“Purpose of this Blog
“Purpose of this Blog
Japan didn’t take a severe ruling
Manzhouguo: The True Story of a Short-lived, Ideal State in Manchuria
By Huang Wenxiong
PROFILE: HUANG WENXIONG
1938 Born in Gangshan, Taiwan.
1964 Arrives in Japan
1969 Graduates from Department of Commerce, Waseda University.
1971 Receives Master’s Degree in Economics from Department of Political
Economics, Research Division, European Economics History Program, of Meiji University Graduate School
As a philosopher in Taiwan, I began developing the study of “culture-ism” in Japan in 1964. My published writings, with their rapier-like acuity and dynamic sense of historical perspective, have flourished in both Japan and Taiwan. I have also conducted a number of lecture tours in the United States of America and Europe.
My writing first gained acclaim through a series of articles directed towards Chinese residents of America, which appeared in the Chinese-language newspaper.
Taiwan Journal of Public Opinion, published in the U.S., over two years. The articles were later published underground in Taiwan under the title The Fall of China.
Because the right of free speech was then restricted heavily by the authorities in Taiwan, this work acquired “must-read” status among anti-establishment groups in Taiwan. It was also widely read by ordinary citizens, who gained much courage from its words.
In 1989, martial law was lifted, and the first election for a unicameral legislature was held. Two years later, another of my writings, Taiwan: The Necessary Conditions For a Nation, was published by the Zen-Ei Press. A tremendous furor arose when the head of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party dared to question the prime minister about questions raised in that work. The after-effects were felt even in Beijing, where Chinese authorities referred to this as “criticism of Huang Wenxiong’s small nation ideal.” My works have had widespread influence throughout East Asia;every new publication is eagerly anticipated by the people of Taiwan, Hong Kong and China, so much so that unauthorized copies abound.
In 1993, I received both the Wu Yung Fu Award for Literary Criticism and the Taiwan Pen Club Prize for A Perspective on Taiwanese Values, published by Zen-Ei Press.
My first publication in Japan and one of my best-selling books (70,000 copies sold) was Introduction to Conspiracy-ism, issued in 1975 by Diamond Press. In 1989,Never Again Will Flowers Bloom In China appeared (Hamano Publishing), and sold over 80,000 copies. Seven more of my books followed them onto the weekly best-selling charts.
I believe my works have changed the way in which the Japanese view China. Later works (all published by Kobunsha) include And Only Japan Will Prosper, The Disgraceful Chinese (1994), Menacing China, Duped Japan (1995), The Distorted Japanese General Government of Korea (1998), and The Korean Anti-Japanese Stance and the Taiwanese Pro-Japanese Stance (1999). All of them are critical of the policy of domination pursued to this day by China, and describe Taiwan’s appreciation to the Japanese for helping Taiwan to modernize. I will continue giving lectures on Japanese culture and civilization, which I hope will erase the masochistic perception of history that has plagued post-World War II Japan.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter One: The Truth about Manchuria
1. Chinese criticism of Manzhouguo based on falsehoods
2. Characterization of Manzhouguo as an illegitimate state distorts history
3. Communist Chinese government lives off Manzhouguo legacy
4. China’s ambition: the resurrection of the Chinese empire
5. Dispute over inheritance of Qing empire triggers the Greater East Asian War
6. Potential of a united Asian state
7. Japan’s regret at not having forged a 100-year national strategy
Chapter Two: The Chinese and the Manchus: Two Millennia of Conflict
1. Chinese accounts of Chinese history marked by arrogance
2. Limits of the Great Wall’s effectiveness
3. Manchuria’s unique history: the rise and fall of empires
4. Koguryo and Bohai built by antecedents of the Manchurians
5. Conquering dynasties that ruled China
6. The Manchurian Qing dynasty: halcyon days for the Chinese
7. Manchuria was never Chinese territory
Chapter Three: Manchuria Devastated Under the Rule of Bandits and Warlords
1. Land of unions and divisions
2. Manchuria devastated by policy keeping the Han out
3. Huge waves of emigrants and refugees in the last days of the Qing dynasty
4. Failure of the million-household 20-year plan for Japanese emigration to Manchuria
5. Bandits and warlords controlled Manchuria
6. Former bandit rules Manchuria
7. Zhang’s son self-destructs
8. Manchurian people bled dry
Chapter Four: Behind the Manchurian-Mongolian Independence Movement
1. Russia spends a fortune acquiring rulerless Manchuria
2. Behind the Russo-Japanese War: secret Sino-Russian agreement
3. Sun Yat-sen offers to sell Manchuria
4. The Mukden Incident cannot be fully explained by the “conspiracy theory” alone
5. Manchu-Mongol independence and harmonious coexistence among five ethnic groups
Chapter Five: A Harmonious Multi-ethnic State Is Born in a Land Devastated by Civil Wars
1. Ideas and ideals of Manzhouguo
2. Why the difference between Manzhouguo and Yungui Plateau?
3. So many blueprints for a new nation
4. Baojin anmin: the idea of Manchurian autonomy
5. Grassroots support for establishment of Manzhouguo
6. To call Manzhouguo a puppet state is to ignore history and reality
7. The making of a state begins with educating the people
8. Outrageous fabrication citing of 420,00 forced immigrants
Chapter Six: But for the Manchuria Railway and Guandong Army, Manchuria Would Have Remained Wasteland
1. Acquisition of Siberia, Manchuria, and Mongolia Russia’s long-cherished desire
2. Secret pact concluded between Japan and Russia to divide and control Manchuria
3. Japanese Guamdong army: an independent combat group viewing the Soviet Union as a potential enemy
4. Deadlock caused by rejecting a partnership proposal on Manchuria Railway management
5. Manchuria Railway and Manzhouguo make remarkable advances in logistics
6. Manchuria Railway the greatest contributor to the modernization of Manchuria
Chapter Seven: Miraculous Leap to a Modern Nationhood
1. Recognition of Manzhouguo and international relations
2. From exploitation of the people to land development
3. Construction of the world largest dams and electric power development
4. Aspiring to become a hub of the Greater East Asian heavy industry
5. Basis of public stability: unification of currency and establishment of financial system
Chapter Eight: A United Asian State Ceases to Exist after only 13 1/2 Years
1. Lytton Report corners Manzhouguo
2. Japan’s withdraws from League of Nations
3. Manzhouguo affected by the fortunes of the Greater East Asian War
4. Guomingdang and communists struggle over Manchuria
5. Manzhouguo achievements a modern Asian miracle
Chapter One: The Truth about Manchuria
1. Chinese criticism of Manzhouguo based on falsehoods
Three-all tactics are products of the Chinese culture
Certain types of descriptions are peculiar to the chronicling of modern Chinese history. When the Chinese write history, they fill pages with rhetoric called baguwen (literally, eight-part essays, after the style candidates taking imperial examinations during the Ming and Qing dynasties were required to use). The facts are not important.
The dissection of Chinese historiography reveals, inevitably and unsurprisingly, a collection of compositions filled with complex, abstruse ideographs. As one would expect, this is creative writing ? no effort is made to recount or substantiate the events of modern history.
The most convincing proof of the inaccuracy of Chinese historical accounts is to be found in accounts of the Mukden Incident (1931-32) and the Sino-Japanese Incident (or Sino-Japanese War, 1937-45).
For example, the Chinese describe Japanese policy in Manzhouguo as the “three ?all policy.” A military term, “three-all” refers to directives to kill all, plunder all and burn all. In an economic context, it means “search all, exploit all and steal all.”
However, the expression “three-all” does not exist in the Japanese language. Furthermore, the concept it denotes is alien to Japanese culture. “Three-all” can be traced back to Guomindang and Communist Party propaganda, used by each to vilify the other for its brutality.
But “progressive” historians in Japan enthusiastically embraced the “three-all” characterization. Moreover, to discredit militarism from a pacifist standpoint, they adopted what can only be termed a morbid stance, asserting that the Japanese Army perpetrated three-all tactics, without even taking the trouble to verify the events in question.
In the annals of modern Chinese history, terms like “Japanese militarism” and “Japanese imperialism” appear countless times. Without Japan, the archvillain, it seems impossible to describe those periods of history. Accusations against the Japanese seem endless: Chinese parents, brothers and sisters were brutally murdered by the Japanese Army. Wives, daughters and sisters were raped. Women were abducted and forced to serve as sex slaves, houses were burned and land was laid waste. Every single day, Chinese were burned to death or buried alive, died in prison, froze or starved to death. And of course, Japanese military personnel committed all these horrific deeds.
Even today, freedom of speech is strictly limited in China. There are certain perceptions of modern history that have been mandated by the Chinese Communist Party. One of them, which emphasizes Japan’s invasion of China, is conveyed as though it were historical fact.
When we read too many of these accounts written by Chinese historians, with their perverted and twisted versions of historical events, we lose sight of the actual facts. It is my impression that some educated and cultured Japanese read Chinese history books and, completely unaware of the background, believe their distorted contents. Therefore, I will restate my point: Chinese history books, especially those dealing with Manzhouguo, should be construed as baguwen ? exercises in rhetoric that are rife with lies.
Americans viewed Manzhouguo as the only stable region in China
Manzhouguo was indeed a short-lived nation whose history spanned only 13? years. But Deputy Manager Kishi Nobusuke of the Business Division of the Management and Coordination Agency of Manzhouguo (and later prime minister of Japan) observed a nation aglow with the ideal of peaceful co-existence in a utopian kingdom strongly supported by both the Japanese and Manchurian peoples. He noted, additionally, that the Indian religious leader Mahatma Gandhi also sent his support and encouragement to the new nation. Furuumi Tadayuki, who served as deputy director of the same agency, contributed a chapter entitled “Manzhouguo and Japan” to Manshu kenkoku no yume to genjitsu (The founding of Manzhouguo: the dream and the reality).i According to Furuumi, the main task of the Guandong Army was to provide defense against the Soviet Union. The army did not have the means to manipulate Manzhouguo politically or administratively, nor did it ever attempt to do so. And as far as “guidance from within” Guandong Army Headquarters was concerned, Furuumi reported that the army did not oppress or interfere with the government in any way.
Manzhouguo was a multicultural sphere inhabited by many peoples. Recently, a new interpretation has been proposed, one with a focus on Manzhouguo’s multicultural, multinational society. If we subscribe to the traditional bipolar interpretation, which pits the Japanese against the Chinese, we are quite likely to overlook Manzhouguo’s diversity ? a very important aspect of Manchurian society.
Furuumi did admit that, owing to the prolonged Sino-Japanese War and the outbreak of the Greater East Asian War, Japan was in urgent need of wartime goods, such as food and military supplies. However, he added that at the same time, the Japanese government respected Manzhouguo’s independence, and willingly assisted the new nation as much as possible. It was particularly generous with aid in connection with the Northern Manchurian Railroad and efforts to abolish extraterritoriality. The Japanese government also helped with the institution of a yen-yuan par system to maintain the value of Manchurian currency, and with the issuance of Manchurian national bonds. The five-year plan for Manzhouguo’s industrial development would not have been successful without Japanese aid in the form of funds, materiel, personnel and other resources.ii
Furuumi’s recollections coincide closely with historical fact. The relationship between Japan and Manzhouguo was that of two nations sharing the same destiny; Japan and Manzhouguo were indivisible. To cast aspersions on that relationship by calling it a “puppet state” is tantamount to calling South Korea and North Korea puppet states of the United States, the Soviet Union and China.
In the fall of 1928, Thomas Lamont, CEO of American banking house J.P. Morgan, visited Manchuria. He subsequently wrote a letter to Undersecretary of State Robert Olds, in which he commented that the Japanese presence would benefit not only Japanese nationals who settled there, but also the Chinese people. Lamont was aware that Manchuria was practically the only stable region in all of China, and that thanks to the Japanese, Manchuria had been rid of elements of unrest and was expected to become a stable power.
Lamont added that the unstable wartime situation affected the entire vast nation of China. As a result, Chinese were flooding into southern Manchuria by the thousands, seeking respite from the thievery and devastation wrought by bandits, who were a threat everywhere in China.
In Manshukoku shi: soron (Overview of the history of Manzhouguo), Hayashi Fusao wrote, “At that time, Manzhouguo represented hope for East Asia.”iii He believed that Manzhouguo would live on as a symbol of progress in world history. Hayashi was convinced that those who worked so hard to establish Manzhouguo were the pride of the Japanese people, and that their founding ideals would shine even brighter with the advancement of history, and endure throughout the centuries to come.
2. Characterization of Manzhouguo as an illegitimate state distorts history
Japan remodels poverty-stricken, disorderly Manchurian society
Since the dawn of history, the Tungus and Mongols had inhabited Manchuria (for details, see Chapters Two and Three).iv Those northern nomadic tribes prospered there, building states and nations, which rose and fell just like their counterparts in other regions.
