The Energetics of Militarized Landscapes: The Ecology of War in Henan, 1938–50

  • Micah S. Muscolino
Part of the Palgrave Studies in World Environmental History book series (PSWEH)


During World War II, or the ‘Anti-Japanese War of Resistance’ (1937–45) as it is known in China, North China’s Henan Province endured a series of war-induced ecological disasters. The first struck in June 1938, when Chinese Nationalist armies under the command of Chiang Kai-shek breached the Yellow River’s dikes in Henan in a desperate attempt to block a Japanese military advance.1 For the next nine years, the Yellow River’s waters spread to the southeast into the Huai River system via its tributaries, inundating vast quantities of land. Perhaps the single most environmentally damaging act of warfare in world history, the strategic interdiction threw long-established water control infrastructure into disarray, leading to floods that persisted until after the conflict had come to an end. Investigations carried out after 1945 estimated that the resulting floods killed over 800,000 and made nearly 4,000,000 people refugees in the provinces of Henan, Anhui, and Jiangsu. In Henan Province alone, wartime flooding killed over 325,000 people and displaced over 1,170,000.2


North China Plain Chinese Communist Party Environmental History Commodity Chain Military System 
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© Micah S. Muscolino 2016

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  • Micah S. Muscolino

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