Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945
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A Financial Times Book of the Year
“A book that has long cried out to be written.” — Observer (UK), Books of the Year
In 1937, two years before Hitler invaded Poland, Chinese troops clashed with Japanese occupiers in the first battle of World War II. Joining with the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain, China became the fourth great ally in a devastating struggle for its very survival.
Prizewinning historian Rana Mitter unfurls China’s drama of invasion, resistance, slaughter, and political intrigue as never before. Based on groundbreaking research, this gripping narrative focuses on a handful of unforgettable characters, including Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Zedong, and Chiang’s American chief of staff, “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell. Mitter also recounts the sacrifice and resilience of everyday Chinese people through the horrors of bombings, famines, and the infamous Rape of Nanking.
More than any other twentieth-century event, World War II was crucial in shaping China’s worldview, making Forgotten Ally both a definitive work of history and an indispensable guide to today’s China and its relationship with the West.
“In the manner of David McCullough, [Mitter] creates a complex history that is urgently alive.” — Kirkus Reviews
vital that no such plan ever came to fruition, but there was genuine fear that the turbulent state of domestic Indian politics might make it more likely. India’s capital was indeed at war, but New Delhi looked very different from the rubble-strewn, jerry-built temporary capital at Chongqing. Three decades before, Sir Edwin Lutyens had created a gleaming new city in white marble that was supposed to be fit for a raj and that would last many centuries. Yet even as it was erected, the British had
“Zai Meiguo,” 47. 58. Taylor, Generalissimo, 314. 59. CKSD, August 15, 1945, in Ye Yonglie, “Zai Meiguo,” 47. EPILOGUE: THE ENDURING WAR 1. Chen Jian, Mao’s China and the Cold War (Chapel Hill, NC, 2001), 26. 2. CKSD, August 15, 1945, in Ye Yonglie, “Zai Meiguo kan Jiang Jieshi riji” [“Reading Chiang Kai-shek’s Diary in America”], Tongzhou gongjin 2 (2008), 47. 3. Jay Taylor, The Generalissimo: Chiang Kai-shek and the Struggle for Modern China (Cambridge, MA, 2007), 318; Chen Jian,
the use of intelligence and security by Wang Jingwei’s government to try to solidify its position. ARTS AND CULTURE The war saw the transformation of the cultural and artistic world in China. So far there has been more work on the Communist contributions to cultural change during that period than on the Nationalists. Chang-tai Hung, War and Popular Culture: Resistance in Modern China, 1937–1945 (Berkeley, CA, 1994), analyzes a variety of wartime cultural forms including the press,
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the last. But he had always been a strategist, and his first instinct was not to think about the city he had abandoned but to calculate what should happen next. In the planning notes in his diary Chiang reflected on the need for a “wartime educational strategy” as well as a “national mobilization plan.” The most important thing, he felt, was that the Nationalist Party “must not lose its revolutionary spirit.” These reflections may seem almost willfully optimistic in the face of the disaster that