B the time of the German inasion of Poland in September 1939. the Sino-Japanese War had become a stalemate. Although the Nationalist armies had been depleted in the first months of the war, thejapanese were unable to force Chiang Kai-shek and his lieutenants to surrender. Ensconced in their southwest retreat, the Chinese Nationalists stubbornly resisted all Japanese offers of appeasement and negotiation, and it seemed that neither diplomacy nor warfare could settle the China Incident.
With the advent of war in Europe, the situation worsened for Chiang Kai-shek. What little aid had been forthcoming from the Soviet Union ceased while the British and French, fearful of Japanese retaliation against their colonial empires in Asia, went out of their way to a oid provoking a. conflict. Translated into specific terms, both colonial powers agreed, under threat of force, to close the lifelines from Free China to the outside world, namely the Haiphong-Yunnan railroad and the Burma Road. Although the British later re-opened the Burma Road, the situation after •939 more critical for the Chinese than it
Had been in the two preceding years. Were it not for belated assistance from the United States in 1941, the Chinese Nationalist regime might have succumbed to Japan; e en this aid was of a marginal nature, limited to surplus weaponry’ and equipment and tacit American support from Claire Chennault’s Flying 'Figers, a unit of American olunieer airmen and mechanics.
Fhe Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed the nature of the war in China. For the first time in four years, China had allies. Within days after the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, Malaya, and the Philippines, the Allied powers, of which China w;is now one, established the China-Burma-India theater of war and designated Chiang Kai-shek as supreme commander of the war effort in China, Optimism replaced pessimism in Chungking as ihc‘ (Chinese Nationalists looked forward to taking revenge.