Chiang Kai-Shek Attacks - History

Chiang Kai-Shek Attacks - History

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Chiang Kai-Shek begins the first of five military campaigns against the Communists. In the first campaign, he moved against Communists in southern Kiangsi and in parts of Fukein and Hunan provinces.

Chiang Kai-shek

Chiang Kai-shek was an important military leader of the short-lived KMT government in Guangzhou, a close associate of Sun Yat-sen and, after the latter's death in 1925, Wang Jingwei as well as main leader of the Northern Expedition in 1926/27, which evolved into a disaster for the Kuomintang forces and led to the defeat and assassination of Chiang in early 1927 and to the downfall of the Kuomintang as a whole.

Chiang Kai-shek

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Chiang Kai-shek, Wade-Giles romanization Chiang Chieh-shih, official name Chiang Chung-cheng, (born October 31, 1887, Fenghua, Zhejiang province, China—died April 5, 1975, Taipei, Taiwan), soldier and statesman, head of the Nationalist government in China from 1928 to 1949 and subsequently head of the Chinese Nationalist government in exile on Taiwan.

Chiang was born into a moderately prosperous merchant and farmer family in the coastal province of Zhejiang. He prepared for a military career first (1906) at the Baoding Military Academy in North China and subsequently (1907–11) in Japan. From 1909 to 1911 he served in the Japanese army, whose Spartan ideals he admired and adopted. More influential were the youthful compatriots he met in Tokyo plotting to rid China of the Qing (Manchu) dynasty, they converted Chiang to republicanism and made him a revolutionary.

In 1911, upon hearing of revolutionary outbreaks in China, Chiang returned home and helped in the sporadic fighting that led to the overthrow of the Manchus. He then participated in the struggles of China’s republican and other revolutionaries in 1913–16 against China’s new president and would-be emperor, Yuan Shikai.

After these excursions into public life, Chiang lapsed into obscurity. For two years (1916–17) he lived in Shanghai, where he apparently belonged to the Green Gang (Qing Bang), a secret society involved in financial manipulations. In 1918 he reentered public life by joining Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang. Thus began the close association with Sun on which Chiang was to build his power. Sun’s chief concern was to reunify China, which the downfall of Yuan had left divided among warring military satraps. Having wrested power from the Qing, the revolutionists had lost it to indigenous warlords unless they could defeat these warlords, they would have struggled for nothing.

Shortly after Sun Yat-sen had begun to reorganize the Nationalist Party along Soviet lines, Chiang visited the Soviet Union in 1923 to study Soviet institutions, especially the Red Army. Back in China after four months, he became commandant of a military academy, established on the Soviet model, at Whampoa, near Guangzhou. Soviet advisers poured into Guangzhou, and at this time the Chinese communists were admitted into the Nationalist Party. The Chinese communists quickly gained strength, especially after Sun’s death in 1925, and tensions developed between them and the more conservative elements among the Nationalists. Chiang, who, with the Whampoa army behind him, was the strongest of Sun’s heirs, met this threat with consummate shrewdness. By alternate shows of force and of leniency, he attempted to stem the communists’ growing influence without losing Soviet support. Moscow supported him until 1927, when, in a bloody coup of his own, he finally broke with the communists, expelling them from the Nationalist Party and suppressing the labour unions they had organized.

Meanwhile, Chiang had gone far toward reunifying the country. Commander in chief of the revolutionary army since 1925, he had launched a massive Nationalist campaign against the northern warlords in the following year. This drive ended only in 1928, when his forces entered Beijing, the capital. A new central government under the Nationalists, with Chiang at its head, was then established at Nanjing, farther south. In October 1930 Chiang became Christian, apparently at the instance of the powerful Westernized Soong family, whose youngest daughter, Mei-ling, had become his second wife. As head of the new Nationalist government, Chiang stood committed to a program of social reform, but most of it remained on paper, partly because his control of the country remained precarious. In the first place, the provincial warlords, whom he had neutralized rather than crushed, still disputed his authority. The communists posed another threat, having withdrawn to rural strongholds and formed their own army and government. In addition, Chiang faced certain war with Japan, which, after seizing Manchuria (Northeast Provinces) in 1931, showed designs upon China proper. Chiang decided not to resist the coming Japanese invasion until after he had crushed the communists—a decision that aroused many protests, especially since a complete victory over the communists continued to elude him. To give the nation more moral cohesion, Chiang revived the state cult of Confucius and in 1934 launched a campaign, the so-called New Life Movement, to inculcate Confucian morals.

Chaos throughout country

Chiang returned to China in 1911 after learning that Sun Yat-sen's revolution against the Manchus had begun. After the collapse of the Manchus in 1912, Sun formed a government, with Yüan Shikai (pronounced you-ahn shir-kie 1859–1916), the commander of the northern forces, serving as its president. When Yüan died in 1916, chaos again reigned in China. Power in the country fell into the hands of some two hundred warlords, who controlled numerous regions. In 1918, Sun Yat-sen established a new government in Guangzhou (Kuang-chou or Canton in southeast China) with Chiang as his personal military advisor. Sun began calling himself the "generalissimo." The majority of the warlords supported a rival government that had been set up in Beijing (Peking), in northeast China.

In early 1922, Sun broke with the warlord in Guangzhou who had been supporting him. The warlord then attacked Sun's presidential headquarters, hoping to kill him. Chiang helped Sun to safety on a gunboat, and the two men lived for fifty-six days on the boat in some very desperate circumstances. During their escape, they became very close.

Seeking support for Sun's revolutionary government, Chiang traveled to the Soviet Union in 1923 to study its military and social systems. He was not impressed with the Russians, but Sun welcomed their help. After Chiang returned to China, he became commandant of a new military academy at Whampoa (Huang-p'u), ten miles outside of Guangzhou. Although the academy was set up following a Soviet model, Chiang refused to embrace communism. Communism, a set of political beliefs that calls for the elimination of private property, is a system in which goods are owned by the community as a whole rather than by specific individuals and are available to all as needed.


In China, the war is most commonly known as the "War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression" (simplified Chinese: 抗日战争 traditional Chinese: 抗日戰爭 ), and shortened to the "Resistance against Japanese Aggression" (Chinese: 抗日 ) or the "War of Resistance" (simplified Chinese: 抗战 traditional Chinese: 抗戰 ). It was also called the "Eight Years' War of Resistance" (simplified Chinese: 八年抗战 traditional Chinese: 八年抗戰 ), but in 2017 the Chinese Ministry of Education issued a directive stating that textbooks were to refer to the war as the "Fourteen Years' War of Resistance" (simplified Chinese: 十四年抗战 traditional Chinese: 十四年抗戰 ), reflecting a focus on the broader conflict with Japan going back to 1931. [39] It is also referred to as part of the "Global Anti-Fascist War", which is how World War II is perceived by the Communist Party of China and the PRC government. [40]

In Japan, nowadays, the name "Japan–China War" (Japanese: 日中戦爭 , romanized: Nitchū Sensō) is most commonly used because of its perceived objectivity. When the invasion of China proper began in earnest in July 1937 near Beijing, the government of Japan used "The North China Incident" (Japanese: 北支事變/華北事變 , romanized: Hokushi Jihen/Kahoku Jihen), and with the outbreak of the Battle of Shanghai the following month, it was changed to "The China Incident" (Japanese: 支那事變 , romanized: Shina Jihen).

The word "incident" (Japanese: 事變 , romanized: jihen) was used by Japan, as neither country had made a formal declaration of war. From the Japanese perspective, localizing these conflicts was beneficial in preventing intervention from other nations, particularly the United Kingdom and the United States, which were its primary source of petroleum and steel respectively. A formal expression of these conflicts would potentially lead to American embargo in accordance with the Neutrality Acts of the 1930s. [41] In addition, due to China's fractured political status, Japan often claimed that China was no longer a recognizable political entity on which war could be declared. [42]

Other names Edit

In Japanese propaganda, the invasion of China became a crusade (Japanese: 聖戦 , romanized: seisen), the first step of the "eight corners of the world under one roof" slogan (Japanese: 八紘一宇 , romanized: Hakkō ichiu). 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 "Greater East Asia War" (Japanese: 大東亞戰爭 , romanized: Daitōa Sensō).

Although the Japanese government still uses the term "China Incident" in formal documents, [43] the word Shina is considered derogatory by China and therefore the media in Japan often paraphrase with other expressions like "The Japan–China Incident" (Japanese: 日華事變/日支事變 , romanized: Nikka Jiken/Nisshi Jiken), which were used by media as early as the 1930's.

The name "Second Sino-Japanese War" is not commonly used in Japan as the war it fought against China in 1894 to 1895 was led by the Qing dynasty, and thus is called the Qing-Japanese War (Japanese: 日清戦争 , romanized: Nisshin–Sensō), rather than the First Sino-Japanese War.

The origins of the Second Sino-Japanese War can be traced back to the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895, in which China, then under the rule of the Qing dynasty, was defeated by Japan, forced to cede Taiwan to Japan, and recognize the full and complete independence of Korea in the Treaty of Shimonoseki Japan also annexed the Diaoyudao/Senkaku Islands in early 1895 as a result of its victory at the end of the war (Japan claims the islands were uninhabited in 1895). [44] [45] [46] The Qing dynasty was on the brink of collapse due to internal revolts and foreign imperialism, while Japan had emerged as a great power through its effective measures of modernization. [47]

Republic of China Edit

The Republic of China was founded in 1912, following the Xinhai Revolution which overthrew the last imperial dynasty of China, the Qing dynasty (1644–1911). However, central authority disintegrated and the Republic's authority succumbed to that of regional warlords, mostly from the former Beiyang Army. Unifying the nation and expelling the influence of foreign powers seemed a very remote possibility. [48] Some warlords even aligned themselves with various foreign powers in their battles with each other. For example, the warlord Zhang Zuolin of Manchuria from the Fengtian clique openly cooperated with the Japanese for military and economic assistance. [49]

Twenty-One Demands Edit

In 1915, Japan issued the Twenty-One Demands to extort further political and commercial privilege from China, which was accepted by Yuan Shikai. [50] Following World War I, Japan acquired the German Empire's sphere of influence in Shandong province, [51] leading to nationwide anti-Japanese protests and mass demonstrations in China. Under the Beiyang Government, China remained fragmented and was unable to resist foreign incursions. [52] For the purpose of unifying China and defeating the regional warlords, the Kuomintang (KMT, alternatively known as the Chinese Nationalist Party) in Guangzhou launched the Northern Expedition from 1926 to 1928 with limited assistance from the Soviet Union. [53]

Jinan incident Edit

The National Revolutionary Army (NRA) formed by the KMT swept through southern and central China until it was checked in Shandong, where confrontations with the Japanese garrison escalated into armed conflict. The conflicts were collectively known as the Jinan incident of 1928, during which time the Japanese military killed several Chinese officials and fired artillery shells into Jinan. Between 2,000 and 11,000 Chinese and Japanese civilians were believed to have been killed during these conflicts. Relations between the Chinese Nationalist government and Japan severely worsened as a result of the Jinan incident. [54] [55]

Reunification of China (1928) Edit

As the National Revolutionary Army approached Beijing, Zhang Zuolin decided to retreat back to Manchuria, before he was assassinated by the Kwantung Army in 1928. [56] His son, Zhang Xueliang, took over as the leader of the Fengtian clique in Manchuria. Later in the same year, Zhang decided to declare his allegiance to the Nationalist government in Nanjing under Chiang Kai-shek, and consequently, China was nominally reunified under one government. [57]

1929 Sino-Soviet war Edit

The July–November 1929 conflict over the Chinese Eastern Railroad (CER) further increased the tensions in the Northeast that led to the Mukden Incident and eventually the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Soviet Red Army victory over Zhang Xueliang's forces not only reasserted Soviet control over the CER in Manchuria but revealed Chinese military weaknesses that Japanese Kwantung Army officers were quick to note. [58]

The Soviet Red Army performance also stunned the Japanese. Manchuria was central to Japan's East Asia policy. Both the 1921 and 1927 Imperial Eastern Region Conferences reconfirmed Japan's commitment to be the dominant power in the Northeast. The 1929 Red Army victory shook that policy to the core and reopened the Manchurian problem. By 1930, the Kwantung Army realized they faced a Red Army that was only growing stronger. The time to act was drawing near and Japanese plans to conquer the Northeast were accelerated. [59]

Communist Party of China Edit

In 1930, the Central Plains War broke out across China, involving regional commanders who had fought in alliance with the Kuomintang during the Northern Expedition, and the Nanjing government under Chiang. The Communist Party of China (CPC) previously fought openly against the Nanjing government after the Shanghai massacre of 1927, and they continued to expand during this civil war. The Kuomintang government in Nanjing decided to focus their efforts on suppressing the Chinese Communists through the Encirclement Campaigns, following the policy of "first internal pacification, then external resistance" (Chinese: 攘外必先安內 ).

