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If, or when the war starts, where and what you are - North, South, young, old - is irrelevant. You all share in the responsibility of protecting our homeland and repelling the enemy. For this cause, you must be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.—Chiang Kai-shek
The Greater East Asian War was righteous and justified.—General Tojo Hideki, 1946
The Second Sino-Japanese War was, right behind the Second World War of which it was a part, the biggest and most costly war in human history. It was fought by Imperial Japan against China, beginning in the summer of 1937 and ending in the summer of 1945. The conflict was eclipsed by WWII in 1939 and brought into the wider war in 1941, with China and Japan formally joining the Allies and Axis respectively, and ended with the complete surrender of Japan to the Allied powers. It was also the largest war ever fought in Asia, with at least 10 million and as many as 30 million Chinese (accurate figures don't exist) and just short of 3 million Japanese military and civilian casualties during the course of the war.
The war is still within living memory, and what successive generations have been taught about it is is the subject of (fierce) controversy in East Asia. Generally speaking, nations best deal with shared negative experiences like war and imperialism when they treat the whole thing fairly impersonally, reach broad agreements on the rough facts of the matter without trying to demonize anyone, and do their best to move on. For example, Germany and Poland: whilst many Poles still don't forgive aspects of the conduct of the forces of Nazi Germany, most of today's Germans are sorry about what happened, and the great majority of Poles and Germans mutually regret the whole business and don't want that sort of thing to happen ever again between anyone, and like to leave it at that.
Things used to be fairly similar between China and Japan in the '50s and '60s, with both countries blaming a small clique of Japanese militarist leaders - thereby leaving out the uncomfortable issue of the behaviour of Japanese troops and Chinese Quislings - and the Americans and British. Communist China emphasized its own grass-roots patriotism and independence from the soviets, also seeking to play up the - actually very marginal - actions of Chinese Communist Guerrillas during the war and to portray the Nationalist faction as hopeless corrupt, immoral, un-patriotic, traitorous and a puppet of the Americans.
This broad agreement on the 'facts' of the matter changed in the '70s, when Japan became the world's no.2 economy and China - which had broken rather messily with the Soviets - normalised diplomatic and later economic and cultural relations with America. Japanese public opinion began dodging the uncomfortable aspects of the past by fudging some details and missing others, whilst playing up the suffering of the Japanese people as a result of the American fire-bombings, atomic bombings and ensuing occupation.
At roughly the same time, the Chinese Communists suddenly started to play up the foreign invasion angle of the war, demonising not just the Japanese military junta, but Japanese troops and the Japanese people generally. They also stopped portraying the Nationalists as American puppets, but continued to neglect their foes' critical contribution to the war effort whilst playing up their own part in resisting the 'savage dwarf-pirates' - to use a traditional racial slur.
This is more or less the status quo today, with the uncomfortable details of the war being glossed over or neglected entirely in Japan in favour of an innocent-and-misled-blameless-Japanese-civilian-population focus, and the uncomfortable details being covered in graphic detail in China as part of a greater 'victimisation narrative' which aims to make all Chinese people very glad the Chinese Communist Party under the Great Chairman Mao came along and single-handedly saved them from foreign imperialism. The governments of the respective countries are not the only forces at work, however. Beginning in the late '70s and blossoming in the late '90s, neo-conservative nationalist groups in Japan have tried to emphasise the importance of giving the Japanese nation a positive, forward-looking outlook under the leadership of a strong centralised state. Of course, there is little room in this forward-looking narrative for dwelling on the past, especially the bad bits of it, and these groups think of the Second Sino-Japanese War as a war of Pan-Asian liberation from Western Imperialism. Likewise, they are quick to claim that Japanese atrocities have been massively exaggerated, and are based mostly on hearsay from anti-Japanese sources or fabricated wholesale, all in the name of shaming the Japanese people into being hesitant to form a strong state or military; with which, the foreigners fear, they might protect their own interests rather than remaining at the mercy of the foreign powers like America and China. Several textbooks have been written along just these lines, and are often singled out for criticism.
