In Our Time: Sino-Japanese War

On iPlayer indefinitely, I listened to this today whilst painting a ceiling.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b042ldyq

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45. After several years of rising tension, and the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, full-scale war between Japan and China broke out in the summer of 1937.


I hadn't appreciated how China became Japan's "Russian Front", tying up the best part of a million men whilst the Allies advanced across the Pacific.
 
Very few people do or quite what it cost the nation in terms of keeping in the fight. Eight years against the most technologically-advanced nation in Asia and facing financially and socially-crippling costs for war materiel and a series of broken promises from allies. 'Cash My Cheque' would have rung a touch truer as a nickname if so many of the earlier cheques hadn't bounced.

The comparison with the Russian Front isn't entirely accurate, though. To be, Germany would have needed to predate on Russia for several decades prior to formal hostilities, including forcing a military presence in all of the major trading ports and exercising control over most of the Baltics, Byelorussia and western Ukraine, while the rest of Russia would have had to be a patchwork quilt of fiefdoms most of which were only loosely under the control of the central government and which were deeply suspicious of each other.

Cold War politics helped keep their contribution out of view, both here and in China itself for that matter. It's good to see more examination of who did what and when going on, particularly the overwhelming contribution of the Nationalists getting a damned good rehabilitating.
 
I liked the turn of phrase that the Nationalists 'won' the war but 'lost' the peace, with the Communists usurping them in the postwar years as a reaction to the suffering of the Chinese people during the war.

Probably not an in-depth programme for those familiar with the history of the region but it was a good intro for me.

Some interesting follow-up reading on this forum:

China at War 1895-1949
 
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Supplying the Chinese forces was an impressive logistical coup

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hump

Even straight off the production line B29's were used so vital was the supply of arms into China seen.
Chinese solders also operated with the British and Indian forces in Burma if I'm not mistaken.
 
Supplying the Chinese forces was an impressive logistical coup

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hump

Even straight off the production line B29's were used so vital was the supply of arms into China seen.
Chinese solders also operated with the British and Indian forces in Burma if I'm not mistaken.
In itself it was but no amount of effort could have kept even just the Nationalist-held areas supplied from Burma. It was simply logistically-impossible, a fact Stillwell either ignored or which wasn't part of his brief.

The arguments of the time that the Nationalists had to send their best divisions to Burma to keep the supply lines opened ignored the harsh reality that without a Nationalist China still willing and able to resist the supply lines had absolutely no purpose whatsoever.

One of the unintended (unconsidered?) side effects of the Teheran Conference was to present the Japanese with additional freedom of movement secure in the knowledge that Russia was committing to defeating Germany first and that the Anglo-Empire/Commonwealth forces in the Far East held the Pacific as their first priority. This gave them one last window of opportunity to eliminate Chiang's forces and the haemorrhaging of troops and materiel he was causing. Operation Ichigo devastated Central China with effects population and agricultural production that were still being felt into the 80s at least.
 
Interesting Carrots. I can't think of any thing I have read that gives that side of the story.
 
Ranan Mitter's China's War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival is a good description of the war from the Nationalist (particularly Chiang's) perspective. It's a description of how weakness preyed upon weakness to stave off defeat, with China being in the position of most exploitable weakness.

It's a valuable aide for anyone who wants to understand how today's China views international relations and in particular international treaties. They've been fucked over far too often to place any faith in principle.
 

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