Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937–1945

Houghton Harcourt. 2013. 416p. photos. notes. index. ISBN 9780618894253. $30. HIST
OrangeReviewStarThe China we know today was forged in World War II. For Americans the war started with Pearl Harbor, but for the Chinese it was called the War of Patriotic Resistance Against Japan and it started in 1937. By 1941, China, at stunning cost in life and by trading land for time, had fought the Japanese invaders to a standstill. The war was a Darwinian test of adaptation in which Mao's Communist Party and his People's Liberation Army evolved into the instruments of power that transformed China after 1949. Mitter (modern Chinese history, Univ. of Oxford; A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World) gathers a generation of research and debate to weave new insights into a sweeping panorama. He spotlights individual heroes and villains, victory and disaster in battle, and international diplomatic conflicts while keeping the big historical drama in focus. U.S. general Joseph Stilwell, to take but one example, has been portrayed as the righteous scourge of Chiang Kai-shek's corruption and unwillingness to fight Japan but here emerges as imperiously blind to the legitimate constraints on Chiang and as failing to understand Chiang's strategy of patience.
VERDICT Readers may quibble that China was not so much "forgotten" as bypassed, but this is cutting-edge history, and there's scarcely a dull page. Highly recommended.
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