For the Chinese, World War II didn't begin in 1939 or 1941, it began years before that, in 1931 when Japan annexed Manchuria and installed a puppet emperor. Anti-Japanese sentiment has been brewing since the May Fourth Movement, and with this move Japan demonstrated that war in Asia was inevitable. The League of Nations was helpless and didn't do a thing.

Further incidents in Shanghai stressed tensions. On 12 December 1937, Japanese aircraft attacked and sank the American river gunboat USS Panay. The incident was suppressed in America by the isolationist movement. A minor clash outside Beijing in 1937 triggered a full scale invasion by the Japanese, who flooded the Chinese Eastern border and via Korea and Taiwan, which they had already annexed years before. The Kuomintang, led by Chiang Kai-shek, put up token resistance, saving his best troops against the Communists, who ended up being the only effective force fighting against the Japanese.

Around half of China fell under Japanese control as the war dragged on, but the mountainous areas of central and Northern China defeated the best of Japanese efforts. The Kuomintang did not do a thing, despite American intervention and assistence. Tibet, then a dictatorship ruled by a buddhist theocracy, refused to help China. When the war ended in 1945, China was given Taiwan and Manchuria for its efforts. Four years later, they lost Taiwan to the Kuomintang, the same people who had all but helped the Japanese conquer China by attacking the resistance forces.

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