China’s Wars: Rousing the Dragon 1894-1949 (General Military)

By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, China had become one of the great powers of the modern world. Economically, politically, and militarily, its power and international reach is only exceeded by the United States, the world’s one remaining superpower.

Its military spending, though dwarfed by the United States, is over $100 billion a year and it is busy developing an aircraft carrier, a stealth fighter jet, and missiles that can shoot down satellites – all in an effort to project its power on a global scale.
This is all a far cry from its position at the end of the 19th century, when it was a ramshackle and isolated medieval empire upon whom the European colonial powers could impose their wishes at will. The period from the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 through to the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War ending in 1949 was one of near-constant conflict that saw China emerge as a fledgling new world power. Militarily at least, this is the defining period in Chinese history.
This is the period that saw the breakdown of the traditional imperial system of control, under threat from a series of rebellions throughout the 19th century, and the rise of the warlords and civil war in 1911. Despite the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912, the country was still riven by internal strife as different factions sought to control the fledgling state, while much of the power in the land was exercised by regional warlords in a constant state of conflict with one another. The 1920s saw the rise of two opposing revolutionary movements, the Kuomintang, led first by Sun Yat-Sen and later Chiang Kai-Shek, and the Chinese Communist Party, one of whose early leaders was Mao Tse-Tung. The Kuomintang managed to gain control of the majority of China by the late 1920s, and started a long running conflict with the Communists at the same time. The late 1920s also saw the first significant Japanese intervention in China, and in 1931 the Japanese took control of the whole of Manchuria. By 1937 this had escalated into out and out conflict with the Chinese, a conflict which would last till the Japanese defeat in World War II in 1945. Even then China had to struggle through four years of painful civil war before the Chinese Communist Party finally established control in 1949.
In this new study Philip Jowett traces the complicated military history of China during these pivotal years, describing in detail the conflicts that forge the modern superpower that is China today.

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About Dragon Mystic

I fell in love with dragons when I read Tea With the Black Dragon, and never looked back. Not the clunky winged Medieval dragons that ate cows, the graceful Asian dragons that could fly without wings. Later I discovered the elegant Welsh dragons, red and white, as described by R.J. Stewart in his books on the historical Merlin.
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2 Responses to China’s Wars: Rousing the Dragon 1894-1949 (General Military)

  1. D. C. Stolk says:

    The Fall and Rise of the Chinese Empire. “China’s Wars” describes the series of conflicts from 1894 to 1949 that forged modern China. Author Philip Jowett provides an excellent narrative about China’s turbulent years that took it from colonial clashes such as the Boxer Rebellion, through the chaotic years of warlord domination to the Japanese invasion, the Second World War and the bitter Civil War that followed. Events, that would end with the eventual triumph of the Communist Party and the rise of the economic powerhouse that China is today.As can be expected from an Osprey title, “China’s Wars” is lavishly illustrated, with an abundance of period photographs, both contemporary color and black & white illustrations, and specially-commissioned maps. Because it’s not limited to the regular format and page-limit of Osprey’s major series-books, author Jowett has 400 pages to spread out his chronicle about China’s Wars.In a brief introduction called “The Sleeping Dragon”, author Jowett recounts how in the 19th century, the Chinese Empire was in a terminal state of decay, under almost continual attack from both external and internal enemies, leaving it “the sick man of Asia”, to paraphrase a term. This introduction has a general map of China that shows the major clashes/battles examined in the first two chapters.The introduction is followed by 7 chapters. Each chapter, detailed below, has extensive information about the opposing forces: how they were armed, trained and equipped, their uniforms, history and organization etc. and covers the following periods:Chapter I: “Brutal Awakening” (1894-1911) covers:The Sino-Japanese War (1894–95): Japanese expansion in Asia had impact on the Chinese Empire, and led to a clash of the two imperial powers with several battles on land at sea. Also covered in this chapter is the Boxer Rebellion. It’s the story of the I Ho Ch’uan, or Righteous Harmonious Fists, better known to the West as the Boxers, and how a coalition of eight major military powers of the world united against them, which cumulated in the siege to the legation quarter of Peking. Alas, no detailed maps are provided in this chapter, which would have supported the text immeasurably.Chapter 2 “Revolution” and 3 “High Warlordism” encompass the years between 1911 and 1928, when Imperial China collapsed into revolution and, as author Jowett notes, the armies of the warlords fought a staggering 500 wars including five to six major conflicts. The third chapter has the following charts: a map of the main warlord cliques before the Anhwei-Chihli War; a map of the main warlord cliques after the second Chihli-Fengtien War; and a map of the Northern Expedition. Side note: here’s hoping author Jowett (or someone else) will soon write a separate history about this fascinating period.Chapter 4: “Undeclared Conflict” comprises the years between 1928 and 1937, a period of undeclared war with Japan. Chiang Kai-shek and the Nationalists would try, usually through military force, to further unite the country. Other influences both inside China (Mao Tse-tung’s Communists) and from outside (mainly Japan, but also the Soviet Union) would make this task difficult if not impossible. This chapter has a map of the route of the Long March, 1934-35.Chapter 5 “Full-Scale War” and 6 “World War in the East”: covers the years between 1937 and 1945.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 called the Second Sino-Japanese War. When, in 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the war went truly “global” and the Chinese found themselves fighting a civil war within a regional war within an overarching global war. This section has a map of the extent of Japanese conquests in China by 1939.Chapter 7: “Red Victory” covers the years between 1946 and 1949. Japan’s defeat re-ignited the struggle between the Nationalists and Communists that had been more or less in limbo since August 1937. It ended with Chiang Kai-shek and his Nationalist government’s flight to Formosa (Taiwan) and the formation of the People’s Republic of China that had been proclaimed by Mao Tse-tung on 1 October 1949. This chapter has a map of the extent of communist control, 1947/1948, and also a map of the fall of nationalist-held southern China 1949.To sum it up: this book about China’s Wars is an outstanding narrative that admirably fills a gap because there is a paucity of English-language works on the Chinese Civil War(s) and the role China played during World War II. So why not five stars? Two…

  2. Michael Lapelosa says:

    Good overview 0

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