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Was the death toll in China inflated?

Discussions on all aspects of China, from the beginning of the First Sino-Japanese War till the end of the Chinese Civil War.
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Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby Boomerang1996 on 27 Aug 2012 10:54

I can understand why Soviets and Germans have high death tolls, mainly due to the struggle between the two tyrants. If I am not wrong, almost half of the Soviet casualties are from the army, Soviet civilians died in camps and in starvation. But how in the world did China lose 16-20 million civilians during the Second Sino-Japanese war? I had checked up Unit 731 and Nanking Massacre, even both atrocities added up, it doesn't seem to be even close to 16 million. How did they (Kwantung Army) manage to do that? It's not like they have Nazi concentration camps or WMDs, but the recorded death was so how that high. Are the statistics for real?
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Re: Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby L1E1 on 27 Aug 2012 14:04

Three Alls Policy 三光作戦. The Japanese's scorched earth policy adopted in China during Sino-Japanese War.

In Japanese documents, the policy was originally referred to as "The Burn to Ash Strategy" (燼滅作戦 Jinmetsu Sakusen).
The three "alls" being "kill all, burn all, loot all" 殺光、燒光、搶光.
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Re: Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby Boomerang1996 on 27 Aug 2012 20:39

L1E1 wrote:Three Alls Policy 三光作戦. The Japanese's scorched earth policy adopted in China during Sino-Japanese War.

In Japanese documents, the policy was originally referred to as "The Burn to Ash Strategy" (燼滅作戦 Jinmetsu Sakusen).
The three "alls" being "kill all, burn all, loot all" 殺光、燒光、搶光.


Heard of that, but the Japanese really went berserk on all the cities they went through? 16 million civilian death from random killing would be pretty crazy of the Kwantung army.
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Re: Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby LWD on 27 Aug 2012 21:50

They wouldn't have to kill them all directly. Once they had taken most of the food and burned the structures and much of what was left of the food fatalities on a massive scale could be expected. In that regard even the Japanese forces in China were on pretty short rations by the end of the war.
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Re: Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby Tim Smith on 28 Aug 2012 08:28

Maybe the 16-20 million would include every Chinese that died during 1937-45? Including those who died in childbirth or of illness or of old age? Since one could rightly blame the Japanese for lack of proper medical care for Chinese civilians.

Maybe a proportion of those 16-20 million would have died in peacetime of natural causes anyway?
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Re: Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby LWD on 28 Aug 2012 13:34

If you look at the way total casualties of the Soviet Union are often calculated they estimate what the population should have been in say 1946 and then compare it to a census for that date and the difference is the war related "deaths". I'm not sure if there were accurate census info for China to do such a projection and comparison if so that might be the source of the above. Note that such a technique does account at least in part for natural deaths.
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Re: Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby Sid Guttridge on 28 Aug 2012 13:47

Anything between 1 and 3 million Indian civilians died behind Allied lines in Bengal in 1943-44 as a result of a famine that would probably have been avoided if not for differential decisions made in London because of the war.

By comparison, the Japanese had an almost total disregard for Chinese civilians that makes British indifference in India look positively benign.

In view of this, it seems entirely plausible that 16-20 million people died in a China ravaged directly by war over 1937-45. I wouldn't feel much inclined to argue much with an even higher total.

Cheers,

Sid.
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Re: Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby Peter H on 10 Sep 2012 00:21

Interesting figures here too: http://www.japanww2.com/wt08.htm

Chinese famine victims---3.5 million
Chinese In fighting and mismanagement deaths---1.4 million

The Honan Famine of 1942-1943 accounted for 3 million of the famine deaths estimated.
http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/henanfamine.htm
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Re: Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby michael mills on 16 Nov 2012 00:40

I have read that close to one million Chinese died in the floods resulting from the diversion of the Yellow River by Guomindang forces in 1938, a desperate measure intended to slow the Japanese advance.
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Re: Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby Jerry Asher on 17 Nov 2012 05:40

