The news that Western leaders skipped the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow on May 9 hit the radar screen. Chinese leader Xi Jinping was at the top of the guest list. Did they pull a boner? It has become the most frequently asked question in the United States and Europe.
Claire de Morsier of French Le Temps wrote that ignoring the Moscow festivities was tactless and even dangerous. According to her, the attempts to humiliate Russia only strengthen anti-Western and nationalist feelings in the country. In its comments on the presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the military parade Newsweek wrote that it was the event «some analysts have described as a “Nixon Goes to China” moment in reverse».
Benny Avni of the New York Post wrote, «…our Western European allies, who stayed away from the parade. Chinese President Xi Jinping, however, did not. He was seated quite comfortably right next to Putin. Xi waxed poetically about the historical Russian-Chinese alliance since fighting together in WWII.» To sum things up he added, «Politicians periodically talk of a «new American century.» Let’s hope the 21st won’t turn into the Sino-Russian century instead».
There is ground for coming to this kind of conclusions. The West does its best to confirm the fact. Educated people in the West have heard at least something about the role of the Soviet Union. But they know nothing about the China’s contribution into the Second World War. Americans and Europeans are dead sure that the United States fully shouldered the burden of war against Japan.
In reality the Soviet Union was the country that bore the brunt of war effort against the countries of «axis» in Europe. The contribution of China and the USSR was decisive in the effort to achieve victory in Asia. The striving for historic veracity is one of the things that unite Russia and China.
There is no doubt Russian President Vladimir Putin will be the main guest at the Victory Day celebrations to be staged in Beijing on September 3. Western leaders are expected to be there too. Putin will pay tribute to great contribution of Chinese people into the victory.
The Second Sino-Japanese War was fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from 1937 to 1941. There had been smaller scale combat actions before the full-blown war started. In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria. Leaving the prejudices spread among Europeans aside, it would be logical to backtrack the events to those dates instead of Hitler’s attack against Poland.
By that time Japan had joined the Anti-Comintern Pact along with Germany and Italy and stepped on the path of struggle for global dominance. The previous military expeditions of Italy in Africa had no relation to the activities of the «axis» alliance. They were rather part of traditional colonial policy implemented by Italy. Unlike China, Africa was not considered to be a major theater of future war. In 1937 it became clear that the world conflict was inevitable. It really matters.
This approach makes possible to see the events followed after the Japan’s intervention against China in different light. Those days diplomatic activities mainly boiled down to seeking allies, neutralizing potential enemies and forming coalitions. The war had already been started before the Munich collusion of 1938 and the non-aggression pact concluded between the Soviet Union and Germany in the August of 1939. Those events should be viewed through this prism.
When Germany and Poland divvied up Czechoslovakia they committed an act of outright aggression to become belligerent states. It was logical to surmise that Poland would do the same when Germany attacked the Soviet Union. That’s why the Soviet-German non-aggression pact did not unleash the war but rather prevented the formation of more powerful coalitions in the east and the west. The three million strong Polish military armed with German weapons could make a serious contribution into making the German Wehrmacht even stronger.
Munich-style collusion took place in the Far East too. China was fighting Japan alone since 1937 to 1941. Anglo-American allies were engaged in appeasement efforts actually satisfying the appetites of aggressor at the expense of others. They joined the war only when Japan attacked them.
Today Washington and London want to belittle this fact. They are not ready to admit that the Second World War began in 1937 when Japan attacked China. Rana Mitter is a British historian who specializes in the history of republican China. He is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the Institute for Chinese Studies at Oxford University and a Fellow of St. Cross College.
In 2013 he wrote the book called China’s War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival about the Second Sino-Japanese War. According to him, politicians hid the historic facts that people have a right to know. Over one million and a half of Japanese soldiers lost lives in China since 1931 till 1945. It accounts for 70% of all Japanese casualties in WWII. 64% of Japan’s ground forces were concentrated in China.
Professor Atsushi Koketsu, the vice president of Japan’s Yamaguchi University and a distinguished historian, made calculations that enabled him conclude that Japan sent more troops to fight in China than to confront the United States. Besides, the war against China lasted three times longer than the war against America. Japan spent more money to fund its war effort in China in comparison with what it had to allocate for the hostilities against the United States.
The puppet regimes of Manchukuo and other quasi-states lost 1, 18 million soldiers in the war against China. By the end of war Chinese forces took prisoner 1, 28 million Japanese soldiers and 1, 46 million servicemen of puppet states’ armies. The Kuomintang military was 3, 6 million strong.
The China People’s Liberation Army had a strength over one million. From the point of view of the scale of operations the Sino-Japanese war could be compared only with the battles that took place at the Eastern Front in Europe where the Soviet Union confronted the Wehrmacht.
According to Japanese archives, the strong resistance offered by China made Tokyo review its plans to occupy Australia and India, as well as join the German forces in the Persian Gulf making Great Britain and the United States face the consequences. China paid dearly for victory. According to the results of thorough research, the Chinese people lost 35 million of their compatriots during World War II.
The cost of war exceeded $560 billion. The Japanese military deployed in China were often as brutal as Germans in Europe. The Nanking Massacre or Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking or Rape of Nanjing, was an episode of mass murder and mass rape by Japanese troops against the residents of Nanjing (then spelled Nanking), the capital of the Republic of China. Soldiers of the Imperial Army murdered 200,000 Chinese civilians and disarmed combatants, and perpetrated widespread rape and looting.
General Kenji Doihara, a leading intelligence officer, was behind the plans of the country’s destabilization and disintegration of the traditional structure of the Chinese society in order to diminish reaction to the Japanese plans using highly unconventional methods. He became the mastermind of the Manchurian drug trade. The General wanted to turn China into the largest opium producer and consumer to deprive the population of will to resist. It brings to mind the events of the XIX century – the Anglo-French opium monopoly in China.
After the end of World War II, Doihara was prosecuted for war crimes in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (the Tokyo Trials or the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal was convened in 1946 to try the leaders of the Empire of Japan for war crimes). Opium dens appeared everywhere. They had posters informing people that they were was under Japanese control. Chinese opium growers had perks. They were freed from land taxes and military service. Normally they got certificates of honor and were appointed village headmen.
According to official data, every third citizen of Manchukuo was an opium addict. The revenue from drug business was used to fund the war effort. That’s how Japan planned to find «the final solution» to the China’s problem. Today it brings to mind the situation in Afghanistan, the country that has become the main source of drug trafficking threatening Russia and China.
Russia and China have an experience of being comrades in arms. Together they shed blood fighting the one million strong Kwantung Army – the most capable and well-armed Japanese force deployed in the northern part of China at the Soviet border. The place of deployment happened to be a strategic trap.
On the one hand, the Army could not launch an offensive against the Soviet Union because of the risk to be attacked by Chinese forces in the rear. On the other hand, the Kwantung Army could not advance deep into the Chinese territory leaving behind the powerful Red Army force deployed to the Far East. This historic experience should not be forgotten. There is a lesson to draw. As the old Chinese stratagem says, «Make friends to avoid war and keep the enemy wondering!»
Dmitry MININ | SCF