The role of the Great Wall of China, which separated North and East Asia, as a watershed in history ended when the Qing dynasty (1616-1912) began. North and East Asia were one continuum for 300 years of the Qing Dynasty, but were not completely unified. During the Qing dynasty, Manchuria was designated forbidden territory. In the middle of the 19th century, Manchuria began to change, little by little.
With Russian influence moving southward after the Opium War (1840-42), the power map of Manchuria began to change significantly. Subsequent conflicts, including the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95), the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901), and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) reconfigured the Manchurian map.
The dramatic transitions that occurred during the Qing dynasty further accelerated change in Manchuria. Since the 18th century, the Chinese world had been quickly collapsing, both physically and socially. A huge influx of Chinese refugees began to change the landscape of Manchuria. The Muslim rebellions (1862-77) resulted in threats from the Great Powers; the Qing authorities were obliged to lift the ban on immigration into Manchuria. Until then, Manchuria was a forbidden land. No Chinese was permitted to set foot on its soil. The prohibition against marriage between Manchurians and Chinese was removed as well, and harmonious relations were promoted.
Yet another sea change occurred in the form of the Xinhai Revolution of 1911. The Qing dynasty was ousted by revolutionaries led by Sun Yat-sen, who spouted slogans like “Expel the occupying Tartars! Reclaim China!” and “Destroy the Qing! Revive China!” After the rebellion, the question of the Qing inheritance surfaced. Should all the land conquered by the Qing in the 17th century be bequeathed to the Republic of China? Or should it be divided among the Manchurians, Mongolians, Uighurs and Tibetans? Once again, the Great Powers intervened.
Thus were three questions: the Manchuria-Mongolia question, the Manchuria-Mongolia-Xinjiang independence question and the current Tibet-Xinjiang independence question, born.
By the end of the Qing dynasty, Manchurians were already losing their ethnic solidarity. After the dynasty collapsed, they had no home to return to, and became a parting gift to Chinese society. At a time when the Great Powers were competing for hegemony, Manchuria was under the influence of Japan in the south and Russia in the north. It became a new haven for refugees, who poured in from China.
At the beginning of the 20th century, after the fall of the Qing dynasty, Manchuria fell under the control of warlords, whose rapacious taxation bled the people dry. The currency system had ceased to function, and the Manchurian economy was in shambles. But the Japanese transformed stagnant Manchurian society, in the depths of poverty, into a modern, capitalist state.
The Japanese method was completely different from the colonial controls or the thievery that the European Great Powers employed in Asia. With idealism and enthusiasm, it enabled backward Manchuria to become a modern nation. Manchurian society actually achieved modernization within the short space of 13? years. This achievement has great significance in the context of world history. That is why I feel strongly that the Japanese should approach the matter of Manzhouguo squarely, and rid themselves of perceptions involving atonement, denunciation or nostalgia.
American expert states that Manzhouguo is not China’s offspring
George Bronson Rea, an American journalist well versed in Chinese affairs, having lived in China for over 30 years, was the author of a book entitled The Case for Manchouguo. In it he wrote:
The majority of states have come into existence by cutting adrift from the Mother State, but even this rule does not apply to China and Manchoukuo. China was never the mother state. Manchoukuo is not the child of China. For three centuries it was the father state, and when the marriage was dissolved by mutual consent under definite divorce agreements, the father was cheated out of and deprived by force from the possession and enjoyment of his property.v Recognition of the father state, therefore, is not incompatible with nor can it be considered as an affront to the divorced mother. Both are sovereign entities entitled by every conception and interpretation of law to separate and independent existence and their incorporation as such in the society of nations.vi
During the Qing dynasty the Chinese people were, at least in principle, subjects of the Manchurians. To use an analogy, Manchuria was the owner of a large store and China was its branch store. This relationship lasted nearly 300 years. But early in the 20th century, the manager of the branch store took control of the main store. Yet we must not assume that the main store will become, part and parcel, the property of the branch store simply because a branch store becomes independent and, eventually, larger than the main store.
Today the Chinese criticize Manzhouguo, referring to it as “illegitimate Manzhouguo” on the grounds that it was a puppet state established through secession from China. They further maintain that Manchuria is part of China and absolutely indivisible therefrom. What if the Indians had made the same claim (i.e., that Great Britain is part of India) after the latter won independence from the former? Moreover, to assert that Mongolia and Tibet are also possessions of China is the same as asserting that South Africa and Australia, having won independence from Great Britain, are also part of India.
The ROC (Republic of China) seceded from its motherland, Qing China, which means that the ROC is independent. In that case, why is it necessary to obtain the ROC’s approval to reestablish Qing China?
Manchuria was wasteland until the end of the 19th century
For comparison purposes, we might find it useful to explore border disputes relating to the Yungui Plateau, which comprises the provinces of Guizhou, Yunnan and Guangxi. Though many Japanese may not be familiar with the Yungui Plateau, it has much in common with Manchuria. First of all, Manchuria and the Yungui Plateau are situated on China’s northeastern and southwestern borders, respectively. Both received a considerable influx of refugees between the 18th and 20th centuries.
However, we notice a stark contrast between the two as far as evolution into a modern society is concerned. How do we explain this difference? To the best of my knowledge, no one has posed this question, which I will address in detail in Chapter Five.
But I would like to mention one important fact: China has traditionally considered the Great Wall to be its northern border. The fortunes of the northern mounted tribes and the southern agricultural tribes have risen and fallen, but the Great Wall has always been a fortress built and maintained by the Chinese. The purpose of the Great Wall was to protect the Chinese from invasions from the north. It remained the traditional border, and the territory north of it was considered foreign territory until the Mongols and Manchus breached the Great Wall and conquered China.
Even after the Qing empire was established by the Manchurians, Manchuria remained off limits not only to the Chinese, but also to Mongols and Koreans. Manchuria, with a land area as large as France and Germany combined, remained utterly desolate until the late 19th century.
Vying for Manchurian territory were Russia, then one of the Great Powers, and Japan, a rising power. Powerful Russia’s southward advance was a serious threat that the Chinese could not counter unaided. The Japanese, emerging from victory in the Russo-Japanese War, invested their blood, sweat and tears into the development of Manchuria to fend off the Russians. They launched modern industries and liberated the Manchurian people from cruel exploitation at the hands of warlords Zhang Zuolin and his son Zhang Xueliang.
Their crowning accomplishment was the creation of a utopia in a world removed from war-weary China. Manchuria was indeed a utopia for the million refugees per year who were fleeing from the horrors of war. This was an unprecedented achievement, one that stands out in modern Chinese history. Manzhouguo resolved, once and for all, the northern issue, which had long been plaguing the Chinese.
3. Communist Chinese government lives off Manzhouguo legacy
Japan unable to abandon civil war-torn China
After the Xinhai Rebellion, the Qing dynasty agreed to mediation from influential Yuan Shikai. Emperor Xuantong Puyi (known popularly as the “last emperor”) signed an abdication agreement with the provisional ROC government in February 1912. The three-part agreement included conditions favorable to the Qing imperial family, the nobility and the Manchurian, Mongolian, Uighur and Tibetan peoples.
Article I of the section stating dealing with the status of the Qing imperial family reads as follows: “His Imperial Highness, the Emperor Qing, shall retain his royal title after abdication. The Republic of China shall treat him with the same reverence and courtesy extended to foreign kings and nobles.” Yet only two years later, in February 1914, the Republican government unilaterally abolished the abdication agreement simply by promulgating a presidential decree. Article I of the decree states: “The Emperor Qing shall be deprived of his royal title henceforth; he shall be entitled to the same rights accorded to all citizens of the Republic of China under law.”
Understandably, Emperor Xuantong objected to the changes. However, his request to the consuls of Japan, Britain and the Netherlands for intercession went unheeded.
Not only did the Republican government abolish the abdication agreement, it also rescinded conditions favorable to the Emperor, as well as to the Manchurian and Mongolian nobility. The government even ransacked the Forbidden City in Beijing, confiscating treasures and other property belonging to the imperial family. The Republican army excavated and robbed the tombs of the imperial Qing ancestors. The stolen treasures were sold, and the proceeds used to finance the civil war.
It was the Japanese who stepped in to protect Emperor Xuantong and establish a nation for the Manchurians. By then, Japan had become one of the Great Powers and, therefore, was morally obligated to intervene in the civil war. It was a humanitarian intervention, similar to American intervention intended to help Kosovo, oppressed by the Yugoslav government, win autonomy. This is a point worth making repeatedly. It was certainly a natural consequence that the autonomous nation of Manchurians be reestablished in Manchuria, away from the war-stricken world.
The concept of a sovereign state is a modern one. Nations had been established at various times throughout Manchurian history, but none of them was a sovereign state. Both Gaojuli (Koguryo) and Bohai were nations; both had intercourse with Tang China, Japan and Korea. The Liao and Jin dynasties were founded in Manchuria, and there were times when the Manchurian people crossed the Great Wall and ruled part of China. Therefore, the establishment of Manzhouguo was not a conspiracy whose objective was to isolate part of China; it was the reestablishment of a nation outside China.
I would like to emphasize, once again, that in the beginning China was a colony of Manchuria. The Manchurians ruled China in the “double empire” style. Politically, the Qing emperor was the paramount power who reigned over diverse ethnic peoples. However, the Qing dynasty had two separate political systems, one governing the Manchurians, the other the Han (ethnic Chinese). The territory of Manchurians who belonged to one of the eight military units called “banners” (to be discussed later) was protected; there was a prohibition against marriage between Manchurians and Han. Manchurians were not permitted to serve as huanguan (eunuchs), while Han women could not serve as court ladies. External treaties were not to be written in the Chinese language. Teaching foreigners to write the Chinese language was prohibited. Han people were prevented from immigrating to Manchuria, Mongolia, Huibu (the present-day Uighur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang, located in the Tarim Basin), Tibet and Taiwan. Chinese colonial policy, more controlling than European or American colonial policy, was rigorously implemented.
Chinese Communists devour the legacy of Manzhouguo
Nearly every Chinese has more or less the same historical recognition, i.e., that after the Opium War, the Great Powers (the nations of Europe, the United States, Japan and Russia) invaded, plundered and exploited China, leaving it miserable and poor.
It is certainly true that the Great Powers were a threat to China. However, it is inaccurate to claim that they did nothing but rob China of its national wealth. If we look at modern history objectively, we realize that they built modern industries in China and taught the Chinese the workings of modern social systems. Historical fact indicates that the Great Powers did actually contribute to the modernization of China.
In Manchuria, the enterprise of building modern industry was amazingly successful. Ironically, it was not until after Manzhouguo’s collapse in 1945 that the extent of the state’s modernization was recognized.
The PRC (People’s Republic of China), having announced its establishment in 1949, began a headlong drive toward building a socialist nation, with economic aid from the Soviet Union. But that task could not have been achieved with Russian assistance alone. The PRC feasted on Manzhouguo’s legacy ? modern industry. At the 7th National Assembly of the Chinese Communist Party held at Yanan in April 1945, Mao Zedong said: “We will be able to accomplish a Chinese socialist revolution as long as we retain the northeastern region, even if we lose all our other bases.” It is a well-known fact that, after having devoured the legacy of Manzhouguo, the communists had no alternative but to shift to new policies of reform and liberation. They attempted to modernize their country, using capital investments and technologies supplied by more advanced economic powers.
In the early 20th century, only a few fortunate segments of Chinese society enjoyed the benefits of modern civilization; most of them inhabited open-port areas, concessions of the Great Powers or property belonging to the Manchurian Railroad. A mere 10 kilometers away from those areas was wilderness, virtually unchanged since the chaos of ancient times. This is the perception of China shared and witnessed by representatives of the Great Powers.
In those days, most Chinese were illiterate and uneducated. Those who robbed and exploited the poor were not so much the Great Powers as the warlords and a handful of learned Chinese. In fact, as rulers disappeared and were replaced by others at a dizzying pace, taxes were doubled or even tripled 20, 50 or even 100 years in advance. Worse still, the monies thus ruthlessly collected were used only to keep the vicious cycle of civil wars going. After World War I, the Great Powers began reducing their armed forces and weapons arsenals, prompted by calls for disarmament. China was the only exception. Civil wars among warlords intensified and spread to the Guomindang (Nationalist Party), ultimately pitting it against the communists; Chinese forces swelled to five million, then six million.
Manchuria exploited, then ruined by Communist Chinese government
After the fall of the Qing dynasty, the government of the ROC divided the area that later became Manzhouguo into dongjiusheng, or “nine eastern provinces.” But when the PRC came into being, the government reclassified the five westernmost provinces into regions (the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, to name one). That left only three eastern provinces (Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning).
The total area of the three provinces is 787,000 square kilometers (the area of Manzhouguo was 1,303,000 km2). Although smaller than it was during Manzhouguo’s existence, the region accounts for approximately 8.2% of China’s total area. The population was 92.95 million as of the end of 1985, or 8.9% of the Chinese population.