The internecine warfare in China provided excellent opportunities for Japan, which saw Manchuria as a limitless supply of raw materials, a market for its manufactured goods (now excluded from the markets of many Western countries as a result of Depression-era tariffs), and a protective buffer state against the Soviet Union in Siberia. [ citation needed ] Japan invaded Manchuria outright after the Mukden Incident in September 1931. Japan charged that its rights in Manchuria, which had been established as a result of its victory at the end of the Russo-Japanese War, had been systematically violated and there were "more than 120 cases of infringement of rights and interests, interference with business, boycott of Japanese goods, unreasonable taxation, detention of individuals, confiscation of properties, eviction, demand for cessation of business, assault and battery, and the oppression of Korean residents". [60]

After five months of fighting, Japan established the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932, and installed the last Emperor of China, Puyi, as its puppet ruler. Militarily too weak to challenge Japan directly, China appealed to the League of Nations for help. The League's investigation led to the publication of the Lytton Report, condemning Japan for its incursion into Manchuria, causing Japan to withdraw from the League of Nations. No country took action against Japan beyond tepid censure.

Incessant fighting followed the Mukden Incident. In 1932, Chinese and Japanese troops fought the January 28 Incident battle. This resulted in the demilitarization 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 established in its aftermath, gave Japan control of Jehol province as well as a demilitarized zone between the Great Wall and Beiping-Tianjin region. Japan aimed to create another buffer zone between Manchukuo and the Chinese Nationalist government in Nanjing.

Japan increasingly exploited China's internal conflicts to reduce the strength of its fractious opponents. 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 (Chinese: 華北特殊化 pinyin: huáběitèshūhùa ), 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 12 May 1936. Japan provided all the necessary military and economic aid. Afterwards Chinese volunteer forces continued to resist Japanese aggression in Manchuria, and Chahar and Suiyuan.

1937: Full-scale invasion of China Edit

On the night of 7 July 1937, Chinese and Japanese troops exchanged fire in the vicinity of the Marco Polo (or Lugou) 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 (July–August 1937). On 29 July, some 5,000 troops of the 1st and 2nd Corps of the East Hopei Army mutinied, turning against the Japanese garrison. In addition to Japanese military personnel, some 260 civilians living in Tongzhou in accordance with the Boxer Protocol of 1901, were killed in the uprising (predominantly Japanese including the police force and also some ethnic Koreans). The Chinese then set fire to and destroyed much of the city. Only around 60 Japanese civilians survived, who provided both journalists and later historians with firsthand witness accounts. As a result of the violence of the mutiny against Japanese civilians, the Tungchow mutiny strongly shook public opinion within Japan.

Battle of Shanghai Edit

The Imperial General Headquarters (GHQ) in Tokyo, content with the gains acquired in northern China following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, initially showed reluctance to escalate the conflict into full-scale war. 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. Following the shooting of a Japanese officer attempting to enter the Honqiao military airport on 9 August 1937, the Japanese demanded that all Chinese forces withdraw from Shanghai, with the Chinese refusing to meet this demand. [61] In response, both the Chinese and the Japanese marched reinforcements into the Shanghai area.

On 13 August 1937, Kuomintang soldiers attacked Japanese Marine positions in Shanghai, with Japanese army troops and marines in turn crossing into the city with naval gunfire support at Zhabei, leading to the Battle of Shanghai. On 14 August, Chinese forces under the command of Zhang Zhizhong were ordered to capture or destroy the Japanese strongholds in Shanghai, leading to bitter street fighting. In an attack on the Japanese cruiser Izumo, Kuomintang planes accidentally bombed the Shanghai International Settlement, which led to more than 3,000 civilian deaths. [62]

In the three days from 14 August through 16, 1937, the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) sent many sorties of the then-advanced long-ranged G3M medium-heavy land-based bombers and assorted carrier-based aircraft with the expectation of destroying the Chinese Air Force. However, the Imperial Japanese Navy encountered unexpected resistance from the defending Chinese Curtiss Hawk II/Hawk III and P-26/281 Peashooter fighter squadrons suffering heavy (50%) losses from the defending Chinese pilots (14 August was subsequently commemorated by the KMT as China's Air Force Day). [63] [64]

The skies of China had become a testing zone for advanced biplane and new-generation monoplane combat-aircraft designs. The introduction of the advanced A5M "Claude" fighters into the Shanghai-Nanjing theater of operations, beginning on 18 September 1937, helped the Japanese achieve a certain level of air superiority. [65] [66] However the few experienced Chinese veteran pilots, as well as several Chinese-American volunteer fighter pilots, including Maj. Art Chin, Maj. John Wong Pan-yang, and Capt. Chan Kee-Wong, even in their older and slower biplanes, [67] [68] proved more than able to hold their own against the sleek A5Ms in dogfights, and it also proved to be a battle of attrition against the Chinese Air Force. [69] [70] At the start of the battle, the local strength of the NRA was around five divisions, or about 70,000 troops, while local Japanese forces comprised about 6,300 marines. [71] On 23 August, the Chinese Air Force attacked Japanese troop landings at Wusongkou in northern Shanghai with Hawk III fighter-attack planes and P-26/281 fighter escorts, and the Japanese intercepted most of the attack with A2N and A4N fighters from the aircraft carriers Hosho and Ryujo, shooting down several of the Chinese planes while losing a single A4N in the dogfight with Lt. Huang Xinrui in his P-26/281 the Japanese Army reinforcements succeeded in landing in northern Shanghai. [72] [73] The Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) ultimately committed 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. [74] On 26 October, the Japanese Army captured Dachang, an important strong-point within Shanghai, and on 5 November, additional reinforcements of Japan landed from Hangzhou Bay. Finally, on 9 November, the NRA began a general retreat.

Battle of Nanjing and Nanjing Massacre Edit

Building on the hard-won victory in Shanghai, the IJA captured the KMT capital city of Nanjing (December 1937) and Northern Shanxi (September–November 1937). These campaigns involved approximately 350,000 Japanese soldiers, and considerably more Chinese.

Historians estimate that between 13 December 1937, and late January 1938, Japanese forces killed or wounded an estimated 40,000 to 300,000 Chinese (mostly civilians) in the "Nanjing Massacre" (also known as the "Rape of Nanjing"), after its fall. However, historian David Askew of Japan's Ritsumeikan University argued that less than 32,000 civilians and soldiers died and no more than 250,000 civilians could have remained in Nanjing, the vast majority of whom had taken refuge in the Nanjing Safety Zone, a foreign-established safety zone led by John Rabe who was a Nazi party official. [75] More than 75% of Nanjing's civilian population had already fled Nanjing before the battle commenced while most of the remainder took refuge in Nanking Safety Zone, leaving only destitute pariah classes like Tanka people and Duo people behind. [ citation needed ]

In 2005, a history textbook prepared by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform which had been approved by the government in 2001, sparked huge outcry and protests in China and Korea. It referred to the Nanjing Massacre and other atrocities such as the Manila massacre as an "incident", glossed over the issue of comfort women, and made only brief references to the death of Chinese soldiers and civilians in Nanjing. [76] A copy of the 2005 version of a junior high school textbook titled New History Textbook found that there is no mention of the "Nanjing Massacre" or the "Nanjing Incident". Indeed, the only one sentence that referred to this event was: "they [the Japanese troops] occupied that city in December". [77] As of 2015 [update] , some right-wing Japanese negationists deny that the massacre occurred, and have successfully lobbied for revision and exclusion of information in Japanese schoolbooks. [78]

1938 Edit

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 in Jiangsu in an attempt to wipe out Chinese resistance, but were defeated at the Battle of Taierzhuang (March–April 1938). Afterwards the IJA changed its strategy and deployed almost all of its existing armies in China to attack the city of Wuhan, which had become the political, economic and military center of rump China, in hopes of destroying the fighting strength of the NRA and of forcing the KMT government to negotiate for peace. [79] On 6 June, they captured Kaifeng, the capital of Henan, and threatened to take Zhengzhou, the junction of the Pinghan and Longhai railways.

To prevent Japanese advances in western and southern China, Chiang Kai-shek, at the suggestion of Chen Guofu, ordered the opening of the dikes on the Yellow River near Zhengzhou. The original plan was to destroy the dike in Zhaokou, but due to difficulties in that place, the Huayuankou dike on the south bank was destroyed on 5 June and 7 June by excavation, with flood waters over eastern Henan, central Anhui, and north central Jiangsu. The floods covered and destroyed thousands of square kilometers of agricultural land and displaced the mouth of the Yellow River hundreds of miles to the south. Thousands of villages were flooded or destroyed and several million villagers were forced to evacuate from their homes. 400,000 people including Japanese soldiers drowned and an additional 10 million became refugees. Rivers were filled with corpses as Tanka boat dwellers drowned from boat capsize. Damage to plantations also affected the population which generated later hunger. Despite this, the Japanese captured Wuhan on 27 October 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 the pre-1937 borders. In 1937, the Japanese Imperial Army quickly marched into the heart of Chinese territory.

With Japanese casualties and costs mounting, the Imperial General Headquarters attempted to break Chinese resistance by ordering the air branches of their navy and 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 many people either dead, injured, or homeless.

1939–40: Chinese counterattack and stalemate Edit

From the beginning of 1939, the war entered a new phase with the unprecedented defeat of the Japanese at Battle of Suixian–Zaoyang, 1st Battle of Changsha, Battle of South Guangxi and Battle of Zaoyi. 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, this offensive was defeated. 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 troops 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.

During the offensive, Hui forces in Suiyuan under generals Ma Hongbin and Ma Buqing routed the Imperial Japanese Army and their puppet Inner Mongol forces and prevented the planned Japanese advance into northwest China. Ma Hongbin's father Ma Fulu had fought against Japanese in the Boxer Rebellion. General Ma Biao led Hui, Salar and Dongxiang cavalry to defeat the Japanese at the Battle of Huaiyang. [80] [81] [82] [83] [84] [85] [86] [87] [88] Ma Biao fought against the Japanese in the Boxer Rebellion.

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

Japanese expansion Edit

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 the manner of Nazi Germany in Western Europe.

By 1943, Guangdong had experienced famine. As the situation worsened, New York Chinese compatriots received a letter stating that 600,000 people were killed in Siyi by starvation. [89]

Chinese resistance strategy Edit

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

  • First Period: 7 July 1937 (Battle of Lugou Bridge) – 25 October 1938 (end of the Battle of Wuhan with the fall of the city).
  • Second Period: 25 October 1938 (following the Fall of Wuhan) – December 1941 (before the Allies' declaration of war on Japan).

First period (July 1937 – October 1938) Edit

Unlike Japan, China was unprepared for total war and had little military-industrial strength, no mechanized divisions, and few armoured forces. [90] 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 (CPC), 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 CPC 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 Fabian strategy of "trading space for time" (simplified Chinese: 以空间换取时间 traditional Chinese: 以空間換取時間 ). 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, dams and levees were intentionally sabotaged to create massive flooding, which caused thousands of deaths and many more to seek refuge.

