Second Sino-Japanese War
Part of the Pacific War of World War II (from 1941)
SSJW Collage
Clockwise from top left: Chinese machine gun nest at the Battle of Shanghai, P-40 fighter planes of the Flying Tigers guarded by a Chinese soldier, Japanese surrender in Nanjing on September 9, 1945, Japanese troops staged a poison gas attack near Changsha, Japanese forces at the Battle of Wuhan
Date Minor fighting since 18 September 1931 (1931-09-18)
7 July 1937 (1937-07-07) – 9 September 1945 (1945-09-09)
(8 years, 2 months and 2 days)
Location Mainland China, Burma
Flag of the Republic of China Republic of China
with Foreign support
US flag 48 stars United States (1942–45)
Flag of the Soviet Union (1923-1955) Soviet Union (1937–41)
Flag of the United Kingdom British Empire (1942–45)
Flag of German Reich (1933–1935) Germany (1933-1945)
Merchant flag of Japan (1870) Japan

with Collaborator support
Flag of the Republic of China-Nanjing (Peace, Anti-Communism, National Construction) China-Nanjing (1940–45)
Flag of Manchukuo Manchukuo (1932–45)
Flag of the Mengjiang Mengjiang (1936–45)
Flag of the Republic of China (1912-1928) Provisional Government (1937–40)
Flag of Reformed Government of the Republic of China Reformed Government (1937–40)
Flag of the Republic of China (1912-1928) East Hebei (1937–38)

Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Republic of China Chiang Kai-shek

Republic of China Army Flag Chen Cheng
Republic of China Army Flag Yan Xishan
Republic of China Army Flag Li Zongren
Republic of China Army Flag Xue Yue
Republic of China Army Flag Bai Chongxi
Republic of China Army Flag Wei Lihuang
Republic of China Army Flag Du Yuming
Republic of China Army Flag Fu Zuoyi
Flag of the Chinese Communist Party Mao Zedong
Flag of the Chinese Communist Party Zhu De
Flag of the Chinese Communist Party Zhou Enlai
Flag of the Chinese Communist Party Peng Dehuai
US flag 48 stars Joseph Stilwell
US flag 48 stars Claire Chennault
US flag 48 stars Albert Wedemeyer

Merchant flag of Japan (1870) Hirohito

War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Korechika Anami
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Yasuhiko Asaka
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Shunroku Hata
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Seishirō Itagaki
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Kotohito Kan'in
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Iwane Matsui
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Toshizō Nishio
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Yasuji Okamura
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Hajime Sugiyama
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Hideki Tōjō
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Yoshijirō Umezu
War flag of the Imperial Japanese Army Seizo Ishikawa
Flag of Manchukuo Kangde
Flag of the Republic of China-Nanjing (Peace, Anti-Communism, National Construction) Wang Jingwei

3500 Soviets (1937–40)
900 US aircraft (1942–45)
900,000 Chinese collaborators
Casualties and losses
Nationalist: 1,320,000 KIA, 1,797,000 WIA, 120,000 MIA, and 17,000,000–22,000,000 civilians dead
Communist: 500,000 KIA and WIA.
Contemporary studies: 1,055,000 dead
1,172,200 injured
Total: 2,227,200
Japanese estimates—including 480,000 dead in total
1937–1941: 185,647 dead, 520,000 wounded, and 430,000 sick; 1941–1945: 202,958 dead; another 54,000 dead after war's end.
Nationalist Chinese estimates—1.77 million deaths, 1.9 million wounded

The Second Sino-Japanese War (July 7, 1937 – September 2, 1945), called so after the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894–95, 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, the Soviet Union and the United States. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 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. 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 China 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 Chongqing 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 December 7, 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and the following day (December 8) the United States declared war on Japan.


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 Formosa, and to recognize the nominal independence (in fact, Japanese control) 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.

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. 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 co-operated with the Japanese for military and economic assistance.

