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On the Outcome of the War of Resistance against Japan: The Irony of History

Viewed 1744 times 2015-9-10 22:37 |System category:News


Han Dongping

Guest Professor of Hebei University

Professor of Warren Wilson History

This year marked the seventieth anniversary of the victory of the War of Resistance against Japanese fascist aggressors by the Chinese people.    The fourteen year long war was more than a war.   It was a social movement whereas the Chinese people used to be a pile of sand seen by Sun Yatsen, have been transformed to acquire national cohesion.   They were no longer a pile of sand, and were united in face of the national crises.  

Before the Japanese aggression against China, China was already on the verge of collapse under the onslaught of western imperialism and colonialism.   Different foreign powers had carved up parts of China as their concessions in China with their own administrations and own military forces.    Numerous Chinese Warlords backed by different foreign powers, ruled China as arbitrarily as they wanted.   Backed by the Comintern, Chinese Nationalists and Chinese Communists, joined force in a united front to rid the foreign imperialism and warlords in China.   United, the nationalists and Communists did a marvelous job, defeating 36 warlords in a matter of few months.  The Communists organized peasant associations to provide intelligence and logistics for the North Expedition, freeing the Chinese peasant of feudal yoke in a very quick manner.

However, Jiang betrayed the revolution when the North Expedition forces reached Shanghai in April 1927.   He turned his gun against the communists, the former ally, ruining the unity completely.  In self-defense, the Communist Party fought back.   They had to fight back in order to survive, thus starting the second revolutionary civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists.

Jiang apparently underestimated the staying power of the Communist Party, who represented the fundamental interests of the Chinese working class who accounts for more than 90 percent of the Chinese people.   He thought he could kill out the communist leaders with his white terror, and the policy of killing three thousand innocent rather than allowing one real communist to escape.    But the white terror did not intimidate the Communists, who fought back heroically, with armed uprisings through China, building several red bases.

Among these bases, the one led by Chairman Mao and Zhu De were the most prominent.   They set up the first representative government of workers and farmers with a powerful political platform, which appealed to the workers and farmers.   Jiang, threatened by the existence of the Communist bases, organized military campaigns to wipe them out.   But each of his first four military campaigns ended up in defeat, losing large amount of military equipment and supplies, aiding the growth of the Communist forces.     In order to concentrate his energy on wiping out the Communists, Jiang ignored the Japanese threat.   When the Japanese attacked in the Northeast in September 1931, he ordered Zhang Xueliang, the local commander, to offer no resistance. 

Jiang believed at the time that the Communist was a disease of heart while the Japanese was only a disease of skin.   He has to deal with the communists first before he would take on the Japanese.

Ironically, the Japanese invaded the Northeast in 1931 and started the all-out war against China in 1937 seemingly with the argument that it wanted to help China rid the communists, because Jiang was not able to deal with it himself.

However, the Japanese invasion exposed the impotency of Jiang’s Government.    Many Nationalist troops collapsed upon encountering the Japanese, loosing China’s heartland in a matter of few months.    With the slogan to fight the Japanese aggression, the Chinese Communist Party started organizing the Chinese peasants in an effort to resist the Japanese aggression, with decreased harassment by the Nationalists.  

Thus, with his refusal to fight the foreign invaders, Jiang lost the political legitimacy in the eyes of the Chinese people.    At the same time, the Japanese aggression gave rise to a high tide of nationalistic sentiments among the Chinese people, which the Chinese Communists were able to ride to great success. 

Both Jiang and Japanese actions were seemingly driven by their anti-Communist motives, but history coordinated these two forces to create a social environment in which the Communists were able to grow tremendously.     

As we celebrating this important milestone on the rise of the Chinese nation, we should not forget this important lesson of history.

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Professor of Warren Wilson College in the US.


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