In Rana Mitter's tense, moving and hugely important book, the war between China and Japan - one of the most important struggles of the Second World War - at last gets the masterly history it deserves
Different countries give different opening dates for the period of the Second World War, but perhaps the most compelling is 1937, when the 'Marco Polo Bridge Incident' plunged China and Japan into a conflict of extraordinary duration and ferocity - a war which would result in many millions of deaths and completely reshape East Asia in ways which we continue to confront today.
With great vividness and narrative drive Rana Mitter's new book draws on a huge range of new sources to recreate this terrible conflict. He writes both about the major leaders (Chiang Kaishek, Mao Zedong and Wang Jingwei) and about the ordinary people swept up by terrible times. Mitter puts at the heart of our understanding of the Second World War that it was Japan's failure to defeat China which was the key dynamic for what happened in Asia.
'A remarkable story, told with humanity and intelligence; all historians of the second world war will be in Mitter's debt ... [he] explores this complex politics with remarkable clarity and economy ... No one could ask for a better guide than Mitter to how [the rise of modern China] began in the cauldron of the Chinese war' Richard Overy, Guardian
'Rana Mitter's history of the Sino-Japanese War is not only a very important book, it also has a wonderful clarity of thought and prose which make it a pleasure to read' Antony Beevor
'The best study of China's war with Japan written in any language ... comprehensive, thoroughly based on research, and totally non-partisan. Above all, the book presents a moving account of the Chinese people's incredible suffering ... A must read for anyone interested in the origins of China's contribution to the making of today's world' Akira Iriye
About the author:
Rana Mitter is Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St Cross College. He is the author of A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World. He is a regular presenter of Night Waves on Radio 3.