The Chinese home front is a very difficult topic because it is such a complicated one. Our information is still very limited. There was no one China. The Japanese occupied much of China, including the costal areas and major cities. Japanese control was only nominal once one move inland. So called Free (unoccupied China) included the Nationalists in the southwest and the Communists in the northwest. The Japanese converted Manchuria into the puppet state of Manchukuo--essentially a colony. Here they promoted Japanese colonization with only limited syccess. In China proper the Japanese attempted to negotiate arrangements with military warlords in areas they occupied. Some of these war lords also had relations with Chiang creating quite a complicated situation. At this time we do not have much information on living conditions in the various regions. The War affected the Chinese economy. Many men were killed or conscripted into the various armies which affected farm production. The Japanese could be very brutal and conducted an especially dreadful repriasal campaign agains Chinese civilians after the Doolittle Raid (April 1942). Their RiceOffensives also disrupted the rural economy.
The Chinese home front is a very difficult topic because it is such a complicated one. Our information is still very limited. There was no one China. The Japanese occupied much of China, including the costal areas and major cities. Japanese control was only nominal once one move inland. The Japanese converted Manchuria into the puppet state of Manchukuo--essentially a colony. Here they promoted Japanese colonization with only limited syccess. In China proper the Japanese attempted to negotiate arrangements with military warlords in areas they occupied. The Japanese could be very brutal and conducted an especially dreadful repriasal campaign agains Chinese civilians after the Doolittle Raid (April 1942). The Japanese occupied some of the richest agricultural areas of China. Their Rice Offensives also disrupted the rural economy. At this time we do not have much information on living conditions in the various regions. The War affected the Chinese economy. Many men were killed or conscripted into the various armies which affected farm production.
So called Free (unoccupied China) included the Nationalists in the southwest and the Communists in the northwest. The two groups persued very different policies in their areas of control. The Communist areawas particularly remote.
Some of these war lords also had relations with Chiang creating quite a complicated situation.
One of the great tragedies of World War II are the displaced people often described as refugees. The story of refugees in Europe has been treated by historians in great detail. The story of refugees in Asia, especually Chna, has been the subject of much less historical study, despite the huge numbers of people involved. And the term refugee or even dispaced persons does not begin to capture what occured in China. There were indeed large numbers of what we would consider as traditional regugees as well as homeless. And here the number was larger than any other beligerent country, including the Soviet Union. There were three reasons for this. First, the Japanese offensive was not as rapid as the German military operations. And the Japanese were not as mechanized as the Germans. This meant that the Chinese had more time to flee than the people of the Captive Nations in Europe. Second, the Japanese never totally defeated the Chinese and occupied the whole country. This meant that the Chinese had somewhere to try to reach. In Europe, the Germans conquerd whole countries, except for the Soviet Union. Thus there was no wherefor Europeans toescape to, but Britain and Spain. The Channel and North Sea made it virtually impossible to reach Britain. Spain was easier, but had a Government linked to the Germans. Third, the Japanese were increadily brutal, creating an enormous refugee flow. In addition to the refugees, you have forced labor as well as war ophans and widows. There were akso special groups particularly associatd with China that were not refugees or dispalced, but suffered in a simalar way to refugees. This included increased opium addiction (promoted by the Japanese), military concripts (ill-cared for and fed), amd civilian laborers. Chinese peasants were not safe just because they were not in a Japanese occupied area. The Japanese ruthlessly seized crops, but so did Chinese authorties (Nationalist and Communist) in the unoccupid zone. The Nationalists could be especially brutal as the War went on and the Japanese seized more and more of China's prime agricultural land. This meant that the Nationalists had access to less harvested food and with swelling refugee populations and a large army to feed, more and more demand for food. Unlike Britain and the Soviet Union, there was no way for America to get food through to the Nationalists. The Japanese seized all the Chinese ports (1937-38) and eveually closed off the remaining lifelines, French Indochina (1940) and British Burma (1942). The Nationalists not only seized food from the peasants but often their sons as well to serve in the military. These seizures were limted early in the War, but as the War progressed became more and more severe. Many peasants so affected might not be refugees or displaced, but after their food, livestock, and sons were seized were in very much the same sitution. The Communists did the same, but were more restrained. This was undoubtedly a factor in the Commiunist victory after the War. There are no definitive data for the numbers of people involved, refugees, other displced people, and the special Chinese categories.
