Chinese World War II Casualty Estimates

Figure 1.-- Here we see Chinese casualties after what we think was a Japanse air raid. The photograph wa tken in 1938. The father is putting his child in a wooden coffin. Other faalities are covered by a bamboo mat. Chinese cities for 5 years until America entered the War had virtually no defense from Japanese bombing.

The estmates of the Cinese people killed during the war are huge. Actual military casualties seem amall pat of the total, commonly estimatd at 3-4 million people. The available estimates have to include lossess due to malnutrition and related causes which were substantial and very diffiult to assess. There is mo way of estimating the number of civilian casualties with any percission, but they are known to be huge. One estimate places it at 14 million. [Mitter] This is within the range of most estimates. Generally estimtes range from 10-20 million people. There are lower estimates, but almost all from Japanese sources. Military deaths may have been 3-4 million, a relatively small part of the total. This is because, unlike the more evenly matched German-Soviet conflict on the Eastern Front, there was a relatively low level of combat during much of the War. Civilian deaths related to militry operations and Japanese attrocities may have totaled 7-11 million people. Deaths related to strvation and malnutrition are the most difficult to estimate. We have seen estimates of some 5 million people, but this seems like a relatively low estimate. Some historians focus more on famine and starvaton than Japanese attrocities. [Collingham, pp. 248-6.] The Chinese peasantry in the best of times suvived on the very edge ofeistence. With the Japanese controlling much of the richest agricultural areas, disaster was inevtable. There are much higher estimates which bring possible Chinese deaths to 25 million or more. The actual numbers will never be known with any certaintty While the percentage losses compared to the overall population is relatively small compared to European countries, the absolute numbers are huge with only the Soviet Union suffering comparable losses. Total losses are estimated at 2-5 percent of the population, the wide range is because there is no precise accounting of the casualties.


Clodfelter, Michael. Warfare and Armed Conflicts: A Statistical Reference to Casualty and Other Figures, 1500–2000 (2nd ed. 2002).

Collingham, Lizze. The Taste of War: World war II and the Battlke for Food (New York: Peguin: 2012), 634p.

Gruhl, Werner. Imperial Japan's World War Two, 1931–1945.

Ho Ping-ti. Studies on the Population of China, 1368–1953. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959).

Mitter, Rana. Forgotton Ally: World War II, 1937-45.

Rummel, R.J. China's Bloody Century (Transaction 1991).


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Created: 1:34 PM 3/13/2017
Last updated: 1:35 PM 3/13/2017