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Second Sino-Japanese War

The Second Sino-Japanese War (July 7, 1937  September 2, 1945) was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany (see Sino-German cooperation), the Soviet Union (1937 1940) and the United States (see American Volunteer Group). After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941), the war merged into the greater conflict of World War II as a major front of what is broadly known as the Pacific War. The Second Sino-Japanese War was the largest Asian war in the 20th century.[1] It also made up more than 50% of the casualties in the Pacific War if the 1937 1941 period is taken into account.

Although the two countries had fought intermittently since 1931, total war started in earnest in 1937 and ended only with the surrender of Japan in 1945. The war was the result of a decades-long Japanese imperialist policy aiming to dominate China politically and militarily and to secure its vast raw material reserves and other economic resources, particularly food and labour. Before 1937, China and Japan fought in small, localized engagements, so-called "incidents". In 1931, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria by Japan's Kwantung Army followed the Mukden Incident. The last of these incidents was the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of 1937, marking the beginning of total war between the two countries.

Initially the Japanese scored major victories in Shanghai and by the end of 1937 captured the Chinese capital of Nanking. After failing to stop the Japanese in Wuhan, the Chinese central government moved to Chungking in the Chinese interior. By 1939 the war had reached stalemate after Chinese victories in Changsha and Guangxi. The Japanese were also unable to defeat the Chinese communists forces in Shaanxi, which performed harassment and sabotage operations against the Japanese. On the 7th of December 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the following day (December 8) the United States declared war on Japan. Japan surrendered in 1945.



Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, Allied Commander-in-Chief in the China theatre from 1942 to 1945.

In the Chinese language, the war is most commonly known as the War of Resistance Against Japan (), and also known as the Eight Years' War of Resistance( / ), simply War of Resistance ( / ), or Second Sino-Japanese War ( / ). The beginning of the war.


In Japan, the name is most commonly used because of its perceived objectivity. In Japan today, it is written as in shinjitai. When the invasion of China proper began in earnest in July 1937 near Beijing, the government of Japan used , and with the outbreak of the Battle of Shanghai the following month, it was changed to .

The word was used by Japan, as neither country had made a formal declaration of war. Japan wanted to avoid intervention by other countries, particularly the United Kingdom and the United States, which were her primary source of petroleum; the United States was also her biggest supplier of steel. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt would have been legally obliged to impose an embargo on Japan in observance of the US Neutrality Acts had the fighting been formally escalated to "general war".

Other names

In Japanese propaganda however, the invasion of China became a "holy war" (seisen), the first step of the . In 1940, Japanese Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe launched the Taisei Yokusankai. When both sides formally declared war in December 1941, the name was replaced by .

Although the Japanese government still uses the term "China Incident" in formal documents, because the word Shina is considered a derogatory word by China, the media in Japan often paraphrase with other expressions like , which were used by media even in the 1930s.

In addition, the name "Second Sino-Japanese War" is not usually used in Japan, as the between Japan and the Qing Dynasty in 1894 is not regarded to have obvious direct linkage to the second, between Japan and the Republic of China.


First Sino-Japanese War

The origin of the Second Sino-Japanese War can be traced to the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894 95, in which China, then under the Qing Dynasty, was defeated by Japan and was forced to cede Taiwan to it, and to recognize the independence of Korea in the Treaty of Shimonoseki. The Qing Dynasty was on the brink of collapse from internal revolts and foreign imperialism, while Japan had emerged as a great power through its effective measures of modernization.[2]

The Republic of China

The Republic of China was founded in 1912, following the Xinhai Revolution which overthrew the Qing Dynasty. However, central authority disintegrated and the Republic's authority succumbed to that of regional warlords. Unifying the nation and repelling imperialism seemed a very remote possibility.[3] Some warlords even aligned themselves with various foreign powers in an effort to wipe each other out. For example, the warlord Zhang Zuolin of Manchuria openly cooperated with the Japanese for military and economic assistance.[4]

Twenty-One Demands

In 1915, Japan issued the Twenty-One Demands to extort further political and commercial privilege from China.[5] Following World War I, Japan acquired the German Empire's sphere of influence in Shandong[6] (Shantung), leading to nationwide anti-Japanese protests and mass demonstrations in China, but China under the Beiyang government remained fragmented and unable to resist foreign incursions.[7] To unite China and eradicate regional warlords, the Kuomintang (KMT, or Chinese Nationalist Party) in Guangzhou launched the Northern Expedition of 1926 28.[8]

Jinan Incident

The Kuomintang's National Revolutionary Army (NRA) swept through China until it was checked in Shandong, where Beiyang warlord Zhang Zongchang, backed by the Japanese, attempted to stop the NRA's advance. This battle culminated in the Jinan Incident of 1928 in which the National Revolutionary Army and the Imperial Japanese Army were engaged in a short conflict that resulted in Kuomintang's withdrawal from Jinan.[9]

Zhang Zuolin and Chiang Kai Shek

In the same year, Zhang Zuolin was assassinated when he became less willing to cooperate with Japan.[10] Afterwards Zhang's son Zhang Xueliang quickly took over control of Manchuria, and despite strong Japanese lobbying efforts to continue the resistance against the KMT, he shortly declared his allegiance to the Kuomintang government under Chiang Kai-shek, which resulted in the nominal unification of China at the end of 1928.[11]

Communist Party of China

However in 1930, a large-scale civil war broke out between warlords who fought in alliance with Kuomintang during the Northern Expedition and central government under Chiang. In addition, the Chinese Communists (CCP, or Communist Party of China) revolted against the central government following a purge of its members by the KMT in 1927. Therefore the Chinese central government diverted much attention into fighting these civil wars and followed a policy of "first internal pacification before external resistance"(:).

Course of the war

Invasion of Manchuria, interventions in China

Kwantung Army entering Shenyang during the Mukden Incident.
Kwantung Army entering Shenyang during the Mukden Incident.
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek announced the Kuomintang policy of resistance against Japan at Lushan on July 10, 1937, three days after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident.
Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek announced the Kuomintang policy of resistance against Japan at Lushan on July 10, 1937, three days after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident.

The situation in China provided an easy opportunity for Japan to further its goals. Japan saw Manchuria as a limitless supply of raw materials, a market for her manufactured goods (now excluded from many Western countries by Depression era tariffs), and as a protective buffer state against the Soviet Union in Siberia. Japan invaded Manchuria outright after the Mukden Incident ( ) in September 1931. After five months of fighting, the puppet state of Manchukuo was established in 1932, with the last emperor of China, Puyi, installed as a puppet ruler. Militarily too weak to directly challenge Japan, China appealed to the League of Nations for help. The League's investigation was published as the Lytton Report, condemning Japan for its incursion into Manchuria, and causing Japan to withdraw from the League of Nations entirely. Appeasement being the predominant policy of the day, no country was willing to take action against Japan beyond tepid censure.

Incessant fighting followed the Mukden Incident. In 1932, Chinese and Japanese troops fought a short war in the January 28 Incident. This battle resulted in the demilitarisation of Shanghai, which forbade the Chinese from deploying troops in their own city. In Manchukuo there was an ongoing campaign to defeat the anti-Japanese volunteer armies that arose from widespread outrage over the policy of non-resistance to Japan.

In 1933, the Japanese attacked the Great Wall region, the Tanggu Truce taking place in its aftermath, giving Japan control of Rehe province as well as a demilitarized zone between the Great Wall and Beiping-Tianjin region. Here the Japanese aim was to create another buffer region, this time between Manchukuo and the Chinese Nationalist government in Nanjing.

Japan increasingly used internal conflict in China to reduce the strength of her fractious opponents. This was precipitated by the fact that even years after the Northern Expedition, the political power of the Nationalist government was limited to just the area of the Yangtze River Delta. Other sections of China were essentially in the hands of local Chinese warlords. Japan sought various Chinese collaborators and helped them establish governments friendly to Japan. This policy was called the Specialization of North China (), more commonly known as the North China Autonomous Movement. The northern provinces affected by this policy were Chahar, Suiyuan, Hebei, Shanxi, and Shandong.

