There, Mao rebuilt his forces and plotted new strategies for fighting the Guomindang.

China Faces Japanese Imperialism

While Jiang was pursuing the Communists across China, the country faced another danger. In 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria in northeastern China, adding it to the growing Japanese empire. As Japanese aggression increased, some of Jiang's generals pushed him to form a united front with the Communists against Japan.

In 1937, the Japanese struck again, starting what became the Second Sino-Japanese War. Airplanes bombed Chinese cities, and Japanese troops overran eastern China, including Beijing and Guangzhou. Jiang Jieshi and his government retreated to the interior and set up a new capital at Chongqing (chawng CHING).

After a lengthy siege, Japanese troops marched into the city of Nanjing (nahn jing) on December 13. Nanjing was an important cultural center and had been the Guomindang capital before Chongqing. After the city's surrender, the Japanese killed hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians and brutalized still more. The cruelty and destruction became known as the “Rape of Nanjing.”

Illustration of soldiers marching under a Japanese flag through streets of a city where townspeople stand watching.

During the Russo-Japanese War in 1904–1905, Japan used Korea as a base for its military operations against Russia. Japanese leaders later annexed Korea.

The invasion suspended China's civil war as the Guomindang and Communists formed a temporary, uneasy alliance. Jiang's army battled Japanese troops, while Communists engaged in guerrilla attacks against the invaders. The Soviet Union sent advisors and equipment to help. Great Britain, France, and the United States gave economic aid.

Conflicting Forces in Japan

The Japanese invasions of China were part of a rising tide of Japanese imperialism. Like China, Japan sought to become a major world power, equal to Western nations. However, Japan lacked the resources needed to fuel its industrial achievements. The small nation looked to the West as an example, attempting to conquer lands to form a huge empire. As you will see, the invasion of China takes on new meaning when viewed from the Japanese perspective.

Unlike China in the 1920s, which was shaken by conflict and economic turmoil, Japan was a powerful, united country with a growing industrial economy. Beneath the surface, however, conflicts brewed that would undermine its moves toward democratic reforms.

Expansion and Economic Growth

During World War I, the Japanese economy enjoyed remarkable growth. Its exports to Allied nations soared. Heavy industrial production grew, making Japan a true industrial power. At the same time, it sought to win international recognition as equal to the Western powers.

While Western powers battled in Europe, Japan expanded its influence throughout East Asia. Japan had already annexed Korea as a colony in 1910. During the war, Japan also sought further rights in China with the Twenty-One Demands. After the war, Japan was given some former German possessions in East Asia, including the Shandong province in China.

Liberal Reforms of the 1920s

During the 1920s, Japan moved toward more widespread democracy. Political parties grew stronger. Elected members of the Diet—the Japanese parliament—exercised their power.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments