War and Nationalism in China 1925-1945

By Hans J. Van De Van | Go to book overview
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6

The War of Resistance before Japan's Southern Advance

This chapter builds on research on the War of Resistance conducted in the 1980s in China itself. That scholarship resulted from deep dissatisfaction among contemporary People's Republic of China (PRC) historians with earlier accounts. According to a recent review by leading PRC historians, these held that 'the victory in the War of Resistance depended entirely on the CCP and the correct leadership of our Great Leader Mao Zedong, and was completely the result of the bitter protracted War of Resistance carried out by the people and the armies in the rear of the enemy'. 1 Earlier histories were wholly negative about the Nationalists:

Because it was compelled to wage a war of resistance, in the beginning the KMT implemented a strategy that depended entirely on the government and the army [instead of the people], so that a great deal of national territory was lost. When the period of stalemate began [after the Battle of Wuhan in October 1938], the KMT pursued the War of Resistance only passively while actively opposing the CCP. At the eve of victory, the Chiang Kaishek Clique prepared to steal the fruits of victory to imprison China in the dark society of semi-colonialism and semi-feudalism. 2

According to the review, pre-1980s scholarship, written in the aftermath of the Civil War when few were willing to say anything positive about an enemy against whom they had struggled bitterly, 'suffered from serious shortcomings' as it 'imprisoned research on the War of Resistance in the restrictive frameworks of CCP history and the history of the revolution'. It condemned past historiography as 'partial in arguments, simplistic in its conclusions, and abundant in falsehoods'. 3

The new research of the 1980s highlighted the importance of Nationalist warfare especially 'on the battlefields at the front' before the fall of Wuhan. It did not portray the KMT as having been forced by the CCP to make war on Japan, but argued that they did so on their own accord for patriotic reasons. If the respective roles of the KMT and the CCP remained a subject of controversy, most scholars suggested that the Nationalists and the Communists each led the war in their own areas, with the Communists becoming dominant towards the end of the War. 4

Some put forth the argument that the War of Resistance should be regarded as having begun in 1931 with Japan's invasion of Manchuria, a view that has become increasingly influential. 5 Others argued that the KMT began to turn decisively against Japan after

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