This is a question for you history experts out there. I’ve recently been reading up on the First Sino-Japanese War and I noticed that the battle was mainly fought between the Chinese Beiyang Army and Navy and the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy. Although the Chinese had other armies and navies at the time, they refused to help, resulting in a disastrous defeat by what was formerly seen as an insignificant state on the fringes of the Chinese tributary system. Now, my understanding of early-modern Chinese history is limited and I’m surprised at such autonomy from the different Chinese units. It was either that or the emperor (or whoever is control of the Chinese court at the time) didn’t even care about the conflict being fought. So my question is: how did this situation come about?
Regional Warlords had been gaining more and more power and as a result most armies were autonomous and followed directives from their respective warlords rather than a single body of government
I thought that only occurred after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty? Aren’t regional armies still nominally under the control of the Qing court? Can they just straight-out refuse to protect the empire’s territorial integrity when ordered by the emperor to mobilize? Also how exactly did this regionalism emerge? I always thought Chinese emperors always strived for more centralization of power?
The Beiyang Army was (at the time) Li Hongzhang’s personal fiefdom. It was a modern, Westernized force set up when Li pocketed revenues from five northern provinces to fund it. It only nominally answered to Empress Cixi.
The rest of the factions didn’t really see any reason to send any support to the North when all that would do is benefit Li.
As for how this started, a lot of it came from the Taiping Rebellion. A lot of independent forces (often backed by various Western countries) were set up to deal with the Taipings, and not all of them were disbanded properly after the civil war ended.
So you’re saying the Chinese court used this war to undermine Li’s influence and power, in the process giving up Taiwan and more money than they gave the British in both Opium Wars combined? This is in addition to the tremendous amount of prestige lost from this war. That seems… unbelievable…
It only seems unbelievable if you assume that China had its collective act together, which was not the case.
For one thing, even the Beiyang Army hadn’t been able to buy ammunition since 1891, because all the money was being embezzled by various corrupt people. Empress Dowager Cixi had stolen the money the Beiyang Fleet was going to spend on battleships to fund the Summer Palace. And again, the Beiyang forces were the closest China had to a real army. The Green Standard was a glorified, overgrown police force, and the Eight Banners were essentially a hereditary caste that drew government pensions and never expected to be mobilized, ever. Which they weren’t.
The revolution and the official formation of the warlord cliques was not a sudden collapse of a prosperous, thriving empire that had been mauled by foreign powers. The Qing Dynasty had been dead for a while. Cixi was just able to keep it from keeling over until she died, at which point (with the Emperor being a three-year-old and no strong contender for regent) it was every man for himself.
Warlords were very common thoughtout China’s history and power was only really centralized around WWII with the Guomindang and Coummunist Chinese reconciling and even then they barely managed to fight off the Japanese with both American and British assistance.
@Iggles: No. That is not how it went.
The Kuomintang (using their preferred spelling since they don’t recognize the Beijing dictionary ) and their allies fought the Japanese, while Mao essentially stayed out of the way and let the two sides wreck each other. After Japan was defeated, Mao swooped in and picked up the pieces, wiping out all the other warlord forces (except the KMT, who still held a rump on Formosa).
I see, that explains a lot. Is it safe to assume then, that the Qing court never really gained control of the regional armies established to fight the Taiping Rebellion? Is it also safe to assume that the Beiyang Army is also one of them?
The Beiyang Army is descended from the Huai Army (reorganized and modernized), which was one such army, yes.
And “never really gained control” is an understatement. Li Hongzhang had to fund the Beiyang Army out of his own pocket and his own territories, and the other warlords did likewise because the military budget was going to Cixi and her favorites. How much loyalty do you think they’ll have if Peking starts sending orders?
Hm. It always made me wonder if the cultural and political circumstance in China had gone just right and she was able to modernize like Japan while retaining her sovereignty, would China take Japan’s place among the Axis power during WWII. And if so, how different the world would be now.