This Japanese policy was most effective in the area of what is now Inner Mongolia and Hebei. In 1935, under Japanese pressure, China signed the He Umezu Agreement, which forbade the KMT from conducting party operations in Hebei. In the same year, the Chin Doihara Agreement was signed expelling the KMT from Chahar. Thus, by the end of 1935 the Chinese government had essentially abandoned northern China. In its place, the Japanese-backed East Hebei Autonomous Council and the Hebei Chahar Political Council were established. There in the empty space of Chahar the Mongol Military Government ( ) was formed on May 12, 1936, Japan providing all necessary military and economic aid. Afterwards Chinese volunteer forces continued to resist Japanese aggression in Manchuria, and Chahar and Suiyuan.

Full scale invasion of China

Casualties of a mass panic during a June 1941 Japanese bombing of Chongqing. More than 5000 civilians died during the first two days of air raids in 1939[12]

Most historians place the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War on July 7, 1937 at the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, when a crucial access point to Beijing was assaulted by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). Because the Chinese defenders were the poorly equipped infantry divisions of the former Northwest Army, the Japanese easily captured Beiping and Tianjin.

The Imperial General Headquarters (GHQ) in Tokyo were initially reluctant to escalate the conflict into full scale war, being content with the victories achieved in northern China following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. However, the KMT central government determined that the "breaking point" of Japanese aggression had been reached and Chiang Kai-shek quickly mobilized the central government army and air force under his direct command to attack the Japanese Marines in Shanghai on August 13, 1937, which led to the Battle of Shanghai. The IJA had to mobilize over 200,000 troops, coupled with numerous naval vessels and aircraft to capture Shanghai after more than three months of intense fighting, with casualties far exceeding initial expectations.[13]

Building on the hard won victory in Shanghai, the IJA captured the KMT capital city of Nanjing (Nanking) and Northern Shanxi by the end of 1937, in campaigns involving approximately 350,000 Japanese soldiers, and considerably more Chinese. Historians estimate up to 300,000 Chinese were mass murdered in the Nanking Massacre (also known as the "Rape of Nanking"), after the fall of Nanking on December 13, 1937, while some Japanese deny the existence of a massacre.

At the start of 1938, the Headquarters in Tokyo still hoped to limit the scope of the conflict to occupying areas around Shanghai, Nanjing and most of northern China. They thought this would preserve strength for an anticipated showdown with the Soviet Union, but by now the Japanese government and GHQ had effectively lost control of the Japanese army in China. With many victories achieved, Japanese field generals escalated the war and finally met with defeat at Taierzhuang. Afterwards the IJA had to change its strategy and deploy almost all of its armies in the attack on the city of Wuhan, which by now was the political, economic and military center of China, in hopes of destroying the fighting strength of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) and forcing the KMT government to negotiate for peace.[14] But after the Japanese capture of the city of Wuhan on October 27, 1938, the KMT was forced to retreat to Chongqing (Chungking) to set up a provisional capital, with Chiang Kai-shek still refusing to negotiate unless Japan agreed to withdraw to her pre-1937 borders.

With Japanese casualties and costs mounting, the Imperial General Headquarters decided to retaliate by ordering the air force of the navy and the army to launch the war's first massive air raids on civilian targets in the provisional capital of Chongqing and nearly every major city in unoccupied China, leaving millions dead, injured and homeless.

From the beginning of 1939 the war entered a new phase with the unprecedented defeat of the Japanese at Changsha and Guangxi. These outcomes encouraged the Chinese to launch its first large-scale counter-offensive against the IJA in early 1940. However, due to its low military-industrial capacity and limited experience in modern warfare, the NRA was defeated in this offensive. Afterwards Chiang could not risk any more all-out offensive campaigns given the poorly trained, under-equipped, and disorganized state of his armies and opposition to his leadership both within the Kuomintang and in China in general. He had lost a substantial portion of his best trained and equipped men in the Battle of Shanghai and was at times at the mercy of his generals, who maintained a high degree of autonomy from the central KMT government.

From 1940 on the Japanese encountered tremendous difficulties in administering and garrisoning the seized territories, and tried to solve its occupation problems by implementing a strategy of creating friendly puppet governments favourable to Japanese interests in the territories conquered, the most prominent being the Nanjing Nationalist Government headed by former KMT premier Wang Jingwei. However, the atrocities committed by the Japanese army, as well as Japanese refusal to delegate any real power, left them very unpopular and largely ineffective. The only success the Japanese had was the ability to recruit a large Collaborationist Chinese Army to maintain public security in the occupied areas.

By 1941 Japan held most of the eastern coastal areas of China and Vietnam, but guerilla fighting continued in these occupied areas. Japan had suffered tremendous casualties from unexpectedly stubborn Chinese resistance, and neither side could make any swift progress in a manner resembling the fall of France and Western Europe to Nazi Germany.

Chinese resistance strategy

Muslim General Ma Fushou in a show of solidarity with Chiang Kai-Shek.

Chinese soldiers in house-to-house fighting in Battle of Taierzhuang.
Chinese soldiers in house-to-house fighting in Battle of Taierzhuang.

The basis of Chinese strategy before the entrance of Western Allies can be divided into two periods:

First Period: 7 July 1937 (Battle of Lugou Bridge)  25 October 1938 (Fall of Wuhan).

Unlike Japan, China was unprepared for total war and had little military-industrial strength, no mechanized divisions, and few armoured forces.[15] Up until the mid-1930s China had hoped that the League of Nations would provide countermeasures to Japan's aggression. In addition, the Kuomintang (KMT) government was mired in a civil war against the Communist Party of China (CCP), as Chiang Kai-shek was quoted: "the Japanese are a disease of the skin, the Communists are a disease of the heart". The Second United Front between the KMT and CCP was never truly unified, as each side was preparing for a showdown with the other once the Japanese were driven out.

Even under these extremely unfavorable circumstances, Chiang realized that to win support from the United States and other foreign nations, China had to prove it was capable of fighting. A fast retreat would discourage foreign aid so Chiang decided to make a stand in the Battle of Shanghai. Chiang sent the best of his German-trained divisions to defend China's largest and most industrialized city from the Japanese. The battle lasted over three months, saw heavy casualties on both sides and ended with a Chinese retreat towards Nanjing. While this was a military defeat for the Chinese, it proved that China would not be defeated easily and showed China's determination to the world, which became an enormous morale booster for the Chinese people as it decisively refuted the Japanese boast that Japan could conquer Shanghai in three days and China in three months.

Afterwards the Chinese began to adopt the strategy of "trading space for time" (: ). The Chinese army would put up fights to delay Japanese advance to northern and eastern cities, to allow the home front, along with its professionals and key industries, to retreat west into Chongqing. As a result of Chinese troops' scorched earth strategies, where dams and levees were intentionally sabotaged to create massive flooding, the consecutive Japanese advancements and conquests began to stall in late 1938.

Second Period: 25 October 1938 (Fall of Wuhan)  December 1941 (before the Allies' declaration of war on Japan).

During this period, the Chinese main objective was to prolong the war as long as possible, exhausting the Japanese resources and building up the Chinese military capacity. American general Joseph Stilwell called this strategy "winning by outlasting". Therefore, the National Revolutionary Army adopted the concept of "magnetic warfare" to attract advancing Japanese troops to definite points where they were subjected to ambush, flanking attacks, and encirclements in major engagements. The most prominent example of this tactic is the successful defense of Changsha in 1939 and again in 1941 while inflicting heavy casualties on the IJA.

