Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Six top books on the Asian experience of World War II

Gary Bass, a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University, is the author of Judgment at Tokyo: World War II on Trial and the Making of Modern Asia; The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide; Freedom's Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention; and Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals.

[The Page 99 Test: The Blood Telegram]

At Lit Hub Bass tagged six top books on the Asian experience in World War II, including:
Rana Mitter, Forgotten Ally: China’s World War II, 1937-1945

In this masterful book, Rana Mitter restores China to a central place in World War II. China was at war for a full decade before Pearl Harbor, starting with the Japanese assault on Manchuria in September 1931, followed by a full-scale invasion starting in July 1937. The impact is impossible to grasp: some 14 million Chinese people died, as many as 80 million people were displaced from their homes; the economy and society were devastated. As Mitter notes, Allied strategy relied on having the Republic of China holding down some 800,000 Japanese troops. His book gives renewed respect to the resistance of the Nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi), and covers their intensifying conflict with the Communists under Mao Zedong, while also giving a richly textured portrait of the fascinating Wang Jingwei—a heroic revolutionary of the Republic of China who in 1938 formed a pro-Japanese collaborationist government, for which he’s widely reviled in China today. Mitter shows how useful Chiang proved in working fellow anticolonialists in India. The book deftly explains a long and complicated war, while giving a ground-level narrative of what ordinary Chinese endured in such horrors as the conquest of Nanjing, the bombing of Chongqing, the flooding of the Yellow River, and the terrible famine in Henan province. It’s a powerhouse of a book, well worth your time.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue