China deserves more recognition for its contributions in WWII: scholar

Updated: 2015-09-04 20:01


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BEIJING - As the world is commemorating the 70th anniversary of the victory in the World Anti-Fascist War, a leading British scholar is calling for more recognition of China's contributions to the Allies' victory over Japan in World War II (WWII).

"I think China played a very important role in the ultimate allied victory in World War II," Rana Mitter, professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at Oxford University, has told Xinhua in a recent exclusive interview.

Mitter is the author of "Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945," a critically acclaimed historical account of China's eight-year war of resistance against Japanese aggressors in WWII.

Regarding China as "the heart of the overall allied victory during World War II," Mitter pointed out that the victory in Asia would have been much harder without China in a speech at the Chinese Embassy in London.

"China's role profoundly shaped the ultimate outcome of the conflict that is now known as World War II," Mitter said.

Official figures showed that around 1.86 million Japanese soldiers were fighting in China at that time, accounting for 50 percent of its total force. Chinese troops held down the majority of the well-armed Japanese invaders.

The fire of war scourged half of the Chinese territory, with around 260 million Chinese involved in the war and more than 35 million people killed or wounded.

However, "most Westerners don't know very much about China's experiences in World War II and they are often surprised" to hear these numbers, the scholar said.

"Important contributions and sacrifices by China are now I think becoming increasingly interesting to Western readers," Mitter said, adding that the West needs to commemorate China's contributions to the war effort for the right reasons.

If China had opted out of the war in 1938, one of the worst years of the war, the historian said, both the course and the outcome of the war would have been different. "Japan's forces would also have been freed for an all-out assault on the USSR, Southeast Asia, or even British India," he said.

Mitter explained that if China had not continued to resist at that time, "the history of Asia would be different, also across the stretch of the world."

China "acted as a beacon to other non-Western countries, showing that it was possible to fight with the West and still strongly oppose imperialism," he said.

The scholar recognized the significant difference made by Chinese troops in terms of both defense and attack.

Even though some battles were lost, the Chinese troops' strong resistance "forced the Japanese to fight much harder in the face of international attention."

"There were other battles when Chinese troops continued to hold out when people didn't think they would, in cities like Changsha, which was defeated several times during the war," Mitter said. "It is really important the stories from this crucial time in the formation of China's modern history are remembered."