There are also differences in how history is taught in both nations. Japanese schools have a choice of around thirty to fifty textbooks, produced by various private companies, although subject to some editing and license requirements by the department of education. As one would expect, they vary in their portrayal of events; some are fairly objective, and others are ideologically charged. But when taken as a whole they have a readily apparent bias towards sanitising history, (quite a bit) more so than in contemporary 'Western' textbooks. Chinese schools, on the other hand, use precisely one periodically-updated textbook written by the Department of Education itself. The Department of Education is not particularly bothered by historical 'objectivism', which they are quick to dismiss as an unattainable and self-contradictory British academic fad. The German-Polish approach is held up as the standard to aspire to with regards to uncomfortable history as the text seeks to inform and explore the issues at work in order to promote some measure of understanding and reconciliation.
The war is still a very polarising event, and is certainly not a topic for polite conversation.
The Manchurian Incident: On September 18, 1931, near the city Mukden in Manchuria (today Shenyang), a railroad owned by Japan's South Manchuria Railway was blown up (which was totally not a false flag operation). The Japanese military generals accused Chinese terrorists of this act, and used it as an excuse for the full-scale invasion of Manchuria. The civilian government in Tokyo was not consulted at all in this matter, but Emperor Hirohito quickly gave up on the idea of punishing the offenders, since at this point the civilian government was just a puppet of the Imperial Japanese Army.
The Japanese generals then decided to set up a puppet government in the occupied north, called Manchukuo ("the Manchu State") and placed the last emperor Pu Yi back on the throne. They weren't fooling anyone. The American media sarcastically called the new colony "Japanchukuo".
The League of Nations demanded that Japan withdraw its armies from Manchuria, but the Japanese public fully supported a war of expansionism in Asia. So the Japanese gave the international community the middle finger by withdrawing from the Security Council. This set the stage for an inevitable war, even though the Sino-Japanese War did not break out until 1937.
United Front: By 1936, Chiang Kai-Shek (or Jiang Jieshi), leader of the Chinese nationalist party (Guomindang or GMD) which monopolised power in the Republic of China was determined to finish off the final communist soviet in the mountainous central-northern province of Yan'an. However, Zhang Xueliang, the anti-communist warlord of Xian, believed that the National Republican Army (essentially the army of the GMD) was not strong enough to destroy the communists in their stronghold and even if it was, the cost would be too great. He tried unsuccessfully to convince Chiang to join forces with the Dirty Commies but the Generalissimo would have none of it. Despite having sworn allegiance to Chiang, he eventually came to the conclusion that to keep China strong for the war with Japan he had to kidnap him and force him to negotiate with the communists. The Chinese Communist Party was contacted in secret and asked for a delegation to decide on the next step. After some deliberation, the GMD and CCP agreed to forge a united front against Japan. Since Chiang was agreed to be the only man who could lead China in such a war, the man himself was released. Zhang Xueliang, having done his work, turned over himself for arrest.
A Game of Marco Polo: Japan had now become a dire military dictatorship. In 1937, the junta decided the time had come for the conquest of China. During the night of July 7, a lone Japanese soldier went missing and didn't turn up for his roll call the next morning. The man vanished near the Marco Polo Bridge on the Manchukuo-China border (named so after the traditional belief that Marco Polo crossed it on his way into Bicycle City), so the Japanese demanded a search. The Chinese refused to let them in and opened fire on the intruders, who answered with a massive tank and artillery barrage. The Japanese military junta, headed by General Tojo, turned this relatively small incident into a full-scale war between China and Japan.
The Chinese defenders were unprepared and in bad shape materially, so the Japanese easily wiped them out before beginning the ground invasion. The next day, Chiang declared this was the last straw, and began mobilizing China for total war. And with that, the Second Sino-Japanese War had begun.
The Battle of Shanghai: The onslaught on the "Paris of the Orient" began on August 13. The Japanese expected the conquest of Shanghai to be over "in three days." Instead, they had not prepared for a million of Chiang Kai-Shek's elite troops, trained by German advisors, which he kept in reserve for this battle. Hell ensued, but the disarrayed Chinese proved no match for the Japanese in the end, who were supported by naval and aerial bombardment from the IJN, whose ships had a free run of the entire Chinese Coastline and the Yangtze River. The Japanese emerged victorious only after fierce urban warfare for three months, and it required a huge effort. Most of Chiang's best troops were killed by the shelling and house-to-house fighting; the battle also took a terrible toll on China's air force, since they had no domestic aircraft production. After the death of more than 300,000 men, the Chinese retreated from the city.