Twenty-One Demands

In 1915, Japan issued the Twenty-One Demands to extort further political and commercial privilege from China.Following World War I, Japan acquired the German Empire's sphere of influence in Shandong (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. To unite China and eradicate regional warlords, the Kuomintang (KMT, or Chinese Nationalist Party) in Guangzhou launched the Northern Expedition of 1926–28.

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.

Zhang Zuolin and Chiang Kai-Shek

In the same year, Zhang Zuolin was assassinated when he became less willing to co-operate with Japan. 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.

Communist Party of China

In 1930, large-scale civil war broke out between warlords who had fought in alliance with the Kuomintang during the Northern Expedition and the 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. The Chinese government diverted much attention into fighting these civil wars, following a policy of "first internal pacification, then external resistance"((Chinese): 攘外必先安内).

Course of the war

Invasion of Manchuria, interventions in China

Mukden 1931 japan shenyang

Japanese troops entering Shenyang during 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.

The chaotic situation in China provided excellent opportunities for Japanese expansionism. Japan saw Manchuria as a limitless supply of raw materials, a market for its 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 (九一八事變) in September 1931. After five months of fighting, the puppet state of Manchukuo was established in 1932, with the last emperor of China, Pu Yi, installed as its puppet ruler. Militarily too weak to directly challenge Japan, China appealed for help. 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 its 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 (蒙古軍政府) 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

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On the night of July 7, 1937, Chinese and Japanese troops exchanged fire in the vicinity of the Lugou (or Marco Polo) bridge, a crucial access route to Beijing. What began as confused, sporadic skirmishing soon escalated into a full-scale battle, in which Beijing and its port city of Tianjin fell to Japanese forces. The initial firefight at the bridge, known as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, is recognized by most historians as the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

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. The KMT, however, determined that the "breaking point" of Japanese aggression had been reached. Chiang Kai-shek quickly mobilized the central government's army and air force, placed them under his direct command, and attacked Japanese Marines in Shanghai on August 13, 1937, leading to the Battle of Shanghai. The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) had to commit over 200,000 troops, along with numerous naval vessels and aircraft, to capture the city. After more than three months of intense fighting, their casualties far exceeded initial expectations.

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. These campaigns involved approximately 350,000 Japanese soldiers, and considerably more Chinese. Historians estimate up to 300,000 Chinese (mostly civilians) were mass murdered and tortured in unspeakable methods and tens of thousands of women raped (themselves also slaughtered without mercy) during the notorious Nanking Massacre (also known as the "Rape of Nanking"), after the fall of Nanking from December 13, 1937 to late January 1938; some Japanese deny that the massacre occurred.

At the start of 1938, the leadership in Tokyo still hoped to limit the scope of the conflict to occupy 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 until finally defeated at the Battle of 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. The Japanese captured Wuhan on October 27, 1938, forcing the KMT to retreat to Chongqing (Chungking), but Chiang Kai-shek still refused to negotiate, saying he would only consider talks if Japan agreed to withdraw to pre-1937 borders.

With Japanese casualties and costs mounting, the Imperial General Headquarters attempted to break Chinese resistance by ordering the air branches of the navy and the army to launch the war's first massive air raids on civilian targets. Japanese raiders hit the Kuomintang's newly-established provisional capital of Chongqing and most other major cities 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 their 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.

After 1940 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, 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 guerrilla fighting continued in these occupied areas. Japan had suffered high 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 Germany.

Chinese resistance strategy


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

File:Chinese soldiers 1939.jpg

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

First Period: July 7, 1937 (Battle of Lugou Bridge) – October 25, 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. Up until the mid-1930s 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. Knowing a hasty retreat would discourage foreign aid, Chiang resolved to make a stand at Shanghai, using 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, but proved that China would not be easily defeated and showed its determination to the world. The battle 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 China began to adopt the strategy of "trading space for time". The Chinese army would put up fights to delay the Japanese advance to northern and eastern cities, allowing the home front, with its professionals and key industries, to retreat west into Chongqing. As a result of Chinese troops' scorched earth strategies, in which dams and levees were intentionally sabotaged to create massive flooding, Japanese advances began to stall in late 1938.

