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  • Writer's pictureMichael Baker

China's Forgotten WW2

Present-day China is unthinkable without the Second World War. In 1937, the Communists led by Mao Tse Tung were confined to an area in northern China and controlled less than 0.3% of the Chinese population. Twelve years later, as the People's Republic of China, they were running the whole country, having won a bitter civil war against Chiang Kai Shek's Nationalists - the Kuomintang or KMT. What we now know, contrary to previous accounts, is that between 1937 and 1945 it was Chiang's forces, not the Communists, who bore the brunt of China's long and brutal war against the invading Japanese. This conflict exhausted the Nationalists, and in 1949, after Mao's victory in the civil war, they retreated to the island of Formosa, known today as Taiwan, which established itself as a separately recognised, rival Chinese state in the post-war years. So Beijing's current sabre-rattling claims to Taiwan, as well as Japan's protests against them, have their roots deep in the tangled outcome of WW2.

The China story has, until fairly recently, been a neglected part of the Second World War's broader narrative in the West and is certainly unfamiliar to most of us. In Episode 6 of the new series of Unknown Warriors, Hans van de Ven puts this right, with a compelling account that corrects many misperceptions that have grown up around a subject often skewed by partisan prejudice and perspectives.

If you think you know about WW2, it's time to think again.

An Understanding History Podcast

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