Sino-Japanese War of 1945

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sino-Japanese War of 1945


(in Russian, the Chinese People’s National Liberation War Against the Japanese Invaders of 1937–45), begun on July 7, 1937, in response to the invasion of China by the armies of imperialist Japan. Japan’s intent was to conquer all of China and turn it into a Japanese colony.

The ground for the invasion was prepared by the Japanese occupation from 1931 to 1936 of Northeast China (Manchuria), parts of Inner Mongolia, and several provinces of North China; by the failure of the Kuomintang government to resist Japan; and by the Western capitalist countries’ encouragement of Japanese expansion in China. Inadequately armed and poorly trained, the Kuomintang Army of 2.9 million men could not repulse the invading Japanese Army of 400,000 men, and in the very first month of the war the Japanese captured Peking, Tientsin, and vast regions of North China. In August 1937 the Japanese began the battle for Shanghai.

The threat of the loss of national independence caused a patriotic upsurge in the country. In July 1937 the Communist Party of China (CPC), in conformity with a line worked out jointly with the Comintern, proposed the formation of a united anti-Japanese national front and the establishment of cooperation between the CPC and the Kuomintang. The Kuomintang leadership was compelled to accept the CPC proposals under pressure from the people. From August to October, Chiang Kai-shek’s government recognized the legal status of the CPC in the country. The Shensi-Kansu-Ningsia revolutionary base, which had been under CPC control, was transformed into the Special Region of the Chinese Republic. Units of the Red Army in North China (45,000 men) became the Eighth Army, and those in Central China (10,000 men) the New Fourth Army of the Republic. The Eighth and New Fourth armies were incorporated into the national army of China, but the CPC retained control over them.

The Chiang Kai-shek government continued to be a reactionary regime in the territory it controlled, a situation that hindered the mobilization of the people for the anti-Japanese war. Hoping to come to an agreement with the Japanese government by making new concessions, it conducted secret negotiations with Japan from November 1937 to February 1939. At the front the Kuomintang Army applied the tactics of passive defense. Attempts by some of its large units to organize aggressive resistance against the Japanese invaders (such as the battle in the region of T’aierhchuang and the defense of Shanghai, Wuhan, and Ch’angsha) were not properly supported by the Kuomintang High Command.

By late 1938 the Japanese Army had captured the whole territory of North China and a substantial part of Central China, including Shanghai (November 1937), Nanking (December 1937), and Wuhan (October 1938), as well as important regions in South China, including Kuangchou (October 1938). The Chiang Kai-shek government was forced to evacuate to the city of Chungking. The CPC, overcoming a left-sectarian deviation in its ranks, pursued the line of maintaining a united national front and launched the people’s anti-Japanese war. In September a division of the Eighth Army inflicted a defeat on the Japanese aggressors at P’inghsingkuan (in northeastern Shansi Province) by routing a Japanese brigade that was on the offensive there. Behind the Japanese lines the main forces of the Eighth and New Fourth armies were creating centers of the partisan war—the liberated regions. The people’s armed forces had increased to 180,000 men by late 1938, and the areas they controlled were rapidly expanding.

The policy pursued by the USA and Great Britain actually aided Japan’s aggression in China. Hoping subsequently to turn the Japanese expansion against the USSR and to make a deal with Japan at China’s expense, the governments of the USA and Great Britain did no more than express mild disapproval of Japan’s actions. Moreover, they continued to supply Japan with large amounts of strategic materials that helped it to step up its war potential.

The only power that effectively supported China was the Soviet Union. On Aug. 21, 1937, it concluded a nonaggression treaty with China. The USSR supplied China with aircraft, weapons, ammunition, and other military supplies, granted it loans totaling $250 million in 1938–39, and sent Soviet military specialists to China (over 3,500 men in early 1939). Soviet pilots fought as volunteers in China, and more than 200 of them died as heroes. After the outbreak of World War II (1939–45), the national liberation war of the Chinese people became an integral part of the world war. In 1939–40 the Soviet Union’s aid to China increased still more. The fact that Soviet troops were concentrated in the Far East, thus pinning down a substantial part of the Japanese armed forces, was of great importance to China.

From the summer of 1939 the Japanese imperialists halted all large-scale offensive operations in China and concentrated on “assimilating” the conquered territories with the help of puppets chosen from among traitors to the Chinese people. In 1940 they created in Nanking the puppet “central national government of China,” headed by Wang Ching-wei. At that time the Eighth and New Fourth armies waged an active partisan war on enemy-occupied territory. A major offensive partisan operation staged by the CPC in North China in 1940, called the battle of 100 regiments, caused great losses in the occupation forces. By late 1940 the population of the liberated areas was about 100 million, and the people’s armed forces had increased to 500,000 men.