However, what is referred to as the northeast economic bloc (basically the same region once occupied by Manchuria) includes East Mongolia (Humeng, Xinganling, Zheling and Chiling) and has a total area of 1.24 million square kilometers (12.9% of China’s total area) and a population of 105 million (10% of the national total).
The former Manchuria, though plundered by Soviet armies and laid waste by the Guomingdang-Communist civil war after the fall of Manzhouguo, continues to be one of China’s most advanced regions and a leading heavy-industry base. It is rich in natural resources, and has a well-developed transportation network, and advanced science and technology. The region has been supporting the PRC, as it is a major base for the steel, energy and machinery-manufacturing industries, and forestry and food supply. Its per-capita production has long been the highest of China’s six major districts.
At present, industry in the northeastern region is sustained largely by a robust transportation network, in which railroads fulfill a key role. There are more than 70 main and branch lines covering 12,000 kilometers, for the highest density in the entire nation. In reality, however, the infrastructure of the Manchurian district was, for all intents and purposes, completed during the days of Manzhouguo and the Manchurian Railroad (South Manchurian Railway & Co., Ltd.); not much renovation or updating was done after the establishment of the PRC.
Since its foundation, the PRC had been preoccupied with an internal struggle for power and consequently was unable to proceed with a socialist revolution. The legacy of Manzhouguo was Communist China’s sole source of support.
In the 1950s, the northeastern region, China’s heavy industry base, was the nation’s most prosperous. But in the 1960s and thereafter, Communist China concentrated solely on despoiling that region. Its functions were limited, by government order, to serving as a center for the heavy and chemical industries, and supplying resources. Industries with high added value were not permitted to operate there.
The industrial enterprises in the region were mostly state-owned. For example, the Daqing Oilfield Co. turned over 90% of its net profit to the government, and was forced to pay taxes amounting to 60% of its proceeds. Therefore, most of the businesses in the northeast were unable to reinvest due to shortfalls in reserves. Industrial development stagnated. This situation is referred to as the “northeastern phenomenon.” It simply means that whatever profits companies might generate in the northeast would be devoured by Beijing, sending the region into a downward spiral to ruin.
But that is the sort of nation China is. It consistently wasted the legacy of the Qing dynasty during the 20th century ? as well as the assets left by the Great Powers and by Manzhouguo in particular ? yet managed to barely subsist on them. This is immutable historical fact.
For a time after its establishment, the PRC’s watchword was “self-revitalization,” but this campaign was a failure due to the chaos brought about by the Cultural Revolution. Then the PRC adopted the slogan “reform and liberalization” in an attempt to lengthen its life span by creating special economic zones and by appealing to developed nations for capital investment and technology.
The special economic zones are merely a reincarnation of the concessions once enjoyed by the Great Powers. Bringing in foreign capital is tantamount to inviting the economic Great Powers into China. It really doesn’t matter what you call it. China is relying on others to attain its goals. I wonder how many Japanese are aware how parasitic China is, and how heavily dependent on other nations.
Since the reform-and-liberation campaign never made much headway, what the northeastern region is hoping is that history will repeat itself, and there will be an influx of investment and technology from Japan, just as there was in the days of Manzhouguo.
4. China’s ambition: the resurrection of the Chinese empire
Concept of “one absolute ruler and all people”
The perception of China as the entire world, not merely a nation, is still entrenched in the minds of the Chinese. This becomes evident when the characteristics of present-day China are compared with those of modern nation-states like Great Britain, France and Germany.
For instance, the Chinese emperor is regarded as the “son of Heaven” who rules all peoples on behalf of the Lord of Heaven. One of the greatest Chinese intellectuals, Liang Shuming (a scholar of Indian philosophy), asserts that Western countries are mere nations. Chinese society, however, is so extraordinary that it has elevated itself from nation to world status; this is a truly amazing manifestation of self-confidence.
Even today, the Chinese insist that the term “nation” refers to either a small tributary state like Korea or Vietnam, or a feudal state ruled by members of the imperial family in past dynasties. They say that the “son of Heaven” is emperor (and thus ruler) of all nations. The Chinese emperor is the world’s sole and absolute ruler.
Accordingly, appellations like Qin, Han, Sui, Tang and Qing are not the names of nations, which stand for a land, a people and a government. They simply denote the name of the dynasty in power at a particular time. As in the instances of Korea and Vietnam, even nations were named by the Chinese emperor. The history of the Chinese empire spans more than 2,000 years, but not until the establishment of the ROC in 1912 did China use a country name.
Therefore, the Chinese empire is referred to not as a nation, but as the “world” or the “realm under Heaven.” Though the Japanese sometimes mention “discussing the state of the world,” according to Chinese logic, only the Chinese have the right to engage in such a discussion.
Then, what constitutes a realm under Heaven? The concept may be condensed into the expression “All things under heaven belong to the emperor.” In other words, all the land in the world belongs to China. This is not just a territorial perception. It is precisely the nature of the Chinese state. China, at the center of the entire world, is ruled by the Chinese emperor, who grants the right to rule the region to local nobles, and collects gifts delivered by emissaries from tributary states.
The ROC rejected the notion of the Chinese emperor as ruler of the entire world, one that had persisted for more than 2,000 years. Rather, the new republic attempted to transform China into a modern nation-state, modeled after Great Britain and the United States.
The ROC soon became embroiled in a series of civil wars (involving first the Beiyang Army, then the Guomindang and, finally, the Guomindang versus the Communists) and experienced numerous changes of government. During this chaotic period, Yuan Shikai briefly resurrected the imperial regime. Zhang Xun even trotted out the abdicated Emperor Puyi (Xuantong) and proclaimed the resurrection of the Qing dynasty in Beijing (the Restoration Plot). All in all, Chinese society made very little progress toward modernization, instead sinking deeper into the quagmire of chaos.
Therefore, there was no bias in the assertion made by representatives of Japan at a meeting of the Assembly of the League of Nations after the establishment of Manzhouguo: “China is not a nation. China simply does not meet the criteria for nationhood.”
During the republican era there were multiple governments. While each of those governments claimed to represent all of China, no one of them held itself politically responsible to foreign countries. Therefore, it was impossible to describe China as a modern nation.
The rush to produce a multiethnic “Chinese people”; aspiring to resurrect the “Chinese empire”
Time goes by and the world changes. Yet only China keeps reverting to the 19th-century “realm under Heaven.” The Chinese have announced campaigns for reform, change and revolution ad nauseam, but the PRC has failed, just as the ROC did, to transform China into a modern nation-state.
A developed nation that has achieved modern statehood, even a non-Western nation, should possess mature systems that reflect public opinion. But here again, China is the exception, because public opinion is totally suppressed by the powers that be. According to the Chinese world view and ancient political tradition, dynasty changes are decreed by Heaven. When the incumbent ruler is found wanting, Heaven appoints another, and the name of the dynasty changes. Even after the Chinese experienced power and regime changes during the evolution of the ROC to the PRC, the old tradition persisted. Two sayings: “The mounted man holds the power” (military force rules) and “Governments emanate from the muzzles of guns,” the latter attributed to Mao Zedong, both mean the same thing.
If one believes that power changes hands through violent revolution, then one must maintain power through violence. Obviously, the Chinese government’s system of reflecting public opinion in its policies is still in its infancy.
Even in present-day Chinese society, this principle has not changed a bit. Former Prime Minister Li Peng declared that there would be no multiparty system, no separation of the three powers and no private ownership. His declaration remains accurate, even in the 21st century. China will adhere to the four principles (socialism, Communist Party leadership, democratic dictatorship, and Marxist-Leninist and Maoist ideologies). And China will promote Communist Party dictatorship, thus reverting to the regime of the “son of Heaven.”
A macroscopic examination of modern Manchurian history tells us that the conquest of China by the Manchu Qing dynasty was a historical turning point. Of all the reigns since the dawn of Chinese history, the Qing dynasty stands out for its just rulers and contented subjects. This fact was mentioned by Zhang Zhitong, governor of Lianjiang, who was as prominent as Li Hongzhang at the end of the Qing era.
Unfortunately, the more Qing China prospered, the more the population increased, causing the natural and social environments to deteriorate drastically. With the dawn of the 19th century, a huge number of refugees, victims of unrest and famine resulting from unceasing internecine conflicts, poured into Manchuria. Some of them settled in east Manchuria, where they clashed with Koreans who were living there. Others laid waste to pastures in the west, and clashed with Mongolians there. Still others went farther toward the northern frontier looking for suitable land, only to despoil and ruin pristine nature.
In conjunction with the extreme changes in the ecological and ethnic environments, Russians entered Manchuria from the north, and Japanese from the east. Not long after the foundation of the United States of America, Manchuria was already becoming the melting pot of East Asia.
Originally, the ROC’s objective was modern nation-statehood, but in the process, the republican government contrived to inherit the legacy of the Qing empire. It forcibly integrated other ethnic peoples with the Chinese in an attempt to resurrect the Qing empire of the 19th century.
The PRC, on the other hand, was intended to be a revolutionary nation, aspiring to world revolution, human liberation and a borderless world in accordance with the principles of socialist ideology. However, the truth is that the PRC is trying to return to its 19th-century status as the “realm of Heaven.” China’s current headaches (including border disputes with the former Soviet Union and India, and problems with Tibet and Taiwan) can be traced to this agenda. By nipping public opinion in the bud, China is aiming to inherit the legacy of the Qing (including Manchuria), and to restore the 19th-century Chinese empire.
5. Dispute over inheritance of Qing empire triggers the Greater East Asian War
Who is the rightful heir of the Qing empire?
If imperial Japan had not collapsed, Manzhouguo would be a robust nation today. However, Manzhouguo ceased to exist when imperial Japan fell.
The primary cause of the major national and international disputes in East Asia today is the question of inheritance of the Qing Empire after its collapse.
As modern East Asian history tells us, the Manchus originated in the northeastern part of the continent. Early in the 17th century, King Nurhachi founded the later Jin dynasty. During the reign of the second king, Hung Taiji, Manchus and Mongols together consolidated the Qing empire. During the reign of the third emperor, Shunzhi, they crossed the Great Wall, entered China and conquered the Han. The Qing dynasty enjoyed prosperity for some 150 years throughout the reigns of three later emperors (Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong). During this period, the Qing destroyed the Dzungar empire (Zhunbu) in the west, and gained control of Huibu (today the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in the Tarim Basin) and Tibet, previously Dzungar territory, thus creating a huge empire.
However, early in the 20th century, the Xinhai Revolution triggered the dissolution of the Qing empire. Mongolia and Tibet proclaimed independence from the empire. Thus were the seeds of conflict that would plague East Asia till this very day sown.
The source of the conflict was land and other assets of the diverse peoples of East Asia who were conquered by the Qing empire during the 17th and 18th centuries. Three separate groups were attempting to acquire the Qing legacy.
The first group was the ROC. There were 600 political parties in China, if we include provincial or factional blocs formed at the dawn of republican control. Their leaders were warlord Yuan Shikai’s Beiyang Army, restorationists like Zhang Xun, and revolutionary figures like Sun Yatsen and Song Jiaoren, just to mention a few. There were so many parties and factions that each government was constantly embroiled in civil wars between warlords, between factions of the Guomindang, and between the Guomindang and the communists. Only internecine conflicts and changes of government distinguished the republican period. Today the PRC, which succeeded the ROC, justifies its claim to the Qing legacy by describing it as sacred Chinese territory.
The second group was the Mongolians, Uighurs and Tibetans, who were conquered by the Qing empire in the 17th century and thereafter. An investigation into the extent of involvement of those ethnic groups with war-torn China after they were liberated from Qing control would certainly prove interesting.
The third group was the Great Powers, who always intervened in China’s civil conflicts, and constantly took sides with whichever side might be amenable to their interests. They are at least partly responsible for the wars that are still raging in East Asia today.
The age of discovery and maritime exploration spurred competition among the Great Powers of Europe, America and Russia for colonies on a global scale. By the end of the 19th century, the division of Africa was complete; East Asia was the only unexploited area. Consequently, the Qing empire in East Asia was the last colonization target. Great Britain, France, Germany and Russia were the first to make inroads into China, dividing the nation. The Americans were slow to encroach upon China; once they did, they could do little more argue for an open-door policy and equal privileges, all in vain.
The general trend in the division of Qing China took a sudden turn of events due to the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). A new player named Japan joined in the battle for the Qing inheritance.
After the Russo-Japanese War, the Russians withdrew from South Manchuria, but they still controlled the rest of Manchuria, and Mongolian and Uighur territory; the British controlled Tibet. The legacy of Qing China prompted each of the Great Powers to intervene in the Chinese civil wars. On some occasions, they would side with one of the factions involved in the struggle for power in the ROC. On others, they would take up the cause of one of the ethnic groups fighting for independence and liberty. But they always acted in their own interests. This situation ultimately led to the Greater East Asian War.
