Date of Award

2022

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

History

First Advisor

Arthur Waldron

Abstract

This dissertation examines the Chinese Nationalist government’s military grain procurement and transportation policies during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). It examines both the bureaucratic agencies mandated to manage grain, and the mobilization programs which delivered provisions to more than 5 million soldiers. The acquisition of grain decisively shaped both Chinese and Japanese strategies for waging protracted war. This became starkly clear between late 1938 and early 1944, when grain acquisition replaced battlefield engagements as the crux of Nationalist, Communist and Japanese survival. Particularly after 1941, all three fighting forces were locked in a drawn-out competition for a dwindling pool of sustenance. Committed to self-sufficiency, all had to live off the same ravaged land. The war was therefore as much a struggle for food security as it was a contest of conscription or firepower. In response, the Nationalists resorted to the systemized extraction of labor beyond military conscription at the most localized levels of society. The civilians carrying out the various stages of grain provisioning were just as vital as combatants–for the armies relied on multiple interlinked networks of civilian effort for their daily sustenance. The militarization of food, the humblest of material concerns, drew whole communities into the fold of conflict. The central government’s food provisioning program put on display a remarkable capacity for organizing resources throughout Free China. Yet, it also revealed a readiness to thrust civilian lives and livelihoods on the line. Effective administration did not guarantee citizen welfare; in fact, the Nationalists’ victory hinged on imposed civilian sacrifice. The Chinese experience is vital to the historiography on food supply in World War II. Its defining contingencies–protracted foreign occupation, geographical expanse, and agrarian economy–resulted in direct, sustained civilian participation in military provisioning processes of remarkable depth and scale. The dissertation also presents logistics as the methodological bridge between social and military history. A focus on food supply demonstrates that studies of strategy and everyday experience are inextricably intertwined.

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