did Japanese conquest of central China during WW2 make sense?

what if they were to have limited themselves to seizing Shanghai and a few other port cities and gotten the Nationalist government to promise neutrality and keep armaments acquisition from the Allies to a minimum?

Did they actually derive a lot of economic benefit from ruling (and fighting over) the Chinese heartland outside of the resource rich and industrialized Manchuria? Or was this a massive strategic mistake and waste of resources?

From the point of view of History, in that the European Powers had spent centuries carving up the world into colonies and “protected” (ie, controlled) states, it did make some sense for a country that viewed itself (and still does) as an “Empire” to play the same World Domination game and attempt to establish it’s own colonies in order to be seen as one of the world’s great powers.

Given China’s wealth, proximity, history and then current weakness, it did make some of sense for Japan to try to carve out as much control as they could at the time.

I don’t think it made much economic sense to go beyond the eastern seaboard. hell, even 2 decades ago that didn’t make much sense. The armies got bogged down and over extended for not much return.

Japan sort of bungled their way into China. Their conquest of Manchuria had upset China, who refused to recognize it. So, after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, Japan invaded to get China to recognize Manchuko, and also to punish them for what happened at Marco Polo Bridge. Then as the war went on, they decided to expand their goals to create a buffer state between China and Manchuko (the Provisional Government of the Republic of China), and then it just turned into “get rid of the Kuomintang and replace it with a friendly government” (Wang Jingwei’s government).

They never made it into central China. Chungking (Chongqing) is Central China and it was the wartime capital.

The Japanese nomially controlled about 1/4 to 1/3 of the east coast of China, and even then they only really were firmly in control of the main cities.

The Japanese stragedy seemed to rely on the Allies exhausting themselves. The main idea was to grab as much as possible while the Allies were busy in Europe and then negotiate a peace with the West and trade some of what they grabbed for peace.

The Japanese really only came into conflict with the USA because of oil. The Dutch East Indies (DEI), now Indonesia were rich in oil and Japan had to have it. If you look at a map and trace the route from Japan to the DEI you see Manilla and the Phillipines are sitting right like a dagger. If you look a bit closer you see Singapore, the “Gibralter of Asia” is also sitting right next to the DEI.

Japan simply could hope it’s lifeline to the oil would stay open when it would be so easy for the US from it’s bases in the Phillipines or to a lesser extent the UK in Singaore to cut them off.

No oil = no war.

China as others said, was rich in resources and slave labor. The Japanese expected an easier time as the Communists and Nationalists were too busy fighting each other. The Japanese were able to extend effected control over the coastal cities but never were firmly in control over the country areas. It was a matter of constant warfare to keep what they had taken.

Throughout the war but especially later on, the Japanese conducted “rice offensives,” short-term drives into the food-producing areas to seize the harvests rather than to permanently hold land. I don’t know how far inland these went, but the point of them was to provide the food Japan needed to import to survive and fight by the most direct method possible – stealing it.

No, to put it simply, it was a way to fulfill the bushidoist masturbatory fantasies of sadism and mass slaughter as seen at Nanking.

Once a war like this gets started irrational, and dare I say instinctual motives come into play. It becomes a matter of “They must not have died in vain,” and so on. Previous sacrifices become a reason for future sacrifices.

The War in Vietnam continued long after there was any conceivably rationally reason for continuing the fighting.

Considering the Marco Polo Bridge incident was a Japanese attack on a Chinese town, I don’t see why Japan would have felt the need to punish China for what happened.

The incident started when Japanese troops doing unannounced military exercises along the border were fired on by panicked Chinese troops. After the exchange, a Japanese soldier failed to return to barracks, leading the Japanese to believe he had been taken prisoner (he hadn’t). So, they demanded that Japanese troops be allowed into the town to search for him. When the Chinese refused, they attacked the town. The situation then escalated from there.

So, for the Japanese army, who was looking for an excuse to humiliate China anyway, the firing on by Chinese troops and refusal of the Chinese to let the Army search for their man was seen as an insult requiring retaliation.

I might be misremembering things but I thought the Japanese government tried to pull things back in the wake of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident but the Chinese had finally been pushed too far?