Japan had a particular brand of cultural psychosis unique to Japanese culture that came to the forefront between the Meiji Restoration and World War II; the combination of a rising Japanese nationalism and desire for revenge against the Europeans, a need for resources such as oil, rubber and metals, and a romanticized view of bushido and death that developed into the kamikaze ideal.
I doubt that Chinese nationalism would develop along quite such lines, and certainly not to the extent of going out of their way to provoke America with a Pearl Harbor attack. They might have tried to turn Europe’s colonies in East Asia into their vassal states, though (probably with a lot of success).
The Philippines is an American colony isn’t it? We also know that America was going to join the war sooner or later even without Japanese provocation. But say WWII settled without Imperial China and America attacking each other, I think there is still an extreme likelihood of conflict between China and the USSR. Border disputes and historical grievances aside, Imperial China would most likely despise communism as much as almost every other state that has a landed elite did. In fact, they would probably hate the USSR even more than the US did. With the Germans on the west and the Chinese on the east, how likely would it be for the USSR to survive?
In the absence of an American or Japanese intervention, with a functional Chinese state (which is already getting into Alien Space Bats, mind you), it depends on China’s objectives in terms of the USSR. China pretty much invented realpolitik after all. In addition, a full-scale offensive war would be hampered by the need for China to retain significant garrison forces at home.
My general opinion on USSR v. Germany is that Germany is going to lose if they can’t reach Moscow in the first push, which is a very, very tall order. Assuming China is looking to hit Moscow instead of taking territory in Siberia, I don’t think China can reach the Urals before the USSR reaches Berlin. However, the real kicker is whether the USSR, fighting a two-front war and without America threatening Fortress Europe (Britain’s land capabilities, unfortunately for the Allied cause, are a nuisance rather than a threat compared to the other Great Powers), can reach Berlin before Germany develops the atomic bomb. (This is highly likely, since Germany’s atomic program was ridiculously poorly-run.) China will, in the end, be no more than a distraction to the USSR in that goal.
Once Germany is defeated, the USSR can turn against China and retake Siberia with the assistance of General Winter and General Mud.
Right then, I’m not sure where to start with this, but…
Let’s start with the Sino-Japanese War and the inaction of the other Qing forces. While I’d echo Iggles and Ramidel here, there’s more to the story than just that. In particular, you have to understand that the situation we see with the First Sino-Japanese war- with Beiyang fighting alone and huge tons of regional cliques- was really pretty typical for not only the late Manchu, but for Imperial Chinese dynasties in general.
You have to understand that more or less, traditional Chinese military doctrine didn’t favor one unified military force like we’d see in a modern military, but a series of large scale provincial militias (whether dejure or just defacto) who were meant to just deal with things in their neck of the woods, with a centralized “Regular/Professional” force that could be sent out when you actually needed their flexibility and expertise. Now, this is of course a huge-arse generalization and several Chinese dynasties broke with the system and even more came close, but it’s important to note said exceptions tended to devolve into this over time anyway.
Part of the reason was that often times, the countryside was in such a state of turmoil- or in the Legalist system would devolve into a state of turmoil- that if you moved the troops away from anywhere, that place would become all but lost to the government, which would naturally deprive the central authority of tax income, manpower levies, etc. Also, there was the risk that it would become a natural rallying point for rebels and other forms of discontent. Ergo, the only way to compensate is to have a permanent installation of troops and a governor to keep local dissent down (and who would tend to become established there and be a clique with its’ own set of problems).
Of course, this is more of a generalization than an absolute. There where entire local armies were sent out on campaign and situations where the “station troops everywhere possible” approach wasn’t followed out of choice, but those were the exception rather than the rule. So overall, this military tradition would’ve made a repositioning like what you’ve proposed vis-a-vis sending other troops to assist the Beiyang unlikely. It’s hard to get a good equivalent, but the best way I can say is that asking Chinese forces in Southern China to go reinforce the Beiyang Army and fight the Japanese would’ve been like asking the US Pacific Command of WWII to pull up stakes while the war was being fought and go over to Europe to reinforce the ETO. It would have been incredibly remarkable.
