published the 19 july 2017
The Sino-Japanese war started in 1937 and ended with the Second World War in 1945. It was sparked by imperial Japan’s expansionist ambitions, rooted in its belief in Japanese racial superiority. Japan has always described the war as a border skirmish that got out of hand – a weaselly way with words that helped them duck international sanctions and classed Chinese soldiers as common criminals rather than prisoners of war with rights under international law.
While China had the larger army, it lost the major battles. The war became part of the broader global conflict in 1939. The Nazis initially supported the anti-Communist Chinese army but then sided with Japan in 1940 to found the Berlin-Rome-Tokyo axis.
Japanese revisionists have tried to downplay their army’s barbaric behaviour during the Second World War. The Rape of Nanking is often accused of being recorded by unreliable sources, or even denied as American anti-Japanese propaganda. In 2002 and 2005, Japanese schoolchildren were given history course books that relegated the events of Nanking to a footnote, causing diplomatic tensions with China.