Fuelling a War Machine: Canadian Foreign Policy in the Sino-Japanese War, 1937-1945
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The subject of Canada’s policy-making in relation to the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) has been neglected for over half a century. Therefore neither the scope of Canada’s official assistance to the Chinese during their War of Resistance against Japan nor the motivations behind this assistance have been fully explained or adequately contextualized. Through research using archival records and other primary and secondary sources, the thesis sheds light on the ways in which Canadians chose to respond to Chinese efforts to secure an ally against Japan. Revealing unscrupulous opportunism on the Canadian side during China’s struggle against Japan, the thesis contributes to a revisionist trend which takes aim at romantic mythology about Canadians’ virtuous role in the Second World War. From 1931 to 1941, the Government of Canada sought to maintain a neutral position regarding Japanese encroachments in China. This was partly to honour a friendship established in the First World War but also to protect Canadian exporters’ valuable sales of strategic minerals to Japan. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, pro-Japanese sympathy among Canadians eroded and trade with Japan became politically untenable. In 1942, already five years after the beginning of full-scale war between Japan and China, the Canadian government began preparations to provide material assistance to the beleaguered Chinese. Increasing dialogue between Mackenzie King and Chiang Kai-shek, especially communications through Chiang’s wife Song Meiling, nurtured a promising friendship despite King’s unwillingness to commit “the lives of white men” to war in China and apparently ensured that several shipments of arms and munitions were provided to Chiang’s armies. As the research reveals, the assistance was motivated by hopes of cultivating “goodwill” in China that would favour Canadian businesses after the war. However, the official decision to assist China against Japan sparked a new controversy. Doubts about China’s postwar political stability gave rise to questions about the danger that Canadian munitions would be used in an imminent Chinese civil war. Such warnings, as it turned out, were merited. A bloody conflict between the Communists and Nationalists would erupt in China shortly after the end of the Second World War, in part waged with Canadian weapons.