The only positive thing about this crushing defeat was that it raised foreign sympathy for China, especially from the USA. The Japanese, dismayed and furious over the unexpected Chinese resistance, were now hell-bent on revenge.
The Rape of Nanking: Nanjing, which means "Southern Capital," was the capital city of China at the time. Once word spread that Shanghai was lost, the GMD government fled from the city -- it was clear to everyone that Nanjing was a sitting duck. As the Japanese ground forces made their way to Nanjing, their air force began bombing the capital. Nanjing's defenses had several weaknesses, due to the breakdown of morale among the retreating soldiers from the battle outside the city walls. Nanjing fell on December 13th, and opened its gates for the Japanese expeditionary force. Their commander issued an order that simply said: "KILL ALL CAPTIVES." And so the Nanjing Massacre happened, also known as the Rape of Nanking. About 350,000 defenseless Chinese people were stabbed, mutilated, burned or ripped apart by the Japanese soldiers, in addition to various sexual tortures. Every woman in reach was violently raped -- sometimes to death. The senseless torture and slaughter went on for six weeks non-stop.
These atrocities are still denied by certain Japanese ultra-nationalists, to the understandable anger of the Chinese. Despite the mountains of sickening images taken by the perpetrators themselves.
The Chinese had relocated their capital to Chongqing in the southern mountains, and continued the war of resistance from there. With casualties rapidly increasing on the Japanese side, their air force concentrated on carpet bombing of major cities to break the Chinese morale. Chongqing still holds the sad distinction of being the most heavily bombed city in the world.
China's Strategy: China had one basic advantage--it's an enormous country, with the world's largest population. During this time, Mao Ze Dong and the CCP kept their truce with Chiang to fight together against the Japanese. Communists set up guerrilla resistance movements behind enemy lines, while also enforcing land reforms simultaneously to gain popular support among the peasants. The Communist activities were only partisan resistance rather than direct fighting, while the Nationalists tended to engage in traditional (and costly) combat. Only recently has the People's Republic of China moved in the direction of acknowledging this.
The goal of the Chinese was to prolong the war as long as possible and exhaust the Japanese. The strategy of "magnet warfare" was used to attract the Japanese to areas where they could be ambushed, flanked, or encircled. And it worked well. The Chinese understood that their numbers were important, not the lands they controlled. This endless guerrilla warfare only frustrated the Japanese, who responded with the "Three Alls Policy" -- "kill all, loot all, burn all".
The Flood: By the end of 1941, the Second Sino-Japanese War merged with World War Two, with the Chinese joining the Allies. Japan now controlled the cities and transport lines in coastal China, but had no control over the huge countryside, nor the inland areas where most of the insurgency was based.
As the Japanese columns were advancing into the Chinese heartland, the panicked Chiang decided to destroy the dikes of the Yellow River to hamper the Japanese advance with floods. In June 9, 1938, the cataclysm began. The Yellow River's course was altered southwards for nine years following this incident, and the flood itself took thousands of civilian lives. This was due to the GMD not informing any civilians before setting off the flood, in order to achieve surprise. This desperate tactic only slowed the Japanese advance by a few weeks - but the flooding bought time for the GMD to reorganize from a disorderly retreat and created a logistical nightmare for the Japanese troops. As they advanced into the lawless countryside, the Japanese began unleashing germ weapons such as anthrax and bubonic plague on the Chinese civilian population.
Puppet States: As in Manchuria, the Japanese created puppet states in China to help facilitate and legitimize their rule. One was created soon after the Marco Polo Bridge attack, inside Inner Mongolia. A nationalist official-turned-collaborator, Wang Jingwei, agreed to help the Japanese set up a Chinese puppet state based in Nanjing. To put on an image of legitimacy, Wang's regime used the same flag and sun symbol as the old government. The Japanese also set up warlords to rule over the other parts of the huge country. Les Collaborateurs had little power, and though they were allowed to have their own troops, these were in turn commanded by Japanese overseers. Almost a million Chinese peasants were forced to join the collaborator army (and be cannon fodder in frontal assaults).
Ichigo: For three years after the outbreak of the Pacific War, the Chinese managed to fight the Japanese into an exhausted stalemate. Japan's invasion had bogged down by 1941, and they were unable to achieve a decisive victory, despite dedicating the majority of its troops and resources to the China front.
