In several accounts, it is claimed that conditions of men being recruited by the Chinese army were comparable to those in Nazi death camps. Are such accounts hyperbolic or largely accurate?

Thunder out of China by White and Jacoby (1947):

The week that the stories of Belsen and Buchenwald broke in Europe coincided with the height of the conscription drive in China; the doctors who dealt with the recruit camp about Chengtu refused to be excited about German horrors, for descriptions of the Nazi camps, they said, read almost exactly like the recruit centres in which they were working. Near Chengtu one camp had received some 40,000 men for induction. Many had already died on the way; only 8000 were still alive at the camp at the end of the drive. One batch of 1000 inductees was reported to have lost 800 recruits through the negligence of its officers.

China's Bloody Century by Rummel (1991):

Then there was the process of conscription. This was a deadly affair in which men were kidnapped for the army, rounded up indiscriminately by press-gangs or army units among those on the roads or in the towns and villages, or otherwise gathered together. Many men, some the very young and old, were killed resisting or trying to escape. Once collected, they would be roped or chained together and marched, with little food or water, long distances to camp. They often died or were killed along the way, sometimes less than 50 percent reaching camp alive. Then recruit camp was no better, with hospitals resembling Nazi concentration camps like Buchenwald. Probably 3,081,000 died during the Sino-Japanese War; likely another 1,131,000 during the Civil War--4,212,000 dead in total. Just during conscription.

China in Disintegration by Sheridan (1975):

Many recruits died before they reached training camp. Many of those who did manage to get to camp were sent to "hospitals," described in Wedemeyer's report as similar to German extermination camps at Buchenwald.

1 Answer 1


There is evidence of this in Jonathan D. Spence's The Search for Modern China, it gives an overview of Chinese history from the 19th Century and he has been awarded the Lionel Gelber Prize for this work, so this is a trustworthy and credible source.

In page 477-478, Spence quotes and confirms Theodore White's accounts:

"The tear-stained faces, smudgy and forlorn in the cold, shamed us," wrote Theodore White, Chinese children are beautiful in health; their hair glows then with the gloss of fine natural oil, and their almond eyes sparkle. But these shrunken scarecrows had pus-filled slits where eyes should be; malnutrition had made their hair dry and brittle; hunger had bloated their bellies; weather had chapped their skins. Their voices had withered into a thin whine that called only for food.

Spence then adds his own information: (he did not cite a source) "These journalists, angry and sickened when reports of such miseries were cut from their dispatches by Guomindang censors, ended up blaming the Chongqing regime for both the human and the military dimensions of the catastrophe."

"Other Americans, including General Stilwell himself, were equally horrified at the campaigns of enforced conscription carried out by the Guomindang armies, and at the sight of ragged, barefooted men being led to the front roped together, already weakened almost to death by beriberi or malnutrition. Random executions of recruiting officers, occasionally ordered by Chiang Kai-shek, did nothing to end the abuses. It was estimated that of 1.67 million Chinese men drafted for active service in 1943, 44 percent deserted or died on the way to join their units. Those draftees who died before seeing combat between 1937 and 1945 numbered 1.4 million, approx- imately 1 in 10 of all men drafted."

Not only that, "Chinese peasants in the former Guomindang-held areas had been killing, robbing, and disarming the Chinese troops retreating from the Ichigo attacks in pent-up rage at the callousness of those same troops a year earlier, when the troops had enforced tax collections in kind even in the midst of terrible famine." Although troops abused their power, tax collections were ordered from officials and GMD members, so they were innocent in this respect.

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