China's wartime losses

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Peter H
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China's wartime losses

Post by Peter H » 13 Jul 2006 08:55

Any support of these figures 1937-1945? ... by_country
Second Sino-Japanese War dead is estimated by John W. Dower at 10 million including 3.2 million Chinese Nationalist military. These losses are casualties directly related to the Second Sino-Japanese War but not including losses due to internal conflict, famines and floods. Total Chinese losses are difficult to estimate due to the fact that there was no census of the population taken prior to the war. Sources that range from 10.6 to 37 million total Chinese war dead were cited by R. J. Rummel . His estimate of total war dead from 1937-45 is 19,605,000. The details are as follows: Military- 3,400,000 Nationalist/Communist and 432,000 Chinese forces collaborating with Japan. Civilian deaths during the Second Sino-Japanese War were 3,252,000 and an additional 56,000 deaths due to internal clashes. Victims of repression and atrocities: Japanese war crimes 3,949,000 (including 400,000 POWs); Chinese Nationalist repression 5,907,000 (including 3,081,000 military conscripts); by Chinese Communists 250,000 and by Warlords 110,000. Deaths due to famine were given as 2,250,000.

Also this appears a strange comment:
Chinese Nationalist repression 5,907,000 (including 3,081,000 military conscripts)
Can anyone explain this?Military conscripts who refused to join were executed?

Has the 400,000 Chinese POWs death toll been verified?Approximately 30,000 Chinese POWs were released by the Japanese in 1945.

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Post by Edward Chen » 13 Jul 2006 22:04

It's actually military conscripts who died in training camps (little different than concentration camps), or during the journey just getting to training camps. This reason is also noted by the famed democide statistician R.J. Rummel.

Living conditions in wartime China were poor to begin with, resembling that of medieval Europe (think Central Europe during the Thirty Years War) for want of a better comparison.

The territories held by Central Government and pro-Nationalist forces (warlord, guerilla, etc.) also constituted China's poorer and least productive, and famines were frequent. Things were bad enough for civilians; imagine what the lot of soldiers were.

In the culture of pre-Revolutionary China which characterized most of the country, soldiers were at the bottom of the social ladder. The Confucian adage "good steel shouldn't be used for nails; good men shouldn't be soldiers" [好鐵不打釘 好人不當兵] still pervaded the thinking of the majority, and conscripts were poorly treated and subjected to harsh discipline with draconian punishments, although both the Central Government and Communist forces tried to change that attitude by instilling a sense of esprit de corps, the latter with more success.

In the countryside, conscription press gangs would round up any able-looking males and march them off on foot to army base camps, often while tied or chained together, in what would frequently become virtual death marches, in which a large percentage of conscripts would not survive.

Living conditions at the training camps themselves varied, but many were little more than virtual concentration camps where trainees starved, got sick and died in droves from lack of adequate supplies or medical care which were already scarce in wartime China. IIRC, Chiang Kai-shek himself ordered the execution of a general (whose name I can't recall) in the Nationalist training command when he learned that over a million conscripts had died through such neglect.

Of course, at the other extreme were proper training facilities such as Ramgarh, India where the Chinese troops of what would become the New 1st Corps aka X-Force aka Mars Force were forged into the most combat-effective Nationalist Army units of WW2 (and demonstrated it in the 1944 northern Burma campaign) through proper supply, attention to health and hygiene, and sound administration and training.

Hope this helps,

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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 14 Jul 2006 02:05

Thanks,very helpful.


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Post by Goldfish » 14 Jul 2006 05:50

Also, approximately one million are believed to have died as a result of the destruction of the Yellow River levees by Nationalist troops in an attempt to stop the Japanese advance. I don't know if that counts as "repression", or if it is counted under the "repression" heading here, but it was done by Nationalist forces. I believe, however, that the term "repression" indicates deliberate killing and think that neglect and mistreatment (as relates to the training camps) doesn't really fall under this heading. Chiang did not intend to kill millions, though he may have accepted the losses as the price that had to be paid, like Mao during the famines of the Great Leap Forward. If these numbers are intended to indicate victims of direct political repression, they are, IMHO, far too high.

I also think that the losses due to famine were probably higher than those stated here. Due to China's large population and its "hand to mouth" existance prior to the 1980's, famines tended to rack up some staggering numbers. Considering that one million Vietnamese died in 1945 due to the Japanese seizure of their rice crop, one can imagine what the disruption of eight years of war and confiscation would wreak upon China's rural population.

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Post by Peter H » 14 Jul 2006 14:41

Thanks Goldsfish.

This mentions another flood in 1943: ... ellow.html
On June 9, 1938, the Chinese blew up the levees in an attempt to stop the invading Japanese. The river was close to the peak of its annual flood, and swept over 9000 square miles of the plain. Close to a million Chinese peasants died or starved, and over 12 million were made homeless, and the Japanese army was not stopped. The flood of 1943 destroyed crops in Henan, and 3 million people starved to death.