Han fated to clash with Manchus and Mongolians
The Qing dynasty was ousted after the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, and on January 1, 1912, the provisional government of the Republic of China was established. However, Yuan Shikai, a northern warlord, and Sun Yat-sen, the revolutionary leader in the south, were still in conflict, negotiating all the while.
Although the Qing empire had fallen, there were still some elements plotting to reestablish a Manchu nation. In addition to the well-known group called the Zongshe Party (Imperial Family Party), there was a fairly strong Manchurian-Mongolian independence movement for quite a while. The Manchus and Mongols were hoping for the return of their lost country through the establishment of Manzhouguo. Other ethnic groups were dreaming of building a new nation, i.e., Manzhouguo, where the five peoples could live in harmonious prosperity.
The Mongols and Tibetans, who were conquered by the Qing (Manchu) empire in the 18th century, were to proclaim their independence following the Xinhai Revolution.
Jabtsandamba Khutagt, an Outer Mongolian leader, declared independence for Mongolia, supported by Russia. In December 1911, prior to the establishment of the ROC, he founded the Mongolian empire and ascended the throne. In 1924, following the death of the emperor, the nation underwent a social revolution and became the Mongolian Republic. Inspired by Outer Mongolia’s independence, Hulunbeier in Inner Mongolia, west of Manchuria, attempted to follow suit. In August 1912, Horqin (head of the Left Front Banner Army) and his men occupied Taonan, but a counterattack by Fengtian province’s Wujunsheng Army shattered their dream of independence.
In July 1916, Mongolian patriot Babojab took advantage of the political disorder caused by Yuan Shikai’s death and, with the help of Kawashima Naniwa and other Japanese patriots, raised an army along the banks of the Halaha River. Three thousand Mongolian cavalrymen defeated the Wujunsheng Army and occupied Guojiadian, on the main line of the Manchurian Railroad. But Babojab was defeated and killed near Linxi, Inner Mongolia; another dream of Manchurian-Mongolian independence had evaporated.
Today, the Han insist that the Chinese are multiethnic, and that the integration of Mongolians, Uighurs, Tibetans and Manchurians has been accomplished. But the ethnic minorities are not always thrilled to be incorporated into such a duplicitous “family.”
According to Sun Yat-sen’s brand of nationalism, minorities are simply ethnic groups who must be assimilated into Chinese culture. Sun’s reasoning was that the population of the minorities is too small. On that point, he was correct. But why are there so few of them? The truth is that their populations were reduced drastically when Islamic peoples fell victim to the genocide perpetrated by the Qing Empire in the mid-17th century. The slaughter of Muslims (called xihui, or “cleansing China of Muslims”) by the Han Chinese continued well into the 20th century. In the Qing empire of the 19th century, one out of every 10 citizens was a Muslim. The eradication of the Muslim population continued after the nation became the People’s Republic of China; tens of millions more Muslims were killed, which explains the drastic population decline. Sun Yat-sen had no way of knowing about the slaughter. The perpetrators of the massacre refuse to face historical fact, instead spouting platitudes about a “multiethnic China.”
Uighurs and Tibetans also dream of independence from Chinese colonial control. Precisely because the question of Manzhouguo as a nation is extremely complex, it is best to address it from a variety of perspectives.
From a historical perspective, Manzhouguo may be understood in the context of polarization: the traditional Chinese versus the peoples of the north and east. Two possible approaches are examinations of (1) traditional conflicts that pitted China, the dominant nation in the center against its foreign neighbors, and (2) the history of civilizations and cultures. Topics like nationalism (perceived from the angle of modern ethnic groups) and the independence and autonomy of Manchus and Mongols need further consideration.
However, when Manzhouguo disappeared, so did the dream of independence from Chinese control on the part of the Manchus, Mongols, Uighurs and Tibetans. And though more gradually, the Chinese dream of building a modern nation-state disappeared as well.
Today China is aspiring to restore the “great Chinese empire” by swallowing up all the ethnic groups in the region. To maintain a state of such proportions, the Chinese will find it necessary to bolster their dictatorship. Tyranny will crush democracy, freedom and human rights. This is a most unfortunate situation that will affect all of East Asia in the 21st century.
6. Potential of a united Asian state
Where China fails, Japan succeeds in only 50 years
At the end of the 19th century, young Chinese patriotic reformers and revolutionaries staked their youth, their energy and even their lives on the dream of building a nation-state. Bureaucrats like Ceng Guofan, Li Hongzhang and Zhang Zhidong were more interested in westernization, introducing western military science and other technologies to enrich the Qing dynasty and reinforce its army. But patriots seeking reform and revolution (Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, Sun Yat-sen, Huang Xing and Song Jiaoren) were acutely aware of the need for a modern nation-state.
Nonetheless, incidents like the Hundred Days’ Reform attempted by Kang Youwei and others, and modeled after Japan’s Meiji Restoration and the Xinhai Revolution, only caused further conflicts and social disorder.
A modern nation-state is not built in a day. In Europe, ever since the age of great discovery, the concept fermented and gradually matured as civilizations experienced religious, industrial and social revolutions.
Japan was the only exception. After emerging from isolation, Japan initiated the Meiji Restoration, won the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars, and joined the ranks of the Great Powers as a competent, modern nation-state. All of these achievements took place within less than half a century. Japan accomplished in several decades what had taken European countries several hundred years. The nations of the entire world marveled at those achievements, and began to look toward Japan, hoping to learn from the Meiji Restoration.
This is the historical background behind the emergence of a nation called Manzhouguo in 1932 in the northeastern part of China, which turbulent events had reduced to poverty and lawlessness. Although Manzhouguo was lauded as a great experiment in the building of a modern nation-state, it made an unceremonious exit from the stage of history.
Some say that Manzhouguo was a failure. Others claim that “illegitimate Manzhouguo,” born out of an imperial Japanese conspiracy, was fated to perish sooner or later.
We must be mindful, however, that Manzhouguo achieved a stable society that could never exist in China. Furthermore, Manzhouguo accomplished other feats that were seemingly impossible: the institution of central and local administrative structures, the integration of finance and currency, the consolidation of transportation systems, and rapid industrial and economic progress. A comparison of Manzhouguo society with the devastated Chinese society of today makes the difference in social stability acutely obvious.
A phenomenon so monumental as to deeply impress every nation of the world actually occurred in the remotest corner of the Chinese world, and evaporated suddenly, like a mirage. This was a tragedy, not only for the Chinese, but for the entire world.
The promise of a modern multiethnic state
Why did a modern nation-state of the likes that the Chinese had been unable to create in 4,000 years emerge in Manchuria, only to disappear after little more than a decade? Why did a million Chinese refugees cross the Great Wall and pour into Manzhouguo every year? The Chinese of today are most reluctant to accept these events as historical fact. They merely disparage the nation as “illegitimate,” and accuse the Japanese of plunder and forced emigration. They intentionally avert their eyes from the very fact that Manzhouguo existed. Such an attitude is one of the tragedies of contemporary China.
If Manzhouguo had survived, the Chinese world would be completely different. A modern multiethnic state would have existed in northeast Asia. Its national strength would be comparable or even superior to Japan’s. It would abound in natural resources, and in capital and technology transferred from Japan. This is not a totally unfeasible hypothesis. The legacy Manzhouguo accumulated during its 13? years of existence still remains today. It tells the truth more eloquently than any historical account written by the Chinese.
The Guomindang’s northward campaign (the battle for control against the warlords of North China) and Communist China’s path to a socialist state through civil war with the Guomindang and the Cultural Revolution resulted in several million and tens of millions of casualties, respectively. Even after this tremendous loss of life, Chinese society became (and remains) an impoverished failure. According to Lu Xun, “Understanding is achieved only through comparison.”
China’s neighbors (Taiwan, the Korean peninsula, Manchuria and Hong Kong) were all much safer places than China proper. Furthermore, one could not term the concessions controlled by the Great Powers utopias, but at least they were stable and prosperous. Chinese society, however, was antiquated and decayed, and its phenomenally high crime rate made it a hell on earth.
If Manzhouguo existed today, it would provide abundant lessons for the Chinese. It would tell them what a state is, what a modern nation-state is, and what a modern society is. It would also tell them what the China produced by China’s unification war is, and consequently help them awaken to a new concept of statehood.
Coprosperity of diverse ethnic groups, a model for burgeoning Asian states
The fall of Manzhouguo was also the fall of the Asian ideal. Manzhouguo was an ideal and a dream, both of which modern Asia was seeking (and continues to seek), because it embodied the concept of multiethnic coprosperity.
All the new nations in Asia are multiethnic states. China is the home of more than 50 ethnic groups. The same is true of Vietnam and Myanmar. The Philippines and Indonesia are even more ethnically diverse. For these Asian countries, Manzhouguo, with its founding ideal of multiethnic coprosperity, was truly a superior model for the building of a composite society. Manzhouguo was also a great experiment that asked the question “Is it possible to create a nation along the lines of the United States of America in northeastern East Asia?”
In the first place, the ROC was a nation established by patriotic revolutionaries, whose model was the United States. Before the colonies won their independence from Great Britain, there were only 12 people who demanded that independence. Even so, they succeeded almost immediately. Other colonies followed suit and eventually the United States of America was established.
On the other hand, there were more than 600 political parties in the ROC, which were constantly in conflict. Under such circumstances, the nation had to use military force if it hoped ever to form a government. Moreover, advocates of a republican government or a federal system (autonomous federation of provinces) were in the minority. It would be simplistic to conclude that the plethora of political groups doomed the Republic of China. The main reason for the ROC’s failure was the burden of history, which nurtured the notion of “all subjects under one ruler” for over 2,000 years.
In this respect, Manzhouguo differed from the ROC. After all, Manchuria had existed outside the Chinese world for 4,000 years.
There are strong resemblances between Manzhouguo and the United States of America in its early days. First of all, both countries had abundant natural resources and vast unexploited regions.
Before the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, Manchuria had attracted the interest of European and American geologists, who believed it was an untapped treasure trove. The total area of Manchuria was equivalent to that of Germany and France combined. Also, Manchuria was situated at nearly the same latitude as those two European countries. Its land resembled the new continent of North America before it was settled by Europeans. Mukden (today Shenyang) is situated at nearly the same latitude as Chicago, Dalian as Baltimore, and Harbin as Montreal. Manchuria’s topography and climate were also similar to those of western North America prior to the frontier days. These similarities alone prove that Manzhouguo harbored the potential to become an Asian “United States.” Furthermore, both Manzhouguo and the United States were newly settled immigrant colonies inhabited by people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Of course, there were differences as well. Manchuria had experienced the vicissitudes of glorious dynasties, such as Koguryo, Bohai, Liao, Jin and Qing over the past 2,000 years. Various nations and ethnic groups had risen and fallen there, and consequently Manchuria had been enriched by the experiences of those multiethnic states.
Manzhouguo explored the possibility of creating a multiethnic state in which diverse peoples could live together in harmonious prosperity. The founding vision derives from (1) the Chinese concept of ruling by virtue, not by force, (2) the Buddhist vision of paradise, and (3) ethnic cooperation and harmony. Furthermore, in building a modern industrial society and a constitutional state, Manzhouguo fused Western and Eastern ideas and systems. In that sense, Manzhouguo was truly the product of the amalgamation of occidental and oriental civilizations.
Unlike the Japanese, who had successfully built an ethnically homogenous state, the leaders of Manzhouguo attempted to establish a multiethnic nation. Manzhouguo was a new experiment involving the founding of a nation with a view to bringing coexistence and coprosperity to East Asia.
When a nation that held such promise disappeared from Asia, the dream of founding a united Asian state died, and with it the prototype of a burgeoning Asian nation.
7. Japan’s regret at not having forged a 100-year national strategy
Japan’s huge outlay in support of Manzhouguo
The Japanese have had very few significant national strategies. During the Edo period, foresighted patriots like Sato Nobuhiro and Yoshida Shoin advocated various concepts of nationhood, but to this day no one has proposed a comprehensive 100-year plan.
Although an overwhelmingly successful victor in short-term battles, Japan would almost invariably be defeated in extended battles and, consequently, lose everything. That is the path Japan has trod through modern times.
Imperial Japan was a truly magnificent, sparkling state born in East Asia, worthy of much mention in world history. But that great country disappeared in less than 80 years.
The Qing empire on the Asian continent endured for nearly 300 years. The Mongolian empire had a shorter life, but was succeeded by the Russian empire, the Mughal dynasty and the Qing empire. Surrounded by water, imperial Japan had a surprisingly brief life, compared with those empires, with their vast expanses of land. Was Manzhouguo born out of a sudden explosion of Japanese energy?
