As Japan continued to take over the north of China throughout the 1930s, tensions continued to rise and those tensions were what led to the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937. Japanese troops were eventually pulled out and people didn’t think it was a big of a deal, but what they didn’t know was that they were soon to be writing a new chapter in history called the Second Sino-Japanese War.
From July 7, 1937 to September 2, 1945, the Republic of China and the Empire of Japan fought a bloody battle called the Second Sino-Japanese War. Combatants of the war included: the Republic of China, the Empire of Japan, the United States of America, the Soviet Union, Manchukuo, Mengjiang, the Second United Front, the Nationalist government, the Mongolian People’s Republic, and the Reorganized National Government. The war informally came to an end on September 2, 1945 after the U.S. bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forcing Japanese troops in China a pull out. On April 28, 1952, the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty, or the Treaty of Taipei, was created under the pressure of the U.S, formally marking an end to the war.
After the end of World War I, Canada and Japan established a friendship and Canada began strategically exporting minerals to Japan. As a result, from 1931 to 1941, the Canadian Prime Minister, decided to take a neutral stance regarding Japan’s intrusion in China. However, on December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbour in response to the U.S. giving the Chinese oil and interfering with the war, which resulted in 2,402 fatalities and 1,282 injuries. To prevent Japan from continuing their way down south, not only did Canada provide munition to China, but they also sent troops along with Britain and other parts of the British Empire. Out of the 1,975 men sent, only 30% returned because “many of them were, at that time, deemed unfit for combat because of their lack of training” (Time). Yet, the question is, why would Canada send men who are undertrained to fight in real-life battles? Prior to the Second Sino-Japanese War, the inactivity of Canadian troops had become a political problem in Canada. As a result, according to the then Canadian Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, he mentions that “defense against aggression anywhere [is] defense of any country enjoying freedom today. For Canada to have troops in the Orient, fighting the battle of freedom, marks a new stage in our history” (Time). In order to deter Japanese troops, and become more active political leader outside of Canada, China was able to claim victory.
Continuity and Change
Even if the chances of coming back were very slim, even if the men sent were untrained, even if they were digging into their own grave, Canadian men still went. To this day, soldiers, and families of soldiers gather at the Sai Wan War Cemetery for the Canadian commemorative ceremony, honouring those who had fought in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Jeff Nankivell, a Canadian consul general in Hong Kong and Macau, describes it as “the ultimate sacrifices made by Canadian troops [which] helped to build the unique and strong bond between Canada and Hong Kong” (Time). However, not all of it victories and cheers. For those who were Japanese in Canada, an immigrant or Canadian born, 22000 of them were moved from the BC coast to the interior of the province. There, they were “forcibly relocated to camps […], had their property confiscated, and were seriously threatened with mass deportation to Japan. [Unfortunately,] all of this was done without proof of a single case of espionage or sabotage by a Japanese Canadian” (History of Rights). In short, relations with China improved; however, relations with Japan plunged.
Canada is a free country. We have the right to speak up to the prime minister when a policy or a law doesn’t satisfy our values, we have the right to protest, and we have the right to riot. The Second Sino-Japanese War contributed to Canada’s political and social autonomy because, it was a fight for freedom. When Canadian troops were sent to China, they were sent in order to fight for Chinese self-determination. Although it wasn’t Canada’s own freedom they were fighting for, this still shows that when it comes to autonomy and independence, Canadians are willing to fight– even perhaps through aggression. For example, when Quebec announced to secede from Canada to preserve their French autonomy, Quebecers held numerous referendums to try and gain independence. The war also brought closer ties with China. In 1970, then Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, was the first Western leader to recognize the People’s Republic of China. China is now Canada’s second largest trading partner, and Canada is China’s thirteenth.