrial modernity in an idealized nation that preserved social hierarchy yet was shorn of class conflicts. The invocation of the genius of Confucius and Chinese civilization would serve to animate and bind the nation together as one. Significantly, however,...

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