The standard historical view of the Sino-Japanese War has been most clearly set by the works of scholars like the late Lloyd Eastman; journalists Theodore White, Graham Peck, and Jack Belden; and U.S. State Department foreign service diplomats. Basically, they saw the Guomindang as a corrupt regime headed by a bumbling autocrat, who commanded a military incapable of fostering a modern nation-state or relieving the plight of its own citizens, and was engaged instead in policies that only exacerbated Chinese miseries. Recent scholarship has tended to try to resuscitate the record of Jiang Jieshi and to find “positive” developments of state-building during the war years. Yet, these two books rip us with a vengeance back to the stark reality that the Sino-Japanese War was about “human suffering” and that the regime in Chongqing was basically impotent in alleviating or, in any way, transforming the evolving human tragedy.

In her down-to-earth,...

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