China Beat Archive



Date of this Version


Document Type



August 25, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright August 25, 2008. Used by permission.


Everyone’s attention this month has been on the Olympics, and rightly so, but August can also be a time to reflect on China’s War of Resistance against Japan (1937-45). Throughout the entire month of August 1938, Japanese planes bombarded Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party headquarters in the first provisional capital of Wuhan, a tri-city region in the central Yangzi river region in Hubei province. The fall of Wuhan after a protracted ten-month battle, on October 25th 1938, forced the government to move further inland to its second provisional capital, the city of Chongqing in Sichuan province. This gives us some perspective as we reflect upon the unprecedented success of the Beijing Olympics, 70 years after Japan seized China’s second capital city in one of modern history’s bloodiest wars (though they did try, Japanese bombers were never able to annihilate Chongqing).

Having already produced several excellent works on this war (too many to name, in fact, but one notable book is his co-edited volume, China at War), Stephen MacKinnon has put forth a very bold argument in his latest book, Wuhan, 1938: War, Refugees, and the Making of Modern China, published this year by the University of California Press. MacKinnon asserts that those ten months in Wuhan—from January 11 to October 22, 1938—forever changed Chinese society in no less than four significant ways (listed here in no particular order).