In 1944, while the naval war raged across the Pacific, the Japanese commanders in China decided to launch Operation Ichigo ("number one"). The main objectives were to seize the southern provinces of Hunan and Guangxi, the centers of Chinese resistance. If the NRA could be finally defeated in the field, the Japanese could then advance upriver to the ROC capital at Chongqing, ending the war in China. The secondary objective of the offensive was to destroy the allied airbases in Hunan and Guangxi, which were being used by American planes to harass Japanese bombers and disrupt the IJA's overstretched supply lines. Ichigo was the largest Japanese ground offensive of the entire war, and involved over 500,000 Japanese and 400,000 Allied troops. The GMD was caught by surprise and the airfields were either captured or evacuated, but the NRA managed to hold out by virtue of American training and lend-lease equipment, which had by this time made good on the GMD's losses at Shanghai. Operation Ichigo was a mixed success, but the course of the war had already been decided by events elsewhere.
Ichigo was the last successful Japanese offensive. Even as it drew to a close, Japanese cities were being fire-bombed by the US Air Force. Even the lowest Japanese grunt knew the war was lost, but surrender was unthinkable. Three generals launched one last, desperate offensive into Sichuan, but were beaten back. The Allied leaders then issued a final ultimatum that demanded the unconditional surrender of Japan on threat of "utter destruction". Given the numbers of Japanese civilian dead and the way the Third Reich had just gone down, High Command didn't expect for a moment this would actually work and had been planning an amphibious invasion of the Japanese Home Islands - Operation Downfall - which was set to begin in October. Naturally, Japan refused to surrender. The USAF then dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Soviet Union entered the war on the same day, and sent the Red Army storming into Manchukuo. Meanwhile, the GMD had managed to take back Guangxi and were preparing for an all-out offensive to retake the rest of southern China... when to the astonishment of everyone, Japan surrendered.
Works set in this period:
- Lust, Caution, about a plot to assassinate a pro-Japanese collaborator in occupied Shanghai.
- The Girl Who Played Go is about a relationship between a Chinese girl and a Japanese officer in the early stages of the war.
- City of Life and Death, a drama film set during the Nanking Massacre.
- Empire of the Sun by J.G. Ballard is about the author's childhood inside a Japanese prison camp for Western civilians.
- Tintin's adventure The Blue Lotus depicts the Japanese encroachment on China in the 1930s.
- Men Behind the Sun, a Chinese Exploitation Film about the Unit 731 human experiments.
- Flying Tigers, a 1942 war film starring John Wayne.
- The manga Kuni ga Moeru, about a bureaucrat in Imperial Japan during the war. The first (and only) Japanese manga to depict the Rape of Nanking in graphic detail, it kicked off a massive controversy.
- Osamu Tezuka's manga Phoenix is about Japanese soldiers during this war, searching for the titular magic bird in China (while presumably committing war crimes on the way). Sadly, it was never finished due to Author Existence Failure.
- The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang, which popularized the term. Provides much historical information about this event. Unfortunately, she committed suicide a few years after writing it.
- The Battle of China is a 1944 propaganda documentary by Frank Capra with first-rate footage of the war.
- Several of the early adventures of Buck Danny are set in wartime China.
- Seven Man Army (八道樓子) is a 1976 Hong Kong film about the defense of the Great Wall in the early stages of the war.
- Zhang Yimou's directorial debut, Red Sorghum, is set at a sorghum-liquor distillery in the middle of the war. His epic To Live touches on it briefly, but focuses more on the Chinese Civil War and what came afterward.
- Chen Kaige's own directorial debut, Yellow Earth, is set in a remote rural region in 1939.
- Jiang Wen's Devils on the Doorstep (鬼子来了) takes place in northern China in the last phase of the war.
- Black Sun: Nanking is a torture-porn film about, well, the Rape of Nanking.
- The Children of Huang Shi deals with the evacuation to safety of orphaned Chinese children by two Westerners during the war.
- Dragon Seed by Pearl Buck.
- Terry and the Pirates
- Purple Sunset is about a Chinese man and a Russian woman taking revenge on the Japanese.
- The manga Ron by Motoka Murakami, author of Jin.
- The anime Senkou no Night Raid is about a group of Japanese spies in China, 1931, and its plot involves the events leading up to the war, from the Mukden Incident to the creation of the Manchukuo puppet government.
- Philosophy of a Knife is a Russian horror film about Unit 731, with real interviews mixed in.
