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Sino-Japanese War

On July 17, 1937, a new wave of expansion on the Asian mainland began with a skirmish between Chinese and Japanese troops at Marco Polo Bridge outside of Beiping (now Beijing). Although the Japanese commander had committed his troops without prior knowledge or consent of the government in Tokyo, he was promptly provided with reinforcements by the general staff, which by this time was strongly influenced by the younger officers. The fighting quickly spread, and the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-45) had begun. On July 28, Chinese forces evacuated Beiping. Two days later, the Japanese army occupied Tianjin, and on August 13 Japanese forces attacked China's financial center, Shanghai. Chinese forces resisted for three months, but they finally succumbed to the better-armed and better-trained Japanese forces. The fall of Shanghai left China's capital, Nanjing, unprotected, and the Chinese government moved its capital to the southwestern mountain city of Chongqing. Japanese forces quickly occupied Nanjing, indiscriminately massacring about 100,000 civilians in the infamous "Rape of Nanjing." In mid-1938 Japan set its sights on the central Chinese industrial city of Wuhan. Wuhan held out for four and onehalf months but finally surrendered on December 25, 1938. The fall of Wuhan, coupled with the earlier fall of Guangzhou on October 21, left most urban areas in central and eastern China in the hands of Japan. To the north, however, Japanese forces were defeated after a protracted battle with a joint Soviet-Mongolian force in 1939.

At home, the Japanese armed forces were portrayed as benevolent crusaders striving to free Asia from European colonial domination. The military's control over almost every phase of Japanese life was by now complete, and opposition to its policies was tantamount to treason. The top military commanders enjoyed direct access to the emperor, bypassing civilian authority completely.

Data as of January 1994