Author(s): Rana Mitter
Different countries give different opening dates for the period of the Second World War, but perhaps the most compelling is 1937, when the 'Marco Polo Bridge Incident' plunged China and Japan into a conflict of extraordinary duration and ferocity - a war which would result in many millions of deaths and completely reshape East Asia in ways which we continue to confront today. With great vividness and narrative drive Rana Mitter's book draws on a huge range of new sources to recreate this terrible conflict. He writes both about the major leaders (Chiang Kaishek, Mao Zedong and Wang Jingwei) and about the ordinary people swept up by terrible times. Mitter puts at the heart of our understanding of the Second World War that it was Japan's failure to defeat China which was the key dynamic for what happened in Asia.
The best study of China's war with Japan written in any language ... comprehensive, thoroughly based on research, and totally non-partisan. Above all, the book presents a moving account of the Chinese people's incredible suffering ... A must read for anyone interested in the origins of China's contribution to the making of today's world -- Akira Iriye A major contribution to the one aspect of the Second World War of which we know far too little, and should know much more if we are to understand the new superpower today ... a model of clarity and good writing -- Antony Beevor The Times [Mitter] restores a vital part of the wartime narrative to its rightful place. Now, for the first time, it is possible to assess the impact of the war on Chinese society and the many factors that explain the Japanese failure in China and the eventual triumph of Mao Zhedong's communists in 1949, from which the superpower has grown. It is a remarkable story, told with humanity and intelligence; all historians of the second world war will be in Mitter's debt ... [he] explores this complex politics with remarkable clarity and economy ... No one could ask for a better guide than Mitter to how [the rise of modern China] began in the cauldron of the Chinese war -- Richard Overy Guardian Illuminating and meticulously researched ... [China's War with Japan] is about the Chinese experience of war, the origins of the modern Chinese identity and the roots of a relationship that will shape Asia in the 21st century. It is about China's existential crisis as it tried to regain its centrality in Asia. It is also a story, pure and simple, of heroic resistance against massive odds Economist Mitter deftly sketches the plight of Chinese intellectuals ... This is a many-stranded story and the author keeps his focus on the big picture while including many convincing, often horrific, details ... [this] is the best narrative of that long-ago war, whose effects still linger in China today, with Japan the major hate figure -- Jonathan Mirsky Spectator This is a story told mainly from the Chinese perspective, in all its horror. Drawing on a wide range of sources, Mitter pulls together a rich and complex narrative without losing the drama of China's fight for survival and the individuals who played a part in it ... lively [and] comprehensive Prospect
Rana Mitter is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St Cross College. He is the author of A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World. He is a regular presenter of Night Waves on Radio 3.