- Shanghai Girls starts out in this period. It is about wealthy sisters Pearl and May Chin who find out that their father lost all of their money and they are forced to move to America.
The Second Sino-Japanese War showed examples of:
- Armies Are Evil: While there were a hell of a lot more specks of light than you'd think of given the intensity of most reactions' to it, none of the major armies involved in the Chinese land war acquitted themselves overly well.
- Banana Republic: The Republic of China was a non-Latin American example, with the country being run by the reactionary and corrupt Kuomintang; the dictator Chiang Kai-Shek saw how the political winds were blowing and retconned himself as a champion of freedom in order to get aid from America.
- Being Tortured Makes You Evil: One of the explanations that's sometimes tossed about for why the Japanese soldiers behaved the way they did.... the IJA was not a fun place to be...
- Black and Gray Morality: Chiang Kai-Shek, the Winston Churchill of Asia, was a lifelong fascist-wannabe who ruled a corrupt Banana Republic after the style of Mussolini, whom he looked to emulate. The Japanese military junta were unarguably worse; Chiang may have viewed the war as a continuation of politics, but if anything the Junta believed the exact opposite.
- Body Count Competition: The war became infamous for this practice. Two Japanese officers had a contest, over which would be the first to slay a hundred Chinese captives. With their katana swords. En route to Nanjing, both of them surpassed their goal (so they decided to aim for 150 kills instead). The whole head-chopping contest was treated like a sport; it was covered by reporters and published in the daily newspaper Tokyo Nichi Shimbun so that people at home could follow the scores.
- Cherry Blossoms: The Japanese liked to plant cherry trees on conquered territory, since sakura marked it as Japanese space.
- Communists Win The War: One common instance of historical revision is to play up the small contribution of Communist forces and guerrillas and downplay the contributions of the Nationalist army and foreign allies in the defeat of Japan. See Fanon Discontinuity below for more details.
- Cool Plane: The Mitsubishi Zero.
- Curb Stomp Battle: Due to the generally poor quality of both officers and armaments in China, many a battle turned into this.
- Eagle Squadron: The US formed the American Volunteer Group (a squadron of mercenary pilots) for service in China, after Chiang's own air force had collapsed when faced with Japanese air power. Known as the "Flying Tigers", the AVG managed to hold their own against overwhelming odds and inflict disproportionate casualties on the Japanese, with arguably inferior aircraft as well. The awesomeness of this is balanced by the fact that every single American pilot and groundcrewman was a straight-up mercenary.
- Operation Zet, which was a Soviet volunteer air force, also helped out.
- The Empire: Imperial Japan, which ruled most of the Asia-Pacific at the height of the war.
- Enemy Mine: The Nationalists and Communists agreed on a truce to focusing on fighting the Japanese...then resumed the Chinese Civil War shortly after their common enemy had been defeated.
- The Uriah Gambit: Both sides were hoping that the other would come off worse against the Japanese, making the inevitable continuation of the civil war that much easier to win. The Nationalists hoped that the hatred and contempt the ideologically-similar Japanese regime held for Socialism would lead to them concentrating on exterminating the Communists, but Japanese High Command acted out of pragmatism; it was the Nationalists who held all the land of strategic value and had to defend it accordingly. The Communists fought two pitched battles against Japanese-allied troops in '44; the Nationalists fought over thirty battles from Shanghai to the end of Ichigo.
- Evil Genius: General Shiro Ishii, the head of the Japanese biological warfare research Unit 731. Here's a little taster:
"To determine the treatment of frostbite, prisoners were taken outside in freezing weather and left with exposed arms, periodically drenched with water until frozen solid. The arm was later amputated; the doctor would repeat the process on the victim’s upper arm to the shoulder. After both arms were gone, the doctors moved on to the legs until only a head and torso remained. The victim was then used for plague and pathogen experiments."
- This site has some additional information. Pathogen experiments were among the kindest tests done by Unit 731.
- Fascist but Inefficient: China under Chiang's 'government'. Only the provinces along the coast and Yangtze River answered to him, even after a decade of campaigning to consolidate his power. Unfortunately, said regions were all too vulnerable to the warships and marines of the Imperial Navy.
