The Sec­ond Sino-Ja­panese War: an over­view

The China Post - - LOCAL -

To mark the 70th an­niver­sary of the end of the Sec­ond Sino-Ja­panese War (1937-1945), the Repub­lic of China gov­ern­ment will hold a se­ries of com­mem­o­ra­tive events in the sec­ond half of this year.

Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou ( ) in March said that Rana Mit­ter, an Ox­ford Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor and au­thor of “Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945,” will be in­vited to Tai­wan to take part in the com­mem­o­ra­tive events.

Thomas Rabe, a Ger­man pro­fes­sor of gyne­col­ogy at the Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tal Hei­del­berg and a grand­son of John Rabe, a Ger­man busi­ness­man who helped 200,000 peo­ple evade slaugh­ter dur­ing the Nank­ing Massacre from 1937 to 1938, will also visit Tai­wan, dur­ing which time he will ac­cept a ci­ta­tion con­ferred by the gov­ern­ment on John Rabe, Ma said.

The Min­istry of Na­tional De­fense ( MND) will hold a mil­i­tary dis­play in an army base in Hukou Town­ship, Hs­inchu County, on July 4, mark­ing the 78th an­niver­sary of the Marco Polo Bridge In­ci­dent, also known as the July 7th In­ci­dent, a battle be­tween China and Ja­pan in sub­ur­ban Bei­jing on July 7, 1937.

A spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tion of the EightYear War of Re­sis­tance Against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion, an­other name for the Sec­ond Sino-Ja­panese War, will be held in the Na­tional Chi­ang Kai-shek Me­mo­rial Hall in Taipei from July 7, 2015 to June of 2016.

An­other ex­hi­bi­tion about the toll of the war, its victory and af­ter­math will be held in both the Armed Forces Mu­seum and the Academia His­tor­ica in Taipei from Aug. 15 to Nov. 28.

What fol­lows is a brief over­view of the war:

1931-1936, Ja­pan’s

Early Ad­vances

On Sept. 18, 1931, the Ja­panese Kwan­tung Army staged an ex­plo­sion near Muk­den (now Shenyang) and used this as an ex­cuse to attack cities in north­east­ern China (Manchuria). The Ja­panese army oc­cu­pied most of Manchuria, which was over three times as big as Ja­pan’s cur­rent size, in three months; the con­flict was dubbed the Muk­den In­ci­dent or Manchurian In­ci­dent.

Partly due to civil­ian strife in Shang­hai as well as eco­nomic losses brought by the Chi­nese boy­cott of Ja­panese prod­ucts fol­low­ing the Muk­den In­ci­dent, thou­sands of Im­pe­rial Ja­panese Navy Land Forces started to attack Chi­nese troops in Shang­hai on Jan. 28, 1932.

Ja­panese in­vad­ing forces, which bombed the Com­mer­cial Press (

) and its li­brary, burned more than 300,000 vol­umes of books housed there, were dragged into a quag­mire in out­skirts of Shang­hai in March and Ja­pan signed a cease­fire pact with China bro­kered by the League of Na­tions in May. It is called the Jan­uary 28 In­ci­dent or Shang­hai In­ci­dent.

Be­sides tak­ing on the Chi­nese com­mu­nists and their self­pro­claimed gov­ern­ment in South China, China’s Na­tion­al­ist gov­ern­ment in­sti­tuted cur­rency and fi­nan­cial re­forms, co­op­er­ated with Ger­many to mod­ern­ize its troops and ini­ti­ated the New Life Move­ment, meant to ed­u­cate and mor­al­ize its pop­u­lace, in early 1930s.

Af­ter the Xi’an In­ci­dent of De­cem­ber 1936, in which Chi­ang Kai-shek, leader of the rul­ing Na­tion­al­ist Party (aka KMT) and its Na­tional Army, was ab­ducted by two gen­eral of­fi­cers for about two weeks in Xi’an and later re­leased, the KMT and the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party (CCP) started to co­op­er­ate to face the im­mi­nent Ja­panese ag­gres­sion.

1937-1941, Go­ing it Alone

Ja­panese troops in North China started mov­ing west­ward and south­ward af­ter oc­cu­py­ing Bei­jing and Tian­jin in July, 1937, fol­low­ing the Marco Polo Bridge In­ci­dent in July 7, 1937, which is widely con­sid­ered the be­gin­ning of the Sec­ond Sino-Ja­panese War.

Af­ter the in­ci­dent, Ja­pan de­clared they would bring China to its knees in three months. The battle of Shang­hai be­gan on Aug. 13, 1937, how­ever, the Chi­nese troops kept fight­ing for over three months, shat­ter­ing the Ja­panese illusion of a swift victory and at­tract­ing in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion to the trad­ing port in East Asia.