Local Chinese resistance forces, organised separately by both the Chinese communists and KMT continued their resistance in occupied areas to pester the enemy and make their administration over the vast lands of China difficult. In 1940 the Chinese Red Army launched a major offensive in north China, destroyed railways and blew up a major coal mine. These constant harassment and sabotage operations deeply frustrated the Japanese army and led them to employ the "Three Alls Policy" (kill all, loot all, burn all) (, Hanyu Pinyin: S ngu ng Zh ngc , Japanese On: Sank Seisaku). It was during this time period that the bulk of Japanese war crimes were committed.

By 1941, Japan had occupied much of north and coastal China, but the KMT central government and military had successfully retreated to the western interior to continue their resistance, while the Chinese communists remained in control of base areas in Shaanxi. Furthermore, in the occupied areas Japanese control was limited to just railroads and major cities ("points and lines"), but they did not have a major military or administrative presence in the vast Chinese countryside, which was a hotbed of Chinese partisan activities. This stalemate situation made a decisive victory seem impossible to the Japanese.

Relationship between the Nationalists and Communists

After the Mukden Incident in 1931, Chinese public opinion strongly criticized the leader of Manchuria, the "young marshal" Zhang Xueliang, for his nonresistance to the Japanese invasion, even though the Kuomintang central government was indirectly responsible for this policy. Afterwards Chiang Kai-shek assigned Zhang and his Northeast Army the duty of suppressing the Red Army of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Shaanxi after their Long March. This resulted in great casualties for his Northeast Army, and Chiang Kai-shek did not give him any support in manpower and weaponry.

On 12 December 1936 a deeply disgruntled Zhang Xueliang decided to conspire with the CCP and kidnapped Chiang Kai-shek in Xi'an to force an end to the conflict between KMT and CCP. To secure the release of Chiang, the KMT was forced to agree to a temporary end to the Chinese Civil War and the forming of a United Front between the CCP and KMT against Japan on 24 December 1936. The cooperation took place with salutary effects for the beleaguered CCP, and they agreed to form the New Fourth Army and the 8th Route Army which were nominally under the command of the National Revolutionary Army. The Red Army of CCP fought in alliance with the KMT forces during the Battle of Taiyuan, and the high point of their cooperation came in 1938 during the Battle of Wuhan.

front]] in 1939. Eighth Route Army Commander Zhu De with KMT Blue Sky White Sun Emblem cap.

However, despite Japan's steady territorial gains in northern China, the coastal regions, and the rich Yangtze River Valley in central China, the distrust between the two antagonists was scarcely veiled. The uneasy alliance began to break down by late 1938 as a result of the Communists' efforts to aggressively expand their military strength through absorbing Chinese guerrilla forces behind enemy lines. For Chinese militia who refused to switch their allegiance, the CCP would call them "collaborators" and then attack to eliminate their forces. For example, the Red Army led by He Long attacked and wiped out a brigade of Chinese militia led by Zhang Yin-wu in Hebei in June, 1939.[16] Starting in 1940, open conflicts between the Nationalists and Communists became more frequent in the occupied areas outside of Japanese control, culminating in the New Fourth Army Incident in January 1941.

Afterwards, the Second United Front completely broke down and Chinese Communists leader Mao Zedong outlined the preliminary plan for the CCP's eventual seizure of power from Chiang Kai-shek. Mao began his final push for consolidation of CCP power under his authority, and his teachings became the central tenets of the CCP doctrine that came to be formalized as "Mao Zedong Thought". The communists also began to focus most of their energy on building up their sphere of influence wherever opportunities were presented, mainly through rural mass organizations, administrative, land and tax reform measures favoring poor peasants; while the Nationalists attempted to neutralize the spread of Communist influence by military blockade of areas controlled by CCP and fighting the Japanese at the same time[17]

Foreign support for China

At the outbreak of full scale war, many global powers were reluctant to provide support to China; because in their opinion the Chinese would eventually lose the war, and they did not wish to antagonize the Japanese who might, in turn, eye their colonial possessions in the region. They expected any support given to the Chinese might worsen their own relationship with the Japanese, who taunted the Chinese with the prospect of conquest within three months. However, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union did provide support to the Chinese before the war escalated to the Asian theatre of World War II, with the United States and Allies lending support to China afterwards.

German support

Prior to the outbreak of the war, Germany and China had close economic and military cooperation, with Germany helping China modernize its industry and military in exchange for raw materials. More than half of the German arms exports during its rearmament period were to China. Nevertheless the proposed 30 new divisions equipped and trained with German assistance did not materialize when Germany withdrew its support in 1938, because Adolf Hitler wanted to form an alliance with Japan against the Soviet Union.

Soviet support

I-16 with Chinese insignia. I-16 was the main fighter plane used by the Chinese Air Force and Soviet volunteers.
I-16 with Chinese insignia. I-16 was the main fighter plane used by the Chinese Air Force and Soviet volunteers.

With the signing of the Anti-Comintern Pact between Germany and Japan, the Soviet Union wished to keep China in the war to hinder the Japanese from invading Siberia, thus saving itself from the threat of a two-front war. In September 1937, the Soviet leadership signed the Sino-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, began aiding China, and approved Operation Zet, a Soviet volunteer air force. As part of the secret operation, Soviet technicians upgraded and handled some of the Chinese war-supply transport. Bombers, fighters, military supplies and advisors arrived, including Soviet general Vasily Chuikov, later to become victor at the Battle of Stalingrad. Prior to the entrance of Western allies, the Soviet Union provided the largest amount of foreign aid to China, totalling some $250 million of credits in munitions and supplies. In 1941, Soviet aid ended as a result of the Soviet Japanese Neutrality Pact and the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. This pact enabled the Soviet Union to avoid fighting against Germany and Japan at the same time. 3,665 Soviet advisors and pilots fought for the Chinese side[18] In total, 227 Soviets died fighting in China.

Allied support

A "blood chit" issued to AVG pilots requesting all Chinese to offer rescue and protection.

From December 1937 events such as the Japanese attack on the USS Panay and the Nanking Massacre swung public opinion in the West sharply against Japan and increased their fear of Japanese expansion, which prompted the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to provide loan assistance for war supply contracts to the Republic of China. Furthermore, Australia prevented a Japanese government-owned company from taking over an iron mine in Australia, and banned iron ore exports in 1938.[19] Japan retaliated by invading and occupying the northern part of French Indochina (present-day Vietnam, Laos) in 1940, and successfully blockaded China from the import of arms, fuel and 10,000 tons/month of materials supplied by the Allies through the Haiphong-Yunnan Fou railway line.

US Air Forces video:Flying Tigers Bite Back In mid-1941, the United States government financed the creation of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), or Flying Tigers, to replace the withdrawal of Soviet volunteers and aircraft. Contrary to legend, however, the Flying Tigers did not start fighting Japan until after the United States had entered the war against Japan. Led by Claire Lee Chennault, their early combat success of 300 kills against a loss of 12 of their shark painted P-40 fighters earned them wide recognition at the time when Allies were suffering heavy losses, and soon afterwards their dogfighting tactics would be adopted by the United States Army Air Forces. In July 1941, Japan occupied the southern part of French Indochina (Southern Vietnam and Cambodia), contravening a 1940 "Gentlemens' Agreement" not to move into southern French Indochina. From bases in Cambodia and Southern Vietnam, Japanese planes could attack Malaya, Singapore as well as the Dutch Indies. As the Japanese occupation of Northern French Indochina in 1940 had already cut off supplies from the West to China, the move into Southern French Indochina was viewed as a direct threat to British and Dutch colonies. Many principal figures in the Japanese government and military (especially the navy) were against such a move, as they foresaw that it would invite retaliation from the West. Sure enough, several days after the Japanese had occupied Southern French Indochina, the United States, Britain, and the Dutch East Indies began oil and/or steel embargos against Japan. The loss of oil imports made it impossible for Japan to continue operations in China. This set the stage for Japan to launch a series of military attacks against the Allies when the Imperial Japanese Navy raided Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

Entrance of Western Allies

On February 18, 1943, Madame Chiang addressed both houses of the U.S. Congress.