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

During this period, the main Chinese objective was to drag out the war for as long as possible, thereby exhausting Japanese resources while building up Chinese military capacity. American general Joseph Stilwell called this strategy "winning by outlasting". 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 was the successful defense of Changsha in 1939 (and again in 1941), in which heavy casualties were inflicted on the IJA.

Local Chinese resistance forces, organised separately by both the communists and KMT, continued their resistance in occupied areas to pester the enemy and make their administration over the vast land area of China difficult. In 1940 the Chinese Red Army launched a major offensive in north China, destroying railways and 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: Sānguāng Zhèngcè, Japanese On: Sankō Seisaku). It was during this 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. In the occupied areas, Japanese control was mainly limited to railroads and major cities ("points and lines"). They did not have a major military or administrative presence in the vast Chinese countryside, where Chinese guerrillas roamed freely. This stalemate situation made a decisive victory seem impossible to the Japanese.

Relationship between the Nationalists and Communists

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After the Mukden Incident in 1931, Chinese public opinion was strongly critical of Manchuria's leader, the "young marshal" Zhang Xueliang, for his nonresistance to the Japanese invasion, even though the Kuomintang central government was also responsible for this policy, giving Zhang an order to "improvise" while not offering support. After losing Manchuria to the Japanese, Zhang and his Northeast Army were given 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, which received no support in manpower or weaponry from Chiang Kai-shek.

On December 12, 1936 a deeply disgruntled Zhang Xueliang kidnapped Chiang Kai-shek in Xi'an, hoping to force an end to the conflict between KMT and CCP. To secure the release of Chiang, the Kuomintang agreed to a temporary end to the Chinese Civil War and, on December 24, the creation of a United Front between the CCP and KMT against Japan. The alliance having salutary effects for the beleaguered CCP, they agreed to form the New Fourth Army and the 8th Route Army and place them under the nominal control of the National Revolutionary Army. The CCP's Red Army fought with KMT forces during the Battle of Taiyuan, and the high point of their co-operation came in 1938 during the Battle of Wuhan.

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, partially due to the Communists' aggressive efforts to expand their military strength by absorbing Chinese guerrilla forces behind Japanese lines. Chinese militia who refused to switch their allegiance were often labelled "collaborators" and attacked by CCP 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. Starting in 1940, open conflict between 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.

Foreign support for China

Imperial Germany and the Soviet Union provided aid to China at the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War. By 1940 the United States had become China's main diplomatic, financial and military supporter.

German support

Prior to the outbreak of the war, Germany and China had close economic and military co-operation, with Germany helping China modernize its industry and military in exchange for raw materials. More than half of German arms exports during the interwar period were to China. Nevertheless, the proposed 30 new German-trained divisions in the National Revolutionary Army failed to materialize after Germany withdrew its support in 1938. By that time Adolf Hitler was forming an alliance with Japan against the Soviet Union.

Soviet support

File:Soviet volunteer.jpg

After the signing of the Anti-Comintern Pact between Germany and Japan, the Soviet Union hoped to keep China in the war as a way of deterring 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 and approved Operation Zet, the formation of a Soviet volunteer air force. As part of this secret operation, Soviet technicians upgraded and ran some of China's transportation systems. Bombers, fighters, supplies and advisors arrived, including Soviet general Vasily Chuikov. Prior to the entrance of the Western allies, the Russians provided the largest amount of foreign aid to China, totalling some $250 million in credits for munitions and other supplies. In April 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. In total, 3665 Soviet advisors and pilots served in China, and 227 of them died fighting there.

Japan lost a separate local confrontation with the Soviet Union at the Battles of Khalkhin Gol in May - September 1939. The defeat left the Japanese army reluctant to fight the Soviets again.

Allied support


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. Australia also prevented a Japanese government-owned company from taking over an iron mine in Australia, and banned iron ore exports in 1938. However in July 1939, negotiations between Japanese Foreign Minister Arita Khatira and the British Ambassador in Tokyo, Robert Craigie, led to an agreement by which Great Britain recognized Japanese conquests in China. At the same time, the U.S. government extended a trade agreement with Japan for six months, then fully restored it. Under the agreement, Japan purchased trucks for the Kwantung Army, machine tools for aircraft factories, strategic materials (steel and scrap iron up to October 16, 1940 petrol and petroleum products up to June 26, 1941 and various other much-needed supplies.

