China was among the ‘Permanent Five’ members of the United Nations Security Council besides the US, France, Russia, and the UK. After the USSR, China had the second higest combined military and civilian casualties (approximately 20 million) – so something must happened for those intervening 7 years besides ‘stalemate’. Part of the problem is that any type of history coming out from China or Taiwan after the 1950’s until the last decade or so was throughly propaganda rather than scholarship.
Rana Mitter does an admirable job describing the big picture history of this war through the lense of 3 leaders, Mao Zedong – head of the communists, Chiang Kai-Shek – leader of the Nationalist, and Wang Jingwei – the head of the collaborationist government. Of course, American contributors like Stiwell and Chennault figure into the story. China was the staging point of the expected invasion of the Japanese homeland, and before the B29 came into operation, the only land bases closed enough to attack Japanese shipping and supply near Japan. The third purpose was to keep China in the war to tie down as many Japanese forces as possible there – in anticipation of the expected invasion of the Japanese islands. The other major part of the book is a description of the military campaigns within China, a topic that is usually not discussed at all.
The CBI, Stiwell, and the ‘loss of China’ are still hotly debated topics today for people who are interested in the field. While this book will not settle any argument, it’s well thought out and presented treatise on a topic is sadly lacking in non academic circles.