With out doing all the digging this topic deserves may I offer the following anecdotal comments. My experience with Chinese numbers is that they are very good, far more precise than what I have encountered in none Chinese circumstances, and not speculative. Chinese governments at every level took governing very seriously. Thus from the stray bombing in Shanghai in August 1937--with but a few bombs causing thousands of casualties due to the dense population,--keep in mind all walled cities of China would also have been densely populated. Again. when an effort was made to try to have Chinese infantry formations disperse and spread out--a very senior Chinese general pointed out that the men and units were used to this close association and dispersal would be unsettling. The figures for the breaking the dikes of the Yellow River, directly equal Atomic bomb levels-indeed I if I recall off the top of my head--greatly exceed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As I wrote before, if the records of the 14th Air Force are anywhere near accurate, the thousands of native craft sunk by air attack equals a very large number of deaths. Likewise starvation, lack of care, deprivation in reduced many populations to the point that when encountered by well fed American and British troops, the reaction was one of repulsion, bodies that were borderline living but a bit inhuman. Two stories from opposite ends of China to make a point. In Shandong Province, American marines write of being disconcerted by Chinese waiting under the latrine to search their feces. In Guangxi, the sight of refugees clinging to a train looking like they had come from a German concentration camp. Finally, Chinese records are anchored in village and county records that are for details not unlike Jewish holocaust studies town by town, family by family, person by person. Clearly, I don't see a significant gain in the differences.
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Re: Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby ralphrepo on 17 Nov 2012 15:28

One of the problems in dealing with population statistics (vis a vis war death responsibility) is the absolute impossibility of being 100% accurate when it comes to causal relations. Population growth is historically steady and using the census as a way to determine causal impact of events, is one methodology that has been acceptable to historical writers. For example, how many people died during the Chinese famines as related to the Great Leap Forward? One method is to extrapolate what the population should have been given the annual population growth rate, minus what the census is in reality, and one can say with fairly assumed accuracy that the event cause x amount of impact on the population.

Of course, nothing is absolute. One has to remember that the Japanese invasion did, in fact, interrupt an ongoing civil war. Chinese had been killing themselves in droves during the republican warlord era and continued even into the war with Japan despite a notable truce between the Nationalist and Communist Chinese. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Fourth_Army_incident

IMHO, I don't think the death toll was inflated insofar as numbers dead, but rather that the causal relations of those deaths are complex, multifaceted, and cannot be easily attributed solely to one particular war faction. It is clear that the IJA did cause a tremendous number of deaths, but it is important to remember that they were not the sole cause. Also (although a bit tangential to your question but nonetheless important), if one looked to history as a metric of world wide deaths from armed conflict, then far and away the biggest claims to number of people killed is within the China region. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wa ... death_toll

IMHO, it appears death indeed rides a pale horse and he seems to speak fluent Chinese.
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Re: Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby Sid Guttridge on 17 Nov 2012 15:36

Hi Jerry,

In terms of deep history, I would imagine that Chinese records are possibly the best in the vworld.

However, during WWII the situation was such that the then Chinese government no longer had a fully functioning administrative machine over the whole country. Firstly the old imperial bureaucracy had suffered in the overtthrow of the Empire and the decades of civil war and warlordism that followed. Secondly, much of the country was under Japanese control. Thirdly, some of the population was under Communist control. Fourthly, the Nationalists had never entirely extinguished warlordism even in the areas they still nominally controlled. On top of this, was the disruption of war.

I suspect that there was no ability to accurately record or consolidate death rate statistics over the whole of China in WWII, and I very much doubt that the Nationalists had much time or ability to do so in the three years of civil war after 1945 which ended in their overthrow by the Communists.

Cheers,

Sid.
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Re: Was the death toll in China inflated?

Postby Peter H on 18 Jun 2013 06:10

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