Chiang Kai-shek, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill met at the Cairo Conference in 1943 during World War II.
Chiang Kai-shek, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill met at the Cairo Conference in 1943 during World War II.
Mao Zedong (second from left in a dark uniform) and Communist Party of China (CPC) officials meeting with United States Ambassador to China, Patrick Hurley (at center - in bow tie), at CPC headquarters in Yan'an, 1945. A U.S. poster advocating to help China fight on.

Within a few days of the attack on Pearl Harbor, China formally declared war against Japan, Germany and Italy,[20] and almost immediately the Chinese troops achieved another decisive victory in the Battle of Changsha, which earned the Chinese government much prestige from the Allies. President Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union and China as the world's "Four Policemen", elevating the international status of China to an unprecedented height after a century of humiliation at the hands of various imperialist powers.

Chiang Kai-shek continued to receive supplies from the United States as the Chinese conflict was merged into the Asian theatre of World War II. However, in contrast to the Arctic supply route to the Soviet Union that stayed open most of the war, sea routes to China and the Yunnan Vietnam Railway had been closed since 1940. Therefore between the closing of the Burma Road in 1942 and its re-opening as the Ledo Road in 1945, foreign aid was largely limited to what could be flown in over "The Hump".

Most of China's own industry had already been captured or destroyed by Japan, and the Soviet Union refused to allow the United States to supply China through Kazakhstan into Xinjiang because the Xinjiang warlord Sheng Shicai turned anti-Soviet in 1942 with Chiang's approval. For these reasons, the Chinese government never had the supplies and equipment needed to mount major counter-offensives. Despite the severe shortage of materiel, in 1943, the Chinese were successful in repelling major Japanese offensives in Hubei and Changde.

Chiang was appointed Allied commander-in-chief in the China theater in 1942, while American general Joseph Stilwell served for a time as Chiang's chief of staff, and at the same time commanding American forces in the China Burma India Theater. However, relations between Stilwell and Chiang soon broke down for many reasons. Many historians (such as Barbara W. Tuchman) suggested it was largely due to the corruption and inefficiency of the Kuomintang (KMT) government. However, other historians (such as Ray Huang) and Hans van de Ven found that it was a more complicated situation. Stilwell had a strong desire to assume total control of Chinese troops and pursue an aggressive strategy, while Chiang preferred a patient and less expensive strategy of outwaiting the Japanese. Chiang continued to maintain a defensive posture despite pleas from the other Allies to actively break the Japanese blockade, because China had already suffered tens of millions of war casualties and believed that Japan would eventually capitulate to America's overwhelming industrial output. Due to these reasons the other Allies gradually began to lose confidence in the Chinese ability to conduct offensive operations from the Asian mainland, and instead concentrated their efforts against the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean Areas and South West Pacific Area, employing an island hopping strategy.[21]

Longstanding differences in national interest and political stance among China, the United States, and the United Kingdom did not disappear. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was reluctant to devote British troops, the majority of whom had been routed by the Japanese in earlier campaigns, to reopen the Burma Road. On the other hand, Stilwell believed that the reopening of the Burma Road was vital to China as all the ports on mainland China were under Japanese control. The Allies' "Europe First" policy obviously did not sit well with Chiang, while the later British insistence that China send in more and more troops into Indochina in the Burma Campaign was suspected by Chiang as an attempt by Britain to use Chinese manpower to defend British colonial holdings and prevent the gate to India from falling to Japan. Chiang also believed that China should divert their crack army divisions from Burma to eastern China to defend the airbases of the American bombers and defeat Japan through bombing, a strategy that American general Claire Lee Chennault supported but Stilwell strongly opposed. In addition, Chiang voiced his support of Indian independence in a meeting with Mahatma Gandhi in 1942, which further soured the relationship between China and the United Kingdom.[22]

American and Canadian-born Chinese were recruited to act as covert operatives in Japanese-occupied China (Canadian-born Chinese having not yet been granted citizenship were trained by the British army). Employing their racial background as a disguise, their mandate was to blend in with local citizens and wage a campaign of sabotage. Activities focused on destruction of Japanese transportation of supplies (signaling bomber destruction of railroads, bridges).[23]

The United States saw the Chinese theater as a means to tie up a large number of Japanese troops, as well as being a location for American airbases from which to strike the Japanese home islands. In 1944, as the Japanese position in the Pacific was deteriorating fast, the IJA mobilized over 400,000 men and launched their Operation Ichi-Go, their largest offensive in World War II to attack the American airbases in China and link up the railway between Manchuria and Vietnam. This brought major cities in Hunan, Henan and Guangxi under Japanese occupation. The failure of the Chinese forces to defend these areas encouraged Stilwell to attempt to gain command of the entire Chinese army, and his subsequent showdown with Chiang led to his replacement by Major General Albert Coady Wedemeyer.

However, by the end of 1944 Chinese troops under the command of Sun Li-jen attacking from India and those under the command of Wei Lihuang attacking from Yunnan joined forces in Mong-Yu, which succeeded in driving out the Japanese in North Burma and securing the Ledo Road, a vital supply route to China.[24] In Spring 1945 the Chinese launched offensives and retook Hunan and Guangxi. With the Chinese army progressing well in training and equipment, Wedemeyer planned to launch Operation Carbonado in summer 1945 to retake Guangdong, thus obtaining a coastal port, and from there drive northwards toward Shanghai. However, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Soviet invasion of Manchuria hastened Japanese surrender and these plans were not put into action.

Intrusion into French Indochina

The Chinese Kuomintang also supported the Vietnamese Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang in its battle against French and Japanese imperialism.

In Guangxi Chinese military leaders were organizing Vietnamese nationalists against the Japanese. The VNQDD had been active in Guangxi and some of their members had joined the KMT army.[25] Under the umbrella of KMT activities, a broad alliance of nationalists emerged. With Ho at the forefront, the Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi (Vietnamese Independence League, usually known as the Viet Minh) was formed and based in the town of Chinghsi.[25] The pro-VNQDD nationalist Ho Ngoc Lam, a KMT army officer and former disciple of Phan Boi Chau,[26] was named as the deputy of Ph m V n ng, later to be Ho's Prime Minister. The front was later broadened and renamed the Viet Nam Giai Phong Dong Minh (Vietnam Liberation League).[25]

The Viet Nam Revolutionary League was a union of various Vietnamese nationalist groups, run by the pro Chinese VNQDD. Chinese KMT General Zhang Fakui created the league to further Chinese influence in Indochina, against the French and Japanese. Its stated goal was for unity with China under the Three Principles of the People, created by KMT founder Dr. Sun and opposition to Vietnamese and French Imperialists.[27][28] The Revolutionary League was controlled by Nguyen Hai Than, who was born in china and could not speak Vietnamese. General Zhang shrewdly blocked the Communists of Vietnam, and Ho Chi Minh from entering the league, as Zhang's main goal was Chinese influence in Indo China.[29] The KMT utilized these Vietnamese nationalists during World War II against Japanese forces.[25] Franklin D. Roosevelt, through General Stilwell, privately made it clear that they preferred that the French not reacquire French Indochina (modern day Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos) after the war was over. Roosevelt offered Chiang Kai-shek control of all of Indochina. It was said that Chiang Kai-shek replied: "Under no circumstances!".[30]

After the war, 200,000 Chinese troops under General Lu Han were sent by Chiang Kai-shek to northern Indochina (north of the 16th parallel) to accept the surrender of Japanese occupying forces there, and remained in Indochina until 1946, when the French returned.[31] The Chinese used the VNQDD, the Vietnamese branch of the Chinese Kuomintang, to increase their influence in Indochina and to put pressure on their opponents.[32] Chiang Kai-shek threatened the French with war in response to manoeuvering by the French and Ho Chi Minh's forces against each other, forcing them to come to a peace agreement. In February, 1946 he also forced the French to surrender all of their concessions in China and to renounce their extraterritorial privileges in exchange for the Chinese withdrawing from northern Indochina and allowing French troops to reoccupy the region. Following France's agreement to these demands, the withdrawal of Chinese troops began in March 1946.[33][34][35][36]

Contemporaneous wars being fought by China

The Chinese were not entirely devoting all their resources to the Japanese, because they were fighting several other wars at the same time.

