In what became known as the Second Sino-Japanese War (the First, lasting from July 1894-April 1895), The Second Sino-Japanese War was a military conflict fought primarily between the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan from July 7, 1937, to September 2, 1945. It began with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937 in which a dispute between Japanese and Chinese troops escalated into a battle.
During the Marco Polo Bridge Incident Japanese military demanded permission to enter the Chinese city of Wanping to search for a missing soldier. The Chinese refused. Later in the night, a unit of Japanese infantry attempted to breach Wanping’s walled defences and were repulsed. An ultimatum by the Japanese was issued before they would declare war. The Chinese still refused.
Although Private Shimura returned to his unit, by this point both sides were mobilising, with the Japanese deploying reinforcements and surrounding Wanping. The conflict then escalated further into a full-scale war.
China fought Japan, with aid from the Soviet Union and the United States. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the war merged with other conflicts of World War II as a major sector known as the China Burma India Theater. Some scholars consider the start of the full-scale Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 to have been the beginning of World War II. The Second Sino-Japanese War was the largest Asian war in the 20th century. It accounted for the majority of civilian and military casualties in the Pacific War, with between 10 and 25 million Chinese civilians and over 4 million Chinese and Japanese military personnel dying from war-related violence, famine, and other causes.
The war was the result of a decades-long Japanese imperialist policy to expand its influence politically and militarily in order to secure access to raw material reserves, food, and labor. The period after World War I brought about increasing stress on the Japanese polity. Leftists sought universal suffrage and greater rights for workers. Increasing textile production from Chinese mills was adversely affecting Japanese production. The Great Depression brought about a large slowdown in exports. All of this contributed to militant nationalism, culminating in the rise to power of a militarist fascist faction. This faction was led at its height by the Hideki Tojo cabinet of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association under edict from Emperor Hirohito. In 1931, the Mukden Incident helped spark the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. The Chinese were defeated and Japan created a new puppet state, Manchukuo; many historians cite 1931 as the beginning of the war. The view has been adopted by the PRC government. From 1931 to 1937, China and Japan continued to skirmish in small, localized engagements, so-called “incidents”.
Initially the Japanese scored major victories, capturing both Shanghai and the Chinese capital of Nanking in 1937. After failing to stop the Japanese in the Battle of Wuhan, the Chinese central government was relocated to Chongqing (Chungking) in the Chinese interior. By 1939, after Chinese victories in Changsha and Guangxi, and with Japan’s lines of communications stretched deep into the Chinese interior, the war reached a stalemate. The Japanese were also unable to defeat the Chinese communist forces in Shaanxi, which waged a campaign of sabotage and guerrilla warfare against the invaders. While Japan ruled the large cities, they lacked sufficient manpower to control China’s vast countryside. During this time, Chinese communist forces launched a counter offensive in Central China while Chinese nationalist forces launched a large scale winter offensive.
This broadcast, from September 11, 1937 features a talk by Madame Chiang-Kai Shek, wife of the leader of China. It comes a week after Shanghai was severely bombed and attacked by Japan on September 2nd.
Although it’s hard to make out because of the nature of this Shortwave broadcast, the gist of this talk was to bring the message to the rest of the world that China was under attack by Japan and was appealing for support in their fight to stifle Japan’s advances in the region.
Many consider this and the civil War in Spain as preludes to a bigger war which was yet to come – some consider these two conflicts to be the actual beginnings of World War 2, but it may be splitting hairs to suggest that anything other than a rehearsal of modern techniques of waging war was largely the boiling over of simmering antagonisms which had gone on for decades before. Of course, tell that to the ones stuck in the middle with no place to go.
Here is that broadcast by Madame Chiang-Kai Shek from September 11, 1937.