Now, what’s even more important is that by this point in time the Qing Dynasty fit this model *especially* well. The Qianlong Emperor marked the end of when the Qing had the ability to effectively launch foreign offensives, and his defeat by the Vietnamese and Burmese more or less proved that the regular military was in no shape to face a decently well led, determined, and remotely capable enemy on non-Imperial soil. Even before then, the Qing military had had extreme difficulty governing and subjugating some of its’ own nominal territory (I’ll get back to that and Taiwan in a bit), and when it came to blows with the West the result was all but foreordained. The final straw that broke the camel’s back was the Taiping revolt, which made it was blatantly obvious that the central government’s military could not keep the peace at home or put down the revolt once it’d started. Some particularly bright junior officials got together and managed to sort out a sort of hybrid system combining a regionally based and funded force coupled with professional training. Since that proved to be the absolutely only reliable force the Imperial government could muster, it became their mainline and blueprint, and it did eventually manage to crush the Taiping and many other revolts that broke out over the next few decades. Problem is that by the time 1894 rolled around the military was heavily provincial and regionalized, and corruption had already started seeping into the system.
All of this fed together into a system that not only made it unlikely for the Beiyang Army to receive vast amounts of outside reinforcements from other formations even under ideal conditions, it made it certain that Li’s domestic opponents (who were numerous) were more interested in seeing him fail than in stopping the Japanese. Again, this is not that unusual, and we see the same sort of methodology behind why none of the post-Qing governments spent so much time dealing with external threats (*coughJapanCough*) until forced to by events out of their control, like the Shandong Concession protests and Chiang’s kidnapping. They were more concerned with internal problems than with external ones, and if neutralizing a formidable enemy meant giving the Japanese Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan they were happy to do it.
And why would they do otherwise? The Beiyang Army, Beiyang Navy, and Guandong Navy had done jack all to help their Southern brethren when the French blew the Fujian Fleet away, and as far as many of Li’s opponents or outsiders it was all well and good that the Japanese marched out as long as he was the one who suffered. They also were not terribly concerned about Taiwan, in large part because they had never really held it. The Qing Army and other Han Chinese were more or less limited to the lowlands, while the rest of the island was held by the native tribes. It was also on the periphery of Chinese interests and largely got that way because of ethnic Chinese fleeing to Taiwan to get as far away from the Imperial governments as they could, only for the Imperial government to follow later.
The established Manchu elite did not calculate the effects of the 1895 defeat correctly until it blew up in their face, in part because they were so thoroughly out to lunch with the real world that they had established regional militias as their only effective army and then proceeded to ignore and under-support them until it was too late. The seeds had already been sewn in Chinese military tradition, and by the time 1911 rolled around a new set of regional warlords and warlord cliques were already very well matured and in power.
Regarding Mao and WWII, it’s not exactly true that Mao stayed out of the war. It’s certainly true he did not go out of his way to fight the Japanese or their puppets, but it is also true the same can’t be said for Chiang’s guys either. It’s just that the KMT and its’ affiliates had less choice because they actually had control over these regional fiefdoms in the path of the Japanese rather than being out in the way of nowhere and with most of their members outside of said “nowhere” being irregular cadres or guerrilla cells. They fought the Japanese mainly when they had to, but the Nationalists “had to” a lot more than Mao did, if that makes any sense.