Nev­er­the­less, it is not un­til Ja­panese forces at­tacked Pearl Har­bor in De­cem­ber, 1941, that the United States and the United King­dom for­mally en­tered into the war on China’s side as the Al­lied Pow­ers.

By the end of 1941, China had been able to cope with Ja­panese troops mostly on its own for more than four years, with the ex­cep­tion of some industrial and mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion with Ger­many un­til 1938 and the mil­i­tary aid of­fered by the Soviet Vol­un­teer Group, which pro­vided more than a thou­sand fighter planes and hun­dreds of air force pi­lots from 1937 to 1941.

1942-1944, US Aid and Al­lies

Ma­te­rial aid from the U.S. was limited by the dif­fi­culty of get­ting sup­plies to Chongqing, China’s wartime cap­i­tal in south­west main­land, since Ja­pan had seized al­most all coastal ar­eas in China, then French In­dochina and UK­con­trolled Burma, thus cut­ting China’s life­lines. There­after, U.S. pi­lots flew sup­plies in over “the Hump” from In­dia from May 1942 to July 1945.

Un­der the lead­er­ship of re­tired U.S. Army of­fi­cer Claire Lee Chen­nault, the 1st Amer­i­can Vol­un­teer Group of the Chi­nese Air Force, nick­named the Fly­ing Tigers, helped China com­bat against Ja­panese ag­gres­sion in 1941-1942.

Chi­nese Army Gen. Sun Li-jen ( ) led part of his 38th Di­vi­sion, with some 1,100 sol­diers, to res­cue some 7,000 Bri­tish sol­diers en­cir­cled by Ja­panese troops in cen­tral Burma in April 1942. Sun man­aged to res­cue his Bri­tish al­lies with the re­sound­ing suc­cess of the battle of Ye­nangyaung.

Many his­to­ri­ans have said that the largest con­tri­bu­tion China made to World War II was to en­gage some 800,000 to 1.2 mil­lion Ja­panese troops in China Proper and Manchuria for many years, thus di­min­ish­ing Ja­pan’s strength in fight­ing with the U.S. and other al­lies.

Rec­og­niz­ing China’s con­tri­bu­tion to the al­lies, the U.S. signed a treaty for­mally end­ing 100 years of ex­trater­ri­to­ri­al­ity in China, bring­ing an end to the legal priv­i­leges long held by for­eign­ers in Oc­to­ber 1943. China signed new equal treaties with the U.S. and the UK in Jan­uary 1944.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Franklin Roo­sevelt, UK Prime Min­is­ter Win­ston Churchill and Chi­ang Kai-shek, head of the Repub­lic of China, held a con­fer­ence in Cairo, Egygt, in Novem­ber 1943. The con­clud­ing Cairo Dec­la­ra­tion spec­i­fied that “all the ter­ri­to­ries Ja­pan has stolen from the Chi­nese,” such as Manchuria, Tai­wan and Penghu, “shall be re­stored to the Repub­lic of China,” and “Korea shall be­come free and in­de­pen­dent.”

In Oc­to­ber 1943, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of China, the Soviet Union, the UK and the U.S. signed a Joint Four-Na­tion Dec­la­ra­tion in Moscow, ask­ing Ger­many and Ja­pan to lay down arms on the ba­sis of un­con­di­tional sur­ren­der and fore­telling the estab­lish­ment of the United Na­tions.

1945, Victory and Cel­e­bra­tion

Af­ter U. S. bombers dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Na­gasaki in early Au­gust 1945, Ja­panese Em­peror Hiro­hito of­fi­cially an­nounced to sur­ren­der to the Al­lies on Aug. 15.

The of­fi­cial sur­ren­der was signed aboard the USS Mis­souri in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945. China’s Na­tion­al­ist Gov­ern­ment de­clared a three-day cel­e­bra­tion of the victory over Ja­pan start­ing on Sept. 3.

Sept. 3 has been Armed Forces Day in Tai­wan since 1955 and the me­mo­rial day of victory over the Ja­panese ag­gres­sion in main­land China since 1951.

Dur­ing the eight years from July 1937 to Au­gust 1945, there were 22 ma­jor bat­tles, 1,117 en­gage­ments and more than 38,000 skir­mishes. More than three mil­lion Chi­nese sol­diers were killed, wounded or miss­ing in op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing the death of 200 gen­eral of­fi­cers. Some 20 mil­lion civil­ians were killed, wounded or miss­ing and about 80 mil­lion refugees were forced to leave their home­land.

Some schol­ars es­ti­mate that Ja­pan had spent one-third to one half of its re­sources and man­power in the China theater.


Pres­i­dent Ma Ying-jeou speaks while hold­ing the Chi­nese ver­sion of Rana Mit­ter’s “Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945” at a sym­po­sium on the war in Taipei on June 3.

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