The Soviet Union attacked the Republic of China in 1937 during the Xinjiang War (1937). The Muslim General Ma Hushan of the Kuomintang 36th Division (National Revolutionary Army) resisted the Soviet invasion, which was being led by Russian troops commanded by Muslim General Ma Zhanshan, previously one of Chiang Kaishek's suboordinates.

General Ma Hushan was expecting some sort of help from Nanjing, as he exchanged messages with Chiang regarding Soviet attack. Both the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Xinjiang War erupting simultaneously rendered Chiang and Ma Hushan on their own to confront the Japanese and Soviet forces.

The Republic of China government was fully aware of the Soviet invasion of Xinjiang province, and Soviet troops moving around Xinjiang and Gansu, but was forced to mask these manoeuvers to the public as "Japanese propaganda" to avoid an international incident and for continued military supplies from the Soviets.[37]

Because the pro-Soviet governor Sheng Shicai controlled Xinjiang, which was garrisoned with Soviet troops in Turfan, which bordered Gansu, the Chinese government had to keep troops stationed there as well.

The Muslim General Ma Buqing was in virtual control of the Gansu corridor at this time.[38] Ma Buqing had earlier fought against the Japanese, but because the Soviet threat was great, Chiang made some arrangements regarding Ma's position. In July 1942 Chiang Kai-shek instructed Ma Buqing to move 30,000 of his troops to the Tsaidam marsh in the Qaidam Basin of Qinghai.[39][40] Chiang named Ma Reclamation Commissioner, to threaten Sheng Shicai's southern flank in Xinjiang, which bordered Tsaidam.

After Ma evacuated his positions in Gansu, Kuomintang troops from central China flooded the area, and inflitrated Soviet occupied Xinjiang, gradually reclaiming it and forcing Sheng Shicai to break with the Soviets. The Kuomintang ordered Ma Bufang several times to march his troops into Xinjiang to intimidate the pro-Soviet Governor Sheng Shicai. This helped provide protection for Chinese settling in Xinjiang.[41]

The Ili Rebellion broke out in Xinjiang when the Kuomintang Chinese Muslim Officer Liu Bin-Di was killed while fighting Turkic Uyghur Rebels in November 1944. The Soviet Union supported the Turkic rebels against the Kuomintang, and Kuomintang forces were fighting back.[42]

Use of chemical and bacteriological weapons

Japanese soldiers wearing gas masks and rubber gloves during a chemical attack in the Battle of Shanghai.
Japanese soldiers wearing gas masks and rubber gloves during a chemical attack in the Battle of Shanghai.
Despite Article 23 of the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907), article V of the Treaty in Relation to the Use of Submarines and Noxious Gases in Warfare,[43] article 171 of the Treaty of Versailles and a resolution adopted by the League of Nations on May 14, 1938, condemning the use of poison gas by the Empire of Japan, the Imperial Japanese Army frequently used chemical weapons during the war.

Japanese troops stage a poison gas attack in China. According to historians Yoshiaki Yoshimi and Seiya Matsuno, the chemical weapons were authorized by specific orders given by Japanese Emperor Hirohito himself, transmitted by the Imperial General Headquarters. For example, the Emperor authorized the use of toxic gas on 375 separate occasions during the Battle of Wuhan from August to October 1938.[44] They were also used during the invasion of Changde. Those orders were transmitted either by Prince Kan'in Kotohito or General Hajime Sugiyama.[45]

Bacteriological weapons provided by Shir Ishii's units were also profusely used. For example, in 1940, the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force bombed Ningbo with fleas carrying the bubonic plague.[46] During the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials the accused, such as Major General Kiyashi Kawashima, testified that, in 1941, some 40 members of Unit 731 air-dropped plague-contaminated fleas on Changde. These attacks caused epidemic plague outbreaks.[47]

Ethnic minorities

Japan attempted to reach out to ethnic minorities to rally to their side, but only succeeded with certain Manchu, Mongol, and Uyghur elements.

Conclusion and aftermath

End of Pacific War and surrender of Japanese troops in China

Soviet troops in Harbin The United States and the Soviet Union put an end to the Sino-Japanese War (and World War II) by attacking the Japanese with a new weapon (on America's part) and an incursion into Manchuria (on the Soviet Union's part). On August 6, an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, dropped the first atomic bomb used in combat on Hiroshima. On August 9, the Soviet Union renounced its non-aggression pact with Japan and attacked the Japanese in Manchuria, fulfilling its Yalta Conference pledge to attack the Japanese within three months after the end of the war in Europe. The attack was made by three Soviet army groups.

In less than two weeks the Kwantung Army, which was the primary Japanese fighting force,[48][49] consisting of over a million men but lacking in adequate armor, artillery, or air support had been destroyed by the Soviets. On August 9, a second atomic bomb was dropped by the United States on Nagasaki. Japanese Emperor Hirohito officially capitulated to the Allies on August 15, 1945, and the official surrender was signed aboard the battleship on September 2.

Japanese troops surrendering to the Chinese.

After the Allied victory in the Pacific, General Douglas MacArthur ordered all Japanese forces within China (excluding Manchuria), Formosa and French Indochina north of 16 north latitude to surrender to Chiang Kai-shek, and the Japanese troops in China formally surrendered on September 9, 1945.

The war is often regarded as a Pyrrhic victory for the main combatant, the Republic of China and its political party the KMT. This is mainly due to the fact that the ROC lost its main fighting strength against the IJA and therefore when the civil war resumed, the KMT lost the initiative and resources to fight the Communist Party of China, therefore the war is considered "Pyrrhic".

Post-war struggle and resumption of civil war

Commander-in-chief of the China Expeditionary Army Yasuji Okamura presenting the Japanese Instrument of Surrender to general He Yingqin at Nanjing on 9 September 1945

In 1945 China emerged from the war nominally a great military power but economically weak and on the verge of all-out civil war. The economy was sapped by the military demands of a long costly war and internal strife, by spiraling inflation, and by corruption in the Nationalist government that included profiteering, speculation and hoarding.

Furthermore, as part of the Yalta Conference, allowing a Soviet sphere of influence in Manchuria, the Soviets dismantled and removed more than half of the industrial equipment left there by the Japanese before handing over Manchuria to China. Large swathes of the prime farming areas had been ravaged by the fighting and there was starvation in the wake of the war. Many towns and cities were destroyed, and millions were rendered homeless by floods.

The problems of rehabilitation and reconstruction from the ravages of a protracted war were staggering, and the war left the Nationalists severely weakened, and their policies left them unpopular. Meanwhile, the war strengthened the Communists both in popularity and as a viable fighting force. At Yan'an and elsewhere in the communist controlled areas, Mao Zedong was able to adapt Marxism Leninism to Chinese conditions. He taught party cadres to lead the masses by living and working with them, eating their food, and thinking their thoughts.

The Chinese Red Army fostered an image of conducting guerrilla warfare in defense of the people. Communist troops adapted to changing wartime conditions and became a seasoned fighting force. With skillful organizational and propaganda, the Communists increased party membership from 100,000 in 1937 to 1.2 million by 1945.

The Chinese return to Liuzhou in July 1945

Mao also began to execute his plan to establish a new China by rapidly moving his forces from Yan'an and elsewhere to Manchuria. This opportunity was available to the Communists because although Nationalist representatives were not invited to Yalta, they had been consulted and had agreed to the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in the belief that the Soviet Union would deal only with the Nationalist government after the war.

