Why were Chinese so hard to kill?

On a recent visit to the Death (Burma) Railway Museum in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, I noted a puzzling statistic. One of the museums exhibits has an analysis of death rates by nationality/ethnic background, and the death rate for Chinese is far lower (at about 10%) than any other given apart from the Japanese and Koreans, who of course were mostly dishing out the punishment rather than taking it.

One possible explanation would be that they are in fact referring to Taiwanese, who would be on the same side as the Japanese and therefore have better conditions. The Chinese Soldiers Memorial at the Kwai Bridge seems to support this possibility, since it mentions both Taiwanese and (Kuomintang) Chinese without acknowledging that they would (I assume) be on different sides, but IIRC the Chinese working on the railway were described in the museum as conscripted civilian labour from Singapore, so confusion between Taiwanese and Chinese soldiers that doesn’t seem to explain the relatively high survival rate.

Japanese in WWII were not noted for lenient treatment of Chinese civilians, and the conditions, and death rates, among the Asian labour force were generally even worse than that of the allied POWs.

I’ve done some Googling but the web material I’ve seen concentrates on the allied POW’s.

Any suggestions or speculations?

I’m not sure those figures are accurate. The Japanese had passed a law that said Chinese were exempt from any war treaties like the Geneva Convention and were estimated to have murdered up to 10,000,000. Only a handful of Chinese were ever released from POW camps, less than a hundred. Read Sterling Seagraves, he has plenty on it. His father was Gordon Seagraves the very famous military doctor in Burma.

Well, as I said, I found them puzzling, but that museum seems to be pretty sound in general.

Since (as I understand it) the bulk of the people involved were civilians, I’m not sure the Geneva Convention, (even if the Japanese had ratified it), or POW camps, are directly relevant.

And 10 BILLION murdered? (10X10 to the 9). Since I think that’s approximately 10 times the current population of China, I’m not sure those figures are accurate either. :slight_smile:

Edit: DAMN! I just used billion in the US (i.e. WRONG) sense of the word. I’ve obviously been away too long. I’ll be forgetting how to spell aluminium next and trying to fill my petrol tank with gas…etc, etc.

10 million sorry. The Japanese didn’t recognize Chinese as POWs, in general, they simply took them as forced labour.

Well, I’m not sure that Japanese “recognition” of POW status would confer much protection, and the Western allied POW’s on the railway (mostly Dutch, British, Australian and American) certainly experienced forced labour. I think their better survival rates, compared to the Asian civilian labour force on the railway probably had more to do with unit cohesion etc. rather than better treatment by the Japanese.

As I understood it from the museum exhibit, the Chinese on the railway were in fact mostly civilians from Singapore. If this is true Japanese recognition or otherwise of Chinese combatants as POW’s is irrelevant (though I think its largely irrelevant anyway), and the reported lower mortality of the Chinese even more puzzling.

Come to think of it there was mention of a Schindler-like merchant (I think Chinese) who arranged clandestine supplies to the allied prisoners, which MIGHT have something to do with it

The Thais can’t help thinking the Chinese must have got a better deal?

Not sure but I don’t think Thais formed a significant labour force on the railway. Thailand had a treaty of co-operation with Japan and, though the Japanese no doubt violated its terms when it suited them, it would probably have been politic to conscript others, like Malays and Indians. They controlled a pretty large Asian territory, hence labour force, at this point.