Regarding a Meijii style modernization for China, I’m not sure I see it either. It’s just that China is really, really big and the effects of modernization would have had to be dramatic to bring it out into the countryside where it would be hardest but most necessary to do. That, and it would have required a vastly more united and powerful central authority that could command far more respect and obedience than the Manchu or KMT party could. I have no idea what sort of authority would command that, but Sun Yat Sen, Mao, or a vastly more successful Chiang or Yuan are the ones that come to mind; everybody else is too provincial and too inept. I also don’t think what happened in the early Showa Era was nearly uniquely Japanese or foreordained, nor do I think it was all that rooted in the Meijii reformation. It’s true that a lot of bigmover militarists and some of the ideology got started back during the Reformation, but they weren’t that overwhelmingly dominant until the Great Depression, and even after it you had a far stronger opposition to it in my opinion than we saw in Germany, often spearheaded by holdovers from the Meijii era like the last Genro (who died in 1940). In fact, said longlasters tended to be viewed with hatred by the ultranationalists as being corporate puppets or responsible for the fecklessness of elected government that they defined themselves against. That rhetoric alone tells me this wasn’t a wholly organic growth from the Meijii era; I’m not going to say it wasn’t heavily tied to it or that a lot of the psychosis wasn’t evident there (looking at the pre-WWII Japanese military’s performance and the problems the Imperial cabinet had with the elected government and further reform prove that much), but it wasn’t foreordained.
As for China in the Axis, it’s a lot more likely than you’d think. The KMT was heavily involved with the Germans under Chiang, and that only fell apart when Hitler decided to back Japan midway through the Second Sino-Japanese War. Until then, the elite of the Nationalist military were German trained, German equipped, and often German officered, while the KMT cribbed a *lot* ideologically and ceremonially from the Second and Third Reichs. In other circumstances I could easily see it being a dagger pointed at the heart of the Western colonies in Southern Asia, or into Siberia. Coupled that with the fact that classically China and Chinese authority has almost as big a traditional hardon for seeing themselves as the natural rulers of the world and the Asia-Pacific in particular as Japan has for Emperor reverance and suicide, and it’s not hard to see some totalitarian propaganda whipping the masses up to believe in that.
This is where I fully distance myself from Ramidel. I believe that an Axis China would be mainly directed South, against the Raj, French Indochina, and the various other Western colonies and concessions. The last time the Chinese Army went North towards Siberia, they couldn’t even hold Mongolia before getting thrown out by @Drazen 's avatar using a *bluff*, trying to force their way through Siberia would be a nightmare and holding it would be even worse, especially against a Far Eastern Front half as good as it was in real life.
The problem is that doing this would have immediately taken China into war with the US. Even if FDR etc. al. weren’t necessarily that fond of the European colonials (to the point of even favoring the corrupt, ineffectual, wannabetotalitarian Chiang over their Western European allies), the US was more or less defacto obliged to come to their support in the Pacific like we saw with the reaction to French Indochina being stronger and more unambiguous than the response to anything the Japanese had done for the past decade up to that point. The instant China goes South, war with the entire West is absolutely inevitable, and I do not think that would go well for them. Post Meijii-Japan turned out to be something of a paper tiger when it went against the West, and I don’t think the Chinese would fare better. Even if they are able to show similar levels of determination, like they and their Indochinese allies showed in the Korean and Indochinese Wars. We both know how those ended up, and unlike them there would be no (or at least far less of) stomach for pulling out.
Finally, regarding Germany vs. the USSR, the German war against the Soviets was by no means doomed, or even doomed after the first drive on Moscow sputtered out. Anyone who seriously believes the first months of Barbarossa were the only chance the European Axis had to destroy the Soviets needs to hit the books. The Germans didn’t throw their backs out just trying to reach Moscow and get shot way back. Typhoon was a costly setback, but it wasn’t a fatal one and for years after that the Axis military remained a viable force in the field, capable of taking and holding vast swaths of the Soviet countryside and destroying considerable Soviet forces more or less up until Kursk or even Narva. Their fatal flaw was failing to husband the resources they still had and in truly asnine strategic planning when they still were competitive or even in ripe condition to end the war (Kursk and *especially* pre-Operation Blue come to mind). Even then, the Soviet Union was still by far the most hard pressed of the Big Three, and it’s not inconcievable that against less favorable circumstances they might not win. The idea that the Soviets would just be able to ignore Siberia and race to Berlin is too galling to be worth debunking, especially if you have half an idea how helpful Siberia’s strategic benefits and Lend Lease (including through the Pacific) were to the Soviet cause. No Siberia means no Western lend-lease through the Pacific, no place to store political prisoners conveniently, no factories far out of German range, and no strategic resources and slave labor to bolster the home defense. Especially since most of the main focus of Siberia’s colonization was in the South, where it’s less unbearable but by extension easier to seize for an enemy coming from China.