However, the Soviet occupation of Manchuria was long enough to allow the Communist forces to move in en masse and arm themselves with the military hardware surrendered by the Japanese army, quickly establish control in the countryside and move into position to encircle the Nationalist government army in major cities of northeast China. The Chinese Civil War broke out between the Nationalists and Communists following that, which concluded with the Communist victory in mainland China and the retreat of the Nationalists to Taiwan in 1949.

Peace treaty and Taiwan

The Taiwan Strait and the island of Taiwan. Taiwan and the Penghu islands were put under the administrative control of the Republic of China (ROC) government in 1945 by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.[50] The ROC proclaimed Taiwan Retrocession Day on October 25, 1945. However, due to the unresolved Chinese Civil War, neither the newly established People's Republic of China (PRC) in mainland China nor the Nationalist ROC that retreated to Taiwan was invited to sign the Treaty of San Francisco, as neither had shown full and complete legal capacity to enter into an international legally binding agreement.[51] Since China was not present, the Japanese only formally renounced the territorial sovereignty of Taiwan and Penghu islands without specifying to which country Japan relinquished the sovereignty, and the treaty was signed in 1951 and came into force in 1952.

In 1952, the Treaty of Taipei was signed separately between the ROC and Japan that basically followed the same guideline of the Treaty of San Francisco, not specifying which country has sovereignty over Taiwan. However, Article 10 of the treaty states that the Taiwanese people and the juridicial person should be the people and the juridicial person of the ROC.[50] Both the PRC and ROC governments base their claims to Taiwan on the Japanese Instrument of Surrender which specifically accepted the Potsdam Declaration which refers to the Cairo Declaration. Disputes over the precise de jure sovereign of Taiwan persist to the present. On a de facto basis, sovereignty over Taiwan has been and continues to be exercised by the ROC. Japan's position has been to avoid commenting on Taiwan's status, maintaining that Japan renounced all claims to sovereignty over its former colonial possessions after World War II, including Taiwan.[52]


China War of Resistance Against Japan Memorial Museum on the site where Marco Polo Bridge Incident took place.

The question as to which political group directed the Chinese war effort and exerted most of the effort to resist the Japanese remains a controversial issue.

In the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japan Memorial near the Marco Polo Bridge and in mainland Chinese textbooks, the People's Republic of China (PRC) claims that the Nationalists mostly avoided fighting the Japanese to preserve their strength for a final showdown with the Communist Party of China (CCP or CPC), while the Communists were the main military force in the Chinese resistance efforts.[53] Recently, however, with a change in the political climate, the CCP has admitted that certain Nationalist generals made important contributions in resisting the Japanese. The official history in mainland China now states that the KMT fought a bloody, yet indecisive, frontal war against Japan, while the CCP engaged the Japanese forces in far greater numbers behind enemy lines. For the sake of Chinese reunification and appeasing the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan, the PRC has begun to "acknowledge" the Nationalists and the Communists as "equal" contributors, because the victory over Japan belonged to the Chinese people, rather than to any political party.[54] Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong in 1946. Other scholars document quite a different view. Such studies find evidence that the Communists actually played a minuscule role in the war against the Japanese compared to the Nationalists, and preserved their strength for a final showdown with the Kuomintang (KMT).[55] This view point gives the KMT credit for the brunt of the fighting, which is confirmed by Communists leader Zhou Enlai's secret report to Joseph Stalin in January 1940. This report stated that out of more than one million Chinese soldiers killed or wounded since the war began in 1937, only 40,000 were from the Communists Eighth Route Army and New Fourth Army. In other words, by the CCP's own account, the Communists had suffered a mere three percent of total casualties half way into the war.[56]

This is because the Communists were not the main participants in any of the 22 major battles between China and Japan (involving more than 100,000 troops on both sides) and usually avoided open warfare (the Hundred Regiments Offensive and the Battle of Pingxingguan are notable exceptions), preferring to fight in small squads to harass the Japanese supply lines. In comparison, right from the beginning of the war the Nationalists committed their best troops (including the 36th, 87th, 88th divisions, the crack divisions of Chiang's Central Army) to defend Shanghai from the Japanese, and continue to deploy most of their forces to fight the Japanese even as the Communists changed their strategy to engage mainly in a political offensive against the Japanese and declared that the CCP should "save and preserve our strength and wait for favorable timing" by the end of 1941.[57] The Japanese considered the KMT rather than the Communists as their main enemy[58] and bombed the Nationalist wartime capital of Chongqing to the point that it was the most heavily bombed city in the world to date.[59]

Chinese/Japanese relations

To this day the war is a major point of contention between China and Japan. The war remains a major roadblock for Sino-Japanese relations, and many people, particularly in China, harbour grudges over the war and related issues.

Issues regarding the current historical outlook on the war exist. For example, the Japanese government has been accused of historical revisionism by allowing the approval of school textbooks omitting or glossing over Japan's militant past, although the most recent controversial book, the New History Textbook was used by only 0.039% of junior high schools in Japan and [60] and despite the efforts of the Japanese nationalist textbook reformers, by the late 1990s the most common Japanese schoolbooks contained references to, for instance, the Nanking Massacre, Unit 731, and the comfort women of World War II,[61] all historical issues which have faced challenges from ultranationalists in the past.[62] In response to criticism of Japanese textbook revisionism, the PRC government has been accused of using the war to stir up already growing anti-Japanese sentiments in order to spur nationalistic feelings.

Chinese Communist Party declarations

In 1972, when the People's Republic of China (PRC) and Japan established formal diplomatic relationship, Mao Zedong met the then Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka. When Tanaka personally apologized to Mao for invading China, Mao responded: (You) don't have to say sorry, your country had made a great contribution to China. Why? Because if Imperial Japan did not start the war, how could we communists become mighty and powerful? How could we overthrow KMT? How could we defeat Chiang Kai-shek? No, we are grateful and do not want your war reparations!.[63]

Aftermath in Taiwan

While the People's Republic of China (PRC) government has been accused of greatly exaggerating the Communist Party of China (CCP or CPC)'s role in fighting the Japanese in mainland China, the aftermath of the war is more complicated in Taiwan.

Traditionally, the Republic of China government has held celebrations marking the Victory Day on September 9 (now known as Armed Forces Day) and Taiwan's Retrocession Day on October 25. However, with the power transfer from Kuomintang (KMT) to the pro-Taiwan independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2000 and the rise of desinicization, events commemorating the war have become less commonplace. Many supporters of Taiwanese independence see no relevance in preserving the memory of the war of resistance that happened primarily on mainland China. Some 120,000 Taiwanese even volunteered for or were drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army.

On the other hand, many KMT supporters, particularly veterans who retreated with the government in 1949, still have an emotional interest in the war. For example, in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the end of war in 2005, the cultural bureau of KMT stronghold Taipei held a series of talks in the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall regarding the war and post-war developments, while the KMT held its own exhibit in the KMT headquarters. Whereas the KMT won the presidential election in 2008, the ROC government resumed commemorating the war.

Casualties assessment

The conflict lasted for eight years, a month and three days (measured from 1937 to 1945).