Capital investment in Manchuria by the Great Powers prior to the Mukden Incident was estimated at 2.4 billion yen, of which Japan’s investment accounted for about 1.8 billion yen. After the establishment of Manzhouguo, Japan’s investment in Manchuria increased sharply year by year. For example, the amount was 150 million yen in 1933, more than one billion yen in 1939, and exceeded one billion yen during each of the four years ending in 1942. Until Manzhouguo collapsed in 1945, the Japanese investment in Manchuria actually amounted to between 10 and 11.7 billion yen.
Manzhouguo’s annual budget for fiscal 1932 was 128 million yen; 10 years later, in fiscal 1942, it was 823 million yen. By comparing these figures, we learn that Japanese investment in Manchuria was nearly equal to or even greater than Manzhouguo’s total annual budget. Needless to say, such investments greatly facilitated the industrial modernization of Manzhouguo.
China: bottomless pit for ODA (Official Development Assistance)
After the Meiji Restoration, the passion the Japanese displayed for East Asia was truly extraordinary, and applied equally to the Korean peninsula, Manchuria and China. This was a time when there was much conflict between nations, and the Great Powers were in competition. Japan was expending capital and technology, human energy, and materials in an effort to achieve coexistence and coprosperity among Japan, Korea, Manchuria and China. But the result was an utter failure.
When we turn the pages of modern Japanese history, we learn that everything imperial Japan gained through consecutive victories after the Sino-Japanese War, it lost in half a century. Following the Russo-Japanese War, with the concessions won from Russia and at the cost of 200,000 precious lives and two billion yen, Japan continued to expand its wealth, only to have it wrested away by the Russian army within a single week 40 years later.
It would be impossible to explain sufficiently the degree to which Japan had been investing capital in the Korean peninsula and Manchuria, and developing industry and building modern nations in both places. Yet in the end, Japan’s reward for that passion and energy was neither thunderous applause nor heartfelt gratitude, but abuse, slander and criticism.
The Chinese are the most difficult people in the world to deal with. According to George Bronson Rea, who lived in China for over 30 years, “For thirty-two years, I have watched the procession of American business men, investors, concession hunters and loan agents prance through the wide open portals into the ‘Chinese El Dorado,’ and have seen every one of them come running back minus his shirt, yelling to Uncle Sam for help.”vii
Mr. Rea was an American engineer, businessman and journalist; he was also president and editor-in-chief of the Far Eastern Review, an English monthly published in Shanghai. As advisor to President Sun Yat-sen, Mr. Rea made a plan for building an arterial Chinese railway line, entered into negotiations with Europe and the U.S. concerning financial relations, and undertook many other important tasks. He was one of the China experts of the day.
Manzhouguo, into which the Japanese had poured so much passion and energy, had left a monumental legacy. That legacy disappeared into Chinese hands, perhaps because the Japanese had never forged a 100-year plan.
After World War II, having learned its lesson, Japan made a new start as a peace-loving nation. Undeterred by epithets like “economic animal,” Japan reestablished itself as an economic Great Power. But its newly acquired wealth vanished in the 1990s due to stagnant economic conditions referred to as “the lost 10 years” and “the second defeat.” ODA (Official Development Assistance) to China from Japan goes unappreciated. Instead, it is labeled partial payment of imperial Japan’s debt to China ? a debt that will never be paid in full ? such is the arbitrariness of Chinese historical perception.
Japan’s wealth has fallen prey to foreign countries, and its sovereignty is being threatened. The Japanese people are beginning to lose their national identity. Isn’t this state of affairs a natural consequence of Japan’s lack of a national strategy?
Since the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, the U.S. had been a staunch supporter of China, at the same time demanding an open-door policy and equal opportunities. However, once the PRC was established, the U.S. not only lost all former privileges and benefits, but also came to be regarded as China’s worst enemy because of “American imperialism.” Russia and then the Soviet Union also assisted both the Guomindang and the Chinese Communist Party, respectively, in many ways after the first coalition between the Guomindang and Communist China. But the honeymoon was very brief. At one time, China and the Soviet Union were engaged in mutual abuse, each considering the other its enemy.
The ROC, the PRC and all that they engendered brought nothing but misery to the Chinese people in the 20th century.
If Manzhouguo were alive and well, or if the Chinese could at least admit that it ever existed, the resulting stimulus might have resulted in a profound transformation.
Chapter Two: The Chinese and the Manchus:
Two Millennia of Conflict
1. Chinese accounts of Chinese history marked by arrogance
A region three times the size of Japan with arable land equivalent to Japan’s entire area
First I will describe the topography of Manchuria. Approximately the size of Germany and France combined, Manchuria was mostly wasteland prior to the establishment of Manzhouguo. Its total area was approximately 1.1 million square kilometers, about three times the size of present-day Japan.
The Lesser Khingan Range is situated in the north, and the Changbai Mountains in the east. The Greater Khingan Range, stretching from north to south in the west, borders the Mongolian Plateau. These two ranges surround the Manchurian Plain.
In the north of Manchuria, the Greater Khingan Range, which extends to Siberia, towers over the forest regions. In the west are grasslands leading to the Mongolian Plateau. In the east are more forests encircling the Changbai Mountains, which continue into the Korean Peninsula. In the south are farmlands that abut the Great Wall. Roughly 30% of the land (into which all of Japan would fit) is arable.
The latitude of the northernmost point of Manchuria is 53° 30” N, the same as Hamburg, Germany; the latitude of the southernmost point is 38° 43” N, the same as Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture in Japan and Washington, D.C. The longitude of the easternmost point is 135° 20” E, the same as Fukuchiyama City, Kyoto Prefecture, while that of the westernmost point is 116° W, nearly the same as the western part of Beijing.
Manchuria has a forbidding natural environment; the temperatures are very low throughout much of the year.
“Sacred territory, absolutely indivisible from China”
An expression postwar Chinese enjoy using is “sacred territory, absolutely indivisible from China”. They use the expression when they refer to Taiwan, of course, but also in connection with Manchuria, Mongolia and Tibet.
In the mouths of a billion people, it certainly sounds impressive. The world might take notice. But can one call this historical fact? In this chapter, I will focus on this point.
The Chinese obsession with territory is neither as old nor traditional as one might suppose. For instance, after the Opium Wars (1840-42), China ceded some of its territory to Great Britain and France. Following the Sino-Japanese War, China ceded Taiwan to Japan on a permanent basis. Even in peacetime, China ceded territory, giving Macao to Portugal at the end of the Ming dynasty. Russia acquired the vast territory east of the Ussuri River, including the maritime provinces, from China as a reward for merely mediating Qing China’s disputes with Great Britain and France.
However, during this period, Qing China was not the only state that ceded territory to other countries. Russia sold Alaska to the U.S. for the low price of $7.2 million ($.03 per acre). Japan, just beginning to govern Taiwan, was encountering all sorts of problems there, including guerrilla resistance and pestilence. Anxious to solve them, the imperial Diet even discussed selling Taiwan to France for 100 million yen at one point.
These facts give us some indication of how nations perceived their territory in the past. Relationships fraught with tension, in which each nation fights desperately for even the smallest piece of land, came with the onset of the modern era.
In the 20th century, the Chinese began to acquire a modern perception of territory. Even during the period extending from the establishment of the PRC to the Cultural Revolution, they did not claim that anything and everything was Chinese territory. Border disputes with Russia, India and Vietnam served a useful purpose: they deflected hostile public sentiment from domestic political problems.
Under the leadership of Mao Zedong, China sought world revolution and human liberation. People still believed that there should be no borders separating workers, and that nations themselves should cease to exist. There was little, if any, territoriality.
For example, Mao Zedong once told leaders of the Vietnamese Labor Party that though Sichuan province and Thailand were the same size, the population of Sichuan was twice that of Thailand. Therefore, to correct injustices, the Chinese should liberate Thailand and allow Chinese immigrants to settle there in order. At the basis of this absurd argument lay the communist hope for world revolution. In fact, inspired by Mao Zedong’s ideas, communist liberation struggles swept through all of Asia.
The “great Chinese people” theory
Today the Chinese claim, in an increasingly shrill voice, that certain places are “sacred territory, absolutely indivisible from China.” This is a complete turnabout from the days of Mao Zedong. Behind this slogan is the “great Chinese people” theory.
This theory is based on the assertion that the various ethnic groups who inhabit China’s perimeter are all branch tribes of the great Chinese people. At the end of the 19th century, Chinese scholars like Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao began promoting this theory. But it was not until after the Cultural Revolution that China became persistent about it.
According to the great Chinese people theory, the respective histories of all the peoples in adjacent areas are regarded as the history of China. That is why the histories of the Mongolian empire, Tibet, Manchuria, and even Koguryo and Bohai (both of which occupy very important places in Korean history), are considered to be part of Chinese history.
If the Mongolian empire were to be incorporated into the annals of Chinese history, Central Asia and Russia (once conquered by the Mongolian empire) would have been Chinese territory. In fact, that is what Chinese students are taught. It is also the most convenient historical perception for today’s Chinese Communist Party.
To begin with, Asian history is generally classified as the history of four regions, namely, North Asia, East Asia, West Asia and South Asia. According to Chinese scholarship, however, there is no such thing as North Asian history; it is considered part of Chinese history.
The Chinese are basically an agricultural tribe. Because they value what they learn through experience, they place great importance on the recording of history. Not all agricultural peoples have the same fondness for history. East Indians, for instance, are principally a farming tribe, but they are not much interested in history. On the other hand, the nomadic tribes have left far fewer historical records than the Chinese. It was not until after the Tang dynasty that the Liao dynasty Qidan (Khitan) people, the Jin dynasty Juchen people (later called “Manchus”) and the Tangut people of Xixia first began recording their history by devising their own writing systems.
Consequently, the annals of the ethnic groups in regions adjacent to China were recorded only in books (part of official Chinese historical records) called Beidi (northern aliens), Nanman (southern barbarians), Xirong (western aliens) and Dongyi (eastern barbarians). The Japanese also appeared, referred to as woren in the Dongyi book. However, the descriptions were never accurate. The accounts in Weizhi Worenchuan (History of the Wei dynasty, book of woren) generate so much controversy in Japan because the Book of Woren is inaccurate.
The Chinese insistence that a particular place (or places) is “sacred territory, absolutely indivisible from China” has a certain theoretical basis. But the only proof they offer is that “the fact” is recorded in their history. Or perhaps China once conquered or controlled that region. But in the latter case we find sweeping generalizations (e.g., territories conquered by those who ruled China belong to the Chinese). This is the basis of the aforementioned claim that regions once conquered by the Mongolian or Qing empire should be inherited by the Chinese.
When discussing Manchurian history, we should be mindful of this peculiar Chinese historical perception. Otherwise, we may unknowingly fall into the trap ? the distortion of history.
2. Limits of the Great Wall’s effectiveness
Threats from the north and the Great Wall of China
In chronicles of pre-Tang Chinese history, Huns (Xiongnu) and Xianbei often appear. Both were tribes who roamed the Manchurian Plateau and the area around the Greater Khingan Range.
The Huns, pastoral nomads, originated in the Mongolian Plateau. During the Han era, they established the powerful Hun empire, which contended with the Han. They eventually split into two groups (northern and southern Huns), and were later supplanted by the Xianbei people. The Xianbei and Wuhuan were also nomads. They originated from the Greater Khingan Range, east of the Mongolian Plateau. The Xianbei people later founded the Northern Wei dynasty (386-530). The Sui and Tang dynasties, which reunited China in the late 6th and early 7th centuries, were of Xianbei extraction.
Among threats from the north were the Tujue people. Unlike the Huns and their relatives, they were a group of tribes who inhabited the area near the West Altai Mountains. From the 6th century to 8th century, the Tujue built a huge empire that extended from Central Asia to Manchuria.
Tribes that posed a threat to the Chinese were generally referred to as Xirong (western aliens) and Beidi (northern aliens) in Chinese historical documents. Many tribal names were also listed, including the Quanrong, Donghu, Huns, Xianbei, Tujue, Uighurs (Huijue), Qidan, Nuzhen (Juchen) and Mongols. Most of them spoke languages of the Ural-Altaic group; ethnically, they were Mongols, Turks and Tungus.
Altaic pastoral nomads were not the only threat to China. The Di and He tribes during the Five Hu (alien tribes) era and the Shiliuguo (16 states) era (304-439) were supposedly Tibetans and Persians, respectively. The kingdoms of Tufan and Xixia (Tang and Song eras) were Tibetan.
To prevent invasions from those enemies, the Chinese had been building the Great Wall even before the first emperor of the Qin dynasty ascended the throne. The magnificent structure is well preserved and admired today as the largest wall ever built in human history. Obviously, the Chinese have been constructing and repairing the Great Wall for centuries.
