• Sat
  • Dec 20, 2014
  • Updated: 8:25pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 September, 2014, 5:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 September, 2014, 5:00am

Give the Chinese their due place in the second world war fight against Japan

The more we commemorate, the less we understand. Top leaders attended a ceremony in Beijing yesterday to commemorate the 69th anniversary of China's victory in the anti-Japanese war. It is the nation's first commemoration - in which Hong Kong also took part - since September 3 was designated Victory Day this year. Later, there will be the 83rd anniversary of the Mukden Incident that triggered Japan's 1931 invasion of China on September 18 and the newly established Martyrs' Day on September 30. Meanwhile, there is a new official textbook for fifth-graders on the Nanking massacre.

Remembering Japan's imperialism and atrocities is necessary, especially when Japanese right-wing groups have been busy rewriting their country's wartime past. But when history becomes a weapon, or a propaganda tool, it's difficult to remain a human science or a scholarly art on the mainland.

The second Sino-Japanese war, which ended in 1945, is difficult to understand even without it being exploited by governments and political parties. It is also terribly neglected by contemporary scholars. For one thing, the war lacked simplicity, involving Chinese fighting Chinese; communists against Nationalists; warlords who were patriotic and others who were traitors.

But despite all this, as Oxford historian Rana Mitter points out in China's War with Japan, 1937-1945, China did not collapse like the Americans did under Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines and the European forces in Burma, Malaya and the East Indies.

For most Westerners, including academics, the real war against Japan was in the Pacific, leading to the oversimplification that the US won the war. But the war on the Chinese mainland tied down millions of Japanese troops, which helped explain why Japan became exhausted in the Pacific theatre after 1942.

Writing in the 1950s, the great French philosopher Raymond Aron lamented how Western triumphalism and Soviet repression had denied the Russian people full knowledge of their contributions and terrible sacrifices in the Allied victory over Nazi Germany. I dearly hope the Chinese will have the history they deserve through the contributions and sacrifices they made in the Allied victory over imperial Japan.

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superdx
While it's possible that Chinese efforts did tie down the Japanese army's resources, without Soviet and American efforts it's unlikely that China would have won on their own, and would have lasted decades of occupation without any real chance of winning.
Also note that the conflicts fought by the Americans and Soviets were with naval assets, and the troops on the ground in China wouldn't have been necessarily mobilised to fight in the Pacific. Pilots and sailors aren't trained overnight, and Japan was already having issues with war manufacturing.
Imperial Japan is long dead. Though today I don't think the Communist China party has learned the lessons of that war, instead they are repeating the same nationalistic and expansionist goals against their neighbours. Emulating your previous enemy is kind of dumb, if you don't want to be like them in the first place.
A Kuro
Japanese generals boasted in 1937 when they invaded China that Japan will conquer China within 2 months considering the weakness of the Chinese military which was very obvious. But the result was the war lasted another 8 years culminating in the defeat and unconditional surrender of Japan destroying Japanese myth about Bushido, Shinto, God Emperor and confirming Japanese barbarism as the source of this tragedy for the invaded countries and for Japan itself. With Shinto Abe reviving Japan's barbaric values and white-washing of Japan's barbaric history a lot of lies are still being circulated in Japan. The actions of these obnoxious descendants of Japanese war criminals only isolate Japan and takes Japan down the path to damnation and destruction.
Mikado
Japan also surrendered to China in 1945 admitting defeat. So Japan lost to China. If Japan wanted to fight on it would have been utterly destroyed in the China theatre especially with millions of Soviet troops entering the war. In the end the result would have been the same except that the entire 1.2 million Japanese Imperial army would have been annihilated. Also, since the US only had 2 atomic bombs the US would have been forced to invade mainland Japan, with the additional Japanese war dead being estimated at another 6 million together with 1 million US casualties. Apart from that the Japanese emperor system wouldn't have survived. In short, if the cowardly Japanese did not surrender in 1945, an extra 7.2 million Japanese war criminals would have been enshrined at the Yasukuni War Shrine. But while the Japanese are extremely cruel and barbarous, they are not stupid. If they have to be cowards they are willing to do so.
ejychan@connect.hku.hk
China did not defeat Japan in the Sino-Japanese War. They survived.
clsaclsa
Hmm, if my memory serves me right, the Chinese were badly losing the war against Japan and barely staved off defeat only because they had a big country to constantly move the government around.
.
It was the two nukes from the US that made Japan surrender
.
You can call it Remembrance Day but calling it Victory Day is fallacious.
rupe888
Agree that China played a critical role in defeating Japan, but this all seems a bit heavy handed even by CCP standards. Suddenly this is all we're hearing from Xinhua / People's Daily, TV stations ordered to play nothing but anti-Japan dramas, all to mark the somewhat random 69th anniversary of victory over Japan. Guess it was time to dial up the xenophobic nationalism again.
webbocybase
1945 did not see a Chinese victory over Japan, it saw an Allied victory. China had a part to play, as did the Soviet Union, the Americans and the British. China's role was important, and is recognised by all in the fact that after the war it became one of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. In dressing it up as predominantly a Chinese victory the Communist Party is just playing politics in its continual campaign of vilification of Japan to distract its population from its own failings. Most of the Japanese who invaded China are now dead, and most of the allies who fought them are too. Its time to move on, not institute new anti-Japanese celebrations in the 21st century. Japan should start that process by making a proper mea culpa like the Germans, and then China will have to shut up.
S. Rogers
As an American who has studied and lived and worked in China for almost 40 years, I have occasionally encountered some bad feelings from Chinese people because of my nationality. I have found I can always diffuse this by mentioning that my father served in the US Navy in the Pacific in WWII and fought the Japanese.
Some years ago, I had the wonderful experience of attending a ceremony honoring the last few living survivors of the Doolittle Raid. One of the most prominent features of their recollections was the courageous and selfless way in which they were protected by common Chinese people after they crash-landed in Zhejiang.
I think it might help if Americans knew more about the incredible suffering endured and sacrifice made by the Chinese people in the war against Japan. On the other hand, I encounter a lot of misconceptions on the Chinese side -- for instance, far too many people in China fail to recognize that the Nationalists DID carry on some effective fighting, often in the face of terrible odds and with inadequate equipment and logistics.
syn
While it is incorrect to say that China did not have anything to do with victory, it is also incorrect to say China "won" the war.
caractacus
'I dearly hope the Chinese will have the history they deserve through the contributions and sacrifices they made in the Allied victory over imperial Japan.'
Fine, Alex, but will the Chinese recognise the contributions and sacrifices of other nations without whose help it would not have survived? Answer: No.
And, by the way, while the USA defeated Japan in the Pacific, British and Empire forces defeated and annihilated Japan's largest land army on mainland Asia. European forces were defeated in 1942 because they were either occupied by Germany (Netherlands, France) and Britain was fully committed fighting Germany, an industrially more powerful enemy, in Western Europe and North Africa. So let's keep some perspective.

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