How did World War II affect China?

World War II affected China by enabling the Chinese Communist Party under Mao Zedong to present itself as a defender of the people. The Nationalist government had proved itself incapable of defending China against a Japanese invasion. The Chinese Communists, on the other hand, had proved themselves to be formidable fighters against the Japanese and established credibility as a national force in the eyes of many Chinese.

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Many historians consider the Japanese invasion of China to be the actual start of World War II. Needless to say, this conflict had a profound effect on China. For one thing, it forced the Chinese Communists and the Nationalists to temporarily pause their own civil war so that they could...

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Many historians consider the Japanese invasion of China to be the actual start of World War II. Needless to say, this conflict had a profound effect on China. For one thing, it forced the Chinese Communists and the Nationalists to temporarily pause their own civil war so that they could focus on fighting the foreign invaders together. The Communist forces faired better than the Nationalists in this struggle which caused them to gain more esteem and legitimacy in the eyes of many people. They were able to capitalize on this when the Chinese civil war resumed in 1946. Furthermore, the Soviet Union provided aid to the Chinese during World War II. This helped to establish stronger relations between the Chinese Communist forces and the Soviets. After the war, this amicable relation was continued to some extent, which further bolstered the communists.

The war was very disruptive and destructive to the people of China. During the war, an estimated 20 million Chinese people died. As many as 80,000 were displaced as refugees.

As a result of WWII, most of China's industrial capacity was destroyed by the Japanese. Much of what survived was confiscated by the Soviets in the final days of the conflict. This left postwar China nearly bereft of its former industrial capacity. This made it impossible for the Nationalists to effectively restore the economy after the war, further empowering the Communists. After Mao and the Communists won their victory in 1949, they were able to quickly modernize China's industrial sector given the blank slate they were left with.

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There can be no doubt that the experiences of China during World War II helped pave the way to power for the Communist Party of China (CPC), which took control of the country in 1949. During this long and bitter conflict, the CPC and its armed guerilla units established themselves in the popular mind as brave and fearsome warriors prepared to stand up to the Japanese invaders.

Across vast swathes of rural China, the CPC earned the reputation of defenders of the people, in contrast to the ruling Nationalists, who seemed unable to push back the foreign invaders. Long before the outbreak of WWII, the Nationalists' reputation had plummeted after the relatively weak resistance they put up to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. The rapid advance of Japanese forces and the forced acquisition of more Chinese territory didn't add much to that damaged reputation.

In the meantime, the CPC became more deeply entrenched among millions of peasants in parts of the country where the Nationalist government's writ didn't run and where Japanese forces were relatively thin on the ground. This allowed the CPC to establish communist states in miniature, gradually preparing for a time after hostilities were over, when a final reckoning with the Nationalists would be made and the CPC would take control of the country they had done much to defend during World War II.

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World War II interrupted a Chinese civil war between the Nationalists and the communists. Nationalist commander Chiang Kai-Shek wanted to keep fighting the communists. In a famous 1936 event called The Xi'an Incident, two of Chiang's own commanders seized him and convinced him to join with the communists in an united front against the Japanese. Japan had invaded China, and occupied some coastal cities for several years. As noted by other educators, Japanese troops committed atrocities against Chinese citizens, a story chronicled in the 1997 book The Rape of Nanking, by Iris Chang. After the war, Japan did not formally apologize to China for its war-time crimes against humanity, creating tension between the two countries even today.

When World War II ended in 1945, China resumed its civil struggle. In 1949, the communist forces, led by Mao Zedong, prevailed. Chiang Kai-Shek and his Nationalist army fled to the island of Taiwan and set up a rival government. To this day, China claims Taiwan as a province, while its leaders claim the island is a separate nation.

After forming the People's Republic of China in 1950, Mao began expelling foreign expats and missionaries, and essentially closed China's borders to the Western world until then-U.S. President Richard Nixon's groundbreaking diplomatic trip in the early 1970s. During Mao's reign, China forged tight ties with Russia, making his country a de facto enemy of the U.S. during the Cold War era of the 1950s through mid-80s.

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World War II provided an opportunity for the growth and subsequent takeover of the Nationalist government by the Communist party. Although the Nationalists were better equipped with more men and territory, they were actively engaged in the fight with Japan. 

The failure to adequately address the internal threat led to territorial losses for the Nationalists, and in some areas the Communists took over without a fight. The situation led to the end of the Nationalist government and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China.

The war also saw a shift in alliances for China. The United States, which was allied to the Nationalist government led by Chiang, was not a favorite of the ruling Communist party. The Soviets, on the other hand, signed treaties and made concessions with the People’s Republic. Thus, the war resulted in complex Sino-American relations.

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The events before and during World War II had a big impact on China. Beginning in 1931, the Japanese invaded China. In 1931, the Japanese invaded Manchuria, in northern China, to capture the resources of the region. Then, in 1937, Japan continued its invasion of China. The Chinese were forced to move their capital from Beijing to Chongqing because of the Japanese invasion. Throughout World War II, Japan controlled Chinese territory. Japan also controlled the major Chinese ports. During the Japanese occupation, the Japanese committed brutal acts toward the Chinese. There were massacres and atrocities which took place. Many Chinese died in these actions. Also during this time, women were abused by the Japanese. The United States tried to help China in World War II with the Lend-Lease Act. However, this wasn't as successful as the Lend Lease Policy was with Great Britain. China was greatly impacted by the events before and during World War II.

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