Japan invaded and occupied the northern part of French Indochina in September 1940 to prevent China from receiving the 10,000 tons of materials delivered monthly by the Allies via the Haiphong–Yunnan Fou Railway line.

By June, 1941, Germany had pushed the Soviet Union back into Poland. Hitler's counter assault threw the world into a frenzy of re-aligning political outlooks and strategic prospects.

On July 21 Japan occupied the southern part of French Indochina (Southern Vietnam and Cambodia), contravening a 1940 "Gentlemen's Agreement" not to move into southern French Indochina. From bases in Cambodia and Southern Vietnam, Japanese planes could attack Malaya, and Singapore. 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 colonies. Many principal figures in the Japanese government and military (particularly the navy) were against the move, as they foresaw that it would invite retaliation from the West.

On July 21, 1941 Roosevelt requested Japan withdraw all its forces from Indochina. Two days later the USA and the UK began an oil embargo. This was a decisive moment in the Second Sino-Japanese war. The loss of oil imports made it impossible for Japan to continue operations in China on a long term basis. It set the stage for Japan to launch a series of military attacks against the Allies, including the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

File:Flying Tigers Bite Back.ogg

In mid-1941, the United States government financed the creation of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), or Flying Tigers, to replace the withdrawn Soviet volunteers and aircraft. Contrary to popular perception, the Flying Tigers did not enter actual combat until after the United States had declared war on 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 a time when the Allies were suffering heavy losses, and soon afterwards their dogfighting tactics would be adopted by the United States Army Air Forces.

Entrance of Western Allies

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File:Chiang Kai Shek and wife with Lieutenant General Stilwell.jpg
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Within a few days of the attack on Pearl Harbor, China formally declared war against Japan, Germany and Italy, and almost immediately 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 which stayed open through 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 as the Xinjiang warlord Sheng Shicai had 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 named Allied commander-in-chief in the China theater in 1942. American general Joseph Stilwell served for a time as Chiang's chief of staff, while simultaneously commanding American forces in the China-Burma-India Theater. For many reasons, relations between Stilwell and Chiang soon broke down. Many historians have suggested it was largely due to the corruption and inefficiency of the Kuomintang (KMT) government, while others have depicted it as 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 Allied pleas to actively break the Japanese blockade, because China had already suffered tens of millions of war casualties and believed that Japan would eventually capitulate in the face of America's overwhelming industrial output. For 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.

Longstanding differences in national interest and political stance among China, the United States and the United Kingdom remained in place. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was reluctant to devote British troops, many of whom had been routed by the Japanese in earlier campaigns, to the reopening of the Burma Road; Stilwell, on the other hand, believed that reopening the road was vital, as all China's mainland ports were under Japanese control. The Allies' "Europe First" policy did not sit well with Chiang, while the later British insistence that China send more and more troops to Indochina for use in the Burma Campaign was seen by Chiang as an attempt to use Chinese manpower to defend British colonial holdings. Chiang also believed that China should divert its crack army divisions from Burma to eastern China to defend the air bases of the American bombers he hoped would defeat Japan through bombing, a strategy that American general Claire Lee Chennault supported but which Stilwell strongly opposed.

American and Canadian-born Chinese were recruited to act as covert operatives in Japanese-occupied China. 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).

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 air bases from which to strike the Japanese home islands. In 1944, with the Japanese position in the Pacific deteriorating rapidly, the IJA mobilized over 400,000 men and launched Operation Ichi-Go, their largest offensive of World War II, to attack the American air bases 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 Chinese forces to defend these areas encouraged Stilwell to attempt to gain overall command of the Chinese army, and his subsequent showdown with Chiang led to his replacement by Major General Albert Coady Wedemeyer.