The Kuomintang government of Chiang Kai-shek intensified the struggle against the democratic forces of the country, primarily against the CPC, by establishing in 1939 a military blockade of the Shensi-Kansu-Ningsia Special Region and of several partisan bases. In January 1941, Chiang Kai-shek’s supporters staged an attack on the headquarters column of the New Fourth Army. As the relations with the Kuomintang drastically deteriorated, the CPC, actively supported by the Comintern, waged an intense struggle against the Kuomintang’s anticommunist policy and against left-sectarian elements in order to avert a split in the united national front and a new civil war, which could have led to the conquest of all China by Japan. In 1941–42 the liberated areas experienced major difficulties: the extent of liberated territory was greatly reduced by a large-scale Japanese offensive, and the liberated population dropped to one-half. The difficulties were exacerbated when Mao Tse-tung and his followers, expecting that fascist Germany’s treacherous attack on the Soviet Union would trigger offensive actions by Japan against the USSR, adopted a tactic of gaining time and amassing forces.

After Japan unleashed the war in the Pacific Ocean (December 1941), the USA and Great Britain extended substantial aid to China with deliveries of arms and war materials; the American XIV Air Corps was created on Chinese territory. However, the reverses suffered by the USA and Great Britain in the war in the Pacific Ocean in 1941–42 and the temporary successes of Hitler’s troops on the Soviet-German front made the Kuomintang elite unconvinced of the final victory of the antifascist states and increased the desire among the Kuomintang generals to capitulate. From 1941 to 1943, 70 Kuomintang generals went over to the Japanese, taking along the troops under their command.

The crucial turning point in World War II after the victories of the Soviet Army in 1942–43 inspired the Chinese people to step up the war against the Japanese invaders. The USA and Great Britain increased their financial, economic, and military aid to the Kuomintang government. The US government was especially active in this respect, because it hoped to use Chiang Kai-shek’s government to gain a dominant position in China during as well as after the war. But the Kuomintang leaders, hoping that Japan would be defeated by the forces of the antifascist coalition of the great powers, took American and British aid for their personal use and for the consolidation of their dictatorial antipopular regime.

After the USA and Great Britain seized the strategic initiative in the Pacific theater, the Japanese imperialists decided to turn China into a strong base for a protracted war. For this purpose the Japanese command halted operations against the liberated areas in 1943 and undertook from March to December 1944 several major offensive operations against the Kuomintang forces in Central and South China. As a result of the operations, the Kuomintang forces lost about 1 million soldiers and about 2 million sq km of territory with a population of 60 million. This major defeat caused indignation in broad strata of society and stepped up the struggle of the progressive forces for democratic reforms in the country. In order to dampen the wave of discontent that threatened the basis of the Kuomintang regime, Chiang Kai-shek’s government was forced to maneuver. From 1944 it relaxed the blockade of the Shensi-Kansu-Ningsia Special Region and, with the “mediation” of American diplomacy, opened negotiations with the CPC. The demands of the CPC, which were supported by the democratic forces (Democratic League and others), to end the Kuomintang one-party dictatorship, form a government of the national united front, and carry out other democratic reforms were rejected by the Kuomintang leadership. In January 1945 the negotiations were broken off through the fault of the Kuomintang.

Overcoming their difficulties, the people’s armed forces, led by the CPC, stepped up offensive operations from 1944. By April 1945 there were 19 vast liberated areas in North, Central, and South China, covering a total of 1 million sq km and containing a population of 95.5 million. The people’s armed forces had grown to 900,000 soldiers. However, they did not conduct operations to capture the major cities and main railroad lines.

Striving to end World War II as quickly as possible and thus relieve mankind of needless suffering and help the fighting peoples of China and other countries of Asia, the Soviet Union pledged at the Yalta Conference of the heads of government of the USSR, the USA, and Great Britain in February 1945 to enter the war against Japan two to three months after the defeat of fascist Germany. On August 9 the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan, and on August 10 the Mongolian People’s Republic (MPR) initiated military actions against Japan. On August 14 the USSR and China concluded a treaty of friendship and alliance, according to which both parties pledged mutual aid in the war against Japan. In fierce battles fought in August, Soviet troops together with troops of the MPR routed the strongest Japanese army grouping—the Kwantung Army—and completely liberated Northeast China and large parts of Inner Mongolia. The people’s liberation troops, led by the CPC, began an offensive. On Sept. 2, 1945, Japan signed the act of unconditional surrender.

The defeat of militarist Japan freed the Chinese people from the yoke of the Japanese invaders and from the threat of colonial enslavement by Japanese militarism, against which the people of China had waged an eight-year war. The victory over Japanese militarism created the necessary conditions for the further victorious development of the Chinese people’s revolution.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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