No, the Chinese War swallowed the Japanese Army.
There was a story about this; which illstrated what was happening.
Two Chinese gentlemn had just read in the news about a battle-10,000 chinese soldiers were killed-along with 1000 japanese.
The commentary was “pretty soon no more japanese”.
What defeated Japan was :
-the chinese army
-the USN submarine fleet.
The first ate up the Japanese Army.
The second destroyed the Japanese merchant marine-which caused starvation and an industrial collapse in japan.

It’s probably more accurate to say that the Japanese government tried to pull things back in the wake of the Marco Polo Bridge incident, but the Japanese Army wouldn’t let them. The army’s goal at that point was to take Northern China; Beijing and the area around it, as a buffer zone to protect Manchuria, and they didn’t expect it to turn into a wider war. They just expected the Chinese would put up minimal resistance and let them annex the northeastern provinces (which is what had happened in Manchuria).

But Chiang Kai-Shek, this time, wouldn’t put up with that, and he responded by attacking the Japanese in Shanghai, turning it into a full scale war.

There was also a Little Boy and a Fat Man involved.

The border issue was…complicated. Wanping was supposedly inside of China, according to the Chinese. But Koumintang control of China was only nominal in many areas which were actually ruled by local figures. Hebei province was one of these de facto autonomous areas.

The Koumintang government officially recognized Hebei province as a part of China but one which was “neutral”. Japan however recognized a local government, the East Hebei Autonomous Council, and not the Koumintang as the official government of Hebei. The East Hebei Autonomous Council was essentially a Japanese puppet state.

Complicating the issue further was an old treaty which allowed Japan to station troops inside of China along a local railroad. But this treaty had been signed under China’s imperial government and officially the Koumintang government no longer recognized it as valid.

So you had Chinese troops stationed in what they regarded as the interior of China and they did not recognize Japan’s right to have any troops in the area. And you had Japanese troops who felt they had a right to be there under treaty and who didn’t think the area they were in was even part of China.

Agreed with your first paragraph.

Here’s Wiki on the Jan 28 Incident of 1932 aka The First Sino Japanese War. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/January_28_Incident

I think what you’re referring to is the Second Sino Japanese War. Wiki: The Imperial General Headquarters (GHQ) in Tokyo were initially reluctant to escalate the conflict into full scale war, being content with the victories achieved in northern China following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. However, the KMT central government determined that the “breaking point” of Japanese aggression had been reached and Chiang Kai-shek quickly mobilized the central government army and air force under his direct command to attack the Japanese Marines in Shanghai on August 13, 1937, which led to the Battle of Shanghai. The IJA had to mobilize over 200,000 troops, coupled with numerous naval vessels and aircraft to capture Shanghai after more than three months of intense fighting, with casualties far exceeding initial expectations.[20]

Chiang Kai-Shek had a pretty solid track record otherwise of doing everything possible to *avoid *fighting the Japanese. Stillwell and the American Experience in China is a pretty good read of that.

It’s apparently termed differently in the United States. Here the First Sino-Japanese War refers to the war of 1894-1895.

One important factor to note is that Japan’s conduct of the war in China was driven by the generals in the field and not by the Imperial General Headquarters, so there there were more planning done tactically than strategically.

It seems that its overall structure of the war suffered from this as well, and unlike other of the belligerent nations, Japan didn’t have a strong central driving force for it’s actions.

Japan also seems to have believed it’s own propaganda, not only toward the West in terms of “fighting spirit” but also in terms of racial superiority toward the Chinese.

Really? I was always under the impression that China’s armies didnt amount to much when facing Japan’s army. Were there some major successes in battle for the Chinese armies?

China didn’t have a single central government at the time, as much as we like to talk about “China” as a single entity. The country had been in a slow, simmering civil war for a long, long time. That is part of the reason that Japan was able to conquer such large tracts of land so easily. It’s also the reason they couldn’t actually conquer anything at all, in the sense of taking over governmental function and running the country.

Most of the Chinese army was controlled by local warlords, some good generals, some bad. It turned out Japan couldn’t really take over China the way they took over small places like Korea. Japan isn’t the first or last military to make the mistake of trying to conquer a place with no central authority. They took what they thought they could hold and fought with the local warlords when they had too.