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The Sino-Japanese War and Soviet Aid to China, 1937–38

  • Jonathan Haslam
Part of the Studies in Soviet History and Society book series (SSHS)

Abstract

Extremely uncertain of its position in Europe and before long gravely weakened economically and militarily by Stalin’s terror, the Soviet Union was not about to take any uncalculated risks in relation to Japan in 1937. Yet the maintenance of the status quo in the Far East — with Manchuria securely in the hands of the Japanese and with the Western Powers loath to intervene — was not to Soviet advantage either. Moscow therefore did its best to revive Chinese resistance to Japanese occupation, and in the spring of 1937 renewed its offer of arms to the KMT as a means to that end.1 For Chiang Kai-shek, however, there was little to be gained by accepting such an offer if it provoked the Japanese into further aggression. Nothing therefore came of the proposal. Furthermore the prospects for involving the Western Powers in a collective security system to contain Japan appeared as bleak as ever in Soviet eyes. Britain, under its new Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, used the growing crisis in Europe as a reason for appeasing Japan in Asia, and the threat from Japan to British colonies in Asia as a reason for appeasing Germany in Europe. France was now reeling from the belated impact of the Depression on its economy; it was increasingly polarised between left and right under the impact of the civil war in Spain; and its forces were self-evidently incapable of deterring both Germany in Europe and Japan in Asia. Roosevelt was by nature an internationalist, but his country was still stubbornly isolationist; thus although the United States unquestionably had the naval power to act against Japan, it lacked the will to intervene.

Keywords

Unite Front Deputy Head Democratic Unite Front Soviet Delegation Naval Power 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    DVP SSSR, Vol. XX, ed. F. Dolya et al. (Moscow, 1976), pp. 701–2; for Chiang’s reaction — Bogomolov (Shanghai) to Moscow, 3 April 1937: ibid., doc. 93.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Although there is little agreement as to the precise nature of the differences, there is no disagreement as to their existence: see Haslam, The Soviet Union, pp. 137–9; also Wollenberg, The Red Army, pp. 214–15 and 246–7; and the memoirs of Tukhachevsky’s sister-in-law, L. Nord, Marshal M.N. Tukhachevskii (Paris, 1978), pp. 117–19 and 127–8. For official Soviet confirmation that the charges levelled at Tukhachevsky were completely unjustified and for details of the plot to liquidate him and his colleagues taken from KGB and Party archives, see ‘V Komissii Politburo TsK KPSS po dopolnitel’nomu izucheniyu materialov, svyazannykh s repressiyami, imevshimi mesto v period 30–40-x i nachala 50-x godov: Delo o tak nazyvaemoi ‘antisovetskoi trotskistskoi voennoi organizatsii v Krasnoi Armii’, Izvestiya TsK KPSS, 4 (291), April 1989, pp. 42–62.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    For an account largely reflecting the Japanese point of view: A. Coox, Nomonhan: Japan Against Russia, 1939 (Stanford, 1985), pp. 101–19. For the Soviet view: record of a conversation between the head of the Second Eastern Department of the Narkomindel, Kozlovskii, with the First Secretary from the Japanese embassy in Moscow, Miyakawa, 30 June 1937: DVP SSSR, doc. 219.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Coox, Nomonhan, ibid.; Izvestiya, 30 June 1937.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Coox, Nomonhan, ibid.; also, Izvestiya, 2, 3, and 9 July 1937.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    ‘Memorandum by the Foreign Minister, 14 July 1937’: Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1918–1945, ed. M. Lambert et al., Series C, Vol. VI (London, 1983), doc. 465.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    J. Garver, Chinese-Soviet Relations 1937–1945: The Diplomacy of Chinese Nationalism (New York/Oxford 1988), p. 19. Garver is, however, wrong to suggest Bogomolov acted on instructions from Stalin. The evidence is that he took his own initiative. See below. It is not uncommon for scholars to underestimate the extent to which those working under Stalin were prepared to take risks out of a commitment to their country and in disregard for their own personal safety. Some, of course, did this in the tragically mistaken belief in Stalin’s sense of fair play, as Blyukher’s behaviour was to demonstrate (see below). Garver’s book is based on Chinese sources and those Soviet sources available in English. For the Russian evidence — Bogomolov (Shanghai) to Moscow, 16 July 1937: ibid., doc. 246.Google Scholar
  8. 25.
    Argus, ‘L’Armée Japonaise Menace la Chine’, Le Journal de Moscou, 3 August 1937.Google Scholar
  9. 31.
    M. Sladkovskii, Istoriya torgovo-ekonomicheskikh otnoshenii SSSR s Kitaem (1917–1974) (Moscow, 1977), p. 128.Google Scholar
  10. 36.
    S. Slyusarev, ‘V vozdushnykh boyakh nad Kitaem’, Na kitaiskoi zemle: Vospominaniya sovetskikh dobrovol’tsev 1925–1945 (Moscow, 1974), pp. 194–5.Google Scholar
  11. 38.
    Istoriya vtoroi mirovoi voiny 1939–1945, Vol. 2, ed. G. Deborin et al. (Moscow, 1974), p. 73.Google Scholar
  12. 39.
    G. Weinberg, The Foreign Polity of Hitler’s Germany: Starting World War II 1937–1939 (London, 1980), pp. 174 and 181.Google Scholar
  13. 46.
    Quoted in D. Borg, The United States and the Far Eastern Crisis of 1933–1938 (London, 1964), p. 381. This book is essential to an understanding of US policy. But it is strange that the Soviet Union does not merit the slightest reference.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 51.
    Sir R. Clive (Brussels) to Foreign Office (London), 9 November 1937: Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919–1939, 2nd series, Vol. XXI (London, 1984), doc. 343.Google Scholar
  15. 57.
    DVP SSSR, p. 748, note 184. For the background to these soundings: Hata Ikuhiko, ‘The Marco Polo Bridge Incident, 1937’ in J. Morley, The China Quagmire: Japan’s Expansion on the Asian Continent 1933–1941 (Selected translations from Taiheyo senso e no michi: kaisen gaiko shi) (New York, 1983), pp. 243–86.Google Scholar
  16. 59.
    On the Trautmann mission: J. Fox, Germany and the Far Eastern Crisis 1931–1938: A Study in Diplomacy and Ideology (Oxford, 1982), Chapter ix.Google Scholar
  17. 66.
    S. Konstantinov, ‘Stranitsy proshlogo’, Po dorogam Kitaya 1937–1945: Vospominaniya (Moscow, 1989), p. 253.Google Scholar
  18. 69.
    See Shum Kui-Kwong, The Chinese Communists’ Road to Power: The Anti-Japanese National United Front, 1935–1945 (Oxford, 1988), Chapter 3;Google Scholar
  19. J. Garver, Chinese-Soviet Relations 1937–1945 (Oxford, 1988), Chapter 3; W. Kuo, Analytical History, Vol. 3, Chapter xxviii.70. ‘The Policies, Measures and Perspectives of Combating Japanese Invasion’, Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, Vol. 2 (London, 1954), pp. 57–66.Google Scholar
  20. 74.
    Wang Ming, Mao’s Betrayal (Moscow, 1975), p. 71.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Jonathan Haslam 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Haslam
    • 1
  1. 1.King’s CollegeCambridgeUK

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