I posted a piece on Asia Media (July 10 2008) which reviews Steve MacKinnon’s new book, Wuhan, 1938: War, Refugees, and the Making of Modern China (University of California Press, 2008). Steve is a friend, but I think anyone would find this book not only a good read but also quite informative on a neglected turning point in modern China. It’s also a good introduction to the work in military history which has quietly transformed our understandings of China before 1949.
Steve makes the point that in this period the United Front worked and that the staggering losses were part of a heroic and in some ways quite successful military strategy. Chiang Kai-shek presided over an energetic coalition and had widespread support. The move upriver to Chongqing was heroic in much the same way as the Long March. It’s a page turning story, though quite horrifying in the descriptions of refugee life and battlefield realities. There’s also a section of photographs which do not merely illustrate but actually develop the themes of the text.
Asia Media, by the way, is run out of the UCLA Asia Institute, and is one of the useful sites for keeping up with breaking news in Asia. Every day they post links to dozens of stories in newspapers around Asia, but also the occasional commentary or review such as mine.