China's War with Japan, 1937-1945: The Struggle for Survival Hardcover – 27 Jun 2013
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A major contribution to the one aspect of the Second World War of which we know far too little, and should know much more if we are to understand the new superpower today ... a model of clarity and good writing (Antony Beevor The Times)
Essential reading for anyone who wants to know more about the sacrifices made by the Chinese and the Poles as a contribution to victory (Richard Overy New Statesman BOOKS OF THE YEAR)
A riveting account of a seldom-studied theatre of the Second World War, that has profound significance for international diplomacy today (Dan Jones Telegraph BOOKS OF THE YEAR)
Restores a vital part of the wartime narrative to its rightful place ... a remarkable story, told with humanity and intelligence; all historians of the second world war will be in Mitter's debt ... [he] explores this complex politics with remarkable clarity and economy ... No one could ask for a better guide than Mitter to how [the rise of modern China] began in the cauldron of the Chinese war (Richard Overy Guardian)
The best study of China's war with Japan written in any language ... comprehensive, thoroughly based on research, and totally non-partisan. Above all, the book presents a moving account of the Chinese people's incredible suffering ... A must read for anyone interested in the origins of China's contribution to the making of today's world (Akira Iriye)
Brilliant ... makes an important and moving contribution to the historical record by illuminating the largely forgotten war that took the lives of millions of Chinese, yet ultimately facilitated the rise of modern China (Dr Henry A. Kissinger)
To understand East Asia's present and future, you have to understand its experiences in the Second World War. Mitter's elegant, rigorous and balanced account is an ideal guide to traumas that continue to cast a long shadow over the region (Julia Lovell Telegraph)
Illuminating and meticulously researched ... [China's War with Japan] is about the Chinese experience of war, the origins of the modern Chinese identity and the roots of a relationship that will shape Asia in the 21st century. It is about China's existential crisis as it tried to regain its centrality in Asia. It is also a story, pure and simple, of heroic resistance against massive odds (Economist)
Mitter deftly sketches the plight of Chinese intellectuals ... This is a many-stranded story and the author keeps his focus on the big picture while including many convincing, often horrific, details ... [this] is the best narrative of that long-ago war, whose effects still linger in China today, with Japan the major hate figure (Jonathan Mirsky Spectator)
Deserves to be read by anyone interested in China, World War II and the future of China's relations with the rest of the world ... Mitter masterfully constructs these interlocking stories of battles, famines, massacres, diplomacy and intrigue. He sprinkles his narrative with foot soldiers, missionaries, journalists and teachers, showing how the war affected all levels of society throughout China ... excellent ... groundbreaking (John Pomfret Washington Post)
This is a story told mainly from the Chinese perspective, in all its horror. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Mitter pulls together a rich and complex narrative without losing the drama of China's fight for survival and the individuals who played a part in it ... lively [and] comprehensive (Prospect)
Lucid prose, forceful argument ... Mitter's strength lies in telling a compelling, comprehensive story that helps us understand China better, particularly at a time when it looms large on the global stage ... [he] reminds us of the 'tragic, titanic struggle' that the country waged ... For those willing to understand China better, this is a book that should not be ignored (Outlook, New Delhi)
Mitter deftly sketches the plight of Chinese intellectuals, who wondered where to place their loyalties, and were persecuted if they chose the Communist side ... This is a many-stranded story and the author keeps his focus on the big picture while including many convincing, often horrific, details ... his is the best narrative of that long-ago war, whose effects still linger in China today (Jonathan Mirsky The Asian Age)
A splendid account (Business Standard)
Mitter's stress on the contingent nature of China's path to modernization is significant (International Affairs)
The Chinese part of the Second World War is too often forgotten in the West - this fine book goes far towards remedying that amnesia (Nigel Jones Sunday Telegraph)
About the Author
Rana Mitter is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St Cross College. He is the author of A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World. He is a regular presenter of Night Waves on Radio 3.
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Top Customer Reviews
To many general Western readers, the war to resist Japanese aggression in China has shrunk to a backdrop for films and novels such as Empire of the Sun and The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. This superficial view belies the enormous scale of clash between China and Imperial Japan which is the focus of this book. War caused 14 million deaths between 1937 - 1945, and set stage for the Civil War and eventual Communist takeover of 1949. Current tensions between the two former combatants track back to this period, still a powerful source of on-going tension and polarisation.