History of the world within the Great Wall
China is a land of fortresses; the word “nation” in Chinese implies the territory inside a fortress. The Chinese character for guo (nation) has three components: the pictographs for “village” and “spear,” which are surrounded by “walls.” Nomadic tribes that did not possess fortresses were traditionally called “wandering country people.”
The earliest constructors of the Great Wall were supposedly the Qi during the Chunqiu (Spring and Autumn) period (770 BC-403 BC), named after the title of the chronicle in preparation at the time. They were followed by the Han, Ziao and Wei on the central plains along the mid-to-downstream courses of the Yellow River (Huang he) during the Zhanguo (Warring States) period (453 BC-221 BC). The Chu in the south also worked on the wall.
After the first Qin emperor united China (221 BC), he connected the walls built by the Ziao and Yan, and completed the Great Wall. It now stretches from Lintao in Min prefecture, Gansu province, in the west to Liaoyang in Manchuria, in the east. During the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han dynasty, the wall was extended further to Yumenguan in Dunhuang, in the west. During the Qin and Han dynasties, the Great Wall was situated much farther north than it is today. However, it was moved southward in the 5th and 6th centuries during the Nanbei (the Northern and Southern dynasties) era. During the Sui dynasty, the wall was rebuilt at its present location; it was finally completed during the Ming dynasty (15th and 16th centuries). The Great Wall is 2,400 kilometers long, extending from Jiayuguan in the west to Shanhaiguan in the east.
The Great Wall, as constructed by the first Qin emperor, prevented a Hun invasion. But later the Great Wall was less effective at keeping mounted tribes from advancing southward.
The boundary between the Han and Hun empires was the Great Wall. We know this from the description “the old record states that it is the countries north of the Great Wall that challenge our rule” in “Biographies of Important Huns” in Shi Ji (Historical records) by Sima Qian. The Great Wall was the official border finally agreed upon in a peace treaty concluded between the Huns and the Han after repeated, fierce battles.
According to Sinocentric ideology, the entire world belongs to China. But the world perceived here is the “inside” area south of the Great Wall; the area outside the Great Wall is excluded.
Why was the Great Wall built? It is not a monument like the pyramids in Egypt. It is a barrier separating the nomadic tribes from the agricultural tribes. In that sense, it is the Chinese version of the Berlin Wall.
The Great Wall divides two different vegetation zones. North of the wall are grasslands that are home to nomadic tribes; south of the wall is arable land for the agricultural tribes in the central area of China. A glance at Chinese history will make it clear that each of these two worlds (northern and southern) has taken its own peculiar course, its states and civilizations experiencing rises and falls.
The world north of the Great Wall of China is, after all, the one that the Chinese are absolutely unwilling to be part of. They were determined to separate themselves from the north by building a gigantic wall. The land north of the wall is by no means “sacred territory, absolutely indivisible from China,” as the Chinese insist today.
Khrushchev sees the limit of Chinese power in the Great Wall
There are only two types of Chinese history. One is the history of internal conflicts, while the other involves struggles with the mounted tribes of the north. The battles between the Chinese and the Huns started as early as the Warring States period. In 215 BC, after the first Qin emperor united China, General Meng Tian launched an offensive against the Huns with 300,000 troops.
Since then, there have been numerous campaigns against the northern mounted tribes on a national scale. Except for a very brief period during the Han and Tang dynasties, most of these attempts failed.
In 200 BC Gao Zu (Liu Bang), founder of the Han dynasty, attacked the Huns continually with a multitude of armies, only to be placed under siege by the powerful forces led by Maodun Chanyu. Liu Bang weathered the crisis by the skin of his teeth by presenting lavish gifts to the Chanyu empress. From then on, the Han and Huns entered into a covenant of brotherhood and concluded a peace treaty. The Han agreed to marry daughters of the Han emperor to Huns, and to pay tribute.
The Sui dynasty, having reunited China after 360 years of fragmentation, failed to win in a military campaign against Koguryo. The Chinese were defeated, even though they deployed more than one million troops. This defeat was the beginning of the dynasty’s ruin. A military expedition against Koguryo mounted by Emperor Taizong (Li Shimin), of the next (Tang) dynasty, was also unsuccessful.
During the reign of Yingzong (Ming dynasty), the emperor himself led a huge army of 500,000 soldiers to attack the Beilu (northern aliens), but his forces were placed under siege by the Oirat army at Fort Tumu and annihilated. Emperor Yingzong was taken prisoner and sent to the north. This defeat was later referred to as the Tumu Crisis (1449).
Since the Ming emperor had been taken prisoner, his younger brother Daizong (Jingtai) assumed the throne. But Yingzong was set free the next year, upon which occasion a peace treaty was concluded. But the complicated situation of two emperors ruling simultaneously developed into a political feud and rocked the Ming government.
The Chinese empire south of the Great Wall was not constantly threatened or overwhelmed by the northern peoples. For a short while during the reigns of emperors Wu (Han dynasty) and Taizong (Tang dynasty), Chinese influence crossed the Great Wall and expanded into the western regions. However, the Chinese could not hold on to their gains for long, and eventually were forced to retreat.
The Great Wall served not only as the defense line in struggles between the agricultural and nomadic tribes, but also as a boundary dividing the two worlds economically and culturally. During the Ming dynasty in particular, invasions were just as likely to come from sea (Japanese pirates) as from land. The two types of invaders were dubbed the Beilu (aliens from the north) and the Nanwo (Japanese from the south). To defend themselves against invaders from the north, the Chinese established nine military districts called bianzhen (frontier posts), and prepared for possible incursions across the Great Wall.
An exceedingly unreasonable claim made by the Chinese government regarding border disputes between China and the Soviet Union prompted Soviet Premier Khrushchev to snap, “Chinese national strength does not reach beyond the Great Wall. The Chinese border has never gone beyond the Great Wall. If the Chinese continue to make such absurd claims and refer to their ancient myths, we will certainly consider such a stance as nothing short of a declaration of war.” Khrushchev gave the Chinese quite a tongue-lashing, which we can interpret as the Soviet Communist Party’s displeasure at its Chinese counterpart’s attempt to distort history.
Why the agricultural tribes could not best the nomads
With the completion of the Great Wall, the system of all subjects under one ruler was implemented south of the Great Wall (within the wall). That was China’s situation 2,200 years ago (2nd century BC); it was an agricultural empire achieved by the first Qin emperor. At the same time, an empire of nomads, consisting of the Huns and various other northern tribes, was established north of the Great Wall (beyond the wall). Thus began a long struggle, lasting over 2,000 years, between the nomads and the farming tribes.
In macroscopic terms, there were only a few cases in which one of the adversaries crossed the Great Wall with any kind of frequency. Obviously, there was a limit to the amount of power either a nomadic empire or its agricultural counterpart could acquire.
However, there were many exceptions. Quite often an agricultural empire took control of a nomadic empire. As previously mentioned, the influence of the agricultural tribes during the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and the Tang dynasty (618-907) extended beyond the Great Wall in the north to the western region, though only for a short time. During the Ming dynasty, the agricultural tribes breached the Great Wall and reached as far east as Manchuria. But as time passed, the nomadic tribes engulfed and absorbed China.
The Hun empire could not control the Chinese. All it could do was threaten the agricultural empire. But in the era of the Nanbei (Northern and Southern dynasties), the Xianbei people established the North Wei dynasty (386-530) north of the Yangzi River. The Nuzhen (Juchen) tribe founded the Jin empire (1115-1234). During the Yuan or Mongol dynasty (1279-1368), people from the north conquered all of China for the first time. After the Yuan dynasty, the Han people south of the Great Wall and the northern tribes took turns controlling China. But eventually, the Qing (Manchu) empire ruled the Chinese sphere, and continued to do so for nearly 300 years.
Why did the agricultural empires fail to conquer the northern peoples, despite numerous attempts to defeat them militarily? Why were they successful at expanding their territory, but unable to maintain control of their new acquisitions for very long?
One reason was the difference in military forces. Most of the northern tribes were pastoral people who had cavalry, and therefore could move very swiftly. On the other hand, the majority of Chinese were farmers; their soldiers were less agile infantrymen. Moreover, the latter had the disadvantage of being an expeditionary force and were no match for cavalry, whose quick, shrewd moves were difficult to anticipate.
Furthermore, the farmer-soldiers lived mainly on grain, and therefore needed a large quantity of food. Without a strong guard unit to protect the logistics squadron, they would be robbed of their food supply by agile enemy cavalry. Furthermore, the prairie was not a suitable place to station farmer-soldiers. These problems have remained unresolved for over 2,000 years.
During the reign of the first Xin emperor, Wang Mang (8-23 AD), a military officer named Han Wei proposed a solution for the transport problem. “We shall conquer the aliens by eating their flesh when hungry, and sucking their blood when thirsty.” His proposal garnered him a promotion to general. Han was one of the most revered ethnic heroes in China. A poem entitled Manjiang hong (Bloody river) by Yuefei, which is still very popular today, reads: “If a soldier is hungry, he will eat the flesh of aliens; if he is thirsty, he will drink the blood of aliens.” However, it was impossible for the Chinese to capture northern tribesmen as if they were mammals on the plains that could be hunted and killed for their meat.
3. Manchuria’s unique history: the rise and fall of empires
“Northeast China:” an absurd distortion of history
Today Manchurian history is, in most cases, dealt with as the history of a region the Chinese call “Northeast China.” This nomenclature is the most blatant distortion of history perpetrated by the Chinese.
When we hear “northeastern region,” we might think Manchuria is a region situated in the northeastern part of China and, therefore, subordinate to China. The fact is that until recently, Manchuria never belonged to China, nor was it ever the domain of any unified Chinese dynasty.
Recently, the Chinese have been demanding that the Japanese refrain from using the words Manshu and Shina, meaning “Manchuria” and “China,” respectively. In fact, the Chinese government is even putting pressure on the Japanese government regarding this matter. It makes me wonder whether the Chinese abhor the name “Manchuria” because they hate being reminded of the fact that they themselves twisted Manchurian history.
At the beginning of every account of northeastern regional history, there is almost invariably mention of the fact that the Manchurians are members of the “great Chinese family” ?descendants of Huangdi (one of China’s mythological three emperors and five kings, and the reputed primogenitor of the Han).
But a close examination of Chinese history books reveals the true facts. For example, Siku quanshu (Encyclopedia of the four archives) mentions that a Manchurian state was established in the time of Huangdi, describing it as coeval with and independent of China. The Manchurians were not ethnically identical to the Chinese. Siku quanshu was an encyclopedia compiled during the reign of Qing Emperor Qianlong. The Qing dynasty was, of course, established by Manchurians after they conquered China.
I question the appropriateness of declaring a people or a tribe members of a “great family.” Common sense tells us expressions like “great family” should be subcategories of ethnic groups or tribes. Isn’t it extraordinary that a “great family” with a billion members should exist in this world? Even if we admit that China is an artificial state founded on socialist ideals, attempts to unite a people whose origin is much older than the concept of socialism seem far-fetched.
Linguistically, the Manchu language belongs to the same Tungusic family as Japanese and Korean. Ethnically, the Manchus are closer to the Japanese and Koreans than to the Han. The Manchus, Japanese and Koreans may be distant relatives. The argument that the Chinese are descendants of Huangdi is, of course, groundless; it is simply a myth made up by the Chinese to support their belief that they are ethnically superior to everyone else.
According to Suyama Suguru, there are five tribes that speak Tungusic languages: Siberians, Manchurians, Mongolians, the Yellow-River (Huang he) Tungus and the Japanese and Koreans (who constitute one tribe).
According to yet another theory, the Tungusic languages can be further subdivided into Siberian, Manchurian, North Manchurian and South Manchurian. In short, Tungus is the name used to describe the peoples inhabiting eastern Siberia and Manchuria, who are known for being the most heterogeneous in the world. Theories about their origins still abound.
According to one theory, the origin of Tungus is the word Tunghu (eastern aliens), because of the similarities between the two words. But there is another, conflicting opinion. According to Shiratori Kurakichi, a specialist in East Asian civilizations, the Yakut people, who live near Lake Baikal, contemptuously called their neighbors (who ate pork) “pigs” in the Mongolian language, which became “Tungus.”
Sinocentrism: a blemish on history
There are many theories about the origin of the word “Manchuria.” However, it is generally believed that it comes from the Buddhist name Monjusri. Yasui Katsumi writes in Manchuria: People and Language that in ancient times Japan called that region Mishihase. Before the Christian era it was Manche; then it became Manshi, Moctsukitsu, Makatsu, Makuka, Bohai, Manju and finally Manshu (Manchuria). All the old names, beginning with Manche, had similar pronunciations.
Opinions about Manchurian history also diverge. One view maintains that all the states that rose in the region were connected. Historical fact, however, suggests that a state was established in Manchuria by Mongolians or Tungus. That state was then supplanted by another, and then another. Moreover, ethnic groups would band together for a while, and then go their separate ways; this pattern was repeated many times. The truth is probably that northern alien and barbarian empires rose and fell, just as Chinese empires did in the south.