I still don’t give much hope to the Axis Chinese, but I won’t insult them or anyone else by saying the Soviets were foreordained to win.
One final note, since the edit for the last went.
Germany was not really that capable of developing the atomic bomb, in large part because Hitler arbitrarily declared an entire subsection of science off as “Jewish” and tried to impose an alternative “Aryan science” in its’ place. Unfortunately, said Aryan alternative turned out to be absolute gobledegook (not unlike Lysenkoism and other Soviet pseudoscientific phenomena), meaning that in spite of sitting on top of plenty of materials for an A-Bomb any theoretical work worthy of the name would have had to be done under the counter.
Also, the idea that British land war capabilities are a “nuisance” rather than a threat makes me want to headdesk, and then link to-in no particular order- the Hundred Days of WWI, the entire North African Campaign, their abortive showings in Greece and 1940 (where in spite of their bunglings they were far from pushovers), the Burmese campaign (where they basically crushed the IJA on continental Asia before the Soviets finished the job), the Invasion of Italy (where they did the majority of the fighting), and their showings from the invasion of Normandy. No, their track record was not spotless and their armor in particular had obvious problems, but they were from the start a *highly* potent threat on land. A threat that was taken seriously as shown by how much the Germans committed to coastal defense even before the US was involved in the ETO in any direct way worth noting.
@turtler China did try a Meiji Restoration sort of thing (in fact, there were three of these), but it didn’t work. There were several reasons for this, but I doubt it was size which got in the way.
Firstly, many of the Chinese court believed that it didn’t matter if we couldn’t learn the ways of Westerners, as we have always prided ourselves on our rich cultural heritage (one of the most ancient civilizations in the world, definitely the most ancient one still living). They said that we do not have to modernize, for the Chinese citizens were not suffering from the evils that westerners did. We were a self-sufficient country, and if our military was not as strong as the powers, it didn’t matter, they said, as long as our people could prosper.
Secondly, the Chinese who did want China modernized had a major problem, and that was their time in power was incredibly short. Whoever had the upper hand in the political struggles kept changing, and the leader who supported renewing China in Western ways could find himself out of power the very next day. That political struggle weakened China even more, and even when the people who wanted Western ways were in charge, they had to cram their policies together in a hurry so that they got what they want before the other group took over again. So, hasty reform policies aren’t exactly the best policies.
Thirdly, later when Dowager Cixi emerged as the power of the court, she decided to set herself against all reforms, partly because all the reforms so far had failed (due to the hasty policies and the power struggles, as the reformers believed, but due to the fact that reforming wasn’t good for China, as the conservationalists believed). So even when the reform-supporting group was in power, she used her power as Dowager to oppose their policies, such as by setting up pleasure palaces, by wasting money on the emperor’s wedding (the emperor was forced to marry) poor guy) and then telling the reformers that they had no money.
Later on, when the Beiyang Navy was finally set up, she used funds that were supposed to go to the Beiyang Navy for herself, and so when the First Sino-Japanese War broke out, let’s just say the original Navy got all the money sent to the Beiyang Navy and the Beiyang Navy’s money got sent to the Dowager. Both sides were unwilling to budge, so along came Japan who got an easy victory.
Yeah, I knew about the Qing Dynasty’s late-game attempts to reform, if we can even dignify them with the term attempts. Probably did little more than dig the grave for the Manchu by making knowledge of how they were incredibly inept- and knowledge of how one would go about *actually* modernizing and/or overthrowing the decrepit state- more widely known without actually doing much to fix said ineptitude. It’s probably not a surprise that Sun Yat Sen and his closest comrades were in their formative years during this general period, and were actively grabbing together support towards the end, which helped lead up to the Xinhai Revolution.
