History of the Second World War, Vol 8

Until the Chinese archives are opened it will be impossible to write with certainty and precision of the military diplomatic and political problems which General Chiang Kai-shek faced in China during the Second World War but what can now be said about his relation­ships with his Chinese field commanders on the one hand and his American assistants on the other does much to explain the course of events in China during the Second World War and the years immediately afterwards. China had been an empire and was a diverse gathering of peoples, Chinese or Sinified. They spoke different dialects and had strong local feelings. Historically China was divided into great provinces, such as Szechwan which attracted local loyalties. Consequently strong centrifugal forces have long been apparent. Chinese society stressed personal and familial loyalties rather than loyalty to the Instate. the 1930s and 1940s political democracy was an exotic Western import. The Chinese political pattern was that of the politico-military figure who gathered a personal following estab­lished a territorial base and in alliance with or opposition to similar figures moved as far as skill and luck would carry him. With the obvious exception of periods of foreign conquest these were the men who if successful established central rule. The less successful survivors were still great magnates who possessed real power which was however not likely to outlive them. In the 20th Century the outside world called such men warlords. When the Chinese Nationalists in the mid-1920s united China under General Chiang Kai-shek the process included rallying a number of war­lords to the central government. Had Japan not attacked China in 1937 they would probably have taken their classic positions in the Chinese world. But Japan did attack weakened the central govern­ment and drove it from the sources of its industrial and financial support. The stage was thereby set for a reappearance of the centri­fugal forces despite the appeal of nationalism. 314213139 U S Army
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