In the end I got The Story of China: A Portrait of a Civilisation and Its People by Michael Wood with this month's Audible credit. I think it was perhaps inspired by reading in the Harry Truman biography about the Marshall Mission. I had no idea that the Communist Party of China and the Nationalists (Kuomintang) both fought the Japanese rather than each other during WW2 which suggests there is much more about China that is hidden from me.
On the road yesterday I came across the tail end of an episode of Chinese Characters on Radio 4. It is a series of essays, presented by Rana Mitter (Oxford Professor of the History and Politics of Modern China) exploring Chinese history through the life stories of key personalities.
Maybe Mitter's China’s Good War: How World War II Is Shaping a New Nationalism would have been a better Audible choice for me?