Second period (October 1938 – December 1941) Edit

During this period, the main Chinese objective was to drag out the war for as long as possible in a war of attrition, thereby exhausting Japanese resources while building up Chinese military capacity. American general Joseph Stilwell called this strategy "winning by outlasting". The NRA 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, organized 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 Imperial Japanese Army and led them to employ the "Three Alls Policy" (kill all, loot all, burn all) ( 三光政策 , 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 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.

The United States strongly supported China starting in 1937 and warned Japan to get out. [91] However, the United States continued to support Japan with petroleum and scrap metal exports until the Japanese invasion of French Indochina which forced the U.S. to impose the scrap metal and oil embargo against Japan (and freezing of Japanese assets) in the summer of 1941. [92] [93] As the Soviets prepared for war against Nazi Germany in June 1941, and all new Soviet combat aircraft now destined to that war-front, Chiang Kai-shek sought American support through the Lend-Lease Act that was promised in March 1941. [94] [95] [96]

After the Lend-Lease Act was passed, American financial and military aid began to flow. [97] Claire Lee Chennault commanded the 1st American Volunteer Group (nicknamed the Flying Tigers), with American pilots flying American warplanes painted with the Chinese flag to attack the Japanese. He headed both the volunteer group and the uniformed U.S. Army Air Forces units that replaced it in 1942. [98] However, it was the Soviets that provided the greatest material help for China's war of resistance against the imperial Japanese invasion from 1937 into 1941, with fighter aircraft for the Nationalist Chinese Air Force and artillery and armour for the Chinese Army through the Sino-Soviet Treaty Operation Zet also provided for a group of Soviet volunteer combat aviators to join the Chinese Air Force in the fight against the Japanese occupation from late 1937 through 1939. The United States cut off Japan's main oil supplies in 1941 to pressure Japan to compromise regarding China, but Japan instead attacked American, British and Dutch possessions in the western Pacific. [99]

Relationship between the Nationalists and Communists Edit

After the Mukden Incident in 1931, Chinese public opinion was strongly critical of Manchuria's leader, the "young marshal" Zhang Xueliang, for his non-resistance 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 12 December 1936, a deeply disgruntled Zhang Xueliang kidnapped Chiang Kai-shek in Xi'an, hoping to force an end to the conflict between KMT and CPC. To secure the release of Chiang, the KMT agreed to a temporary end to the Chinese Civil War and, on 24 December, the creation of a United Front between the CPC and KMT against Japan. The alliance having salutary effects for the beleaguered CPC, they agreed to form the New Fourth Army and the 8th Route Army and place them under the nominal control of the NRA. In agreement with KMT Shaan-Gan-Ning Border Region and Shanxi-Chahar-Hebei Border Region were created. They were controlled by CCP. The CPC's Red Army fought alongside KMT forces during the Battle of Taiyuan, and the high point of their cooperation 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 CPC 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. [100] 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 CPC's eventual seizure of power from Chiang Kai-shek. Mao began his final push for consolidation of CPC power under his authority, and his teachings became the central tenets of the CPC 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 CPC and fighting the Japanese at the same time. [101]

Entrance of the Western Allies Edit

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war against Japan, and within days China joined the Allies in formal declaration of war against Japan, Germany and Italy. [102] As the Western Allies entered the war against Japan, the Sino-Japanese War would become part of a greater conflict, the Pacific theatre of World War II. Almost immediately, Chinese troops achieved another decisive victory in the Battle of Changsha, which earned the Chinese government much prestige from the Western Allies. President Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to the United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union and China as the world's "Four Policemen" his primary reason for elevating China to such a status was the belief that after the war it would serve as a bulwark against the Soviet Union. [103]

Knowledge of Japanese naval movements in the Pacific was provided to the American Navy by the Sino-American Cooperative Organization (SACO) which was run by the Chinese intelligence head Dai Li. [104] Philippine and Japanese ocean weather was affected by weather originating near northern China. [105] The base of SACO was located in Yangjiashan. [106]

Chiang Kai-shek continued to receive supplies from the United States. 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". In Burma, on 16 April 1942, 7,000 British soldiers were encircled by the Japanese 33rd Division during the Battle of Yenangyaung and rescued by the Chinese 38th Division. [107] After the Doolittle Raid, the Imperial Japanese Army conducted a massive sweep through Zhejiang and Jiangxi of China, now known as the Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign, with the goal of finding the surviving American airmen, applying retribution on the Chinese who aided them and destroying air bases. The operation started 15 May 1942, with 40 infantry battalions and 15–16 artillery battalions but was repelled by Chinese forces in September. [108] During this campaign, the Imperial Japanese Army left behind a trail of devastation and also spread cholera, typhoid, plague and dysentery pathogens. Chinese estimates allege that as many as 250,000 civilians, the vast majority of whom were destitute Tanka boat people and other pariah ethnicities unable to flee, may have died of disease. [109] [110] [111] It caused more than 16 million civilians to evacuate far away deep inward China. 90% of Ningbo's population had already fled before battle started. [112]

Most of China's 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 matériel, 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 (such as Barbara W. Tuchman) have suggested it was largely due to the corruption and inefficiency of the Kuomintang (KMT) government, while others (such as Ray Huang and Hans van de Ven) 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 out-waiting 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. [113]

Long-standing 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 possessions. Chiang also believed that China should divert its crack army divisions from Burma to eastern China to defend the airbases of the American bombers that he hoped would defeat Japan through bombing, a strategy that American general Claire Lee Chennault supported but which Stilwell strongly opposed. In addition, Chiang voiced his support of Indian independence in a 1942 meeting with Mahatma Gandhi, which further soured the relationship between China and the United Kingdom. [114]

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). [115] Chinese forces invaded northern Burma in late 1943 besieged Japanese troops in Myitkyina and captured Mount Song. [116] The British and Commonwealth forces had their operation in Mission 204 which attempted to provide assistance to the Chinese Nationalist Army. [117] The first phase in 1942 under command of SOE achieved very little, but lessons were learned and a second more successful phase, commenced in February 1943 under British Military command, was conducted before the Japanese Operation Ichi-Go offensive in 1944 compelled evacuation. [118]

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, with the Japanese position in the Pacific deteriorating rapidly, the IJA mobilized over 500,000 men and launched Operation Ichi-Go, their largest offensive of 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 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. In 1944, China came off of several victories against Japan in Burma leading to overconfidence. Nationalist China also diverted soldiers to Xinjiang since 1942 to retake the province from the Soviet client Sheng Shicai whose puppet army was backed by the Soviet Red Army 8th Regiment in Hami, Xinjiang since the Soviet invasion of Xinjiang in 1934 when the Soviets occupied northern Xinjiang and the Islamic rebellion in Xinjiang in 1937 when the Soviets occupied southern Xinjiang as well placing all of Xinjiang under Sheng Shicai and Soviet Communist control. The fighting then escalated in early 1944 with the Ili Rebellion with Soviet backed Uyghur Communist rebels, causing China to fight enemies on two fronts with 120,000 Chinese soldiers fighting against the Ili rebellion. The aim of the Japanese Operation Ichigo was to destroy American airfields in southern China that threatened the Japanese home islands with bombing and to link railways in Beijing, Hankou and Canton cities from northern China in Beijing to southern China's coast on Canton. Japan was alarmed by American air raids against Japanese forces in Taiwan's Hsinchu airfield by American bombers based in southern China, correctly deducing that southern China could become the base of a major American bombing campaign against the Japanese home islands so Japan resolved to destroy and capture all airbases where American bombers operated from in Operation Ichigo. Chiang Kai-shek and the Republic of China authorities deliberately ignored and dismissed a tip passed on to the Chinese government in Chongqing by the French military that the French picked up in colonial French Indochina on the impending Japanese offensive to link the three cities. The Chinese military believed it to be a fake tip planted by Japan to mislead them since only 30,000 Japanese soldiers started the first maneuver of Operation Ichigo in northern China crossing the Yellow river so the Chinese assumed it would be a local operation in northern China only. Another major factor was that the battlefront between China and Japan was static and stabilized since 1940 and continued for four years that way until Operation Ichigo in 1944 so Chiang assumed that Japan would continue the same posture and remain behind the lines in pre-1940 occupied territories of North China only bolstering the puppet Chinese government of Wang Jingwei and exploiting resources there. The Japanese had indeed acted this way from 1940 to 1944, with the Japanese only making a few failed weak attempts to capture China's provisional capital in Chongqing on the Yangtze river which they quickly abandoned and gave up on before 1944. Japan also exhibited no intention before of linking the transcontinental Beijing Hankow Canton railways. China also was made confident by its three victories in a row defending Changsha against Japan at the Battle of Changsha (1939), Battle of Changsha (1941), and Battle of Changsha (1942). China had also defeated Japan in the India-Burma theater in Southeast Asia with X Force and Y Force and the Chinese could not believe Japan had carelessly let information slip into French hands, believing Japan deliberately fed misinformation to the French to divert Chinese troops from India and Burma towards China. China believed the Burma theater to be far more important for Japan than southern China and that Japanese forces in southern China would continue to assume a defensive posture only. China believed the initial Japanese attack in Ichigo to be a localized feint and distraction in northern China so Chinese troops numbering 400,000 in North China deliberately withdrew without a fight when Japan attacked, assuming it was just another localized operation after which the Japanese would withdraw. This mistake led to the collapse of Chinese defensive lines as the Japanese soldiers which eventually numbered in the hundreds of thousands kept pressing the attack from northern China to central China to southern China's provinces as Chinese soldiers deliberately withdrew leading to confusion and collapse, except at the Defense of Hengyang where 17,000 outnumbered Chinese soldiers held out against over 110,000 Japanese soldiers for months in the longest siege of the war inflicting 19,000–60,000 deaths on the Japanese. At Tushan in Guizhou province, the Nationalist government of China was forced to deploy five armies of the 8th war zone that they were using for the entire war up to Ichigo to contain the Communist Chinese to instead fight Japan. But at that point, dietary deficiencies of Japanese soldiers and increasing casualties suffered by Japan forced Japan to end Operation Ichigo in Guizhou causing the operation to cease. After Operation Ichigo, Chiang Kai-shek started a plan to withdraw Chinese troops from the Burma theatre against Japan in Southeast Asia for a counter offensive called "White Tower" and "Iceman" against Japanese soldiers in China in 1945. [119]

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. [120] 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. However, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Soviet invasion of Manchuria hastened Japanese surrender and these plans were not put into action. [121]

Before the start of full-scale warfare of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Germany had since the time of the Weimar Republic, provided much equipment and training to crack units of the National Revolutionary Army of China, including some aerial-combat training with the Luftwaffe to some pilots of pre-Nationalist Air Force of China. [122] A number of foreign powers including the Americans, Italians, Japanese providing training and equipment to different air force units of pre-war China. With the outbreak of full-scale war between China and the Empire of Japan, the Soviet Union became the primary supporter for China's war of resistance through the Sino-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact from 1937–41. When the Imperial Japanese invaded French Indochina, the United States enacted the oil and steel embargo against Japan and froze all Japanese assets in 1941, [123] [124] [125] [126] and with it came the Lend-Lease Act of which China became a beneficiary on 6 May 1941 from there, China's main diplomatic, financial and military supporter came from the U.S., particularly following the attack on Pearl Harbor. [127] [128] [129]

Overseas Chinese Edit

Over 3,200 overseas Chinese drivers and motor vehicle mechanics embarked to wartime China to support military and logistics supply lines, especially through Indo-China, which became of absolute tantamount importance when the Japanese cut-off all ocean-access to China's interior with the capture of Nanning after the Battle of South Guangxi. [130] Overseas Chinese communities in the U.S. raised money and nurtured talent in response to Imperial Japan's aggressions in China, which helped to fund an entire squadron of Boeing P-26 Model 281 fighter planes purchased for the looming war situation between China and the Empire of Japan over a dozen Chinese-American aviators, including John "Buffalo" Huang, Arthur Chin, Hazel Ying Lee, Chan Kee-Wong et al., formed the original contingent of foreign volunteer aviators to join the Chinese air forces (some provincial or warlord air forces, but ultimately all integrating into the centralized Chinese Air Force often called the Nationalist Air Force of China) in the "patriotic call to duty for the motherland" to fight against the Imperial Japanese invasion. [131] [132] [133] [134] Several of the original Chinese-American volunteer pilots were sent to Lagerlechfeld Air Base in Germany for aerial-gunnery training by the Chinese Air Force in 1936. [135]