- Fanon Discontinuity: This war is probably historical revisionism's number one minefield. For example, the Chinese Communist Party guerrillas (there were only official CCP guerrillas, at that) fought Japan to a standstill on their own. Mao Zedong was always the leader of the CCP, he didn't have his rivals murdered and didn't leave them to die or only emerge as undisputed leader during the war with Japan. The revolutionary will of the people of China, and not the sale of opium, provided the funds for black market weaponry during the war. Dedication to party ideals and good-old tenacity kept the CCP's regular forces in the fight, not any lack of effort or interest on the Japanese side because there were far more important fish to fry. Also, there was a war in Asia when Japan tried to share her technology and prosperity with the people there, but the West didn't like that and Japan had to fight them. Some bad things happened, but these things happen in war and it's not Japan's fault and it couldn't be helped. Most of those people who make wild claims about Japan doing bad things are grossly exaggerating, if not making it up entirely - people do things like that, it can't be helped. Then, the Americans firebombed every city in Japan and dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima and Japan had to surrender.
- Foreshadowing: Of Stalingrad, at Shanghai. Although five years apart, they took place around the same time. Unlike Stalingrad, the Japanese won.
- General Ripper: Chiang Kai-Shek and probably the entire Japanese high command. The General Staff of the Kwangtung Army is worth special mention; they were the ones who seized Manchuria and capitalised on the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. They wanted a war but though taking Soviet-held Siberia would be too difficult and decided that a war to conquer China was in Japan's interests.
- Good Republic, Evil Empire: The Republic of China vs. the Empire of Japan. However, the Republic was in practice a military dictatorship with more autonomous elements than not. Where Chiang had loyal troops, he could collect taxes and administrate. Where he didn't, he couldn't, and they did their own thing under someone else's command. In theory, the plan was to rule China as a single-party state until it was stable (understandable, since China is the largest country in the world) and establish a real democracy later. In practice, the Republic was a hopelessly corrupt dictatorship.
- Hollywood History: The Flying Tigers didn't fly their first operational mission until December 11, 1941, three days after the Pearl Harbor attack. (Pearl Harbor day was December 8 in China due to the international date line). They weren't actually integrated in the U.S. Army Air Force until late 1942. That's not how people remember it though, due to the movie God Is My Copilot.
- Home by Christmas: It was half-hoped the nationalists would let the Marco Polo bridge incident slide and sign away the Beijing region rather than risk an all-out war. The attack on the Japanese concession in Shanghai and the 'three day' counter-attack which took over three hellish months made it clear that this 'China incident' was different; there would be no more compromises, for China was now at war.
- Honor Before Reason
- Katanas Are Just Better: The Japanese were big believers in this. The swords they carried were usually mass-produced katanas called shin gunto. These low-quality blades weren't used much in battle, but frequently used to behead prisoners of war or even used them to finish off rape victims by impaling them through their privates.
- La Résistance: The Chinese guerrilla warfare. Mao Ze Dong was quite good at this (he was a much better at war than at politics).
- Les Collaborateurs: The Chinese collaborators, obviously. However, their army had terrible morale and most of them deserted at the first chance they got.
- Subverted trope: Some of these collaborators were, in fact, collaborating with the Chinese. Some generals were under orders to stage defection if their situation became untenable (cut off from the main force). These newly-turned units would often lurk as "collaborators" for several months or even years, until it became convenient for them to defect back.
- Mad Scientist: Unit 731 performed horrendous experiments on countless prisoners of all ages and genders. Yet the Americans exchanged this data for the freedom of the doctors who practiced their gruesome "art" with pleasure.
- Nightmare Fuel:
- Unit 731, also known as "the Asian Auschwitz."
- The Nanking Massacre. It's rare to find that kind of brutality and horror in even the darkest of fiction.
- Obligatory War Crime Scene: Several of them.
- Occupiers Out of Our Country!: The Chinese, obviously.
- Patriotic Fervor: Which still exists to this day in the form of Misplaced Nationalism.
