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I am trying to understand Japanese punitive expeditions in China such as the Three Alls Campaign and retaliation for the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. In each case, the Japanese largely retaliated against Chinese civilians. In order to understand these actions, I need to understand the nature of the Japanese occupation of China better than I do. Specifically, I have come up with three different occupation models, and I need to know which one(s) best describes what the Japanese were actually doing in China.

1) Japan nominally occupied and ruled large chunks of China, but with numerous "leaks." The above provocations and retaliations represented some of these "leaks" and attempts to plug them. The nearest equivalent might be German anti-Soviet partisan actions.

2) Japan's control of China was basically, limited to a few large cities, roads, and railways, but they had the ability to invade or roam the countryside when provoked. Although the punitive actions were brutal, they did not lead to a meaningful expansion of Japanese control of China over time, and were more "destructive" than "constructive" (conquering) actions.

3) The Japanese were engaged in a "creeping" takeover of China. The above provocations merely reprioritized conquests that the Japanese had planned to undertake anyway, perhaps somewhat later. Unlike the previous case, Japanese "raids" succeeded in not only taking, but holding large territories formerly under Chinese control.

What (if any) military reasons caused the Japanese to undertake punitive expeditions in China, and which of the above occupation models (or others I may have overlooked) best describes the context in which they occurred?

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    Note sure there is a huge difference between the three. – T.E.D. Sep 14 '17 at 18:44
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    Not quite sure what perspective you're asking from. Is it tactics or strategy? The China campaign started in 1931, so this is in the final stages, hence a bit difficult to breakout the strands and figure out how to answer this. – J Asia Sep 14 '17 at 19:08
  • @JAsia: added "later stages", meaning, say, 1941-1943 (before the 1944 offensive). And World War II excludes early action in say, Manchuria. – Tom Au Sep 14 '17 at 19:18
  • @TomAu - Any particular operation/battle event (and onwards)? – J Asia Sep 14 '17 at 19:23
  • Why not a bit of all three? I have to agree with other commenters, not sure what exactly you're trying to ask here. – congusbongus Sep 15 '17 at 0:55
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These 2 points should help clarify that it was your #3, a "creeping takeover": The Marco Polo Bridge Incident and China's appeal to the League of Nations in 1938 (pdf) - page 17 onwards. In any case, there was this question -- which is quite close to your current question.

I believe this topic, unfortunately, could be inflammatory for some (as these incidents are of fairly recent past). So, I would leave it at that.

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