German Edit

Prior to the war, Germany and China were in close economic and military cooperation, with Germany helping China modernize its industry and military in exchange for raw materials. Germany sent military advisers such as Alexander von Falkenhausen to China to help the KMT government reform its armed forces. [136] Some divisions began training to German standards and were to form a relatively small but well trained Chinese Central Army. By the mid-1930s about 80,000 soldiers had received German-style training. [137] After the KMT lost Nanjing and retreated to Wuhan, Hitler's government decided to withdraw its support of China in 1938 in favor of an alliance with Japan as its main anti-Communist partner in East Asia. [138]

Soviet Edit

After Germany and Japan signed the anti-communist Anti-Comintern Pact, the Soviet Union hoped to keep China fighting, in order to deter a Japanese invasion of Siberia and save itself from a two-front war. In September 1937, they signed the Sino-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact and approved Operation Zet, the formation of a secret Soviet volunteer air force, in which Soviet technicians upgraded and ran some of China's transportation systems. Bombers, fighters, supplies and advisors arrived, including Soviet general Vasily Chuikov, future victor in the Battle of Stalingrad. Prior to the Western Allies, the Soviets provided the most foreign aid to China: some $250 million in credits for munitions and other supplies. The Soviet Union defeated Japan in the Battles of Khalkhin Gol in May – September 1939, leaving the Japanese reluctant to fight the Soviets again. [139] In April 1941, Soviet aid to China ended with 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 August 1945, the Soviet Union annulled the neutrality pact with Japan and invaded Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, the Kuril Islands, and northern Korea. The Soviets also continued to support the Chinese Communist Party. In total, 3,665 Soviet advisors and pilots served in China, [140] and 227 of them died fighting there. [141]

Western allies Edit

The United States generally avoided taking sides between Japan and China until 1940, providing virtually no aid to China in this period. For instance, the 1934 Silver Purchase Act signed by President Roosevelt caused chaos in China's economy which helped the Japanese war effort. The 1933 Wheat and Cotton Loan mainly benefited American producers, while aiding to a smaller extent both Chinese and Japanese alike. This policy was due to US fear of breaking off profitable trade ties with Japan, in addition to US officials and businesses perception of China as a potential source of massive profit for the US by absorbing surplus American products, as William Appleman Williams states. [142]

From December 1937, events such as the Japanese attack on USS Panay and the Nanjing 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 China. Australia also prevented a Japanese government-owned company from taking over an iron mine in Australia, and banned iron ore exports in 1938. [143] 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 US government extended a trade agreement with Japan for six months, then fully restored it. Under the agreement, Japan purchased trucks for the Kwantung Army, [144] machine tools for aircraft factories, strategic materials (steel and scrap iron up to 16 October 1940, petrol and petroleum products up to 26 June 1941), [145] and various other much-needed supplies.

In a hearing before the United States Congress House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on Wednesday, 19 April 1939, the acting chairman Sol Bloom and other Congressmen interviewed Maxwell S. Stewart, a former Foreign Policy Association research staff and economist who charged that America's Neutrality Act and its "neutrality policy" was a massive farce which only benefited Japan and that Japan did not have the capability nor could ever have invaded China without the massive amount of raw material America exported to Japan. America exported far more raw material to Japan than to China in the years 1937–1940. [146] [147] [148] [149] According to the United States Congress, the U.S.'s third largest export destination was Japan until 1940 when France overtook it due to France being at war too. Japan's military machine acquired all the war materials, automotive equipment, steel, scrap iron, copper, oil, that it wanted from the United States in 1937–1940 and was allowed to purchase aerial bombs, aircraft equipment, and aircraft from America up to the summer of 1938. War essentials exports from the United States to Japan increased by 124% along with a general increase of 41% of all exports from 1936 to 1937 when Japan invaded China. Japan's war economy was fueled by exports to the United States at over twice the rate immediately preceding the war. [150] 41.6 percent of pig iron, 59.7 percent of scrap iron and 91.2 percent of automobiles and automobile parts of Japan were imported from the United States, as Japan needed to supply huge armies some aggregating 800,000 soldiers, in China. [151] According to the 1939 Reports to the Annual National Convention of the American Legion, in 1936 1,467,639 tons of scrap metal from all foreign nations were exported to Japan while since 1937 Japan's dependence on the United States of America grew massively for war materials and supplies against China. [152] [153] The US contributed massively to the Japanese war economy in 1937 with 20.4% of zinc, 48.5% of engines and machinery, 59.7% of iron, 41.6% of pig iron, 60.5% of oil, 91.2% of automobiles and parts, 92.9% of copper of Japan were imported from the U.S. in 1937 according to a hearing by the United States Congress Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. [154] [155] [156] [157] From 1937 to 1940, the US exported a total of $986.7 million to Japan. The total value of military supplies was $703.9 million. During the Japanese war against China, 54.4% of Japan's weapons and supplies were provided by Americans. 76% of Japanese planes came from the US in 1938, and all lubricating oil, machine tools, special steel, high-test aircraft petrol came from the US, as did 59.7% of Japan's scrap iron and 60.5% of Japan's petrol in 1937. Japan freely bought weapons from U.S. companies, even as the U.S. Government barred the sale of weapons to Republican Spain. From 1937 to 1940, Japanese bombers were fueled with American oil and Japanese weapons were made out of American scrap iron. America supplied Japan with 54.4% of its war materials in 1937 when Japan invaded China, increasing to 56% in 1938. Japan by itself had scant and meager resources and could not have prosecuted war against China or dreamed of empire without massive imports. [158] The Dutch East Indies, the British Empire and United States of America were the top exporters of war supplies for Japan's military against China in 1937, with 7.4% from the Dutch, 17.5% from the British and 54.4% from the United States of America. Oil, scrap iron and rubber were all sold by France, the Netherlands, Britain and the U.S. to Japan after the invasion of China in 1937. [159] [160] In 15 Sep 1939 American oil companies unveiled contracts to deliver three million barrels of petroleum to the Japanese Navy.

Japan invaded and occupied the northern part of French Indochina (present-day Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia) 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.

On 22 June 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union. In spite of non-aggression pacts or trade connections, Hitler's assault threw the world into a frenzy of re-aligning political outlooks and strategic prospects.

On 21 July, 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, Singapore, and the Dutch East 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 (particularly the navy) were against the move, as they foresaw that it would invite retaliation from the West.

On 24 July 1941, Roosevelt requested Japan withdraw all its forces from Indochina. Two days later the US and the UK began an oil embargo two days after that the Netherlands joined them. 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 7 December 1941.

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 newly introduced shark painted P-40 fighters heavily armed with 6X50 caliber machine guns and very fast diving speeds earned them wide recognition at a time when the Chinese Air Force and Allies in the Pacific and SE Asia were suffering heavy losses, and soon afterwards their "boom and zoom" high-speed hit-and-run dissimilar air combat tactics would be adopted by the United States Army Air Forces. [161]

The Sino-American Cooperative Organization [162] [163] [164] was an organization created by the SACO Treaty signed by the Republic of China and the United States of America in 1942 that established a mutual intelligence gathering entity in China between the respective nations against Japan. It operated in China jointly along with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), America's first intelligence agency and forerunner of the CIA while also serving as joint training program between the two nations. Among all the wartime missions that Americans set up in China, SACO was the only one that adopted a policy of "total immersion" with the Chinese. The "Rice Paddy Navy" or "What-the-Hell Gang" operated in the China-Burma-India theater, advising and training, forecasting weather and scouting landing areas for USN fleet and Gen Claire Chennault's 14th AF, rescuing downed American flyers, and intercepting Japanese radio traffic. An underlying mission objective during the last year of war was the development and preparation of the China coast for Allied penetration and occupation. The Foochow (Fujian Province) was scouted as a potential staging area and springboard for the future military landing of the Allies of World War II in Japan.

In February 1941 a Sino-British agreement was forged whereby British troops would assist the Chinese "Surprise Troops" units of guerrillas already operating in China, and China would assist Britain in Burma. [165]

A British-Australian commando operation, Mission 204, was initialized in February 1942 to provide training to Chinese guerrilla troops. The mission conducted two operations, mostly in the provinces of Yunnan and Jiangxi. The first phase achieved very little but a second more successful phase was conducted before withdrawal. [166]

Commandos working with the Free Thai Movement also operated in China, mostly while on their way into Thailand. [167]

After the Japanese blocked the Burma Road in April 1942, and before the Ledo Road was finished in early 1945, the majority of US and British supplies to the Chinese had to be delivered via airlift over the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains known as the Hump. Flying over the Himalayas was extremely dangerous, but the airlift continued daily to August 1945, at great cost in men and aircraft.

The Chinese Kuomintang also supported the Vietnamese Việt Nam Quốc Dân Đảng (VNQDD) 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. [168] 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 Jingxi. [168] The pro-VNQDD nationalist Ho Ngoc Lam, a KMT army officer and former disciple of Phan Bội Châu, [169] was named as the deputy of Phạm Văn Đồng, later to be Ho's Prime Minister. The front was later broadened and renamed the Viet Nam Giai Phong Dong Minh (Vietnam Liberation League). [168]

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 Japanese and French Imperialists. [170] [171] The Revolutionary League was controlled by Nguyen Hai Than, who was born in China and could not speak Vietnamese [ citation needed ] . 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 Indochina. [172] The KMT utilized these Vietnamese nationalists during World War II against Japanese forces. [168] 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!" [173]

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. [174] The Chinese used the VNQDD, the Vietnamese branch of the Chinese Kuomintang, to increase their influence in French Indochina and to put pressure on their opponents. [175] Chiang Kai-shek threatened the French with war in response to maneuvering 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. [176] [177] [178] [179]

Rebellion occurred in the Xinjiang province in 1937 when a pro-Soviet General Sheng Shicai invaded the province accompanied by Soviet troops. The invasion was resisted by General Ma Hushan of the KMT 36th Division.

General Ma Hushan was expecting help from Nanjing, as he exchanged messages with Chiang regarding the Soviet attack. But, both the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Xinjiang War erupted simultaneously leaving Chiang and Ma Hushan each 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 it was forced to mask these maneuvers to the public as "Japanese propaganda" to avoid an international incident and for continued military supplies from the Soviets. [180]

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

General Ma Buqing was in virtual control of the Gansu corridor at that time. [181] Ma Buqing had earlier fought against the Japanese, but because the Soviet threat was great, Chiang changed Ma's position, in July 1942, by instructing Ma to move 30,000 of his troops to the Tsaidam marsh in the Qaidam Basin of Qinghai. [182] [183] Chiang named Ma as 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. [184]

The Ili Rebellion broke out in Xinjiang when the Kuomintang Hui 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 fought back. [185]

Japan attempted to reach out to Chinese ethnic minorities in order to rally them to their side against the Han Chinese, but only succeeded with certain Manchu, Mongol, Uyghur and Tibetan elements.

The Japanese attempt to get the Muslim Hui people on their side failed, as many Chinese generals such as Bai Chongxi, Ma Hongbin, Ma Hongkui, and Ma Bufang were Hui. The Japanese attempted to approach Ma Bufang but were unsuccessful in making any agreement with him. [186] Ma Bufang ended up supporting the anti-Japanese Imam Hu Songshan, who prayed for the destruction of the Japanese. [187] Ma became chairman (governor) of Qinghai in 1938 and commanded a group army. He was appointed because of his anti-Japanese inclinations, [188] and was such an obstruction to Japanese agents trying to contact the Tibetans that he was called an "adversary" by a Japanese agent. [189]

Chiang Kai-Shek

Ererba (228-Incident) wasn't directly his fault but rather that of an overzealous governor, one Chen Yi (later executed by Chiang for being a suspected communist). However, Chiang Kai-shek did singled out Taiwan, having been under Japanese rule for half a century, for specially harsh treatment. Native and Chinese Taiwanese were second class to new Chinese mainland immigrants (even after 1949). KMT troops behaved badly in the immediate years after 1945, and there was a fair amount of carpet bagging.

