by S. C. M. Paine
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Pp. xvi, 488.
Maps, chron., notes, biblio., index. $39.99. ISBN: 1107020697
China at War, 1911-1949
The primary subject of The Wars for Asia is the continuous series of wars, rebellions, coups, insurrections, and “incidents” affecting China, from the republican revolution of 1911 until the victory of the Communist Party in 1949. Prof. Paine (Naval War College) reminds us strongly how these conflicts were important not only to China, but globally as well, as they merged into the Second World War. That war, for China, began at least as early as 1937, and during it the Chinese tied down, and killed, more Japanese troops than all the other Allied powers together. The “Second Sino-Japanese War” (1937-1945), also helped spark the Cold War and still exercises a powerful influence on international politics in East Asia.
Paine has some surprises for those not familiar with recent trends in the study of modern China. The most notable of these is a reappraisal of Chiang Kai-shek’s reputation as a national and war leader, both in “Communist China” and in the West as well. There are some other surprises too, such as Stalin’s role in bolstering Chiang by calling off Mao Tsetung, in order to strengthen Chinese resistance to Japan, and thus secure Russia’s rear during the struggle with Hitler, the German role in helping China against Japan, and so forth.
An excellent one-volume survey of Chinese military history in the first half of the Twentieth Century, The Wars for Asia will be of value to anyone interested in World War II and particularly the causes of the Pacific War.