Shiratori argues that Manchuria has no coherent history, due to the ceaseless struggles for control among the Manchus, Mongols and Han. This argument is very important. Not only Manchuria, but also China has no coherent history, due to constant power struggles.
In sum, Manchurian history is one of struggles among diverse peoples in the north and in the south, with the Great Wall in between. Han expeditions to the north may be very familiar to the Japanese. However, it is likely that the southward expeditions of the Juchens and Manchus, who more than once conquered China, began earlier (and had longer-lasting effects).
The North Asian world bordering the Chinese cultural sphere is described from the Chinese historical viewpoint as land not yet explored (by the Chinese) and inhabited only by barbarians called Xirong (western barbarians) in the west, Beidi (northern barbarians) in the north and Dongyi (eastern barbarians) in the east. This opinion is based on the Sinocentric idea that China is the center of the world, and all those outside its borders are aliens and barbarians. The civilizations and plant life of North Asia are, as has been clearly demonstrated by archaeological findings from the prehistoric era, totally different from those of China. Historically, the nomadic and agricultural spheres were two different worlds confronting and contending with each other.
Because they are completely different from the Chinese culture, nomadic cultures are regarded as exotic and barbarian by Sinocentrics. However, there is an opposing view, i.e., that nomadic cultures are rooted in more rational standards, and richer than their Chinese counterpart. According to historian Arnold Toynbee, when we compare nomadic civilizations with agricultural civilizations, we learn that the nomadic lifestyle is superior to the agricultural lifestyle. When we compare nomads’ domestication of animals, to farmers’ cultivation of the soil, we realize that the nomads are more creative and resolute than farmers. Also, the former have more sophisticated skills and aptitudes than the latter.
It is also clear from Chinese history that the Chinese were better off and happier when they were ruled by Mongols and Manchus than when ruled by the Han ? their own people.
4. Koguryo and Bohai built by antecedents of the Manchurians
Koguryo and Bohai: close relations with Japan
On the other hand, the Manchurian historical viewpoint is that between the 3rd and 10th centuries, two independent states existed in the region stretching across east Manchuria, the Maritime Provinces and the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. They were Koguryo (?-668) and Bohai (698-926), a resurrection of the fallen Koguryo. Both states had close relations with Japan, exchanging envoys and cultural assets.
Much remains to be verified about the relationship between Koguryo and Japan, such as the unsolved mystery of the Monument of King Haotai (Guangkaitu), which provokes debate even today. The monument, built at Tonggou in Jilin province, is a gigantic quadrangular stele, 6.12 meters long and 1.45-1.85 meters wide. This stone monument is supposedly a relic of the Northern Megalithic Culture.
The 19th king, Haotai, who reigned from 391 to 412, was succeeded by King Changshou, who reigned from 413 to 490. Changshou expanded the territory controlled by his predecessor. But the inscriptions (over 1,800 characters on the four sides of the monument) refer only to the achievements of King Haotai.
The inscriptions on the Monument of King Haotai differ in shape and usage from the Chinese writing style, and show peculiar cultural traits. Even before World War II, there was controversy surrounding the nine occurrences of wo in the inscriptions. In Japan woren is interpreted in the context of description of the expedition to Korea in Nihon shoki (Chronicles of Japan). However, postwar Chinese scholars and Korean scholars argue that there were woren in the northeastern, central and southwestern regions as well. Therefore, the descriptions of wo in the Chinese classics and historical documents do not refer exclusively to the Japanese. Others point out that woren were not Japanese soldiers of the Yamato dynasty, but pirates from northern Kyushu. Still others suggest that this may be fiction inspired by Japanese militarism and fabricated by Japanese Army headquarters. But the discovery of other historical material has discredited the fabrication theory.
Descriptions in Nihon shoki tell us that there were comings and goings between Koguryo and Japan, as well as trade between the two countries for the nearly 400 years between 297 (the 28th year of the Ojin era) and 686 (the first year of the Jito era). By contemporary Japanese standards, Koguryo was an advanced nation, culturally surpassing Baiji and Xinluo (Sinra) on the Korean peninsula.
By about the 4th century, there were confrontations between Baiji and Koguryo. In the 6th century, East Asian international politics essentially revolved around China, pitting the northern Chinese dynasties, Koguryo and Silla (Xinluo) against the southern Chinese dynasties, Baekje (Paekche) and Wo (Wa). After China was unified under the Sui dynasty, the area saw direct conflict between Sui China and Koguryo.
The state of Koguryo presumably began taking shape around the end of the first century. At the beginning of the 4th century, it attacked and captured the Lelang commandery. Koguryo became a vast kingdom stretching from northeastern Manchuria to the northern Korean peninsula. In 427, during the reign of King Changshou (who succeeded King Haotai), the capital was moved from Tonggou (Wandoucheng) to Pyongyang. The kingdom was at its peak for some 120 years during the reigns of three successive kings: Haotai, Changshou and Wenqi (from the late 4th century to the early 6th century). Military expeditions to Koguryo, which started with Sui Emperor Yang’s reign and continued until the reign of Tang Emperor Tai, were well known, but all ended in failure.
If Bohai was indeed part of China, the Korean peninsula would be Chinese territory
Chinese scholars claim that the history of Koguryo and Bohai must be described as that of Chinese provinces. They are not willing to view Koguryo and Bohai as northern and southern Korea.
Moreover, some ancient Japanese historical documents describe Bohai as equal in stature to China. But Chinese pundits assert that the Japanese descriptions are false and, therefore, should be corrected. They demand that the history of Koguryo and Bohai be treated as Chinese regional history. They also point out that although there were interchanges and trade between Bohai and Japan, these were not the foreign affairs of a regional government, but of China.
However, the leading Koguryo tribes were Manchus, who had no connection with the Han. North and South Koreans proudly regard themselves as descendants of the people of Koguryo. Moreover, the Koreans living in northeast China today believe that they are descendants of the people of Bohai, and view relations with North and South Korea as more important.
The Chinese regard Bohai as a Chinese province simply because it straddled northeastern China and Russia’s Maritime Region. They insist that this Russian region too was originally Chinese territory.
The Mohe tribe, which founded Bohai together with people of Koguryo, were Tungus and ancestors of the Manchus, a minority in present-day China. Xin Tangshu (New Tang history) and Jiu Tangshu (Old Tang history) mention that Bohai’s king was officially designated ruler of the domain via an official Tang imperial seal. This ceremony was known as investiture (cefeng).
If the Tang investitures meant that Bohai automatically became part of China, the two Koreas would be absolutely indivisible from China. But Bohai had a discrete culture; it used different era names, and its political system was different from that of Tang China. Bohai did not observe the Tang calendar, and unlike Korea, it used its own era names, just like Japan.
If records of investitures make a state part of China, and therefore Chinese history, would Japan also be Chinese territory? Remember that Ashikaga Yoshimitsu of Japan was once designated the king of Japan by Ming China’s cefeng.
Bohai was a Tungusic state established by Emperor Go (Da Zuorong), who was designated prefectural king of Bohai by Tang Emperor Xuanzong after Koguryo was destroyed by the allied forces of Tang and Xinluo during the reign of Tang Emperor Gaozong. Bohai was situated in southeastern Koguryo. Because its leaders, who first called it “Zhen,” attempted to resurrect Koguryo, Bohai was considered Koguryo’s successor. The third ruler, Dae Heummu, called himself king of Koguryo in an official missive to the emperor of Japan. Bohai endured through 15 generations of kings and more than 200 years. During that time, envoys from Bohai made 34 round trips to Japan; envoys from Japan visited Bohai approximately 15 times. Later, however, Bohai was destroyed by the Khitans (Liao dynasty).
5. Conquering dynasties that ruled China
Beginning of a nomadic dynasty that conquered China
As mentioned previously, the struggle for power between nomadic and agricultural empires continued for centuries, beginning with the Qin and Han dynasties; most of those battles were waged near the Great Wall. However, during the era of the Northern and Southern dynasties, the borderline of the arena of conflict between the nomadic and farming tribes moved from the Great Wall to the Changjiang (Yangzi) River. From that time on, the struggle entered a new phase during which there was fighting along the Yangzi for nearly 400 years.
The rulers of the Sui and Tang dynasties, which reunited China, were Xianbei, one of the northern Wuhu (five aliens) tribes. Empires heavily international in character flourished temporarily. But the Tang dynasty headed for decline after the An Shi Rebellion (755-763), during which An Lushan and Shi Siming seized control of Luoyang and Changan. After yet another major farmers’ uprising known as the Huang Chao Rebellion (875-884) after its leader, even Japan stopped sending envoys to Tang China.
Following the An Shi Rebellion, the Tang empire was divided and controlled by warlords. Inhabitants of adjacent regions took this opportunity to create writing systems and nurture their cultures; they established ethnic states. This trend is referred to as the “flowering of ethnic states in the Middle Ages.”
In north China, five dynasties rose and fell: Later Liang, Later Tang, Later Jin, Later Hang and Later Zhou. There were 10 other states (Earlier Shu, Later Shu, Jingnan (Nanping), Min, Wu, Southern Tang, Chu, Wu Yue, Southern Han and Northern Han) in central and south China. This period of upheaval (907-960) is called the wudai shiguo (Five Dynasties and Ten States) era.
Among the nation-states established in the late Tang era, the two that posed the greatest threat to China were the Liao (Mongol Khitans) and Jin (Juchen) dynasties. The Liao dynasty brought north China under its control, but it is not counted among the five dynasties, according to the traditional Chinese concept of legitimacy. The Liao dynasty evolved into the Jin dynasty, which was supplanted by the Mongolian dynasty. The grassland empire north of the desert became the Mongolian empire, and eventually the mammoth Yuan empire, once the vast area stretching from central Eurasia to the Chinese sphere in the south had been conquered. These regimes are referred to as “conquering dynasties.”
The Tujue empire, a constant threat to the Tang empire, split into eastern and western segments. Supplanting East Tujue upon its ruin in 657 were the Huige (Uighurs). But the Huige state fell in 840, and North Asia was in chaos for over half a century.
In the early 10th century, the Mongol Khitans rose in the Xinganling region of eastern Mongolia and in western Mongolia. They united the north Asian grasslands, destroyed Bohai in the east, crossed the Great Wall and helped establish the Later Jin dynasty, one of the five dynasties, for which they were given territory in north China (the 16 Prefectures of Yanyun, including Beijing, Tianjin and northern Shanxi) in 938. Furthermore, they captured Daliang (Bianjing), capital of Later Jin and then destroyed Later Jin altogether. They occupied most of northern China, and officially named their country “Daliao” (known in the West as the “Khitai” (Cathay) Empire.” Incidentally, Khitan (Qidan) is the plural of Khitai. Present-day Cathay Pacific Airways is named after this ancient Asian empire.
Song (Sung) China buys peace from northern empire
The Khitans appear as “Khitai” in The Secret History of the Yuan Dynasty, and as “Qidan” in Chinese historical documents of the late 4th century.
The Liao empire established by Yelu Abaoji (Taizu), who reigned from 916 to 926, united North Asia and extended its influence to China in the south. It contended with Song China, a newly founded Han state, which succeeded the Five Dynasties. Having fought across the Yellow River (Huang He), the Liao and Song concluded the Shanyuan Treaty in 1004. The two parties agreed to move the border between them from the Great Wall to the Yellow River, and entered into a fraternal relationship.
Song China was to present 200,000 pi of silk (one pi is roughly equivalent to 21 meters) and 100,000 liang of silver (one liang = 37.3 grams) each year to the Liao to assist with military expenses. The Chinese empire’s basic concept of one and only one ruler, i.e., “just as there are no two suns in heaven, there can be no two emperors on earth,” was invalidated. For the first time, the Chinese empire paid a vast fortune to aliens and barbarians in exchange for peace.
The Liao dynasty flourished for about 120 years ? three generations of emperors, from Emperor Shengzong (the sixth Liao emperor) to Emperor Daozong. During this period, Liao was a vast empire, controlling North and East Asia.
Jin dynasty: the next and second conquering dynasty
The Jin empire, ruled by the Tungusic Juchen people, destroyed and supplanted the Liao dynasty. After Bohai was brought down by the Liao, the Juchen split into several tribes and were controlled by the Liao.
In 1115, tribal chief Wanyan Aguda united most of the Juchen tribes, mainly in Acheng Xian (Huining fu), situated southeast of present-day Harbin. The Juchen and their ally, the Northern Song, destroyed the Liao empire. During the reign of Aguda’s younger brother, Emperor Taizong, the Juchen destroyed the Liao. In 1126, they took the Song capital and captured Emperor Qinzong and his wife, ex-Emperor Huizong, the imperial family and several hundred courtiers and exiled them to the north in what was called the Jingkang Incident (1126-27).