To clarify, size itself was far from the only factor, and probably not even the decisive factor because the reform attempts by the Manchu court ran into trouble (usually from the Manchu court…) weellll before we get into matters like industrializing in other climates or industries. That said, it doubtless did not do them many favors trying to curry support and it certainly helped shatter centralized authority once Yuan and Sun both died, making it even harder to impose what modernization could happen. It’s true that starting off this isn’t the most important, since even a lot of “developed” nations started off with the relatively modern parts being confined to the major cities and other areas of population density and central control, and it’s likely that with a leadership that actually knew how to get things done and wanted to size wouldn’t have been as much of an issue (major reformers like the Hongwu and Kangxi Emperors certainly could tackle it with gravitas), but coupled with everything else it prevented the limited gains of the limited reforms from having ample exposure to solidify themselves.
Really, the reasons things fell apart are numerous and if we changed this or that one it’s possible things could have gone very differently, but I think ultimately command responsibility comes to play and we have to hand the blame to the Manchu government as a whole. It was more or less a living fossil and had been for about a century before it finally died, and if it could not change people would eventually change it out. As we know, that is what eventually happened, and for some good reasons. To start with, they- and especially Cixi- took the old cliche/belief that China had nothing to learn from anything too literally for their own good, and further than most probably would have. Particularly since while that belief is the stereotype, the Imperial government and Chinese society as a whole had been quite willing to adapt outside knowledge at other points (and arguably has a long history of it), such as using astronomical data from European missionaries to fix the traditional lunar calendar as well as all sorts of things from the Mongols and (ironically) even the Manchu. Unfortunately, Cixi and the other reactionaries didn’t see it this way, and they persisted in staying on a single path that eventually blew up in their collective faces even as they stymied anybody who actually did get a clue and tried pragmatic adaptation.
You are absolutely right to point to the problems with court politics as lying at the heart of these issues. Power struggles were so frequent and so dramatic that they not only tended to quash any attempts at reform, they tended to prevent the foundation of *any* kind of stable political system (even under Cixi or the reactionaries) that would at least have allowed the government to act together even if it was acting stupidly together. It’s not that surprising that a lot to most of the early modernist leadership (again, Sun being the quinessential one, but also Chiang, Song, etc) came from *outside* the traditional Confucian-dominated civil service apparatus that was getting tied into these power struggles. At least being in exile in Japan or Hong Kong or any of the other usual stomping grounds for anti-Qing activists meant that you could stay outside of the system and build up a support system and knowledge base that wasn’t dependent on the traditional imperial patronage systems for power, and once that rival system popped up without an effective response from the imperial court and government, the latter was finished.
It also didn’t help that political culture inside the civil service tended to foster some petty personal conflicts and corruption even amongst reformists like Kang Youwei, since that doubtless hurt the government and the country in all kinds of ways. Not the least of which being credibility on the grassroots level.
Cixi is a really odd case because of how far she climbed and her history over the years; it’s hard to pin someone as being more responsible for the warlord era and the fall of millenia of imperial history than she, but at times it *almost* looked like she might get it before…Nope! No she didn’t! That being said, she was as close to a strong and determined figure in the court as any towards the end. It’s notable that the Manchu dynasty only fell after she died, even if it’s probably more coincidental than anything. Really, I think she probably would not have been as damaging as she had been had she simply. Stopped. Being. So. Corrupt. and. Hedonistic. Even if she remained the rock ribbed reactionary she was in her later years, at least bowing to fiscal reality and tightening the belt would have both helped the government and dynasty in the long run and made herself that much less partisan and more credible than she was. In addition, it would’ve freed up more money that *might* have had something useful done with it, if only to help kit out Li’s white tiger stamped with “BEIYANG.”