Despite a limitless capacity for retelling and reappraising WW2, the clash between these two gigantic Asian powers is poorly understood in the West, but was seen at the time by figures as diverse as WH Auden and Robert Capa as a central battleground in the opposition to fascism, and as important as the parallel conflict in Spain.
Mitter tells a vast story with deceptive ease and control. He is surefooted on the central role of three key men: Chiang Kaishek, Mao Zedong, and Wang Jingwei, the latter a complex figure tainted by collaboration. While the range of personalities in the book is richly portrayed, the reader is drawn back to this key trio who embody the three way struggle between Communist, Nationalist and collaborationist engagement with the Japanese invader. The book is effective, lucid and fluent, providing a balanced account of controversial events such as the chilling fall of Nanjing.Read more ›
Author Rana Mitter recounts the story, and I warn you it's a horror story, in a very readable way. He is a heavy-duty academic, an Oxford professor of history and politics, but his writing flows with the ease of an accomplished novelist, not with the dusty dryness that might be associated with such a learned figure. I can say with certainty that unless the Sino-Japanese war has been a specialist subject of yours you will learn much from China's War With Japan, and also that you will be shocked and disturbed. History in detail always is shocking and disturbing, which is precisely why it is worth engaging with.
You are the type of person who would appreciate this book, that's why you're considering it. Take it from me that you'll find it very worthwhile indeed.
It starts with a brief history of China, concentrating on the role of the western powers and their exploitation of China for commercial purposes. Japan already had a military presence on the Chinese mainland in 1937, and the main narrative starts with a minor clash between Chinese and Japanese soldiers at the Marco Polo Bridge in the small village of Wanping. Chiang Kai-shek chose this incident to declare war on Japan, but it was an ill-judged decision, because his nationalist army was no match for the experienced Japanese troops. The result was a series of retreats and the loss of much territory, including the cities of Shanghai and Nanjing. The behavior of the Japanese troops in taking the latter city was the atrocity known in the West as the `Rape of Nanking', which even now is a source of friction between the two countries. Chiang Kai-shek's failings were not helped by the behaviour of the numerous warlords with their personal armies and the treachery of some of his colleagues, principally Wang Lingwei, who eventually defected and set up a rival government collaborating with the Japanese.
There followed a long drawn-out conventional war between Chiang Kai-shek forces, based in Chongqing, and the Japanese, where many mistakes were made, both militarily and socially.Read more ›
The history is clearly and carefully written, giving details of the outbreak of the war and the essential turning points. The author is careful to present many facts without trying to pass judgement on the main leaders of the three parts of China during the war: Chiang Kai Shek in the ever shrinking area under nationalist control, Mao Zedong in the north-western part and the leader of a Vichy-like government in the Japanese occupied china, Wang Jingwei. In the end though the main actors in the drama, including the American Joseph Stilwell come out either as unsympathetic or incompetent, often both.
In many ways the book covers new ground both for western and Chinese audience. For a westerner (like the author of this review) the book sets out a clear argument that China was a major partner in the allied war effort against the axis powers, fighting by far for the longest (in 1937 not even infamous Munich agreement has been signed yet and it was more than four years to go to Pearl Harbour). For a Chinese reader it lays out in full the honest if not always successful effort of the Nationalist government in fighting the Japanese, whilst not hiding their effort to diminish the strength of the Communists.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very interesting account of a rarely discussed but massive part of the war. My one disappointment was the lack of first person accountsPublished 1 month ago by J. Sutton
This is a very readable account of the war between China and Japan between 1937 and 1945. It is not a military history of that period, although military actions are obviously... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Simon Binning
Rana Mitter’s brilliantly written, insightful and deeply troubling narrative brings into focus a relatively neglected but immensely important aspect of the Second World War – the... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Sergey Radchenko
Well researched with a cast of thousands, remembering the Chinese names can be difficult. Almost too big a story to be packed into one book. Read morePublished 11 months ago by LGW Bailey
If you've never read a book about the Sino - Japanese war of 1937-45, then this is an excellent book for the layman - clear, concise, easy to read, without ever being simplistic -... Read morePublished 12 months ago by R.M.F.Brown (Author)
Extremely well written account of a part of World War Two history that should be better known in this part of the world detailed but very readable those who have only a passing... Read morePublished 12 months ago by David McIntyre
The book puts the principal players both countries and individuals into correct perspective and is much more objective than Snow's book on Mao.Published 14 months ago by Martin
Even today it is plain to see that there is an `edge' to relations between China and Japan if not outright hostility at times. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Sussman