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Remember China's Role in Ending Fascist War

Commemorative activities have been held nationwide to mark the 60th anniversary of victory in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and of the world war against fascism. It is understandable that China attaches great importance to the Anti-Fascist War.


It was the first victorious war the Chinese people fought to repel foreign aggression since the First Opium War in 1840. Triumph came through the united struggle and unprecedented sacrifice of hundreds of millions of the Chinese people, overseas Chinese included.


Victory was also achieved through the concerted effort of the allied nations. China greatly appreciates the important contributions to the defeat of Japan made by the US, UK, the former Soviet Union and all Asia-Pacific nations, big and small, weak and strong.


China has not forgotten, and will never do, the sympathy and assistance given to it by all of the allied nations.


But the world should not overlook or forget the great contribution made by China during the war against Japanese aggression and against the fascist axis.


Unfortunately, some Western WWII histories consciously or unconsciously play down the Chinese contribution. The China theatre of operations is usually treated as a liability, rather than an asset.


When factors contributing to the defeat of Japan are analyzed, some Western historians simply stress the US Army and Navy's offensives in the Pacific, their strategic bombing of the Japanese homeland, or even the atomic bombs, but to a lesser degree, the Soviet Far Eastern Campaign.


All of these elements are significant. But what about China? Few mention it.


The Chinese deserve commendation for their fighting that led to victory.


China's resistance against Japanese aggression lasted for 14 years -- longer than any other major power in the world. The first six years following the Mukden Incident of 1931 was a period of local resistance, while the eight years after the Lugouqiao Incident of 1937 was a time of full-scale national struggle for independence and dignity.


China was the main theatre of war in the Far East with a front line spanning 5,000 kilometers, with more than 1 million square kilometers of territory behind the enemy's front line.


When fighting was most intense, more than 5 million regular forces and 2 million guerrillas kept nearly 2 million Japanese forces plus more than 1 million Chinese puppet forces at bay.


In fact, more than two-thirds of the Japanese Army's strength was focused on the China theatre. During the initial stage of the Pacific War, 35 divisions out of a total of 51, including the strong Japanese Kwantung Army stationed in northeast China, were pinned down. Thus Japan was able to employ only 10 or 11 divisions in the Pacific theatre, with the other five divisions stationed on Japanese islands.


As late as in 1944, large Japanese forces that were badly needed in the Pacific were still engaged in China. This was the case even by early August 1945.


In the eight years of total war, Chinese forces conducted 22 large-scale campaigns, more than 200 major operations and 200,000 battles. Japan sustained losses and casualties totaling 1.5 million in China.


At the end of the war, China accepted the surrender of 1.28 million Japanese soldiers.


By comparison, the allied American and British forces killed, wounded and captured a total of 1.25 million of the Japanese forces.


China's efforts helped the American forces fighting in the Pacific. Western military historians generally are keenly aware of this fact, but often stop short of pointing out the reason why the Japanese were unable to transfer forces from China to the Pacific.


The Chinese people persevered in carrying on the war of resistance to the very end. China played an important role in weakening Japan's forces and blocking their southward thrust.


As the Japanese Kwantung Army, tied down in northeast China, was partly a strategic reserve ready to attack the former Soviet Union in coordination with Germany, China was the key to preventing Japan from attacking the Soviet Union, its northern military option.


There is a notion in the West that Chinese troops fought very poorly. This is a misunderstanding.


Indeed, China was a weak and poor semi-colonial and semi-feudal country at that time, and was divided into two fronts: the central Kuomintang army led by Chiang Kai-shek and the areas led by the Communist Party of China.


Earlier in the war, millions of Kuomintang soldiers fought decisively. They engaged the Japanese invaders in a series of large-scale campaigns involving hundreds of thousands, and even millions, of men around Shanghai, Xuzhou, Wuhan, Changsha and other cities.


Although the Kuomintang forces were forced to withdraw to the interior provinces, they traded space for time and Japan's dream of conquering China within several months was totally shattered.


During the latter period of the war, the Chinese Expeditionary Army consisted of crack Kuomintang divisions had been fighting gallantly in Myanmar with the allied forces.


The armies, guerrillas and civilians led by the Communist Party of China built a front to the rear of the enemy lines. The Chinese people's forces adopted another form of war -- the people's war: a large-scale but decentralized guerrilla offensive under unified strategic leadership.


Major Japanese forces had to be committed to counter this front. Despite untold hardships, the Chinese people's forces fought more than 125,000 battles, large and small, in eight years of war, and liberated from Japanese occupation large expanses of territory that were home to 100 million.


As a whole, the behind-the-enemy front constituted a huge sea of popular resistance unprecedented in military annals, a vast quagmire from which the Japanese could not extricate themselves.


In the eight years of tough resistance, the Chinese made great sacrifices. More than 35 million Chinese military personnel and civilians were killed or wounded.


In the Nanjing Massacre alone, more than 300,000 Chinese were slain by the Japanese invaders. Property losses and the expense of war were estimated at US$100 billion.


The Chinese contribution to the world's alliance against the fascists cannot be ignored or erased.


(China Daily August 15, 2005)

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