Chiang Kai-Shek was definitely not a nice sort of leader. Assassination of liberals, leftists, democrats, etc were common. I think the 10 million figure might have been a bit of an exaggeration, although it might have included figures for the Chinese Civil War. Chiang did conducted systematic purges of communists throughout the Civil War, and there's a three-year famine in the north west that caused up to 6 million deaths (Matthew White's page:


no, no, Chiang Kai-Shek is just a normal, good looking dictator.

In some countries, people need these dictators to be loyal with, to feel that they are all under rule by an important person.


Ererba (228-Incident) wasn't directly his fault but rather that of an overzealous governor, one Chen Yi (later executed by Chiang for being a suspected communist). However, Chiang Kai-shek did singled out Taiwan, having been under Japanese rule for half a century, for specially harsh treatment. Native and Chinese Taiwanese were second class to new Chinese mainland immigrants (even after 1949). KMT troops behaved badly in the immediate years after 1945, and there was a fair amount of carpet bagging.

Chiang Kai-Shek was definitely not a nice sort of leader. Assassination of liberals, leftists, democrats, etc were common. I think the 10 million figure might have been a bit of an exaggeration, although it might have included figures for the Chinese Civil War. Chiang did conducted systematic purges of communists throughout the Civil War, and there's a three-year famine in the north west that caused up to 6 million deaths (Matthew White's page:

True. and I don't think Chiang Kai-Shek is one of the most prolific killers even if the 10 million figure is correct- Hong Xiuquan would have a better claim with his Taiping Rebellion, leading to the death of an estimated 20 million.

On the side note, I do agree that Chiang is definitely not a nice sort of leader.
But is Chiang no different than Stalin or Hitler? Does it warrant the title 'prolific killer'? Would people agree that Napoleon was also a 'prolific killer'?

Assassinating Chiang Kai-shek

During World War II, it was sometimes hard to know who hated the Chinese Nationalist commander Chiang Kai-shek more: his sworn enemy, the Chinese Communist Party, and its leader Mao Zedong — or the Americans. It is a little known fact that at least twice during the long course of the war, senior officials of the United States considered assassinating Chiang, who was fighting the Japanese on the side of the Americans. During the Cairo Conference in November 1943, attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Chiang, Roosevelt met privately with his senior commander in China, Maj. Gen. Joseph Stilwell. “Big boy,” Stilwell said when he got back to China’s wartime capital Chongqing, quoting Roosevelt to his chief of staff, Gen. Frank “Pinky” Dorn, “if you can’t get along with Chiang and can’t replace him, get rid of him once and for all. You know what I mean. Put in someone you can manage.”

Stilwell, who made no secret of his contempt for Chiang, told Dorn to “cook up a workable scheme and await orders.” Dorn did just that, devising a plan that would have been worthy of a mass-market thriller. Stillwell would take Chiang on a flight to Ramgarh in northeast India to inspect Chinese troops being trained there, as part of the effort to improve the Nationalists’ backward army. The pilot would pretend to have engine trouble and order his crew and passengers to bail out. Chiang would be escorted to the door of the plane wearing a faulty parachute and told to jump. “I believe it would work,” Stilwell told Dorn.

During World War II, it was sometimes hard to know who hated the Chinese Nationalist commander Chiang Kai-shek more: his sworn enemy, the Chinese Communist Party, and its leader Mao Zedong — or the Americans. It is a little known fact that at least twice during the long course of the war, senior officials of the United States considered assassinating Chiang, who was fighting the Japanese on the side of the Americans. During the Cairo Conference in November 1943, attended by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Chiang, Roosevelt met privately with his senior commander in China, Maj. Gen. Joseph Stilwell. “Big boy,” Stilwell said when he got back to China’s wartime capital Chongqing, quoting Roosevelt to his chief of staff, Gen. Frank “Pinky” Dorn, “if you can’t get along with Chiang and can’t replace him, get rid of him once and for all. You know what I mean. Put in someone you can manage.”

Stilwell, who made no secret of his contempt for Chiang, told Dorn to “cook up a workable scheme and await orders.” Dorn did just that, devising a plan that would have been worthy of a mass-market thriller. Stillwell would take Chiang on a flight to Ramgarh in northeast India to inspect Chinese troops being trained there, as part of the effort to improve the Nationalists’ backward army. The pilot would pretend to have engine trouble and order his crew and passengers to bail out. Chiang would be escorted to the door of the plane wearing a faulty parachute and told to jump. “I believe it would work,” Stilwell told Dorn.

Even before the Cairo Conference, Stilwell had told Carl F. Eifler, the senior American intelligence officer in China, that to fight the war successfully there, “it would be necessary to get Chiang out of the way.” Eifler determined that a botulinum toxin, which would have been undetectable in an autopsy, would be an effective weapon. In a May 1944 meeting at his headquarters in Burma, however, Stilwell told Eifler that he’d changed his mind about eliminating Chiang. Nothing further was done.

This American (and Chinese) vexation with Chiang persisted for decades — even after he fled to Taiwan — resulting in a widespread conventional wisdom that he was one of the great incompetents of history. Indeed, it would be pointless to deny his faults. Especially after the United States came into the war at the end of 1941, he frequently refused to go on the offensive against Japan, keeping several hundred thousand of his best troops in reserve to guard against the expansion of Mao’s party in the north. At Cairo, Roosevelt wondered aloud to his son Elliot “why Chiang’s troops aren’t fighting at all.” And Chiang was no liberal democrat: His much feared secret police, which Stilwell likened to the Gestapo, maintained a regime of surveillance, imprisonment, and — on occasion — execution of real and suspected opponents.

And yet, the view of Chiang in the United States has softened in recent years — a trend marked by the 2009 book The Generalissimo, a major biography by the historian Jay Taylor, which gave Chiang more credit for his brave leadership under impossible circumstances than previous historians. The view of Chiang has also shifted on both mainland China and Taiwan, reflecting changing political circumstances in both places. For Beijing, which just held a splashy military parade on Sept. 3 to celebrate its wartime victory over Japan, there have been far fewer negative comments about Chiang, intransigent anti-Communist though he was. Conversely, on Taiwan, the one part of China that he was able to preserve from Maoist dictatorship, Chiang’s stature has steadily declined.

Why the shift? Especially in the United States, there’s the realization that getting rid of Chiang would in all likelihood have not produced a happy result. It is hard to imagine that it would have altered the tragically paradoxical outcome of World War II in Asia: The United States fought for four years to prevent a hostile power, Japan, from controlling China, only to see the country fall to a Communist dictatorship closely allied to the Soviet Union, an even more menacingly hostile power.

Furthermore, many Americans at the time subsequently underestimated both the magnitude of the task that Chiang faced as his country’s wartime leader and his achievements against extraordinary odds. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine any alternative Chinese figure doing much better.

Contrary to popular perception, for example, Chiang did fight: He mounted a brave, veritably suicidal, resistance to the initial full-scale Japanese invasion of 1937. According to Stilwell’s replacement, Gen. Albert C. Wedemeyer, the battle for Shanghai, in which China lost thousands of its best troops, was at the time the world’s bloodiest battle since Verdun in 1916. Japan’s military leaders had predicted that the war in China would be over quickly. It could have been — if Chiang surrendered and joined forces with the Japanese in a renewed effort to eradicate the Communists. But while that may have been tempting, Chiang never did. His defiance tied down a million Japanese troops who otherwise would have been available for battle against American forces. For the first four years of its eight-year war of resistance against Japan, until Pearl Harbor pushed the United States into the battle in December 1941, China fought alone.

It was this that so impressed Wedemeyer. While Stilwell saw the Chinese leader as “a grasping, bigoted, ungrateful little rattlesnake,” Wedemeyer was unrestrained in his admiration. Chiang’s call on China’s people to “sacrifice and fight to the bitter end” was, Wedemeyer believed, “more gallant and resolute than Churchill’s famous ‘blood, sweat and tears’ speech.” Given his situation, moreover, his military strategy of “endeavoring to dissipate Japanese strength and forcing the enemy to overextend his lines” made perfect sense, Wedemeyer felt, and so did his diversion of troops to prevent Communist expansion. Chiang understood — as most Americans, focused exclusively on the defeat of Japan, did not — that once the war ended there would be a fight to the finish between him and the Communists. Chiang maintained, to any Americans who would listen, that if successful the Communists would impose a totalitarian dictatorship allied with the Soviet Union. And Mao’s total victory in 1949 proved him right.

As both mainland China and Taiwan observe the 70th anniversary of the victory over Japan, Beijing’s position on Chiang as a wartime leader has edged closer to Wedemeyer’s than to Stilwell’s. This took decades. During the 1960s and 1970s, when Mao still ruled China, the propaganda emanating from Beijing spoke about “American imperialism and its running dog Chiang Kai-shek.” After the anti-imperialist rhetoric died away in China in the 1980s, Beijing portrayed Chiang as a reactionary servant of international capitalism who, but for the blessing of the party’s victory, would have prevented the “new China” from being born. Nor was Chiang given any credit for the victory over Japan — that went to Communist guerrillas and Mao’s theories of people’s war.

There hasn’t been an official verdict on Chiang of the sort that the party has decreed, for example, in connection with Mao, declaring him to have been 70 percent correct and 30 percent wrong. Still, in recent years, the accepted opinion about Chiang has clearly shifted in a positive direction, starting with a recognition of his role resisting the Japanese invasion. In 2009, for example, as China marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, the documentary The Founding of a Republic depicted Chiang as an essentially honorable figure misled by bad advisors. Since then, official exhibits on Chiang have dropped much of the tone of enmity that previously prevailed — and replaced it with a mostly respectful view of him as the country’s legitimate wartime leader.

The 70th anniversary commemoration seems to have brought the trend regarding Chiang to a new stage, with many in Beijing seeming to recognize that Chiang wasn’t only a patriot but that he deserved credit for the defeat of Japan — a conclusion that American historians have only reached recently. Yang Tianshi, a member of the official Chinese Institute of Modern History, has been prominent on Chinese web portals and in television interviews, explicitly rejecting old Communist arguments that Chiang refused to fight the Japanese. Given the tremendous disadvantages that encumbered Chiang, especially China’s material weakness and political fragmentation, Yang has argued his “patriotic contribution” was actually rather extraordinary. “Chiang Kai-shek never wavered in his determination to resist the Japanese,” Yang has written. “He was a nationalist and a patriot.”

Paradoxically, while Beijing has expressed deeper respect for Chiang, his standing among the Taiwanese has steadily declined. Chiang, who ruled over the island from his arrival in 1949 to his death at the age of 87 in 1975, exercised a regime of terrifying repression. Tens of thousands of people, including much of the Taiwanese educated elite, were executed in a White Terror that lasted until 1987. In the early years of Chiang’s control over Taiwan — which proudly called itself “Free China” — the island was as repressive as the mainland under Mao.

Taiwanese remembered Chiang’s repressions as the island became a democracy in the mid-1990s. Chiang’s official stature remains high — his picture, for example, adorns Taiwan’s currency — but he’s less venerated than before. The vast park in the middle of Taipei that contains Chiang’s memorial hall was formerly called Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Square. In the early 1990s, it was the scene of major pro-democracy demonstrations — in recognition of which its name was changed to Liberty Square in 2007. (The imposing, white-walled museum inside is still called the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.) It’s a major tourist site for mainland tourists, who pose for pictures in front of a giant portrait of Chiang near the entrance — something that few Taiwanese seem interested in doing. And Taipei’s international airport, once named for Chiang, is now just Taoyuan International Airport, named after the city south of Taipei where the airport is situated. “[Chiang Kai-shek] is being forgotten,” said Lin Jih-wen, a political scientist at Academia Sinica, Taiwan’s main research organization.

