The following article by John Ross, on China’s 70th anniversary Victory Parade, originally appeared on china.org.cn.
On September 3, China will stage a Victory Parade commemorating the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and China’s contribution to the World War against fascism. This is a solemn day for China and an opportunity for the world to better understand events that are not only historical in character but without which today’s world cannot be comprehended.
World War II is sometimes thought of as two separated conflicts, one against Japan in Asia and another against Fascism in Europe. This is false. The two were linked by China which played a strategically decisive role in both.
As China’s relation to the European war is least understood it will be analyzed first. The core of Europe’s conflict was Nazi Germany’s attack on the USSR. Germany never committed less than two thirds, often three quarters, of its military forces to this. In three decisive battles the Nazi army’s backbone was crushed – Moscow in 1941, Stalingrad in late 1942 and early 1943, and Kursk in summer 1943. From the summer of 1943, the USSR launched a permanent offensive culminating in Berlin’s capture. Europe’s liberation was achieved by the sacrifice of 27 million Soviet dead. The D-Day landing in June of 1944 in France was not the war’s decisive event, as Hollywood pretends, but a late blow kicking down part of an already defeated Nazi structure.
A decisive strategic reason for this Soviet victory lay in China. The key strategic question of Europe’s war was why Japan did not attack the USSR from the East simultaneously with the Nazi’s attack from the West? If Japan had done so, even the Soviet people’s extraordinary heroism might have been unable to achieve victory and at best would have required still greater sacrifices.
China determined this situation. In the summer of 1939 Soviet forces defeated an incursion by 80,000 Japanese troops at the battle of Khalkhin Gol. From then on, Japan understood war could only be waged against the USSR with the full weight of its armed forces – hundreds of thousands or millions of troops. This was impossible, as China’s full-scale ferocious resistance against Japan’s invasion since July of 1937 had tied down the overwhelming bulk of Japan’s army. Japan was forced to negotiate the Japanese-Soviet Non-aggression Pact. The scale of the Chinese people’s resistance against Japan therefore had a decisive effect even on the European theatre of the war.
China’s role in the Asian theatre is, of course, better understood. Japan’s strategy was to wage an aggressive war in China and South East Asia and maintain a hardened defensive perimeter in the Pacific strong enough to resist U.S. counter-attacks following Pearl Harbor. However, Japan totally underestimated China’s resistance. For four years before Pearl Harbor, China tied down the overwhelming bulk of Japan’s army. Japan defeated the Kuomintang (KMT) led forces in the conventional battles for Shanghai, Nanjing and other cities, but its control only extended to major towns and transport routes. Even when Japan’s forces advanced, they were isolated and tied down in the great expanse of China, its countryside. With far greater Japanese forces forced to fight in China than the Pacific, Japan’s defensive perimeter against the U.S. was hugely weakened.
This resistance also determined events in China. Troops in the KMT led army showed equal heroism to Communist forces. But the quality of the leadership of the two resistance forces against Japan was decisively different. Chiang Kai-shek notoriously declared, “The Japanese are a disease of the skin, the Communists are a disease of the heart.” The KMT regime’s bankruptcy was dramatically highlighted by Chinese resistance. By June of 1944, U.S. Foreign Service reports concluded that “The Generalissimo is losing the support of a China which, by unity in the face of violent aggression, found a new and unexpected strength.” On August 23, 1945, eight days after Japan’s surrender, He Yingqin, the KMT army Commander, authorized military operations by Japan’s troops remaining in China against the Communists. It was precisely for such reasons of the rottenness of its regime that although in August 1945 the KMT occupied three quarters of China, with military forces six times larger than the Communists, it lost the ensuing Civil War and the People’s Republic of China was created in 1949.
This is the final link to the parade on September 3. By 1945, China had suffered under continuous foreign aggression for over a century, the new China created by the Communist victory in 1949 ended this.
In the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression more than 30 million Chinese people died. This gigantic sacrifice was not in vain. It is solely due to their efforts that their children and grandchildren see the rebirth of China symbolized in the Victory Parade of a country with the world’s most dynamic economy and military forces so strong no country dare attack it. The generation that fought the war against Japanese aggression above all sacrificed for their motherland, but they wrote an immortal page not only for China but for all humanity.
This article was originally posted here on china.org.cn.