- Putting on the Reich: Chiang Wei Kuo, Chiang's son and Panzer Corps Lieutenant, and General von Falkenhausen, who continued to serve as a General in the NRA until he was recalled by the Wehrmacht under threat of harm to his family. Pulled off by the Nationalists at large, not that it had any bad connotations back then. There was a Sino-German alliance of sorts that only (in)formally ended in 1940 when the Axis was formed - the exchange of Chiang and von Falkenhausen, among others, was part of that informal alliance. The core of the NRA was equipped with surplus German equipment, including the famous grey Stahlhelms, the eponymous Karbiner 98k and Mauser C96 - which was produced as the standard NRA Officer Corps side-arm under licence. The NRA's fringe troops were generally equipped with variable (generally low) quality copycats of German weapons and equipment, though the more powerful warlords issued their troops with markedly different weapons produced from their own arsenals. Since the Germans also licensed the Japanese these helmets, and the strong influence of the Prussian military on the Imperial Japanese one, China was the only front of World War II where both sides were Putting on the Reich. . The resemblance faded as the new core of the NRA was issued American weapons and equipment, including the eponymous M1 helmet.
- Pyrrhic Victory: The Yellow River Delta campaign, which involved the capture of Shanghai and Nanjing. The Japanese had captured the Nationalist heartland, but the war was far from won and the IJA's atrocities had cost them all vestiges of sympathy abroad.
- The Quisling: Wang Jingwei was the former premier of China before he turned over to the Japanese to head their puppet state.
- Rape, Pillage and Burn: Standard IJA policy, though often not stated as such. For the benefit of the foreign press, the 'China Incident' was portrayed as quite a civilised affair. After Nanjing, they were fooling no-one.
- Rape as Drama: Many if not most Chinese females encountered by the Imperial Japanese Army. Mass rape was taken to new heights. The young, the pregnant, the old - none were spared. Some, usually the better-looking ones, were conscripted into so-called 'comfort battallions' - basically, army brothels - alongside many Korean women and later (which is how the matter first came to popular light) European women. Rape of men and boys was also fairly common, albeit not on the industrial scale suffered by female victims.
- Redshirt Army: China's armies were quite small for its population of about 500 million, with about 4 million soldiers of all factions. About a million of these formed the loyal core of the Nationalists' army with standardised weapons and equipment and basic training. Another two million troops formed the NRA's fringe troops, whose real loyalties lay with regional warlords and local authority figures. The NRA had precisely one mixed mechanized division which was wiped out at Shanghai, then rebuilt by the Americans five years later. But Chiang's real pride and joy was about a quarter to half of the 'core' army, which used German weapons and equipment and had decent training from German advisers and a competent Officer corps minted by ROC Military Academies. These core units were able to fight effectively at the start, but Chiang's gamble at Shanghai backfired as much of the core army was lost and disproportionate numbers of Academy-trained officers were killed. The GMD's reliable troops simply numbered too few for them to risk any offensive action for years afterwards.
- Sociopathic Soldier: The Japanese committed horrifying atrocities, well akin to the Crusades or the Mongol Horde.
- The cruelty showed by Japan was incredible, but it wasn't always like this. A few decades earlier, their troops were led by gentleman officers and treated prisoners even better than Westerners did. But in the 1930s, Japanese society was seized by a militaristic mass frenzy when the country was taken over by a military dictatorship. As they made plans for massive expansion into China, they tripled the size of the Imperial Japanese Army in order to win the war. This massively bloated army, half its conscripts only teenage boys, was kept in line with torture. When these abused youths were unleashed on Chinese civilians, encouraged by their officers, a disaster was inevitable.
- Torture Technician: The Japanese were quite good at this.
- Understatement: While the Japanese were losing the war, some of Emperor Hirohito's comments were hilarious in their psychotic understatement. See the quotes page.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: The Battle of Shanghai. Shanghai was chosen by the Nationalists in part because the presence of the foreign concessions there meant the Japanese would have to watch their fire and be careful in their use of naval artillery and air support. To begin with this led to bizarre scenes of foreigners frequenting cafes and restaurants with good views of the action with their newspapers and binoculars. The novelty faded as the battle drew on and the dangers soon became apparent.
- Urban Warfare: Shanghai would be Ur Example, also Hong Kong - which may or may not have been allowed by the GMD to fall as payback for not doing anything about the 'China incident' - and many, many other towns and cities.
- We ARE Struggling Together!: The Nationalists and Communists, despite putting their differences aside for a while to fight the Japanese, resumed their civil war as soon as the threat posed by Japan was ended. The fighting would continue for four more years until the Communists won and drove the Guomindang to exile in Taiwan.
- Written by the Winners: See: Chinese textbooks, but bearing in mind that Japanese textbooks frequently aren't any better in this regard.