Chinese casualties

  • Chinese sources list the total number of military and non-military casualties, both dead and wounded, at 35 million.[64] Most Western historians believed that the total number of casualties was at least 20 million.[65]
  • The official PRC statistics for China's civilian and military casualties in the Second Sino-Japanese War from 1937 to 1945 are 20 million dead and 15 million wounded. The figures for total military casualties, killed and wounded are: Nationalist 3.2 million; Communist 500,000.
  • The official account of the war published in Taiwan reported the Nationalist Chinese Army lost 3,238,000 men ( 1,797,000 WIA; 1,320,000 KIA and 120,000 MIA.) and 5,787,352 civilians casualties. The Nationalists fought in 22 major engagements, most of which involved more than 100,000 troops on both sides, 1,171 minor engagements most of which involved more than 50,000 troops on both sides, and 38,931 skirmishes.[66]
  • An academic study published in the United States estimates military casualties: 1.5 million killed in battle, 750,000 missing in action, 1.5 million deaths due to disease and 3 million wounded; civilian casualties: due to military activity, killed 1,073,496 and 237,319 wounded; 335,934 killed and 426,249 wounded in Japanese air attacks [67]
  • According to historian Mitsuyoshi Himeta, at least 2.7 million civilians died during the "kill all, loot all, burn all" operation (Three Alls Policy, or sanko sakusen) implemented in May 1942 in north China by general Yasuji Okamura and authorized on 3 December 1941 by Imperial Headquarter Order number 575.[68]
  • The property loss suffered by the Chinese was valued at 383 billion US dollars according to the currency exchange rate in July 1937, roughly 50 times the gross domestic product of Japan at that time (US$7.7 billion).[69]
  • In addition, the war created 95 million refugees.

Japanese casualties

The Japanese recorded around 1.1 to 1.9 million military casualties during all of World War II (which include killed, wounded and missing). The official death-toll of Japanese KIA in China, according to the Japan Defense Ministry, is 480,000 men. The combined Chinese forces claimed to have killed at most 1.77 million Japanese soldiers during the eight-year war.

Another source from Hilary Conroy claim that a total of 447,000 Japanese soldiers died in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Of the 1,130,000 Imperial Japanese Army soldiers who died during World War II, 39 percent died in China.[70]

Then in "War Without Mercy", John Dower claim that a total of 396,000 Japanese soldiers died in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Of this number, the Imperial Japanese Army lost 388,605 soldiers and the Imperial Japanese Navy lost 8,000 soldiers. Another 54,000 soldiers also died after the war had ended, mostly from illness and starvation.[70] Of the 1,740,955 Japanese soldiers who died during World War II, 22 percent died in China.[71]

Current Japanese statistics, however, lack complete estimates for the wounded. From 1937 to 1941, 185,647 Japanese soldiers were killed in China and 520,000 were wounded. Disease also incurred critical losses on Japanese forces. From 1937 to 1941, 393,000 were killed in China and 430,000 Japanese soldiers were recorded as being sick. In North China alone, 18,000 soldiers were evacuated back to Japan for illnesses in 1938, 23,000 in 1939, and 15,000 in 1940. Chinese forces also report that by May 1945, 22,293 Japanese soldiers were captured as prisoners. Many more Japanese soldiers surrendered when the war ended.[70][72]

Both Nationalist and Communist Chinese sources report that their respective forces were responsible for the deaths of over 1.7 million Japanese soldiers.[73] The Communist claim, which almost equate total Japanese deaths in all of World War II, was ridiculed by Nationalist authorities as propaganda since the Communist People's Liberation Army was outnumbered by the Japanese Army by approximately 3 to 1. Nationalist War Minister He Yingqin himself contested the claim, finding it impossible for a force of "untrained, undisciplined, poorly equipped" guerrillas to have killed so many enemy soldiers.[74]

The National Chinese authorities ridiculed Japanese estimates of Chinese casualties. In 1940, the National Herald stated that the Japanese exaggerated Chinese casualties, while deliberately concealing the true amount of Japanese casualties, releasing false figures that made them appear lower. The article reports on the casualty situation of the war up to 1940.[75][76][77]

Number of troops involved

Chinese forces

National Revolutionary Army

Flag of the National Revolutionary Army.

The National Revolutionary Army (NRA) throughout its lifespan employed approximately 4,300,000 regulars, in 370 Standard Divisions (), 46 New Divisions (), 12 Cavalry Divisions (), eight New Cavalry Divisions (), 66 Temporary Divisions (), and 13 Reserve Divisions (), for a grand total of 515 divisions.

However, many divisions were formed from two or more other divisions, and many were not active at the same time. The number of active divisions, at the start of the war in 1937, was about 170 NRA divisions. The average NRA division had 4,000 5,000 troops. A Chinese army was roughly the equivalent to a Japanese division in terms of manpower but the Chinese forces largely lacked artillery, heavy weapons, and motorized transport.

The shortage of military hardware meant that three to four Chinese armies had the firepower of only one Japanese division. Because of these material constraints, available artillery and heavy weapons were usually assigned to specialist brigades rather than to the general division, which caused more problems as the Chinese command structure lacked precise coordination. The relative fighting strength of a Chinese division was even weaker when relative capacity in aspects of warfare, such as intelligence, logistics, communications, and medical services, are taken into account.

The National Revolutionary Army can be divided roughly into two groups. The first one is the so-called dixi (, "direct descent") group, which comprised divisions trained by the Whampoa Military Academy and loyal to Chiang Kai-shek, and can be considered the Central Army () of the NRA. The second group is known as the zapai (, "miscellaneous units"), and comprised all divisions led by non-Whampoa commanders, and is more often known as the Regional Army or the Provincial Army ().

Even though both military groups were part of the National Revolutionary Army, their distinction lies much in their allegiance to the central government of Chiang Kai-shek. Many former warlords and regional militarists were incorporated into the NRA under the flag of the Kuomintang, but in reality they retained much independence from the central government. They also controlled much of the military strength of China, the most notable of them being the Guangxi, Shanxi, Yunnan and Ma cliques.

The National Revolutionary Army expanded from about 1.2 million in 1937 to 5.7 million in August 1945, organized in 300 divisions.[78]

Communist Chinese forces

Although during the war the Chinese Communist forces fought as a nominal part of the NRA, the number of those on the Communist side, due to their guerrilla status, is difficult to determine, though estimates place the total number of the Eighth Route Army, New Fourth Army, and irregulars in the Communist armies at 1,300,000.

The People's Liberation Army expanded from about 92,000 in 1937 to 910,000 in 1945.[78]

Japanese forces

Imperial Japanese Army

Flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.
Flag of the Imperial Japanese Army.

The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) had approximately 3,200,000 regulars. More Japanese troops were quartered in China than deployed elsewhere in the Pacific Theater during the war. Japanese divisions ranged from 20,000 men in its divisions numbered less than 100, to 10,000 men in divisions numbered greater than 100.

At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the IJA had 51 divisions, of which 35 were in China, and 39 independent brigades, of which all but one were in China. This represented roughly 80% of the IJA's manpower.

By October 1944 the IJA in China was divided into three strategic groupings.

  • The China Expeditionary Army was dislocated along the coast. Its primary component was the 13th Army with four divisions and two brigades.
  • The North China Area Army occupied the north-eastern China. It included the Kwantung Army with two divisions and six brigades, the Mongolian Garrison Army with one division and one brigade, and the 1st Army with two divisions and six brigades.
  • The Sixth Area Army occupying the inland zone south of the Yellow River included: the 12th Army with four divisions, including one armoured, and one infantry brigade; 34th Army with one division and four brigades along the Yangtze valley; 11th Army with ten divisions; 23rd Army with two divisions and five brigades.

Collaborationist Chinese Army

The Chinese armies allied to Japan had only 78,000 people in 1938, but had grown to around 649,640 men by 1943,[79] and reached a maximum strength of 900,000 troops before the end of the war. Almost all of them belonged to Manchukuo, Provisional Government of the Republic of China (Beijing), Reformed Government of the Republic of China (Nanjing) and the later Nanjing Nationalist Government (Wang Jingwei regime). These collaborator troops were mainly assigned to garrison and logistics duties in their own territories, and were rarely fielded in combat because of low morale and Japanese distrust. They fared very poorly in skirmishes against both Chinese NRA and Communist forces.

