top of page


World War One


Commencing in late 1916, China initiated a significant effort to dispatch a substantial workforce to aid the Allied forces of Britain, France, and Russia during World War I. These dedicated labourers undertook vital roles, such as tank repair, munitions assembly, supply transportation, and the physical transformation of the war's battlegrounds. Their contributions extended to the construction of trenches, which proved instrumental in protecting the Allied soldiers and bolstering the Allied forces against the Axis powers.

The Chinese labourers also provided critical support in the supply chain of WWI, their contributions included transporting supplies like food, ammunition, and medical equipment, loading and unloading cargo, maintaining transportation infrastructure, managing logistics, and assisting with medical services. Chinese labourers' tireless dedication and efficient work were instrumental in sustaining the Allied war effort by ensuring that troops received the necessary provisions, contributing significantly to the overall success of the Allied forces in the conflict.

By the conclusion of WWI, Chinese labourers had emerged as the largest and most enduring non-European contingent in World War I. France enlisted the assistance of 37,000 Chinese workers, while the United Kingdom welcomed a staggering 94,500 individuals. The endeavours of these overseas workers resulted in an estimated total compensation of $2.2 billion, as reported by the South China Morning Post. Eventually, the United Kingdom had also provided monetary compensation to those who were wounded in the line of duty.

More media and newspapers from 1900s:

World War Two


During World War Two, the Chinese military’s primary focus was their resistance against Japanese invasion and occupation. The conflict predated the outbreak of World War Two, and continued throughout the duration of the war.  Despite this, China provided diplomatic and material support to the Allied powers, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, and aligned itself with the global anti-Axis effort. There had been various notable Chinese generals who had worked with the United Kingdom and Europe against the Axis powers.

Li-Jen Sun
Sun Li-jen, a member of the VMI Class of 1927, has been described as the “Rommel of the East” for his leadership and strategy on the battlefield. He served with the rank of general in the Chinese Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War II. In the latter conflict, he has been credited with reclaiming Burma from the Japanese.  For his leadership in the China-Burma-India Theater, Sun was knighted Commander of the Order of the British Empire by King George VI and awarded the Legion of Merit by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Tingxin Huang
Huang had been an officer aboard the British aircraft carrier HMA Searcher during the invasion of southern France known as Operation Dragoon. The August landings near the city of Toulon were a follow-up to the June 6 D-Day invasion of Normandy. A graduate of the Qingdao Naval Academy in eastern China, Huang was one of 24 Chinese officers sent to study in Britain in 1942 and who later served with the Allies. After studying at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich, Huang was assigned to the Searcher, a US-built assault carrier that deployed up to 25 fighter planes. In 2006 Huang received the French Légion d'honneur in recognition of his wartime service, an accolade accorded to fewer than 200 of his countrymen. He dedicated his medal to his former comrades.

World War Two


Chinese involvement in World War II was extensive and multifaceted, marked by both military resistance against Japanese aggression and diplomatic efforts to secure Allied support.


Japanese Invasion:

The Second Sino-Japanese War erupted in 1937 with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, when Japanese forces clashed with Chinese troops near Beijing. This conflict escalated into a full-scale invasion of China by Japan, driven by imperialist ambitions to expand its territory and influence in East Asia. The Japanese army swiftly advanced into Chinese territory, capturing major cities and engaging in brutal tactics against both military and civilian populations.



Chinese Resistance:

Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, Chinese forces, waged a tenacious resistance against the Japanese invaders. Chinese troops employed guerrilla tactics, engaging in hit-and-run attacks, ambushes, and sabotage operations to disrupt Japanese supply lines and communication networks. The Chinese people also contributed to the resistance effort through acts of defiance, sabotage, and underground resistance movements.



Allied Support:

China sought assistance from Western Allies, particularly the United States, in its struggle against Japanese aggression. The United States responded by providing military aid and financial support through programs such as the lend-lease program. This aid included weaponry, ammunition, vehicles, and other essential supplies that bolstered Chinese resistance capabilities against the better-equipped Japanese forces.



Burma Campaign:

Chinese troops, alongside Allied forces from Britain, India, and other Commonwealth nations, participated in the Burma Campaign, a series of military operations aimed at retaking Burma (now Myanmar) from Japanese control. The strategic objective was to reopen the Burma Road, a vital supply route that connected China with the Allies, allowing for the transportation of supplies and reinforcements to support Chinese resistance efforts against Japan.



Flying Tigers:

The American Volunteer Group (AVG), known colloquially as the Flying Tigers, was a group of American volunteer pilots recruited by the United States to aid China in its fight against Japanese air forces. Operating in the China-Burma-India theater, the Flying Tigers played a crucial role in defending Chinese airspace, conducting aerial combat missions, and providing air support to Chinese ground forces. Led by General Claire Lee Chennault, the Flying Tigers achieved notable successes against Japanese aircraft, boosting Chinese morale and resilience.



War Crimes and Atrocities:

The Japanese occupation of China during World War II was marked by a series of horrific war crimes and atrocities perpetrated against the Chinese civilian population. These atrocities were part of a systematic campaign of terror and brutality aimed at intimidating and subjugating the Chinese people.

One of the most infamous events was the Nanjing Massacre, which took place after the fall of Nanjing (then known as Nanking) to Japanese forces in December 1937. During this six-week period, Japanese troops engaged in widespread rape, murder, torture, and looting on an unprecedented scale. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and disarmed soldiers were killed, and tens of thousands of women were raped.

In addition to the Nanjing Massacre, Japanese forces committed numerous other atrocities throughout China, including the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas, the use of chemical weapons, forced labor, and the establishment of "comfort stations" where women, often coerced or forcibly taken from their homes, were sexually enslaved to serve Japanese soldiers.

One particularly egregious example of Japanese war crimes was the Biological Warfare Unit 731. Located in the Pingfang district of Harbin, China, Unit 731 was a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Imperial Japanese Army. Led by General Shiro Ishii, Unit 731 conducted inhumane experiments on human subjects, including prisoners of war and civilians, to develop biological weapons and study the effects of diseases such as anthrax, plague, and cholera.

Prisoners were subjected to vivisection without anesthesia, infectious diseases were deliberately injected into victims, and other gruesome experiments were conducted to observe the progression of diseases and test the efficacy of various biological agents. The atrocities committed by Unit 731 resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people and left a legacy of suffering and trauma that continues to haunt survivors and their descendants to this day.

Despite the overwhelming evidence of Japanese war crimes in China, many perpetrators escaped justice after the war due to various factors, including geopolitical considerations and the prioritization of post-war reconstruction efforts. However, the memory of these atrocities remains a crucial part of China's historical consciousness and serves as a reminder of the importance of promoting peace, justice, and reconciliation in the aftermath of conflict.




End of the War:

China's contribution to the Allied victory in World War II was significant, though often overlooked in Western narratives dominated by events in Europe and the Pacific. The war in the Pacific theater came to an end with Japan's surrender in 1945 following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Soviet invasion of Manchuria. China's sacrifices and contributions during the war played a crucial role in shaping the outcome of the conflict in the Asia-Pacific region and laid the foundation for its emergence as a major global power in the post-war era.

bottom of page