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Jack Weber

Japan’s Moves in China Are
Prelude to New Adventures

(11 October 1941)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 41, 11 October 1941, p. 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

China and the War

It took four years of warfare in China to persuade the United States imperialists that China could resist the Japanese invasion. In that four years Japan was forced to strain her economy to the utmost to keep her armies in the field and to continue policing the vast stretches of territory that the Mikado hoped to swallow. Japan spent ten times as much on this war as on the Russo-Jap War. Her casualties in killed, wounded, and diseased were also far greater, having reached over a million by March 1940 alone. With all her tremendous sacrifices of “blood and treasure” as the lingo of diplomacy likes to put it, Japan has proved unable to accomplish the subjugation of China.

United States aid to China obviously is for the purpose of keeping Japan occupied with the war on the continent of Asia so that the Japanese militarists will not be able to turn their full attention to other spheres, such as the Dutch East Indies and Singapore. The moment the Japanese began to withdraw troops from the Chinese interior for the movement southwards to Indo-China, Chiang Kai-shek opened the biggest military operations he had thus far attempted. Chinese troops took the offensive in five of the overrun provinces. This campaign was not merely for the recovery of territory and for the defeat of the weakened Japanese garrisons, but its purpose was as much political as military. It was an attempt to demonstrate to the United States and England that China could keep the Japanese occupied and prevent their withdrawal of really great forces from the Chinese mainland. Such a demonstration would enlist further aid from the “democracies.”

The new campaign was also China’s answer to the letter sent to President Roosevelt directly by the Japanese Premier Konoye on August 28th of this year. The Chinese had every reason to feel alarmed concerning the outcome of that letter which started negotiations between the two imperialist powers to seek a temporary solution of the Pacific problem. For after all, the United States had never ceased, in the entire four years of war in the Far East, to continue selling the raw materials to Japan that were absolutely necessary to her for continuation of the attack on China. With Russia now completely absorbed in the war with Germany, China has no place to turn for aid except to the United States.

Roosevelt Cannot Withdraw Forces

Roosevelt had to weigh two factors in the discussions looking to an alleviation of the tense relations with Japan. Without actually being at war, Japan has nevertheless continued all this time to hold half the American navy in Pacific waters. Not only that, but planes and munitions that might have been useful to England, and now to Russia, against Hitler, are also tied up, immobilized, in all the ports of the Far East.

Evidently the war in the East has coalesced too closely with that in the West to permit any kind of compromise. Each of the powers is too deeply involved to permit even a temporary solution. The Japanese are face to face with a desperate situation and would like to find a way out without facing all the enemies in the East. But at the same time they must think of the future. If Hitler should win the war, then a Japan which now deserted the Axis would face a far more formidable enemy on the mainland of Asia than either China or Russia.

The Japanese cannot merely afford to mark time while waiting for events in Europe to help resolve their problem. Waiting now means weakening of her position both economically and militarily. The Chinese will continue receiving help along the Burma road from the United States and this help will enable them to put up a far more formidable fight than has been the case up to now. Help will also go to the Siberian forces of the Soviet Union and this will mean a more difficult task for the Japanese Army there also. Meanwhile China does not permit any really great withdrawal of the Nipponese troops. Japan simply cannot afford to abandon China for that country would then become united as never before to keep the Japanese out in any new attempt at invasion later. China has thus become the key to the entire situation in the Far East.

Meaning of Japan’s New Campaign

There are those who see in the desperate situation of Japan the means of tying the hands of the militarists and imperialists. They reason that it would be national suicide for the generals to start a new war, say in Siberia. But history has shown all too clearly, again and again, that the reactionary ruling clique never gives up its power voluntarily. The policy of looting of the Pacific region has brought the nation to a tremendous crisis, but it has at the same time enhanced greatly the privileged position of the semi-feudal army caste. To them, just as to Hitler, the solution to their problems lies not in peace but in further looting.

The new campaign of the Japanese army in the interior of China is to be viewed with this in mind. It is not the symptom that the Japanese are now determined to concentrate on the final wiping out of Chiang Kai-shek. Rather it is an attempt to destroy as much of the Chinese forces as possible as well as to drive these forces back disorganized once more into the remotest sections of China, before the Japanese start on a new adventure. The taking and then abandoning of Changsha indicates this to be the case. The march towards Chengchow is a similar indication, for the object is to destroy as much as possible so that it will take a long time to rebuild what the Chinese had accomplished, – to permit the Japanese to start on a new expedition of loot. The breakdown of the negotiations between Japan and the United States (these negotiations continue only by inertia) may well mark the beginning of the long-awaited attack on the USSR.

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