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Second Sino-Japanese War


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Second Sino-Japanese War

The Second Sino-Japanese War (July 7, 1937 – September 9, 1945) was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan. From 1937 to 1941, China fought Japan with some economic help from Germany (see Sino-German cooperation), the Soviet Union (1937–1940) and the United States (see American Volunteer Group). After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (1941), the war merged into the greater conflict of World War II as a major front of what is broadly known as the Pacific War. The Second Sino-Japanese War was the largest Asian war in the 20th century. It also made up more than 50% of the casualties in the Pacific War if the 1937–1941 period is taken into account.
Although the two countries had fought intermittently since 1931, total war started in earnest in 1937 and ended only with the surrender of Japan in 1945. The war was the result of a decades-long Japanese imperialist policy aiming to dominate China politically and militarily and to secure its vast raw material reserves and other economic resources, particularly food and labour. Before 1937, China and Japan fought in small, localized engagements, so-called "incidents". Yet the two sides, for a variety of reasons, refrained from fighting a total war. In 1931, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria by Japan's Kwantung Army followed the Mukden Incident. The last of these incidents was the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of 1937, marking the beginning of total war between the two countries.
Initially the Japanese scored major victories in Shanghai and by the end of 1937 captured the Chinese capital of Nanking. After failing to stop the Japanese in Wuhan, the Chinese central government moved to Chungking in the Chinese interior. By 1939 the war had reached stalemate after Chinese victories in Changsha and Guangxi. The Japanese were also unable to defeat the Chinese communists forces in Shaanxi, which performed harassment and sabotage operations against the Japanese. On the 7th of December 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the following day (December 8th) the United States declared war on Japan. Japan surrendered in 1945.



Course of the war

Invasion of Manchuria, interventions in China

The situation in China provided an easy opportunity for Japan to further its goals. Japan saw Manchuria as a limitless supply of raw materials, a market for her manufactured goods (now excluded from many Western countries by Depression era tariffs), and as a protective buffer state against the Soviet Union in Siberia. Japan invaded Manchuria outright after the Mukden Incident (九一八事變) in September 1931. After five months of fighting, the puppet state of Manchukuo was established in 1932, with the last emperor of China, Puyi, installed as a puppet ruler. Militarily too weak to directly challenge Japan, China appealed to the League of Nations for help. The League's investigation was published as the Lytton Report, condemning Japan for its incursion into Manchuria, and causing Japan to withdraw from the League of Nations entirely. Appeasement being the predominant policy of the day, no country was willing to take action against Japan beyond tepid censure.
Incessant fighting followed the Mukden Incident. In 1932, Chinese and Japanese troops fought a short war in the January 28 Incident. This battle resulted in the demilitarisation of Shanghai, which forbade the Chinese from deploying troops in their own city. In Manchukuo there was an ongoing campaign to defeat the anti-Japanese volunteer armies that arose from widespread outrage over the policy of non-resistance to Japan.
In 1933, the Japanese attacked the Great Wall region, the Tanggu Truce taking place in its aftermath, giving Japan control of Rehe province as well as a demilitarized zone between the Great Wall and Beiping-Tianjin region. Here the Japanese aim was to create another buffer region, this time between Manchukuo and the Chinese Nationalist government in Nanjing.
Japan increasingly used internal conflict in China to reduce the strength of her fractious opponents. This was precipitated by the fact that even years after the Northern Expedition, the political power of the Nationalist government was limited to just the area of the Yangtze River Delta. Other sections of China were essentially in the hands of local Chinese warlords. Japan sought various Chinese collaborators and helped them establish governments friendly to Japan. This policy was called the Specialization of North China (Chinese: 華北特殊化; pinyin: húaběitèshūhùa), more commonly known as the North China Autonomous Movement. The northern provinces affected by this policy were Chahar, Suiyuan, Hebei, Shanxi, and Shandong.
This Japanese policy was most effective in the area of what is now Inner Mongolia and Hebei. In 1935, under Japanese pressure, China signed the He–Umezu Agreement, which forbade the KMT from conducting party operations in Hebei. In the same year, the Chin–Doihara Agreement was signed expelling the KMT from Chahar. Thus, by the end of 1935 the Chinese government had essentially abandoned northern China. In its place, the Japanese-backed East Hebei Autonomous Council and the Hebei–Chahar Political Council were established. There in the empty space of Chahar the Mongol Military Government (蒙古軍政府) was formed on May 12, 1936, Japan providing all necessary military and economic aid. Afterwards Chinese volunteer forces continued to resist Japanese aggression in Manchuria, and Chahar and Suiyuan.



