World War II started in 1937 in Asia, not 1939 in Europe, says Oxford historian

Professor Rana Mitter tells Conversation With why the war began with Japan’s conflict with China, not when Germany invaded Poland in 1939, the date most history books use.

However, using recently-released documentation, Oxford University professor of history Rana Mitter argues that the real start of the global conflict was 1937 – when Japan attacked China in what has been called the Marco Polo Bridge incident, outside of Beijing.

Prof Mitter’s book, The Forgotten Ally, points out that the terrible eight-year-long conflict took a massive toll on China, with more than 14 million Chinese dead.

By comparison, military and civilian casualties for the US and United Kingdom combined totaled around 900,000.

About 500 million Chinese became refugees and China’s wartime capital, Chongqing, was heavily bombarded, leaving 30,000 injured or dead. Memories of those times still run deep in East Asia – just three months ago, Japan’s former prime minister Yukio Hatoyama apologised for his country’s bombardment of Chongqing during World War II.

Prof Mitter also contends that China played a crucial role in how the events of the world conflict played out.

“I’m going to say that without the Chinese resisting Japan’s invasion, not just the history of Asia but the history of the world might be different,” he said in an interview on the programme Conversation With, which airs Thursday (March 16) at 8.30pm.

He suggests that if China had capitulated or joined forces with Japan, the Japanese forces of the time would have probably concentrated on dominating Asia, and not turned to attacking the US at Pearl Harbor.  If that had happened, the US might not have entered WWII or might have delayed its entry.

“Now that is not to say that Britain would not have found a way to ally with the US and ultimately defeat the Nazis.

“But let’s be frank, the war in Asia and Pearl Harbor – which stem from the war in China – was one of the major triggers to allowing that war to come together.

“And that’s why the continuing Chinese resistance, not just for one year but actually four and a half years before Pearl Harbor, essentially on its own (without support from other Allied forces), is such an important global turning point,” said Prof Mitter.

More of the interview with Professor Rana Mitter on Conversation With, Thursday, March 16, at 8.30pm SG/HK.

This entry was posted in Lịch sử - History, World War II and tagged , , , , by Trần Đình Hoành. Bookmark the permalink.

About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development ( I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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