Second suggestion would be to stop getting in unnecessary fights with the Westerners (and “foreigners more modernized than you” when we factor in Japan), if only because that hadn’t gone well the last several times. Even if China didn’t reform under her, might’ve at least stopped circling the drain had she acted a bit more competently and responsibly. The fact she was able to subvert an entire radically anti-Manchu secret society (the Righteous Harmony Society/Boxers) to becoming radically *pro*-Manchu and her ability to stay atop the world of court and Chinese national politics shows some hidden talents and potential I think people overlook. Unfortunately, she didn’t put them to good use, and it shows. Probably a missed opportunity, especially since she was cautiously supportive of some reforms at various points.
Really, I’d say that might be emblematic of the late Manchu system as a whole. The Beiyang Navy did not lose the Yellow Sea war against Japan from lack of courage to say the least, and there were plenty of rather bright reformers or at least soldiers and politicians in the system, including the Dowager Empress herself and Li. Had they been able to apply themselves, it’s quite foreseeable that the Qing might have pulled themselves together,but they didn’t. Thus leaving room for a bunch of highly educated and Westernized commoners to exploit what they could not and blow the top off of the Qing and the entire imperial system.
Odd tale to say the least, but certainly an interesting one. Still, that’s why I didn’t include their attempts in nearly the same category as the Meiji ones. Not from lack of potential, but because that by the time the Meiji reformation came around, there was a broad consensus- even on both Pro-Shogunate and Anti-Shogunate factions, and even by rebels like Saigo later on- that reform and some degree of Westernization were absolutely necessary and even preferable. While they differed- often violently- on the specifics, that loose consensus helped massively, and they pursued it thoroughly and at great length. There is really no such comparison with the late Manchu court even in spite of some reformers, and it shows.
Still, always a fascinating topic, and it’s great to see you weigh in here.
@Turtler: To restate, I’m assuming a China going the way @hahaha01357 wants it to go, which is anti-USSR. I didn’t say I thought they’d do that, just what I thought would happen if it did. Also, that Qing China had properly modernized itself to the same degree that Japan did, but with China’s population and resources. For my next trick, I will give AK-47s to the Carthaginians just to see what happens.
Regarding comparisons between the Japanese Empire and a successful China, I’m saying that I don’t see a Meijified Qing China, or for that matter a successful Republic of China under Sun Yat-sen or similarly revered leader, following exactly the same path as Japan because China does have a somewhat different situation. No, the Showa Era wasn’t foreordained, but it happened for Japanese reasons. The pragmatic considerations of Japan’s strategic position, combined with the personalities who actually did gain control of the Empire, and the ideology that they chose to promote, are what led to the period of national madness.
A Chinese attempt to unite the Asia-Pacific region under their Mandate would have a different character, but how different depends entirely on the assumptions you make. I honestly can’t give a single answer to this, because it depends on what kind of China is making the attempt. What is our historical divergence point, who is leading the Chinese forces, what ideology are they using to whip their people up, what territory are they working out of, and how modern are their forces? If the Republic of China has taken a fascist bent and managed to both reunite the warring factions of China and modernize its military to the degree of the Japanese Empire (as I said, clearly aliens are at work to make this happen any time before 1960 or so), they would be significantly more powerful than Japan on land. Their sea strength would likely have been somewhat inferior to the IJN, owing to the IJN’s completely outsized power compared to Japan’s strength. America might be able to defeat China at sea, but invading China would be impossible (and China is far better-placed to simply ignore America’s limited atomic capability of 1945, as we see from the untrue past statements from the PRC about how China could laugh off an American first strike; China would not see the loss of a couple of coastal cities as a major disaster). Even here, though, I do not see China engaging in widespread use of kamikaze troops, or the systemati
On the other hand, if the Chinese expansion is based on a clique in the South trying for French Indochina (in the absence of Japanese meddling in the area), we’ll likely see an embarrassing rout very quickly, possibly even before America ever becomes involved.