The Chinese Nationalists-- Kuomintang (KKMT was making progress in uniting the country and developing the economy (1920s). Chaing decided not to challenge Japan's seizure of Manchuria (1931). He decided that China just did not have the industrial to support a modern army that could take on the Japanese. Here as would be shown by events, he was absolutely correct. The KMT was sponsoring industrial projects, but the Japanaese struck before thery had approached ythe level of Japanese industrialization. China was the first country that Japan attacked in the First Sino-Jaoanese War (1894-95) and Japan had made in clear in the Twenty-One Demands issued duriung World War I (1915) that they had much larger objectives in China. Their goal was to to explot China for their advantage. Given that many Chinese were living on the edge, the consquences were potentially devestating And this was before the military had seized control of the Japanese Government. The resporce-poor Japanese were attracted by China's vast resources and potential mmarkrt for their manufactured goods. China at the time was divided by warring feuding loads and had verey little modern industry. Japan could see that the faced an increasingly united and stronger country. They struck again north of Beijing at the Marco Polo Bridge (1937). The Japanese action was taken by local commanders, but the Government in Tokyo supported their actions and commited major forces when the KMT resisted which resulted in the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Japanese rapidly seized China's prosperous coastal cities where most of the still-limited industry was located. They expected Chainag to sue for peace. He did not but instread retreated ibto the interior. The Japanese attempted to pursue the KMT fiorces, but the Japanese Army was still largely unmotorized. China is a huge country. And while Japan had an industrial economy, it was not large enough to equio the motirized arny rgat was needed to move into the unbterior. As a result, the Japanese were unable to defeat the KMT armies in their remote interior locations. THe Japanese pursued the war with unimaginable brutality. The best known atroicity was the Rape of Nanking (1937), but there were many such, albeit on asmaller scale. Whole villages weeew masacered. The Japanese used their air firce to m=bimb undefended Chinese citiies. They also use poison gas and bilogical weapons. The Nationalidsts for their part to an extenbt pursued a scorced earth policy as they retreated. As a result, large areas of China was devestated. The Japanese expected to reap great rewards from seizing China. As it turned out, it prived verety costly to wage war and garuson the occupied areas. The war dragged on nearly 5 years before the Japanese mikitarists decided that they could finally end the War by attacking the United States (1941). Japanese anti-partisan operations were brutal killing oprtations The Japanese killed some .25 million people after the Doolittke raids. The distruction, misamanagement, and the seizure of food devestated China and food became an increasing pronlem. Some 2–3 million people died in a famine in Henan (1942-43). The economy was virtually destroyed. One study estimates that Chinese industrial output was only 20 percent of the output before the War. of pre-war China. [Sun, p. 1319.] The human cist was incaluable. There is no precise account, but Chunese eastumates are sone 20-25 mnillion people and are not unreasinable.
Food was a major attraction drawing Japan into China. Japan was not slf sufficent in food and needed to import rice and other food stuffs. China across the East China Sea beckoned as a seeminly ineeaustable source of not only raw materials, but food as well.China also offered a market for Japan's expanding industrial economy. Manchuria and Korea only wetted the Japanese ppetite for acuiring sources of raw material and food. And developments in Europe meant that there were few allies that China could turn to help resit the Japanese. Food would proive to be central to the Chinese war effort. Million of Chinese peaants lived on a razor edge of survival, producing just enough to feed themselnes. Thus any decline in production could have dire consequences for the Chinese people. The Nationalist Government did a reasonably good joib of managing food production and distribution in th immeciate afytermath of the Japanese invasion. And at first the Japanese primarily occupied northern China and coastal areas arojnf Shanghai and the major ports. Ax the war dragged on, howeber, the situation worsened. The Japanese seized more inland areas, inckuding important agricultural areas. They also seized food to feed their huge army in China. Shipments make to the Home Islands, one of the goals of invading Chinahowever, proved disappoining. The Japanese advances in China removed sunstantial important agricultural areas from Nationalist comtrol. This mean that the Governmrnt had less food at its disposl at th same time that refugees fleeing the rapacious Japanese flooded into Nationlist areas increasing the mouths to be fed with declining harvests. The Natinalists were unable to even feed its armies properly, let alone the civilian population and refugees. The result in the last years of the war was famine and starvation. Unlike Britain, America had no way to get food into China. The Japanese had cut the Burma Road (1942). Military supplies were flown in over the Hump, but there wa no way to get in large quantities of food, The Nationalists had to use draconian measures to seize food from the peasanyry. The Comminists did to, but wigh more circumspection. The brutality of the Nationslist Army would poroive to be a major factor in the Communist victory after the war. Some food arrived with the opening of the Ledo Road (January 1945). The quantities were, however, very limited. Only with the Japanese surrender (August 945% znd the opning of Chinese ports did American food ship,mrnts begin to reach China in quantity.
The Imperial Japanse Army (IJA) launched the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937). The first year of the war was conventional combat. The Kuomingtng (KMT) Nationalist Army surprised the Japanese with their comnbat capability. There was bitter fighting, especilly for Shanghai. The Chinese did not have the industrial capacity of the Japanese. After the first year of the War, the best Chinese divisions had been chewed up and much of their heavy equipment as Nationalist armies retreated inrto the interior. The Nationalist strategy shifted from fighting conventional battles with the Japanese to avoiding pitched battles, substituting space for time. The Chinese seeing that they could not defeat the Japanese sought to drag out the war for as long as possible, conducting low level operations so as not to exhausrt their resources. The idea was to exhaust Japanese resources and make the Japanese war effort as costly as possible all the while building up Chinese military capacity in the interior. American general Joseph Stilwell who served in China diring the inter-War era, including stints as a military attache before America entered the war described the Chinese strategy as 'winning by outlasting', an accurate description an actually the only option available to the Chinese. The Nationalist Army was not totally reactive. They developed the concept of 'magnetic warfare'. The idea was draw advancing Japanese forces forward to positions where they were exposed to ambush, flanking attacks, and encirclements. One example of this tactic was the successful defense of Changsha which resulted in substantial Japanese casualties (1939 and 1941). The Japanese as the war progressed did, hoever, advance from theirr northern area of contriol both south and west and occupied increasingly large areas of China, including large areas of productive agricultural lands. While this denied more and more agricultural lands to the Nationalists, it also meant taking areas that were too large to control as long as the Nationalists had an army in the field that the IJA had to confront with most of its force. Local Chinese resistance forces organised separately by both the communists and KMT behind Japanese lines. And these resistance groups becne a major part of the Chinese war effort. These two resistance forces made it difficult for the IJA to fully control conquered areas, especially at night and beyond the urban centers adminidtered by the Japanese. This made it difficult for the IJA to effectively exploit conquered areas.
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