More important is Feb. 28, the Taiwanese national holiday called Peace Memorial Day. It commemorates the massacre of between 18,000 and 28,000 Taiwanese by Kuomintang troops in Taipei, starting on that day in 1947. When Chiang was alive, what’s known as the 228 Incident was publicly unmentionable. But a major museum, founded in 1997 and located in 228 Peace Memorial Park, tells the full story of the massacre. Every year on the anniversary holiday, the president of the country rings a bell in honor of the victims and formally bows in apology to their family members. (Imagine the rulers of Beijing bowing their heads in repentance to the family members of those killed in the 1989 suppression of the student-led demonstrations centered on Tiananmen Square.)

There is a political meaning in this. The favorable view of Chiang emerging on the mainland has the advantage of being closer to the truth than the old propaganda caricature, but it also fits China’s current goal, which is to lure Taiwan into such interdependency that a merging of the two societies will take place almost inevitably. China’s recognition of Chiang’s heroic role in the anti-Japanese resistance is useful because anti-Japan enmity itself is a powerful symbol of Chinese unity. During Chiang’s years in Taiwan, the ubiquitous slogan draped over the island’s highways was huifu dalu — recover the mainland. But even more useful to Beijing now was Chiang’s determined opposition to any suggestion of Taiwanese independence. In other words, the very reason his reputation has declined in Taiwan is the same reason Beijing has refurbished it.

Despite the tremendous proliferation of contacts and relations between Taiwan and the mainland, Taiwanese are not buying the idea of unification. Indeed, with presidential elections coming up in January — which the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party is widely expected to win — reunification seems as far away as ever. Indeed, one reason for the incumbent President Ma Ying-jeou’s deep unpopularity is the widespread suspicion that his eagerness to build ties with the mainland has made Taiwan too susceptible to China’s influence. In July, senior officials of both parties affirmed themselves in favor of what’s called ”the status quo” — no independence, no unification, and no use of force — meaning no use of force by Beijing to bring about unification. A poll conducted in July by the Election Study Center of National Chengchi University showed that over 80 percent of Taiwanese are either in favor of the status quo or in favor of immediate independence, despite China’s strenuous efforts to persuade them otherwise. Less than 3 percent want unification as soon as possible.

In this sense, the elevation of Chiang’s status is an element of Beijing’s attempted seduction of Taiwan that seems not to have brought about the desired result. The ruse of history has turned Chiang — whom Mao, like Stilwell, would happily have assassinated into an ideological role model for Beijing. In other words, an embodiment of the goal of reunification, even if the reunification Chiang had in mind was not acceptable to Beijing.

But now, Chiang’s loss of heroic status is a sign of the island’s drift toward a separate identity from that of the mainland. That is not an outcome that Chiang himself would have wanted, and it’s not one Americans had in mind 70 years ago, when the United States unrealistically hoped that a united, democratic, pro-Western China would emerge from the wreckage of the war. But it will be a difficult one for Beijing to reverse, because it arises from something that China’s leaders don’t generally have to take into account: a genuine expression of the popular will.

The article was produced with support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.


Following the collapse of the Qing dynasty and the 1911 Revolution, Yuan Shikai assumed the presidency of the newly formed Republic of China. [11] [ page needed ] Yuan was frustrated in a short-lived attempt to restore monarchy in China, and China fell into power struggle after his death in 1916. The Kuomintang, led by Sun Yat-sen, created a rival government in Guangzhou. After Sun's efforts to obtain aid from Western countries were ignored, he turned to the Soviet Union. In 1923, Sun and Soviet representative Adolph Joffe in Shanghai pledged Soviet assistance to China's unification in the Sun-Joffe Manifesto, a declaration of cooperation among the Comintern, KMT and CCP. [12] Comintern agent Mikhail Borodin arrived in 1923 to aid in the reorganization and consolidation of both the CCP the KMT along the lines of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The CCP and the KMT formed the First United Front. [12]

In 1923, Sun sent Chiang Kai-shek, one of his lieutenants for several months of military and political study in Moscow. [13] Chiang then became the head of the Whampoa Military Academy that trained the next generation of military leaders. The Soviets provided the academy with teaching material, organization and equipment, including munitions. [13] They also provided education in many of the techniques for mass mobilization. With this aid, Sun raised a dedicated "army of the party," with which he hoped to defeat the warlords militarily. CCP members were also present in the academy, and many of them became instructors, including Zhou Enlai, who was made a political instructor. [14]

Communist members were allowed to join the KMT on an individual basis. [12] The CCP itself was still small at the time, having a membership of 300 in 1922 and only 1,500 by 1925. [15] As of 1923, the KMT had 50,000 members. [15]

However, after Sun died in 1925, the KMT split into left- and right-wing movements. KMT members worried that the Soviets were trying to destroy the KMT from inside using the CCP. The CCP then began movements in opposition of the Northern Expedition, passing a resolution against it at a party meeting.

Then, in March 1927, the KMT held its second party meeting where the Soviets helped pass resolutions against the Expedition and curbing Chiang's power. Soon, the KMT would be clearly divided.

Throughout this time the Soviet Union had a large impact on the Chinese Communist Party. They sent money and spies to support the Chinese Communist Party. Without their support, the communist party likely would have failed. There are documents showing of other communist parties in China at the time, one with as many as 10,000 members, but they all failed without support from the Soviet Union. [16]

Northern Expedition and KMT-CCP split

In early 1927, the KMT-CCP rivalry led to a split in the revolutionary ranks. The CCP and the left wing of the KMT had decided to move the seat of the KMT government from Guangzhou to Wuhan, where communist influence was strong. [15] However, Chiang and Li Zongren, whose armies defeated warlord Sun Chuanfang, moved eastward toward Jiangxi. The leftists rejected Chiang's demand to eliminate Communist influence within KMT and Chiang denounced them for betraying Sun Yat-sen's Three Principles of the People by taking orders from the Soviet Union. According to Mao Zedong, Chiang's tolerance of the CCP in the KMT camp decreased as his power increased. [17]

On 7 April, Chiang and several other KMT leaders held a meeting, during which they proposed that Communist activities were socially and economically disruptive and had to be undone for the Nationalist revolution to proceed. On 12 April, in Shanghai, many Communist members in the KMT were purged through hundreds of arrests and executions [18] on the orders of General Bai Chongxi. The CCP referred to this as the 12 April Incident or Shanghai Massacre. [19] This incident widened the rift between Chiang and Wang Jingwei, the leader of the left wing faction of the KMT who controlled the city of Wuhan.

Eventually, the left wing of the KMT also expelled CCP members from the Wuhan government, which in turn was toppled by Chiang Kai-shek. The KMT resumed its campaign against warlords and captured Beijing in June 1928. [20] Soon, most of eastern China was under the control of the Nanjing central government, which received prompt international recognition as the sole legitimate government of China. The KMT government announced, in conformity with Sun Yat-sen, the formula for the three stages of revolution: military unification, political tutelage, and constitutional democracy. [21]

On 1 August 1927, the Communist Party launched an uprising in Nanchang against the Nationalist government in Wuhan. This conflict led to the creation of the Red Army. [1] [22] On 4 August, the main forces of the Red Army left Nanchang and headed southwards for an assault on Guangdong. Nationalist forces quickly reoccupied Nanchang while the remaining members of the CCP in Nanchang went into hiding. [1] A CCP meeting on 7 August confirmed the objective of the party was to seize the political power by force, but the CCP was quickly suppressed the next day on 8 August by the Nationalist government in Wuhan led by Wang Jingwei. On 14 August, Chiang Kai-shek announced his temporary retirement, as the Wuhan faction and Nanjing faction of the Kuomintang were allied once again with common goal of suppressing the Communist Party after the earlier split. [ citation needed ]

Attempts were later made by the CCP to take the cities of Changsha, Shantou and Guangzhou. The Red Army consisting of mutinous former National Revolutionary Army (NRA) soldiers as well as armed peasants established control over several areas in southern China. [22] KMT forces continued to attempt to suppress the rebellions. [22] Then, in September, Wang Jingwei was forced out of Wuhan. September also saw an unsuccessful armed rural insurrection, known as the Autumn Harvest Uprising, led by Mao Zedong. [23] Borodin then returned to the USSR in October via Mongolia. In November, Chiang Kai-shek went to Shanghai and invited Wang to join him. On 11 December, the CCP started the Guangzhou Uprising, establishing a soviet there the next day, but lost the city by 13 December to a counter-attack under the orders of General Zhang Fakui. On 16 December, Wang Jingwei fled to France. There were now three capitals in China: the internationally recognized republic capital in Beijing, the CCP and left-wing KMT at Wuhan and the right-wing KMT regime at Nanjing, which would remain the KMT capital for the next decade. [24] [25]

This marked the beginning of a ten-year armed struggle, known in mainland China as the "Ten-Year Civil War" (十年内战) which ended with the Xi'an Incident when Chiang Kai-shek was forced to form the Second United Front against invading forces from the Empire of Japan. In 1930 the Central Plains War broke out as an internal conflict of the KMT. It was launched by Feng Yuxiang, Yan Xishan and Wang Jingwei. The attention was turned to root out remaining pockets of Communist activity in a series of five encirclement campaigns. [26] The first and second campaigns failed and the third was aborted due to the Mukden Incident. The fourth campaign (1932–1933) achieved some early successes, but Chiang's armies were badly mauled when they tried to penetrate into the heart of Mao's Soviet Chinese Republic. During these campaigns, KMT columns struck swiftly into Communist areas, but were easily engulfed by the vast countryside and were not able to consolidate their foothold.

Finally, in late 1934, Chiang launched a fifth campaign that involved the systematic encirclement of the Jiangxi Soviet region with fortified blockhouses. [27] Unlike previous campaigns in which they penetrated deeply in a single strike, this time the KMT troops patiently built blockhouses, each separated by about eight kilometres (five miles), to surround the Communist areas and cut off their supplies and food sources. [27]

In October 1934 the CCP took advantage of gaps in the ring of blockhouses (manned by the forces of a warlord ally of Chiang Kai-shek's, rather than regular KMT troops) and broke out of the encirclement. The warlord armies were reluctant to challenge Communist forces for fear of losing their own men and did not pursue the CCP with much fervor. In addition, the main KMT forces were preoccupied with annihilating Zhang Guotao's army, which was much larger than Mao's. The massive military retreat of Communist forces lasted a year and covered what Mao estimated as 12,500 km (25,000 Li) it became known as the Long March. [28] The Long March was a military retreat taken on by the Chinese Communist Party, led by Mao Zedong to evade the pursuit or attack of the Kuomintang army. It consisted of a series of marches, during which numerous Communist armies in the south escaped to the north and west. Over the course of the march from Jiangxi the First Front Army, led by an inexperienced military commission, was on the brink of annihilation by Chiang Kai Shek's troops as their stronghold was in Jiangxi. The Communists, under the command of Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, "escaped in a circling retreat to the west and north, which reportedly traversed over 9,000 kilometers over 370 days." The route passed through some of the most difficult terrain of western China by traveling west, and then northwards towards Shaanxi. "In November 1935, shortly after settling in northern Shaanxi, Mao officially took over Zhou Enlai's leading position in the Red Army. Following a major reshuffling of official roles, Mao became the chairman of the Military Commission, with Zhou and Deng Xiaoping as vice-chairmen." This marked Mao's position as the pre-eminent leader of the Party, with Zhou in second position to him. [ citation needed ]

The march ended when the CCP reached the interior of Shaanxi. Zhang Guotao's army, which took a different route through northwest China, was largely destroyed by the forces of Chiang Kai-shek and his Chinese Muslim allies, the Ma clique. Along the way, the Communist army confiscated property and weapons from local warlords and landlords, while recruiting peasants and the poor, solidifying its appeal to the masses. Of the 90,000–100,000 people who began the Long March from the Soviet Chinese Republic, only around 7,000–8,000 made it to Shaanxi. [29] The remnants of Zhang's forces eventually joined Mao in Shaanxi, but with his army destroyed, Zhang, even as a founding member of the CCP, was never able to challenge Mao's authority. Essentially, the great retreat made Mao the undisputed leader of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Kuomintang used Khampa troops—who were former bandits—to battle the Communist Red Army as it advanced and to undermine local warlords who often refused to fight Communist forces to conserve their own strength. The KMT enlisted 300 "Khampa bandits" into its Consolatory Commission military in Sichuan, where they were part of the effort of the central government to penetrate and destabilize local Han warlords such as Liu Wenhui. The government was seeking to exert full control over frontier areas against the warlords. Liu had refused to battle the Communists in order to conserve his army. The Consolatory Commission forces were used to battle the Red Army, but they were defeated when their religious leader was captured by the Communists. [30]

In 1936, Zhou Enlai and Zhang Xueliang grew closer, with Zhang even suggesting that he join the CCP. However, this was turned down by the Comintern in the USSR. Later on, Zhou persuaded Zhang and Yang Hucheng, another warlord, to instigate the Xi'an Incident. Chiang was placed under house arrest and forced to stop his attacks on the Red Army, instead focusing on the Japanese threat.