Japanese advance through the flood region 1938.
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Peter H
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Post by Peter H » 20 Jul 2006 01:59

More on the plight of Chinese conscripts: ... 0Notes.pdf
The conscription system in China was abysmal.... The typical Chinese conscription method was
to enter a village and round up all able-bodied males and march them off to combat. The village left behind suffered immensely
having no manpower to work fields and perform other chores.The local government rarely paid any form of subsidy to the
devastated village. This practice magnified the traditional hatred of their army held by most common Chinese. And, amazingly,
the conscripted soldier suffered more than the villagers he left behind!

Often gang marched, chained to fellow villagers, the conscript would be corralled at local conscription centers. He was given
virtually no training and little equipment. Stripped of clothing during the night to prevent escape, many froze. A meager food
allotment was a rare treat. In the Chinese system, conscripts were not part of the army until they reached their assigned units.
As such, they were not paid and generally not fed.Long marches to their destination units, often hundreds of
miles, led to mass desertion and death. It is estimated that fully 40% of conscripted men never reached their assigned units.

The Chinese standing army at the start of the Sino-Japanese Conflict was 1.7 million men with 500 thousand reservists.
After dipping to a low of 1 million men (following the heavy casualties of the 1937 disasters), the size of the Chinese army
steadily increased throughout the war. By the end of 1941, the Chinese army numbered 5.7 million including about 3 million
front-line combat troops. By the end of the war in 1945, the number had swelled to over 8 million men in arms.

To maintain this army, the Chinese conscripted about 14 million men during the 8-year war period (1937-45). During this
time the front line replacement rate never dipped below 60% annually, and occasionally peaked as high as 120%. During the
war, China determined that she needed to draft between 2.5 and 4 men for every man on the front lines. This represented the
high percentage of wounded, sick, deserters, and general mismanagement of military administration. Over 8 million of the
14 million conscripted, can not be accounted for. With the typical desertion rate estimated at between 10 and 40% annually,
many of the 14 million may have been the same men, repeatedly conscripted.

While China’s mobilization index (the average number of men conscripted as compared with the nation’s total population per
annum), at 0.4%, remained well behind that of Japan and western nations (Japan: 1.3%, UK: 1.4%, US: 2.4%, USSR: 3.0%, and
Germany: 3.8%) she never had trouble filling the gaps in her lines. Manpower was always far more plentiful than equipment.
Proposals for a Chinese army of 50 million were tendered, but were unrealistic given the utter lack of equipment and
infrastructure necessary to support so many men in the field. In fact, General Stilwell and other American advisors repeatedly
suggested that the Chinese should reduce the size of their army to about 100 higher quality divisions (rather than the 300+
ineffective divisions that existed in the mid to late war period).
The Hwang Ho Dikes:
On June 20, 1938, the nationalist government demonstrated that it understood the meaning of total war. In an unprecedented sacrifice of
civilian and military life and incalculable damage to property and country side, the KMT had the Hwang Ho dikes destroyed just
north of Kaifeng. From a military point of view, the strategy worked brilliantly. The Japanese advance was stopped cold in
the face of the onrushing flood waters and the assault on Wuhan (the Hankow, Hanyang, Wuchang tri-city area) was delayed for
three months while the Japanese re-planned their advance to circumnavigate the new river course. Throughout the war, the
Japanese never advanced beyond the new course of the Hwang Ho and were forced to trek hundreds of miles north or south to
move further west.

However, the destruction of the dikes has been bitterly criticized for its blatant disregard of life. In fact, the nationalist
government for many years denied any prior knowledge of the event. The flood waters wrought more suffering on the Chinese
peasants of the area than the Japanese ever did. Some 4 to 5 thousand villages and 11 towns were washed away. Over 2
million Chinese were left homeless and destitute. Some estimates of the number of deaths range as high as 440,000. A
number of military units, both Japanese and Chinese, were also caught and destroyed in the floodwaters.
The Chinese people of the area never forgave the Nationalist government for what they viewed as irresponsible and
unconscionable actions. After the conclusion of the war with Japan, this area, remembering the events of the spring of 1938,
was one of the first regions to go staunchly Communist.

The frontline soldier:
The Chinese supply situation was debilitating to the effectiveness of their military operations. Moreover, as the war
progressed, the various authorities in China, and the KMT itself, became increasingly corrupt, and the distribution of supply and
equipment became more of a political activity than a military activity. "Under combat conditions the Chinese soldier was
weak from hunger and exhaustion. He was night-blind from deficiencies in his diet - no meat, almost no fats, few vegetables,
and no sugar. He was badly clothed, often nearly in rags.""Large quantities of small arms ammunition were wasted by
poorly fed soldiers who removed bullets from cartridge cases to satisfy their craving for salt with the taste of gunpowder." "On
his first contact with the Chinese army in the field, a shocked American officer referred to what he saw as a 'goddam medieval
mob' - a not too inaccurate description." "The [Chinese] soldier knew from bitter experience that his own people scorned his lot,
hated him for foraging to provide himself with the barest necessities, and despised him as a member of the lowest stratum
of society, for Confucius had pronounced that good iron went into plowshares, poor iron into swords and spears."

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