How might the Sino-Japanese war have played out?

12/6/2012 • Ask Mr. History

Let’s assume Hitler had a brain aneurism in 1937 and Germany never invaded Poland.

Is there any speculation by historians as to how the Japanese war with China would have played out?

How and when do you think America or the British would have responded to the conflict?


? ? ?

Dear RK,  

I don’t recall ever hearing anyone speculate quite the way you did. Most Americans care more about World War II in Europe than in China. After all, China never amounted to anything, did it?  

Without Germany getting involved in a major war in the West—and Benito Mussolini making a hash of his ambitions in the Mediterranean—Japan may well have attracted the attention of concerned outside nations, who might have put increasing pressure on it to stop. The Japanese would have carried on regardless, and probably would have gained a lot of control over cities and towns, as they did in WW2. But Chiang Kai-shek would not have caved in, and neither would Mao Tse-tung. Japan might have conquered a goodly percentage of China, but it would inevitably have found it an entirely different matter holding it. Regardless of how long it took, the Mongols and Manchus were both eventually expelled from China. Given Japan’s more heavy handed, arrogant rule, the inevitable might have occurred all the faster.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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