The situation in China in 1929: After the Northern Expedition, the KMT had direct control over east and central China, while the rest of China proper as well as Manchuria was under the control of warlords loyal to the Nationalist government.

Map showing the communist-controlled Soviet Zones of China during and after the encirclement campaigns

Route(s) taken by Communist forces during the Long March

A Communist leader addressing survivors of the Long March

During Japan's invasion and occupation of Manchuria Chiang Kai-shek saw the CCP as the greater threat. Chiang refused to ally with the CCP, preferring to unite China by eliminating the warlord and CCP forces first. He believed his forces too weak to face the Japanese Imperial Army only after unification could the KMT mobilize against Japan. He ignored the Chinese people's discontent and anger at the KMT policy of compromise with the Japanese, instead ordering KMT generals Zhang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng to suppress the CCP. However, their provincial forces suffered significant casualties in battles with the Red Army. [31]

On 12 December 1936, the disgruntled Zhang and Yang conspired to kidnap Chiang and force him into a truce with the CCP. The incident became known as the Xi'an Incident. [32] Both parties suspended fighting to form a Second United Front to focus their energies and fight the Japanese. [32] In 1937 Japan launched its full-scale invasion of China and its well-equipped troops overran KMT defenders in northern and coastal China.

The alliance of CCP and KMT was in name only. [33] Unlike the KMT forces, CCP troops shunned conventional warfare and instead waged guerrilla warfare against the Japanese. The level of actual cooperation and coordination between the CCP and KMT during World War II was minimal. [33] In the midst of the Second United Front, the CCP and the KMT were still vying for territorial advantage in "Free China" (i.e., areas not occupied by the Japanese or ruled by Japanese puppet governments such as Manchukuo and the Reorganized National Government of China). [33]

The situation came to a head in late 1940 and early 1941 when clashes between Communist and KMT forces intensified. Chiang demanded in December 1940 that the CCP's New Fourth Army evacuate Anhui and Jiangsu Provinces, due to its provocation and harassment of KMT forces in this area. Under intense pressure, the New Fourth Army commanders complied. The following year they were ambushed by KMT forces during their evacuation, which led to several thousand deaths. [34] It also ended the Second United Front, formed earlier to fight the Japanese. [34]

As clashes between the CCP and KMT intensified, countries such as the United States and the Soviet Union attempted to prevent a disastrous civil war. After the New Fourth Army incident, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent special envoy Lauchlin Currie to talk with Chiang Kai-shek and KMT party leaders to express their concern regarding the hostility between the two parties, with Currie stating that the only ones to benefit from a civil war would be the Japanese. The Soviet Union, allied more closely with the CCP, sent an imperative telegram to Mao in 1941, warning that civil war would also make the situation easier for the Japanese military. Due to the international community's efforts, there was a temporary and superficial peace. Chiang criticized the CCP in 1943 with the propaganda piece China's Destiny, which questioned the CCP's power after the war, while the CCP strongly opposed Chiang's leadership and referred to his regime as fascist in an attempt to generate a negative public image. Both leaders knew that a deadly battle had begun between themselves. [35]

In general, developments in the Second Sino-Japanese War were to the advantage of the CCP, as its guerrilla war tactics had won them popular support within the Japanese-occupied areas. However, the KMT had to defend the country against the main Japanese campaigns, since it was the legal Chinese government, and this proved costly to Chiang Kai-shek and his troops. Japan launched its last major offensive against the KMT, Operation Ichi-Go, in 1944 this resulted in the severe weakening of Chiang's forces. [36] The CCP also suffered fewer losses through its guerrilla tactics. By the end of the war, the Red Army had grown to more than 1.3 million members, with a separate militia of over 2.6 million. About one hundred million people lived in CCP-controlled zones.

Under the terms of the Japanese unconditional surrender dictated by the United States, Japanese troops were ordered to surrender to KMT troops and not to the CCP, which was present in some of the occupied areas. [37] In Manchuria, however, where the KMT had no forces, the Japanese surrendered to the Soviet Union. Chiang Kai-shek ordered the Japanese troops to remain at their post to receive the Kuomintang and not surrender their arms to the Communists. [37]

The first post-war peace negotiation, attended by both Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong, was in Chongqing from 28 August to 10 October 1945. It concluded with the signing of the Double Tenth Agreement. [38] Both sides stressed the importance of a peaceful reconstruction, but the conference did not produce any concrete results. [38] Battles between the two sides continued even as peace negotiations were in progress, until the agreement was reached in January 1946. However, large campaigns and full-scale confrontations between the CCP and Chiang's troops were temporarily avoided.

In the last month of World War II in East Asia, Soviet forces launched the huge Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation against the Japanese Kwantung Army in Manchuria and along the Chinese-Mongolian border. [39] This operation destroyed the Kwantung Army in just three weeks and left the USSR occupying all of Manchuria by the end of the war in a total power vacuum of local Chinese forces. Consequently, the 700,000 Japanese troops stationed in the region surrendered. Later in the year Chiang Kai-shek realized that he lacked the resources to prevent a CCP takeover of Manchuria following the scheduled Soviet departure. [40] He therefore made a deal with the Soviets to delay their withdrawal until he had moved enough of his best-trained men and modern material into the region. However, the Soviets refused permission for the Nationalist troops to traverse its territory. KMT troops were then airlifted by the US to occupy key cities in North China, while the countryside was already dominated by the CCP. On 15 November 1945, the ROC began a campaign to prevent the CCP from strengthening its already strong base. [41] The Soviets spent the extra time systematically dismantling the extensive Manchurian industrial base (worth up to $2 billion) and shipping it back to their war-ravaged country. [40]

In 1945–46, during the Soviet Red Army Manchurian campaign, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin commanded Marshal Rodion Malinovsky to give Mao Zedong most Imperial Japanese Army weapons that were captured. [42]

Chiang Kai-shek's forces pushed as far as Chinchow (Jinzhou) by 26 November 1945, meeting with little resistance. This was followed by a Communist offensive on the Shandong Peninsula that was largely successful, as all of the peninsula, except what was controlled by the US, fell to the Communists. [41] The truce fell apart in June 1946 when full-scale war between CCP and KMT forces broke out on 26 June 1946. China then entered a state of civil war that lasted more than three years. [43]

Background and disposition of forces

By the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the power of the Communist Party grew considerably. Their main force grew to 1.2 million troops, backed with additional militia of 2 million, totalling 3.2 million troops. Their "Liberated Zone" in 1945 contained 19 base areas, including one-quarter of the country's territory and one-third of its population this included many important towns and cities. Moreover, the Soviet Union turned over all of its captured Japanese weapons and a substantial amount of their own supplies to the Communists, who received Northeastern China from the Soviets as well. [44]

In March 1946, despite repeated requests from Chiang, the Soviet Red Army under the command of Marshal Rodion Malinovsky continued to delay pulling out of Manchuria, while Malinovsky secretly told the CCP forces to move in behind them, which led to full-scale war for the control of the Northeast. These favorable conditions also facilitated many changes inside the Communist leadership: the more radical hard-line faction who wanted a complete military take-over of China finally gained the upper hand and defeated the careful opportunists. [45] Prior to giving control to Communist leaders, on 27 March Soviet diplomats requested a joint venture of industrial development with the Nationalist Party in Manchuria. [46]

Although General Marshall stated that he knew of no evidence that the CCP was being supplied by the Soviet Union, the CCP was able to utilize a large number of weapons abandoned by the Japanese, including some tanks, but it was not until large numbers of well-trained KMT troops began surrendering and joining the Communist forces that the CCP was finally able to master the hardware. [47] [48] However, despite the disadvantage in military hardware, the CCP's ultimate trump card was its land reform policy. The CCP continued to make the irresistible promise in the countryside to the massive number of landless and starving peasants that by fighting for the CCP they would be given their own land to grow crops once the victory was won. [49]

This strategy enabled the CCP to access an almost unlimited supply of manpower for both combat and logistical purposes despite suffering heavy casualties throughout many of the war's campaigns, manpower continued to pour in massively. For example, during the Huaihai Campaign alone the CCP was able to mobilize 5,430,000 peasants to fight against the KMT forces. [50]

After the war with the Japanese ended, Chiang Kai-shek quickly moved KMT troops to newly liberated areas to prevent Communist forces from receiving the Japanese surrender. [44] The US airlifted many KMT troops from central China to the Northeast (Manchuria). President Harry S. Truman was very clear about what he described as "using the Japanese to hold off the Communists." In his memoirs he writes:

It was perfectly clear to us that if we told the Japanese to lay down their arms immediately and march to the seaboard, the entire country would be taken over by the Communists. We therefore had to take the unusual step of using the enemy as a garrison until we could airlift Chinese National troops to South China and send Marines to guard the seaports.

Using the pretext of "receiving the Japanese surrender," business interests within the KMT government occupied most of the banks, factories and commercial properties, which had previously been seized by the Imperial Japanese Army. [44] They also conscripted troops at an accelerated pace from the civilian population and hoarded supplies, preparing for a resumption of war with the Communists. These hasty and harsh preparations caused great hardship for the residents of cities such as Shanghai, where the unemployment rate rose dramatically to 37.5%. [44]

The US strongly supported the Kuomintang forces. About 50,000 US soldiers were sent to guard strategic sites in Hupeh and Shandong in Operation Beleaguer. The US equipped and trained KMT troops, and transported Japanese and Koreans back to help KMT forces to occupy liberated zones as well as to contain Communist-controlled areas. [44] According to William Blum, American aid included substantial amounts of mostly surplus military supplies, and loans were made to the KMT. [52] Within less than two years after the Sino-Japanese War, the KMT had received $4.43 billion from the US—most of which was military aid. [44]

China Under Chiang Kai-shek and the Imminent Japanese Threat

After Chiang Kai-shek came into power, he abandoned Sun Yat-sen’s ‘Three Principles of the People’. (Image: ben bryant/Shutterstock)

An Authoritarian Dictatorship

By making peace with the unsavory classes and strata, and by co-opting them into his inner circle, Chiang Kai-shek essentially abandoned Sun Yat-sen’s ‘Three Principles of the People’, reducing them to hollow cant.

By the mid-1930s, the Nationalist Government had ceased being a progressive political force, resembling more closely a classic right-wing authoritarian dictatorship. Although the regime Chiang and his associates established in Nanjing was nominally republican in nature, it proved to be increasingly corrupt, ineffectual, and ultimately repressive.

Dominated by a handful of rich and powerful families closely interlinked by marriage and by overlapping financial interests, including the Soong family dynasty, Chiang’s elitist regime never effectively addressed the problems of the country’s 500 million impoverished peasants. Nor did it ever learn how to deal with growing urban demands for middle-class political participation.

Shanghai as a Playground for the Rich and the Elite

Although it was Sun Yat-sen who turned the Nationalist Party into a disciplined, hierarchical organization under Comintern guidance, it was Chiang Kai-shek who first realized the Guomindang’s full authoritarian potential. The city of Shanghai was emblematic of the new regime’s elitist zeitgeist. Ruled by an unlikely alliance of Nationalist generals, financiers, and underworld chieftains, it was the crown jewel of the Republic of China.

