Museum of the War of Chinese People's Resistance Against Japanese
The Second Sino-Japanese War
(July 7, 1937 to September 9, 1945) was a major war fought between the
Republic of China and the Empire of Japan, both before and during World
War II. Although the two countries had fought intermittently since 1931,
full-scale war started in earnest in 1937 and only ended with the
surrender of Japan in 1945. The Japanese invasion was a strategic plan
made by the Imperial Japanese Army as part of its large-scale plans to
control the Asian mainland. Before 1937, the two sides fought smaller
engagements in the so-called "incidents." The 1931 invasion of Manchuria
by Japan is referred to as the "Mukden Incident". The last of these was
the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of 1937, marking the official beginning
of full scale war between the two countries. From 1937 to 1941, China
fought alone. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Second Sino-Japanese
War merged into the greater conflict of World War II.
In Chinese, the war is most
commonly known as the War of Resistance Against Japan
(Traditional Chinese: 抗日戰爭; Simplified Chinese: 抗日战争; Hanyu Pinyin: Kàng
Rì Zhànzhēng), but also known as the Eight Years' War of Resistance
(八年抗戰), or simply War of Resistance (抗戰).
In Japan, the name Japan-China War (日中戦争, Nicchū Sensō) is most
commonly used due to its neutrality. When the war began in July 1937
near Beijing, the government of Japan used North China Incident
(北支事変, Hokushi Jihen), and with the outbreak of war in Central China
next month, it was changed to China Incident (支那事変, Shina Jihen).
The word incident (事変, jihen) was used by Japan as neither country
declared war on each other. Japan wanted to avoid intervention by other
countries such as the United Kingdom and particularly the United States,
which had been the biggest steel exporter to Japan. American President
Roosevelt would have had to impose an embargo due to the Neutrality Acts
had the fighting been named a war.
In Imperial Japanese propaganda however, the invasion of China became a
"holy war" (seisen), the first step of the Hakko ichiu (eight
corners of the world under one roof). In 1940, prime minister Konoe thus
launched the League of Diet Members Believing the Objectives of the Holy
War. When both sides formally declared war in December 1941, the name
was replaced by Greater East Asia War (大東亜戦争, Daitōa Sensō).
Although the Japanese government still uses "Shina Incident" in formal
documents, because the word Shina is considered a derogatory word by
China, media in Japan often paraphrase with other expressions like
The Japan-China Incident (日華事変 [Nikka Jihen], 日支事変 [Nisshi Jihen],
which were used by media even in the 1930s.
Also, the name Second Sino-Japanese War is not usually used in Japan, as
the First Sino-Japanese War (日清戦争, Nisshin-Sensō), between Japan and the
Qing Empire in 1894 is not regarded to have obvious direct linkage with
the second, between Japan and the Republic of China.