** World War II -- China Chinese and Japanese home front

World War II Country Trends: Chinese and Japanese Home Front

Figure 1.-- Thus photograph was taken in a foundling asylum in Shanghai, porobly after the war in 1946 or 47. The greatest problen China faced duringthe was with Japan was feedding its people. This became increasingly difficult as refugees flowed into the Natuinalisdt controlled areas and tghe Japanese occupied more and more agricultural areas.

China and Japan were very different countries before the War and thus the World War II home front experiences were very different. China was a large diverse, largely feudal country involved in a Civil War. Chinese nationalism was strong among the educated middle class, but that was a small part of the population. The largely peasant population was uneducated and basically did not know that they were Chinese. There was vbery little of the intense nationalism exhibited by the Kapanese. Japan was the most modern, industrialized country in Asian. The Japanese were a largely homogenous people, educated by Asia's first public school system, and unified with an intense national spirit to support the war effort. The Japanese home front became to be affected as the war in China dragged on for years, but nothing like the Chinese home front. Conditions deteriorated even more when the Pacific War began to go against Japan. Food rations declines, but unklike China people did not starve. The War finally came home to Japan when the American strategic boming camapaign began in ernest akesr (Januraty 1945). Of course the major difference was that China was invaded by Japan nearly a decade before the Germans and Soviets launched World War II (September 1939). Evetually the Japanese would occupy most of the heavily populated areas of China and the important food producing area. Maps may show that large areas of China were unoccpied, bit these were lightly populated areas that were not very productive agricultural areas. Thus for the Chinese people the home front was also the front line of the War. And from an early point of the War food became a problem and an increasingly serious one as the War progressed. Finally the Chinese hime frint began to crack with the Japanese Ichi-Go Offensive (April 1944). By this time, however, the Pacific War began to undermine the Japanese war effort.

Chinese Home Front

The Chinese home front is a very difficult topic because it is such a complicated one. Our information is still very limited. There was no one China. The Japanese occupied much of China, including the costal areas and major cities. Japanese control was only nominal once one move inland. So called Free (unoccupied China) included the Nationalists in the southwest and the Communists in the northwest. The Japanese converted Manchuria into the puppet state of Manchukuo--essentially a colony. Here they promoted Japanese colonization with only limited syccess. In China proper the Japanese attempted to negotiate arrangements with military warlords in areas they occupied. Some of these war lords also had relations with Chiang creating quite a complicated situation. At this time we do not have much information on living conditions in the various regions. The War affected the Chinese economy. Many men were killed or conscripted into the various armies which affected farm production. The Japanese could be very brutal and conducted an especially dreadful reprisal campaign agains Chinese civilians after the Doolittle Raid (April 1942). Their RiceOffensives also disrupted the rural economy.

Japanese Home Front

We have been able to find little information on the Japanee homefront and the attitudes of the Japanese public toward the War. The invasion of Manchuria and subsequent invasion of China proper was done primatrily for economic reasons to guarantee markets and access to needed natural resources. Assessing public opinion is virtually impossible. Japan by 1937 was a police state with a controlled media. Officials who spoke out against the Government were subject to extral-judicial attacks. The military had been practicing assainations simnce the 1920s. And individuals who might speak out were subject to arrest by the Kempeitai (憲兵隊), secret police. Given those conditiins, obviously gaging public opinion was impossible.And after the War, many denied that the had favored agression. To an extent this is similar to what occurred in Germany. Although there were differences. Many Germans did not want war, the losses had been too great. At the same time, they wanted lost territories returned. After the NAZIs seozed control, many Germans especially older Germans still had an horror of war, although it was no longer safe speak openly about it. The Japanese did not have the same horrifying experience in World War I with millions of men killed. The Japanese even more than the Germans were culturally hard wired to support their government, a tendency strengthened by the military regime's propaganda. And here the Government provide a fantasy that few Japanese would have questioned even if they could have. The Japanese were told that their troops were going into China to protect Japanese civilians from Chinese attack. Never explained was what the Japnese civilians were doing in China. They were also not told about the horrifying actions of the Japanese military like the Rape of Nanking. Nor we they told that airforce was bombing civilians, something modern Japanese authors commonly forget when discussing the American strategic bombing offensive. The military thought that control of China could be achieved quickly (as was the case in Manchuria) and solve their country's economic problems. Instead the enormous cost of a full-scale war only created more problems. And the military found themselves despite victories in the field unable to complete the conuest of China. The China embroligo was already having serious repersussions in the economy when Japan launched the Pacific War. Even so, there is no indication that the public had begun to question the war in China.


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Created: 9:29 PM 1/24/2021
Last updated: 9:30 PM 1/24/2021