Wuhan, 1938: War, Refugees, and the Making of Modern China

Wuhan, 1938: War, Refugees, and the Making of Modern China

Wuhan, 1938: War, Refugees, and the Making of Modern China

Wuhan, 1938: War, Refugees, and the Making of Modern China

Synopsis

During the spring of 1938, a flood of Chinese refugees displaced by the Anti-Japanese War (1937-1945) converged on the central Yangzi valley tricity complex of Wuhan. For ten remarkable months, in a highly charged atmosphere of carnage, heroism, and desperation, Wuhan held out against the Japanese in what would become a turning point in the war--and one that attracted international attention. Stephen MacKinnon for the first time tells the full story of Wuhan's defense and fall, and how the siege's aftermath led to new directions in the history of modern Chinese culture, society, and politics.

Excerpt

One dramatic story from the early days of the Anti-Japanese War (1937– 45) remains largely untold: the saga of the refugees who clogged the rivers and roads of central China in flight from the ravages of the advancing Imperial Army. This forced migration of nearly a hundred million people not only changed Chinese politics; it altered the social, cultural, and economic landscape of modern China. the implications first became clear at Wuhan during the spring of 1938, just after the massacre of civilians by Japanese troops at Nanjing. a potpourri of refugees from all over coastal China, who seemed at first to have only poverty and fear in common, converged on the tricity complex of Wuchang, Hanyang, and Hankou, which straddles the Yangzi River at midcourse, and found ways to work together.

During the next ten months, from January to October 1938, Wuhan was the staging ground and logistics base for two million Chinese troops defending the central Yangzi region against Japanese attacks, by land and air, from the north and east. To the Chinese commanders and the populace of Wuhan, and to foreign observers, a Japanese victory did not seem inevitable. the tricity was not directly under siege until bombing became heavy toward the end of August; and earlier, during the spring, Chinese victories had been impressive.

In the end, Wuhan fell, at enormous human cost to both sides. the number of widows and orphans rose dramatically. in less than a year, the Chinese forces, with practically no medical attention available to their . . .

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