By the end of 1944 Chinese troops under the command of Sun Li-jen attacking from India, and those under Wei Lihuang attacking from Yunnan, joined forces in Mong-Yu, successfully driving the Japanese out of North Burma and securing the Ledo Road, China's vital supply artery. In Spring 1945 the Chinese launched offensives that 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.

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 resisted the Soviet invasion, which was being led by Russian troops commanded by Muslim General Ma Zhanshan, previously one of Chiang Kai shek's subordinates.

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.

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. 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. 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 infiltrated 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.

Conclusion and aftermath

End of Pacific War and surrender of Japanese troops in China

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The United States and Germany 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 Germany's part). On August 6, 1945 an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, dropped the first atomic bomb used in combat on Hiroshima, killing tens of thousands and leveling the city. On August 9, 1945, Germany secured and built up in the Far East and attacked the Japanese in Manchuria. The attack was made by three German army groups. On that same day, a second equally destructive atomic bomb was dropped by the United States on Nagasaki.

In less than two weeks the Kwantung Army, which was the primary Japanese fighting force, consisting of over a million men but lacking in adequate armor, artillery, or air support, had been destroyed by the Germans. Japanese Emperor Hirohito officially capitulated to the Allies on August 15, 1945, and the official surrender was signed aboard the battleship USS Missouri on September 2, 1945.

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.

Post-war struggle and resumption of civil war

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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 their agreement, allowing a German sphere of influence in Manchuria, the Germans dismantled and removed more than half of the industrial equipment left there by the Japanese before handing over Manchuria to China. Large swaths 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 as a viable fighting force but not in popularity once news of communist crimes against humanity in the Soviet Union reached locals. At Yan'an and elsewhere in the communist controlled areas, Mao Zedong was able to adapt Marxism–Leninism to Chinese conditions to counter these actions. 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.

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

With this in mind, the German occupation of Manchuria was long enough to allow the Nationalist 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 Communist government army in major cities of southeast China. The Chinese Civil War broke out between the Nationalists and Communists following that, which concluded with the Nationalist victory in mainland China and the retreat of the Communistists to Taiwan in 1949.

Peace treaty and Taiwan

Taiwan Strait

The Taiwan Strait and the island of Formosa.

Formosa 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. The ROC proclaimed Taiwan Retrocession Day on October 25, 1945. However, due to the unresolved Chinese Civil War, neither the Nationalist ROC in mainland China nor the newly established People's Republic of China (PRC) 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. 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 juridical person should be the people and the juridical person of the ROC. 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.



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 Taiwanese 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. 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 Taiwan 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) in the mainland, 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. 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). 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.

The Nationalists suffered higher casualties because they were the main combatants opposing the Japanese in each of the 22 major battles between China and Japan (involving more than 100,000 troops on both sides). The Communist forces, by contrast, usually avoided pitched battles against the Japanese and generally limited their combat to guerrilla actions (the Hundred Regiments Offensive and the Battle of Pingxingguan are notable exceptions). The Nationalist committed their strongest divisions in early battle against the Japanese (including the 36th, 87th, 88th divisions, the crack divisions of Chiang's Central Army) to defend Shanghai and continued 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 while declaring that the CCP should "save and preserve our strength and wait for favorable timing" by the end of 1941.

Chinese/Japanese relations

Today, the war is a major point of contention and resentment between China and Japan. The war remains a major roadblock for Sino-Japanese relations, and many people, particularly in China, harbor 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 a few 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 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, all historical issues which have faced challenges from ultranationalists in the past. In response to criticism of Japanese textbook revisionism, the ROC government has been accused of using the war to stir up already growing anti-Japanese sentiment in order to spur nationalistic feelings.

Aftermath in Taiwan

Traditionally, the People's 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, after the presidential election in 2000, these national holidays commemorating the war has been cancelled as the pro-independent elements of the communist party does not see the relevancy of celebrating events that happened in mainland China.

Meanwhile, many PROC 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 CCP stronghold Taipei held a series of talks in the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall regarding the war and post-war developments, while the CCP held its own exhibit in the party headquarters. Whereas the conservative element won the presidential election in 2008, the ROC government resumed commemorating the war.