In my recent article on Philippines’ ultimately absurd legal challenge to China’s claims in the S. China Sea, I noted how that conflict arose from the prevailing wind to diss China’s interests in the post WWII world. The cause for that are many. No doubt China’s relative weakness vis-a-vis the West and/or Soviet Union, its plunge into a major civil war in the aftermath of WWII, the alignment of the interests among the world’s most powerful – including both the West and the Soviets – to keep China from re-emerging as a major power all play a part. But whatever the cause, I think it is major time for the world to revisit just how important a role China played in securing WWII’s victory against the Axis.
I have heard many Japanese say that even though China was technically a victor, China did not defeat Japan, only the U.S. did. Some Americans say – what role could China have played when it was always teetering on the brink of national annihilation? Both are way over simplifications of history.
Even if China could not have single-handedly defeat Japan, the world would not have been able to defeat Japan without China. The defeat of the axis was a collaborative effort. The U.S. and Soviet Union may have been the strongest military powers of the day, but the removal of any of the major four victors – China included – would have changed history irrevocably. There are many reasons for the Axis to be defeated in WWII, and China is a key indispensable reason.
Consider, for example, that despite Japan’s many military victories in China throughout WWII, China was nevertheless able to, through its heroic resistance movement, lock down some 94% of Japan’s army throughout the war. That is a huge deal. Had China capitulated and freed Japan’s army, Japan could have opened with the Soviet Union a second front as Hitler had asked. The course of WWII in Europe would have been irrevocably changed.
Alternatively – or perhaps simultaneously – the freed Japanese army could have rolled across S. East Asia, or India … or been used to invade Australia, Philippines and perhaps even India – securing the resources of much of Asia. Does the U.S. really think it could have withstood an additional enforcement of Japan’s army by a factor of 15-16 throughout Asia??? Japan, I argue – would have been that much more difficult – if not impossible to defeat.
Some American exceptionalists might claim, but it was nuclear bombs that defeated the Japaneses. That is patently false. By the time the “bomb” was used, Americans already had control of Japanese skies and were carrying out firebomb raids with impunity. Without that cover, the bomb could not have been deployed.
Strategically also, the bomb was used precisely because Japan was a defeated nation. Had Japan had a fighting chance of survival, America would not have dared to try the bomb … for the simple reason that Japan would not easily go down, and would have had the resources to develop its own bomb … and used it against America. The nuclear bomb did not end the war. It was used to make a political statement … and to shorten – perhaps (tenuously) – the war. But make no mistake: the war was already won.
In commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, I offer two articles. The first, China a Forgotten WWII Ally, from China.org, argues that China made uniquely important and significant contributions to securing Japan’s ultimate defeat and that its efforts have been too long been neglected in the West in the advent of the cold war. The second, Did a forgotten Japanese journalist turn the tide of World War II?, from Asia Times tells the story of how Soviet knowledge of Japan’s decision not to open a second front decisively changed the course of WWII … and how a brave Japanese journalist named Hotsumi Ozaki heroically relayed that critical knowledge to Soviet leaders. Read more…