Military equipment

National Revolutionary Army

The Central Army possessed 80 Army infantry divisions with approximately 8,000 men each, nine independent brigades, nine cavalry divisions, two artillery brigades, 16 artillery regiments and three armored battalions. The Chinese Navy displaced only 59,000 tonnes and the Chinese Air Force comprised only about 700 obsolete aircraft.

Chinese weapons were mainly produced in the Hanyang and Guangdong arsenals. However, for most of the German-trained divisions, the standard firearms were German-made 7.92 mm Gewehr 98 and Karabiner 98k. A local variant of the 98k style rifles were often called the "Chiang Kai-shek rifle" a Chinese copy from the Mauser Standard Modell. Another rifle they used was Hanyang 88. The standard light machine gun was a local copy of the Czech 7.92 mm Brno ZB26. There were also Belgian and French LMGs. Surprisingly, the NRA did not purchase any of the famous Maschinengewehr 34s from Germany, but did produce their own copies of them. On average in these divisions, there was one machine gun set for each platoon. Heavy machine guns were mainly locally made Type 1924 water-cooled Maxim guns, from German blueprints. On average every battalion would get one HMG. The standard sidearm was the 7.63 mm Mauser M1932 semi-automatic pistol

Some divisions were equipped with 37 mm PaK 35/36 anti-tank guns, and/or mortars from Oerlikon, Madsen and Solothurn. Each infantry division had 6 French Brandt 81 mm mortars and 6 Solothurn 20 mm autocannons. Some independent brigades and artillery regiments were equipped with Bofors 72 mm L/14, or Krupp 72 mm L/29 mountain guns. They were 24 Rheinmetall 150 mm L/32 sFH 18 howitzers (bought in 1934) and 24 Krupp 150 mm L/30 sFH 18 howitzers (bought in 1936).

Infantry uniforms were basically redesigned Zhongshan suits. Leg wrappings are standard for soldiers and officers alike since the primary mode of movement for NRA troops was by foot. The helmets were the most distinguishing characteristic of these divisions. From the moment German M35 Stahlhelm helmets (standard issue for the Wehrmacht until late in the European theatre) rolled off the production lines in 1935, and until 1936, the NRA imported 315,000 of these helmets, each with the 12-ray sun emblem of the ROC on the sides. Other equipment included cloth shoes for soldiers, leather shoes for officers and leather boots for high-ranking officers. Every soldier was issued ammunition, ammunition pouch/harness, a water flask, combat knives, food bag and a gas mask.

On the other hand, warlord forces varied greatly in terms of equipment and training. Some warlord troops were notoriously under-equipped, such as Shanxi's Dadao ( , a one-edged sword type close combat weapon) Team and the Yunnan clique. Some, however, were highly professional forces with their own air force and navies. The quality of the New Guangxi clique was almost on par with the Central Army, as the Guangzhou region was wealthy and the local army could afford foreign instructors and arms. The Muslim Ma clique to the northwest was famed for its well-trained cavalry divisions.

Imperial Japanese Army

Although Japan possessed significant mobile operational capacity, it did not possess capability for maintaining a long sustained war. At the beginning of the war, the Imperial Japanese Army comprised 17 divisions, each composed of approximately 22,000 men, 5,800 horses, 9,500 rifles and submachine guns, 600 heavy machine guns of assorted types, 108 artillery pieces, and 600 plus of light armor two-men tanks. Special forces were also available. The Imperial Japanese Navy displaced a total of 1,900,000 tonnes, ranking third in the world, and possessed 2,700 aircraft at the time. Each Japanese division was the equivalent in fighting strength of four Chinese regular divisions (at the beginning of the Battle of Shanghai).

Major figures

Chinese Nationalists

Chinese Communists

Foreigners supporting China

Imperial Japanese Army

Chinese collaborators supporting Japan

Military engagements of the Second Sino-Japanese War


Battles with articles. Flag shows victorious side in each engagement. Date shows beginning date except for the 1942 battle of Changsha, which began in Dec. 1941.

Aerial engagements

Japanese invasions and operations

See also




References and bibliography

  • Bayly, C. A., and T. N. Harper. Forgotten Armies: The Fall of British Asia, 1941 1945. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005. xxxiii, 555p. ISBN 067401748X.
  • Bayly, C. A., T. N. Harper. Forgotten Wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asian. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007. xxx, 674p. ISBN 9780674021532.
  • Gordon, David M. "The China-Japan War, 1931 1945" ''Journal of Military History'' (Jan 2006) v 70#1, pp 137 82. Historiographical overview of major books from the 1970s through 2006 (for paid subscribers only).
  • Guo Rugui, editor-in-chief Huang Yuzhang, China's Anti-Japanese War Combat Operations(Jiangsu People's Publishing House, 2005) ISBN 7-214-03034-9. On line in Chinese:
  • Hsiung, James Chieh, and Steven I. Levine, eds., China's Bitter Victory: The War with Japan, 1937 1945. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1992. xxv, 333p. ISBN 087332708X. Chapters on military, economic, diplomatic aspects of the war.
  • Ray Huang, (Reading Chiang Kai-shek's Diary from a Macro History Perspective) China Times Publishing Company, 1994-1-31 ISBN 957-13-0962-1.
  • Annalee Jacoby and Theodore H. White, Thunder out of China, New York: William Sloane Associates, 1946. Critical account of Chiang's government by Time magazine reporters.
  • - Book about the Chinese and Mongolians who fought for the Japanese during the war.
  • Lary Diana, and Stephen R. Mackinnon, eds. The Scars of War: The Impact of Warfare on Modern China. Vancouver: UBC Press, Contemporary Chinese Studies, 2001. xii, 210p. ISBN 0774808403.
  • MacKinnon, Stephen R., Diana Lary and Ezra F. Vogel, eds. China at War: Regions of China, 1937 1945. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007. xviii, 380p. ISBN 9780804755092.
  • Peattie, Mark. Edward Drea, and Hans van de Ven, eds. The Battle for China: Essays on the Military History of the Sino-Japanese War of 1937 1945 (Stanford University Press, 2011); 614 pages
  • Zarrow, Peter. "The War of Resistance, 1937 45". China in war and revolution 1895 1949. London: Routledge, 2005.
  • - Book about the Chinese Canadians and Americans who fought against Japan in the Second World War.
  • Issue 40 of [China, a collection of pamphlets Original from Pennsylvania State University Digitized Sep 15, 2009

External links

Internet video

af:Tweede Sjinees-Japannese Oorlog ar: bn: - be: - 1937-1945 bs:Drugi japansko-kineski rat br:Brezel Sina ha Japan (1937-1945) ca:Segona Guerra Sinojaponesa cs:Druh nsko-japonsk v lka da:2. kinesisk-japanske krig de:Zweiter Japanisch-Chinesischer Krieg et:Teine Hiina-Jaapani s da el: es:Segunda guerra sino-japonesa eu:Bigarren txinatar-japoniar gerra fa: fr:Guerre sino-japonaise (1937-1945) ko: hi: - hr:Drugi kinesko-japanski rat id:Perang Sino-Jepang Kedua it:Seconda guerra sino-giapponese he: - lt:Antrasis Kinijos-Japonijos karas hu:M sodik k nai jap n h bor mr: - ms:Perang China-Jepun Kedua my: nl:Tweede Chinees-Japanse Oorlog ne: - ja: no:Andre kinesisk-japanske krig pl:Wojna chi sko-japo ska (1937-1945) pt:Segunda Guerra Sino-Japonesa ro:Al Doilea R zboi Chino-Japonez ru: - (1937 1945) simple:Second Sino-Japanese War sk:Druh nsko-japonsk vojna sl:Druga kitajsko-japonska vojna fi:Kiinan Japanin sota (1937 1945) sv:Andra sino-japanska kriget ta: - th: - tr: in-Japon Sava uk: - 1937 1945 vi:Chi n tranh Trung-Nh t zh-yue: zh:

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