By the end of 1905, Japan ruled not only its former home islands but also Formosa (present-day Taiwan), the Liaodong peninsula, and Korea. On September 18th, 1931, the Japanese military set up the Mukden incident, a staged explosion that the Japanese used as a pretext for invasion of China under the guise of restoring order. Chiang Kai-Shek saw his current military as too weak to put up effective resistance and wanted to preserve his forces for conflicts with the Communists. Therefore, the Nationalist forces offered little resistance, and the Japanese took Manchuria with relative ease. Soon, the entire area of Manchuria would be renamed by Japan as “Manchukuo,” a nominally independent but a de facto colony of Japan.
The Second Sino-Japanese War
Japanese Occupation of China in 1940
After the 1931 defeat in Manchuria, for six years, the tensions between China and Japan continued but with no major conflict. After the United Front formed between the Nationalist and the Communist Party, the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) soon started, which would be the start of Japan's official invasion of China. The Nationalist and Communist forces were no match for the Japanese forces, and soon the expanding Japanese empire gained control of many of China's industrial centers and most populous cities. As 1938 began, Japan had expanded their control of China from Manchuria in the north to Wuhan, Nanjing, Xuzhou, Shanghai, and vast areas of the middle and coastal areas of China. In 1939, the Japanese advance slowed and the Sino-Japanese War became part of World War II. The remains of Free China meanwhile found support from the Allies, gaining the support of Britain, France, and later the United States in resisting Japan.
Why did Japan decide to invade the Pacific?
In 1939, the Japanese advance slowed and the Sino-Japanese War became part of World War II. The remains of Free China meanwhile found support from the Allies, gaining the support of Britain, France, and later the United States in resisting Japan. The Japanese hoped to inflict a decisive defeat on the Nationalist forces and bring the nation to terms but it could not completely wipe out the resistance. Stuck in a stalemate on the Chinese mainland, Japan turned its attention towards the seas. Japan focused on port cities and consolidated their gains in the south of China, including Canton, Xiamen, Shanghai, and Nanjing. Japan then set sights towards the rest of the Pacific. The Philippines, Malaya, and even Australia were now under threat. Singapore too, would soon find itself under attack from the Japanese onslaught.
Fall of Singapore: The Undefeatable British Fortress Conquered
The fall of Singapore is the greatest defeat of the British empire in the Pacific. On February 15, 1942, the British surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army and handed over Singapore and surrounding Malaya countries. The conflict began on December 8, 1941 when Japanese forces bombed Singapore and continued to make their way through the treacherous Malayan jungle. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stated during the attack, “the worst disaster and the largest capitulation in British history”. Singaporeans were immediately ordered to come in for questioning after the Imperial Japanese Army took over. During the interview, their homes were looted and destroyed by the Kempeitai, the secret Japanese police. During the occupation, there were many tragedies. An example is the Sook Ching Massacre. Sook Ching Massacre, literally meaning “purge through cleansing”, began on February 21, 1942. The mass murder of Singapore residents ages 18 to 50, was targeted at eradicating anti-Japanese sentiments. Victims of the massacre were either Chinese, suspected of being pro-Chinese, anti-Japanese, or Communist. Men and women were questioned and if found guilty, they were taken to one of Singapore’s beaches and murdered. The death toll shows less than 5,000 according to the official Japanese record, while Singaporean officials claim the number of victims was at least 50,000.