Full scale invasion of China

Most historians place the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War on July 7, 1937 at the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, when a crucial access point to Beijing was assaulted by the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). Because the Chinese defenders were the poorly equipped infantry divisions of the former Northwest Army, the Japanese easily captured Beiping and Tianjin.
The Imperial General Headquarters (GHQ) in Tokyo were initially reluctant to escalate the conflict into full scale war, being content with the victories achieved in northern China following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. However, the KMT central government determined that the "breaking point" of Japanese aggression had been reached and Chiang Kai-shek quickly mobilized the central government army and air force under his direct command to attack the Japanese Marines in Shanghai on August 13, 1937, which led to the Battle of Shanghai. The IJA had to mobilize over 200,000 troops, coupled with numerous naval vessels and aircraft to capture Shanghai after more than three months of intense fighting, with casualties far exceeding initial expectations.
Building on the hard won victory in Shanghai, the IJA captured the KMT capital city of Nanjing (Nanking) and Northern Shanxi by the end of 1937, in campaigns involving approximately 350,000 Japanese soldiers, and considerably more Chinese. Historians estimate up to 300,000 Chinese were mass murdered in the Nanking Massacre (also known as the "Rape of Nanking"), after the fall of Nanking on December 13, 1937, while some Japanese deny the existence of a massacre.
At the start of 1938, the Headquarters in Tokyo still hoped to limit the scope of the conflict to occupying areas around Shanghai, Nanjing and most of northern China. They thought this would preserve strength for an anticipated showdown with the Soviet Union, but by now the Japanese government and GHQ had effectively lost control of the Japanese army in China. With many victories achieved, Japanese field generals escalated the war and finally met with defeat at Taierzhuang. Afterwards the IJA had to change its strategy and deploy almost all of its armies in the attack on the city of Wuhan, which by now was the political, economic and military center of China, in hopes of destroying the fighting strength of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) and forcing the KMT government to negotiate for peace. But after the Japanese capture of the city of Wuhan on October 27, 1938, the KMT was forced to retreat to Chongqing (Chungking) to set up a provisional capital, with Chiang Kai-shek still refusing to negotiate unless Japan agreed to withdraw to her pre-1937 borders.
With Japanese casualties and costs mounting, the Imperial General Headquarters decided to retaliate by ordering the air force of the navy and the army to launch the war's first massive air raids on civilian targets in the provisional capital of Chongqing and nearly every major city in unoccupied China, leaving millions dead, injured and homeless.
From the beginning of 1939 the war entered a new phase with the unprecedented defeat of the Japanese at Changsha and Guangxi. These outcomes encouraged the Chinese to launch its first large-scale counter-offensive against the IJA in early 1940. However, due to its low military-industrial capacity and limited experience in modern warfare, the NRA was defeated in this offensive. Afterwards Chiang could not risk any more all-out offensive campaigns given the poorly trained, under-equipped, and disorganized state of his armies and opposition to his leadership both within the Kuomintang and in China in general. He had lost a substantial portion of his best trained and equipped men in the Battle of Shanghai and was at times at the mercy of his generals, who maintained a high degree of autonomy from the central KMT government.
From 1940 on the Japanese encountered tremendous difficulties in administering and garrisoning the seized territories, and tried to solve its occupation problems by implementing a strategy of creating friendly puppet governments favourable to Japanese interests in the territories conquered, the most prominent being the Nanjing Nationalist Government headed by former KMT premier Wang Jingwei. However, the atrocities committed by the Japanese army, as well as Japanese refusal to delegate any real power, left them very unpopular and largely ineffective. The only success the Japanese had was the ability to recruit a large Collaborationist Chinese Army to maintain public security in the occupied areas.
By 1941 Japan held most of the eastern coastal areas of China and Vietnam, but guerilla fighting continued in these occupied areas. Japan had suffered tremendous casualties from unexpectedly stubborn Chinese resistance, and neither side could make any swift progress in a manner resembling the fall of France and Western Europe to Nazi Germany.

Conclusion and aftermath

End of Pacific War and surrender of Japanese troops in China

The United States and Russia put an end to the Sino-Japanese War (and World War II) by attacking the Japanese with a new weapon (on America's part) and an incursion into Manchuria (on the Soviet Union's part). On August 6, an American B-29 bomber, the Enola Gay, dropped the first atomic bomb used in combat on Hiroshima. On August 9, the Soviet Union renounced its non-aggression pact with Japan and attacked the Japanese in Manchuria, fulfilling its Yalta Conference pledge to attack the Japanese within three months after the end of the war in Europe. The attack was made by three Soviet army groups.
In less than two weeks the Kwantung Army, which was the primary Japanese fighting force, consisting of over a million men but lacking in adequate armor, artillery, or air support had been destroyed by the Soviets. On August 9, a second atomic bomb was dropped by the United States on Nagasaki. Japanese Emperor Hirohito officially capitulated to the Allies on August 15, 1945, and the official surrender was signed aboard the battleship USS Missouri on September 2.

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

 

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