The Second Sino-Japanese war was a conflict between the military forces of China and Japan which lasted 1937 to 1945, following the first Sino-Chinese war of 1895. It has been claimed by some historians that were it not for military and economic assistance or support from the allied forces and states of United States, Germany, and Britain, Japan would have won the war even before it began. However, this was not to be as Japan was forced to surrender after the US-led troops dropped atomic bombs one of its cities, Hiroshima in 1945.
This second Sino-Japanese is considered to be the most prominent and devastating war to have taken place in the twentieth century Asia. The causalities on both sides of the war ran into millions caused mainly by the famine, hunger and violence that were directly brought about by the war between the two nations. The purpose of this paper is to examine the historical origin, causes and impacts of the Second Sino-Japanese War that pitted Japan against China. Further, this essay argues or advances the argument and proposition that the Second Sino-Japanese war of 1937 was mainly caused by political and economic interests of the US and its Allied forces and Japan’s imperialist policies that aimed at controlling material resources in the Chinese mainland. Moreover, it is argued in this paper that the Second Sino-Japanese war between Japan and China was partly responsible for the occurrence of the Second World War that broke out in 1941.
Origins and End of the Sino-Japanese War
According to Gordon (142), the Second Sino-Japanese war began officially when in 1937 when the Kwantung Army of Japan invaded Manchuria region in the Chinese territory, in what is popularly known as the Mukden incident. This was later followed by the Marco Polo incident in which the Imperial Japanese Army and the Chinese National Revolutionary Army were engaged in armed conflict over the control of the region and the Bridge. However, the real Second Sino-Japanese war commenced or as ignited when in 1941, the Japanese troops launched an attack on the Pearl Harbor after which the United States declared that it was at war with Japan. It pledged its financial and military support to China to defeat Japan.
The first Sino-Japanese war is also believed by many a historian to have had to some extent to the Second Sino-Japanese war. This is how. After the First Sino-Japanese war ended in 1895 and Korea became part of the territory of Japan, Japanese troops were stationed at along the railroad that ran between the Korean trade ports and Manchuria and Japan relied heavily on this railroad to ferry raw materials such as minerals, timber wood and finished goods that would later be shipped from the docks in Korea to mainland Japan. When, with the economic assistance or support from the US and Soviet Union to stage an attack in a bid to win back and gain control of Manchuria, Japanese felt irked and retaliated. Moreover, according to Vohra (45), the kidnaping in 1936 of Chiang Kai-Shek, the Nationalist government forces leader, by the commander of the Community forces, Chang Hsueh-Liang, also led to tensions that eventually led to the Second Sino-Japanese war (Hsiung & Steven 36).
Analysis of the Real Contributing Factors and Reasons for the Second Sino-Japanese War
Paine has argued that from an analytical point of view, China had no legitimate reason to attack or retaliate against Japan and start a war that saw millions of her citizens killed (102). According to this author, the Second Sino-Japanese war was contributed to by a combination of political, policy and economic interests by almost all the countries involved in the war, particularly the US and Germany. By imposing economic sanctions on Japan, for instance, the US and her allied forces such as the Soviet Union arguably intended to force Japan to launch an attack on their own nations, which it did in 1941 by an attack on the Pearl Harbor that led to the onset of the WWII.
Furthermore, Mitter (93) argues that the real motives behind the Second Sino-Japanese War of 1937 were the varied vested interests that were at play at the time. These political and economic interests, the author argues, had significant influence on the different actions and positions that the various powers involved in the war took. The author also argues that while China’s actions of declaring war with Japan were justified in order to save the integrity of her sovereignty and territory from external aggression, the motives of the Allied forces such as the US and Soviet Union were not in themselves congruent with her own reasons for waging the war in the first place.
The United Kingdom on the other hand is believed to have participated in the Second Sino-Japanese war by supporting the Chinese and not Japan in order to advance its own economic interests and to punish for having broken its terms with the UK in the Anglo-Japanese Alliance though in real sense it had no legitimate interest in the war. As for the reason for the US’s participation in the war as a friend of China, Paine argues that the US only wished to advance its economic interests. Under President Roosevelt’s reign, the US assisted China in order to come out of the war as a democratic state with which China could continue trading, or better still, to portray itself as one. Given that China constituted one of the most significant sources of market for US goods, it did not want to lose this lucrative market by being silent or supporting Japan.
The Second Sino-Japanese war may therefore be argued to have been largely a war between European powers or the United States and Japan due to differences in political and economic ideologies (Teo & Rose 212). It was like a show of political and economic might and military prowess given that the second world war was already looming and the losing powers in the WWI were keen at settling old scores (215). However, according to Zhao (372), apart from issues of economic policies and politics, religion also had a significant role tom play in contributing to the Second Sino-Japanese war. The author argues that the connection that existed between the Japanese and Chinese Buddhism, militarism, imperialism and nationalism did lead to the war. He further argues that there is evidence to the effect that the Buddhist Monks of China believed that killing enemies as a way of protection against external aggression was not antithetical to their religious teachings. This contention and line of argument is finds support in the work of Fumihiko (11).
Additionally, as Gordon succinctly puts it, however, despite the destruction that was witnessed during and after the war, there were important political realignments and transformations both in China and Japan. According to the author, the war acted as a catalyst for major changes in East Asia (137). The author also argues that the Second Sino-Japanese war was contributed to by the inability of the Republic of Japan to adjust into the anti-imperialist Soviet Union and US policies. Furthermore, the Western nations like Russia, the author claims, were interested mainly in seeing a strong and stable China for the sake of controlling its own internal affairs and economy. The author also contends that one of the major reasons Japan invaded China was its interest in “seizing the rich iron and coal mines of Shansi and to compel Chiang Kai-shek to recognize the independence of Manchukuo” (Gordon 142).
Also, owing to its then great and unmatched military strength, Japan under the leadership of Kwantung Army discounted the possibility of the Chinese could not mount a formidable force to rests their conquests to take over the strategic Manchuria. However, some writers like Guhl have questioned the reason why after the Second Sino-Japanese and Second World War that followed it, the Japanese became a major trading partner and ally to the US during the cold war while China was considered as an adversary (12). According to the author, this change of political priorities could be argued to have been as a result of the various divergent interests that the various powers such as the US had during the war.
In summary, as has been discussed and argued in this essay paper, the Second Sino-Japanese war of 1937 was informed by a plethora of political and economic interests of the various states that took part in the war. It has also been shown that while the Chinese may have had legitimate reasons and justifications (jus ad bellum) to go to war with Japan in order to preserve its territorial integrity, the Japanese invasion of China was largely motivated by its economic interests in the rich natural resources and raw materials that would enable it promote its industrial base and exports. This reasoning may be supported by the content of the speech given in 1939 by the Chinese leader, Chiang Kai‑shek, whereby he stated the reason for fighting the war with Japan as being for their own existence and freedom to shape the course of their nationality.
Moreover, whereas the war brought with it untold devastation and destabilization of the Japanese and Chinese economies, its impacts were much felt by the Japanese after the destruction of its strategic cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that would eventually force it to surrender. The Second Sino-Japanese war to some extent also contributed to the tensions among the major allied powers that later resulted in the Second World War. Thus, the China-Japan war has a lot of historical significance as it shaped major developments after 1941
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