By the late 1920s, Shanghai had become the playground for the rich and near-rich, a place to enjoy a slice of Europe’s la belle vie in east Asia. Western social mores and European haute couture were aped wholesale in the new Shanghai. Modern schools and hospitals were built, along with modern theaters, museums, racetracks, gambling parlors, and opium dens.

But while Shanghai’s elites were enjoying the good life, all around them, for those who cared to look, there were signs of deepening malaise. Two problems were of particular concern. The first was growing Japanese military pressure in the northeast. The second was a Chinese Communist movement in the south, where Mao Zedong was achieving success in mobilizing land-hungry peasants.

Japan’s Growing Military Power

In the early 1920s, Japan had experienced a post-war surge of democratic development and international reconciliation. Under Western pressure, Tokyo had withdrawn its odious 21 Demands. Internally, the process of political liberalization had brought to power in Tokyo a new and more progressive Japanese government.

But even as Japan was emulating Western political and socio-economic institutions, Japanese military power was growing steadily. In 1921 Japan was invited to join the Washington Naval Conference as a full participant, marking its emergence as Asia’s first modern great power.

By the middle 1920s, Japanese military commanders were growing increasingly contemptuous of civilian authority. They were openly coveting the rich mineral, industrial, and agricultural resources of Manchuria. By the end of the decade, a civil-military showdown was looming on the horizon.

This is a transcript from the video series The Fall and Rise of China. Watch it now, on Wondrium.

Japan’s Concern Regarding the Chiang Kai-shek Nationalist Regime

One thing that concerned the Japanese was the Nationalist regime of Chiang Kai-shek. Having vanquished the warlords and driven the Communists deep into the rural hinterland, Chiang appeared to be succeeding in his effort to create a unified national Chinese government. As he consolidated his Nanjing regime, the Japanese began to consider the relative costs and benefits of early versus delayed military action in China. Their conclusion was that the longer they waited, the more difficult it would be to overcome Chinese resistance.

Making things even more problematic for Tokyo’s military planners, Japan’s domestic economy faced serious difficulties in the late 1920s. These included a sharp rise in urban unemployment and a deepening agricultural recession. The U.S. stock market crash of October 1929 further exacerbated these domestic strains by triggering a collapse in the Japanese silk market.

Assassination of Zhang Zuolin

Zhang Zuolin was a Manchurian warlord who was assassinated by the Japanese. (Image: Unknown author/Public domain)

Friction between Tokyo and the Nanjing regime had reached a critical point as early as 1928 when a group of Japanese army officers planted a bomb on a railroad car carrying the Manchurian warlord Zhang Zuolin.

Zhang was Manchuria’s most powerful political and military figure. He had fought against Chiang Kai-shek during the Northern Expedition, and he was one of only a handful of warlords who refused to be co-opted by the Nationalist regime.

Japan’s objectives in assassinating Zhang Zuolin were twofold: the first was their desire to fan the flames of internecine conflict between Zhang’s Manchurian army and Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces. The second goal was to create a general atmosphere of military crisis within Japan, a crisis that would discredit the modern civilian government in Tokyo and give imperial hard-liners the excuse they needed to mobilize for war.

Tokyo’s Reaction to Zhang Zuolin’s Assassination

The imperialist government in Tokyo, the civilian cabinet, reacted to the assassination of Zhang Zuolin not by giving the army a green light to mobilize for war, but by exerting restraint over Japan’s military forces in China.

However, rather than abandon their ambitions, the militarists made a fateful decision to act preemptively. On the night of September 18, 1931, they detonated a series of bombs on a railroad track outside the city of Mukden (now called Shenyang), in southern Manchuria. In the confusion that followed, Chinese and Japanese troops began shooting at each other.

Though the civilian cabinet in Tokyo urged restraint, Japanese commanders on the ground pressed their military advantage, attacking the Nationalists’ barracks at Mukden and capturing the city itself.

Common Questions about China Under Chiang Kai-shek and the Imminent Japanese Threat

Chiang Kai-shek was the commander-in-chief of the National Revolutionary Army of China and rose to political power in 1928.

Under Chiang Kai-shek , Shanghai was the crown jewel of the Republic of China and had become the playground for the rich and near-rich.

Japan’s objectives in assassinating Zhang Zuolin were twofold: create conflict between Zhang’s Manchurian army and Chiang Kai-shek ‘s Nationalist forces and create a general atmosphere of military crisis within Japan.


While the United States recognized Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist (Kuomintang) government as the sole legitimate government for all of China, U.S. President Harry S. Truman announced on 5 January 1950 that the United States would not engage in any intervention in the Taiwan Strait disputes, and that he would not intervene in the event of an attack by the PRC. [3] [4] However, after the outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950, Truman declared that the "neutralization of the Straits of Formosa" was in the best interest of the United States, and he sent the U.S. Navy's Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to prevent any conflict between the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China, effectively putting Taiwan under American protection. The move was also intended to deter ROC attacks against the Chinese Mainland.

On 27 June 1950, President Truman issued the following statement: [5]

The attack upon Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt that communism has passed beyond the use of subversion to conquer independent nations and will now use armed invasion and war. It has defied the orders of the Security Council of the United Nations issued to preserve international peace and security. In these circumstances the occupation of Formosa by Communist forces would be a direct threat to the security of the Pacific area and to United States forces performing their lawful and necessary functions in that area. Accordingly, I have ordered the 7th Fleet to prevent any attack on Formosa. As a corollary of this action, I am calling upon the Chinese Government on Formosa to cease all air and sea operations against the mainland. The 7th Fleet will see that this is done. The determination of the future status of Formosa must await the restoration of security in the Pacific, a peace settlement with Japan, or consideration by the United Nations.

President Truman later ordered John Foster Dulles, [a] the Foreign Policy Advisor to U.S. Secretary of State Dean Acheson, to carry out his decision on "neutralizing" Taiwan in drafting the Treaty of San Francisco of 1951 (the peace treaty with Japan), which excluded the participation of both the ROC and the PRC. Each self-claimed legitimate government of China was excluded from the treaty because the question of China's legitimate government remained unresolved after World War II and the Chinese Civil War, and this was considered an intractable sticking point in otherwise comprehensive and multilaterally beneficial peace negotiations.

Japan ceded control of Taiwan in the treaty but did not specify a recipient for Taiwan's sovereignty. This situation has been used by supporters of Taiwan independence to argue for their position that the sovereignty status of Taiwan was undetermined, despite the Japanese having already agreed [ dubious – discuss ] [ citation needed ] to return Taiwan to Republic of China through their Instrument of Surrender signed at end of the War. [6] According to the author George H. Kerr, a supporter of Taiwanese independence, in his book Formosa Betrayed, the political status of Taiwan was under the trust of the Allied Powers (against Japan). It would be the responsibility of the United Nations if this could not be resolved in near future as designed in the peace treaty.

The Nationalist China Government (now based in Taiwan) maintained as its goal the recovery of control of mainland China, and this required a resumption of the military confrontation with the Red Chinese. Truman and his advisors regarded that goal as unrealizable, but regret over losing China to international communism was quite prominent in public opinion at the time, and the Truman Administration was criticized by anticommunists for preventing any attempt by Chiang Kai-shek's forces to liberate mainland China.

Truman, a member of the Democratic Party, did not run for reelection in the presidential election of 1952, even though he was eligible to do so. This election was won by the Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, a General from World War II.

On 2 February 1953, the new President lifted the Seventh Fleet's blockade in order to fulfill demands by anticommunists to "unleash Chiang Kai-shek" on mainland China, hence the Kuomintang regime strengthened its Closed Port Policy of the aerial and naval blockade on foreign vessels onChinese coast and the high seas, [7] [8] whereas the privacy activities intensified in the summer 1953 after Joseph Stalin's death and the Korean Armistice Agreement till summed up to 141 interference incidents as per the Royal Navy escort reports. [9] [10]

The CIA briefing on 13 July 1954 for the White House and NSC indicated the shipping insurance increasement across the South China Sea after the Tuapse Incident on 23 June, and certain international liners being deterred midway at Singapore, or had to change plans. [11] [12] The PLA Air Force moved in the Hainan Island to clear another transport route through Yulin and Huangpu ports, but accidentally shot down a Douglas DC-4 (VR-HEU) airliner of the Cathay Pacific Airways with 10 death on 23 July, then 2 US aircraft carriers, Hornet and Philippine Sea arrived for a rescue mission on 26 July and shot down 2 PLAAF Lavochkin La-11 fighters . [13] On 2 August, Commander of PLA in the CMC, Peng Dehuai convened an executive meeting to establish the tactical command on the East China Military Region as per Chairman Mao's directive to open another front from the north. [14]

In August 1954, the Nationalists placed 58,000 troops on Kinmen and 15,000 troops on Matsu. The ROC began building defensive structures and the PRC began shelling ROC installations on Kinmen. Zhou Enlai, Premier of the People's Republic of China responded with a declaration on 11 August 1954, that Taiwan must be "liberated." He dispatched the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to the area, and it began shelling both Kinmen and the Matsu Islands.

Despite warnings from the U.S. against any attacks on the Republic of China five days before the signing of the Manila pact, the PLA unleashed a heavy artillery bombardment of Kinmen on September 3, during which two American military advisers were killed. [2] In November, the PLA bombed the Tachen Islands. This renewed Cold War fears of Communist expansion in Asia at a time when the PRC was not recognized by the United States Department of State. Chiang Kai-shek's government was supported by the United States because the ROC was part of the United States policy of containment of communism which stretched from a devastated South Korea to an increasingly divided Southeast Asia.

On 12 September, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended the use of nuclear weapons against mainland China. President Eisenhower, however, resisted pressure to use nuclear weapons or involve American troops in the conflict. However, on 2 December 1954, the United States and the ROC agreed to the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty, which did not apply to islands along the Chinese mainland. This treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate on 9 February 1955.

The PLA seized the Yijiangshan Islands on 18 January 1955. Fighting continued in nearby islands off the coast of Zhejiang, as well as around Kinmen and the Matsu Islands in Fujian. On 29 January 1955, the Formosa Resolution was approved by both houses of the U.S. Congress authorizing Eisenhower to use U.S. forces to defend the ROC and its possessions in the Taiwan Strait against armed attack. The U.S. Navy then assisted the Nationalists in evacuating their forces from the Tachen Islands. [15]

In February, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned the U.S. against using nuclear weapons, but in March, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles stated publicly that the U.S. was seriously considering a nuclear strike. [16] In response, the NATO foreign ministers warned at a meeting of the alliance against such action. In late March, U.S. Admiral Robert B. Carney said that Eisenhower is planning "to destroy Red China's military potential." [17]

Some scholars hypothesized the PRC backed down in the face of American nuclear brinksmanship and in light of the lack of willingness by the Soviet Union to threaten nuclear retaliation for an attack on the PRC. Others see the case as an example of effective application of extended deterrence by the United States. In any case, the Red Chinese government stated on 23 April 1955 that it was willing to negotiate. On 1 May the PLA temporarily ceased shelling Kinmen and Matsu. The fundamental issues of the conflict remained unresolved, however, and both sides subsequently built up their military forces on their respective sides of the Taiwan Strait leading to a new crisis three years later.

There are strong indications that Mao used the crisis in order to provoke the United States into making nuclear threats, which would give him home support to pour money into research and production of Chinese nuclear weapons and missile technology. [ citation needed ] After American nuclear threats during the First Taiwan Strait Crisis, the Politburo gave the green light in 1955 to pursue nuclear weapon and missile research. The first of China's nuclear weapons tests took place in 1964 and its first successful hydrogen bomb test occurred in 1967.

Watch the video: 士兵篇 Chinese Army Uniforms in 100-years 2nd issue soldiers


  1. Kerman

    your thinking is magnificent

  2. Meilseoir

    Instead of criticizing it better, write the variants.

  3. Wanageeska

    Definitely, the quick answer :)

  4. Kei

    Interestingly done. Almost touches the soul, makes you laugh at the rest of the blogosphere. But the topic is not completely covered. Where can I read about this in detail? Best regards, spambot :)

  5. Muran

    You write interesting - added a blog to the reader

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