The next year, the Emperor’s brother, who had fled southward across the Yangzi River to Xingzai (Hangzhou) was enthroned as Emperor Gaozong. This was the Southern Song dynasty.
Thus, the Jin dynasty became the second conquering dynasty following the Liao dynasty. Under its control were the Khitans, the Han and the people of Bohai. The population rose to more than ten times that of the Juchen tribes, most of which left their homeland Manchuria and moved south of the Great Wall, thus leaving Manchuria deserted. The Juchen made the same mistake as the Xianbei of the Northern Wei dynasty; they allowed themselves to be engulfed by the vast Han sea and disappeared. According to the chapter on economics in the History of the Jin Dynasty, there were approximately five million Juchen at that time.
The Jin empire was destroyed by the allied armies of the rising Mongol Empire and the Southern Song dynasty. The Southern Song dynasty, in turn, was ruined by Kublai Khan (Shizu of Yuan). The Mongols then invaded Europe and established the first global empire.
6. The Manchurian Qing dynasty: halcyon days for the Chinese
The Manchurian Qing dynasty destroys Han Ming dynasty
The Hongjin (Red Turban) Rebellion (1354-66) broke out at the end of the Yuan dynasty and once again threw East Asia into utter confusion. It was an uprising of farmers with a core of members of the Buddhist Bailian (White Lotus) sect. Zhu Yuanzhang, an orphan who joined the Hongjin Army, in whose service he distinguished himself, later became Emperor Hongwu (Tai Zu) of the Ming dynasty. In 1368 Zhu Yuanzhang (himself a Han) drove alien tribes outside the Great Wall and established the Ming dynasty. The Han were in power for the first time in 400 years.
During the Ming era, an isolationist policy banning foreign travel was instituted. The ban lasted over 200 years, probably because the Ming rulers were constantly worried about the Mongols in the north and the wokou (Japanese invaders) from the sea, as the expression beilu nanwo (barbarians in the north, Japanese in the south) indicates.
Ming China drove the Mongols north of the Great Wall during the reign of Taizu, but from the reign of the third emperor Yongle (Chengzu) on, China was invaded by Tatars and then Oirat (Wala) Mongols. For nearly 80 years, the Mongols harassed China incessantly.
At the same time, the Chinese advanced into Manchuria in the northeast and attempted to rule the Liaodong region. Despite the expenditure of significant funds and manpower, they had to abandon the region after only 60 years. During the reigns of Taizu and Chengzu at the beginning of the Ming era, China had controlled at least part of Manchuria over 60 to 70 years. But in the History of the Ming Dynasty, compiled during the Qing dynasty, the section that deals with the Juchen, which would have described the Manchus, is missing. Taiwan is included in the section on Japan as part of Japan. Even the scholars who were entrusted with the compilation of history were as ignorant of Manchuria as they were of foreign lands across the seas.
Though the Mongols were driven north of the Great Wall during the Ming era, they were not totally destroyed. Having founded the Northern Yuan dynasty, they continued to battle with Ming China south of the Great Wall. Nurhachi, leader of the Jianzhou Juchen (Nuzhen) in the east, established the Later Jin dynasty. During the reign of the second khan, Taizong (Hung Taiji), the Qing dynasty was established. Hung Taiji became emperor and from the Mongol Northern Yuan rulers, inherited the imperial seal, which had been handed down from emperor to emperor, beginning with Genghis Khan. The Qing dynasty had replaced the Yuan dynasty. Moreover, the Juchen (Nuzhen) began calling themselves Manchus during the Qing dynasty.
Nurhachi, the founding father of the Qing dynasty, established the Later Jin dynasty, which was succeeded by the Qing dynasty. Shunzhi, the third Qing emperor, crossed the Great Wall and entered Beijing in 1644. But it took the Qing rulers 40 more years to conquer all of China and supplant the Ming dynasty. This grand mission was finally completed in 1683, when Qing forces defeated the Zheng family, whose headquarters were in Taiwan. Another 100 years of battles were fought with the grassland Dzungar empire in the west before Outer Mongolia and Tibet were colonized and peace came to the region.
The territory and institutions of the Qing empire were established during the reign of the fourth emperor, Kangxi (Shengzu), who reigned for 61 years (1661-1722). However, the Dzungar empire was destroyed during the reign of Emperor Qianlong, grandson of Kangxi.
During Emperor Qianlong’s reign, the Qing empire conquered South Asia. It also annexed Burma and Annan, then Nepal (in 1792). After part of Southeast Asia had been colonized, the vast empire was complete, 200 years after Taizu Nurhachi founded it.
The Manchu-Mongol Eight-Banner forces liberate oppressed Chinese
The Ming era was the modern version of the Dark Ages in Chinese history. An autocracy took shape during this period, and all power rested in the emperor. The prying eyes of the espionage network, with its core of huanguan (eunuchs), reached every nook and cranny of China.
Even the imperial court was not exempt from the harsh penal code. If a minister did something to anger the emperor, he was immediately flogged, right there in the court. Elderly court officials were too weak to withstand the ordeal, and many of them died on the spot. The Ming era was the time when the Chinese were most ruthlessly deprived of human rights and dignity. Toward the end of the dynasty, roving bandits were rampant and everywhere people starved to death; cannibalism became the last resort for survival throughout the country.
Given these circumstances, the Manchu-Mongol eight-banner forces were welcomed as liberators. When they entered Beijing, all the officials in the Beijing court dispatched a ceremonial squadron, with which they traveled 10 miles from the castle to welcome the army. Ordinary citizens received the bannermen with equal enthusiasm, burning incense and posting yellow signs reading daqing shunmin (We pledge obedience to the great Qing empire) on every house. An order to wear the “queue” hairstyle, typically worn by the Manchus and Mongols, was immediately promulgated throughout the country. A welcoming atmosphere permeated all of Ming China.
Here I would like to add that Manchu institutions can be traced to the banner system. Military service was compulsory for all men. The army consisted of eight divisions, each of which was assigned one of the eight banners. There were four solid-color banners (yellow, scarlet, white and navy blue), and four other banners in the same colors with borders. The divisions were united under eight banners, and together were, therefore, called the “Eight Banner Army.” Each banner (division) consisted of 7,500 soldiers. All Manchus belonged to one of the eight banners. Following the example of the Manchurian eight banner system, the Mongols formed their own eight banner system during the reign of Taizong, the second emperor.
The Chinese were happier under Manchu rule than at any other time in their entire history. The 150 years that spanned the reigns of Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong marked an unprecedentedly prosperous and peaceful period. Since the Chinese were, for the first time ever, not required to pay poll taxes, they were able to lead reasonably comfortable lives.
Consequently, the population grew rapidly. At the end of the Ming dynasty, it had dwindled, due to famines and marauding bandits. But by 1661, the 18th year of the reign of Emperor Shunzhi, it had reached 24.6 million. By 1749, the 14th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong, almost 100 years later, it had jumped to approximately 179.49 million. In 1783, the 48th year of the reign of Emperor Qianlong, it was 284 million. For the first time, the Chinese population exceeded 100 million. Under rulers who were ethnically different from them, the Chinese were more content than they had ever been.
The power relationship between the Manchus and Mongols and the Han was similar to that between samurai and farmers and townspeople in Japan. The relationship can be explained by the differences in land management and ownership between the nomads and farmers.
However, once Eight Banner soldiers became accustomed to urban life, they gradually lost their fighting spirit and honesty. They began to acquire bad habits, and even committed crimes, among them drunkenness, bribery, gambling and theft, just like the Han. The nomads entered the black hole that is China, and disappeared as if they had been swallowed up by the sea. The Manchus suffered the same fate as other ethnic groups that had ruled China; they became corrupt and lost their identity as a people.
Professor Miyazaki Ichisada, a scholar of Asian history, has analyzed this phenomenon in detail, going back as far as antiquity in his book entitled Toyo ni okeru sobokushugi no minzoku to bunmeishugi no shakai (Primitive and civilized societies in East Asia).viii
7. Manchuria was never Chinese territory
Manchurian studies begin with Japan
Prior to the Russo-Japanese War, Manchurian studies were conducted mainly by the Japanese military. Systematic studies by historians began with the economic boom resulting from Japanese development of Manchuria after the Russo-Japanese War. The greatest impetus was the South Manchurian Railway & Co., Ltd. (hereafter referred to as the Manchurian Railroad).
As early as the late Edo period, research on the Manchurian language and the general situation in Manchuria was well under way in Japan. Among the results of that research were books by Mamiya Tomomune (Rinzo) and Kondo Morishige (Juzo), and studies by Takahashi Kageyasu.
Books written about Manchuria during the Edo period were mentioned in the chapter entitled “History of Manchuria and Mongolia” of Meiji igo ni okeru rekishigaku no hattatsu (Progress of historical studies from the Meiji era onward), written by Wada Sei. Among them were the six-volume account Dattan hyouryuki (Tartar adventure) written in the Kan’ei era (1624-1644), Manbun kou (A study of Manchurian literature) by Ogyu Sorai, Manshu jishiki (the Manchurian writing system) by Amano Sadakage, and Kenshu shimatsuki (The story of Jianzhou) by Sorai’s brother Hokuei. Many other books were published, including Tsuzoku min shin gundan kokusenya chugi den (Story of loyalist Guoxingye (Koxinga) and the Ming-Qing battles, written in the vernacular) by Okajima Kanzan, Todatsu kiko (Journey to East Tartary and Sakhalin) by Mamiya Tomomune, Henyo bunkai zuko (Map of fortifications in the frontier region) by Kondo Morishige, and Shinzoku kibun (Daily life in Qing China), also by Kondo.
After the Russo-Japanese War, the field of Manchurian studies was led by Dr. Shiratori Kurakichi, who was singled out by Goto Shinpei, president of the Manchurian Railroad and a scholar revered as the founder of Asian studies. Other well-known, distinguished scholars were Yanai Watari, Tsuda Sokichi, Ikeuchi Hiroshi, Inaba Iwakichi, Matsui Hitoshi, Wada Sei, Naito Konan and Torii Ryuzo.
Among scholars of Manchurian and Korean studies, the predominant view was that Manchuria had never been Chinese territory. The most prominent advocator of that opinion was Dr. Yano Jin’ichi.
However, in 1932, after the Mukden Incident, Chinese scholar Fu Sinian published Dongbei shigang (Outline of northeastern history), in which he and his co-authors attempted to prove that Manchuria had been Chinese territory.ix But they succeeded only in confirming the history of conflicts that took place in Manchuria between the Chinese and northern ethnic groups.
The success of Japanese enterprises in Manchuria triggered a great deal of activity (and significant progress) in Manchurian studies. Scholars went on research missions to Manchuria, where they studied a wide range of natural sciences and humanities (geology, geography, fauna and flora, history, archaeology, ethnology and anthropology). The results obtained on these missions were unique and unprecedented.
Prior to the Sino-Japanese War, the primary focus of Japanese historians was the Korean peninsula. It was after the Russo-Japanese War that it broadened to include Manchuria. There were then three main fields in Manchurian studies, with Shiratori’s Manshu chiri rekishi kenkyu hokoku (Report on Manchurian geography and history) at the core. The first was the study of Manchurian history, focusing on the Qing dynasty, spearheaded by Shiratori (University of Tokyo) and Dr. Naito Konan (Kyoto University). The second was modern Manchurian diplomatic history; and the third, surveys of conditions in Manchuria conducted jointly by the Manchurian Railroad and Japanese military authorities, in preparation for the operation of the Manchurian Railroad,
Chinese begin to study Manchuria only in the wake of the Mukden Incident
Most of the research on Manchuria done by Chinese scholars began just after the Mukden Incident. Previously, Japanese research on Manchuria was considered the best in the world. Without it, it might not be possible to even discuss Manchurian history.
The preface of a book entitled Toa shi kenkyu: Manshu hen (A study of East Asian history: Manchuria) by Wada Sei reads, in part, as follows:
Manchuria was originally an outlying region of the Far East, in the remotest corner of the world. From the perspective of past Chinese dynasties, it was wilderness, hardly worthy of scholars’ attention. Even after the Qing dynasty united all of China, the very fact that Manchuria was the birthplace of the Qing dynasty led to the suppression of research on Manchuria, for fear that historical research might reveal ugly secrets hidden behind the glorious success story. That is why Manchurian history has been dismissed as worthless by the Chinese. Therefore, this discipline has been monopolized by Japanese scholars.x
Research on Manchuria in Japan from the Meiji era onward was initiated by pioneer scholars like Naka Michiyo, Shiratori Kurakichi and Naito Konan. Researchers in the newly-established Scientific Research Division of the Manchurian Railroad followed in their footsteps. When the division was abolished, its work was taken over by scholars at the University of Tokyo, which eventually published 16 volumes of Mansen chiri rekishi kenkyu hokoku (Report on Manchurian and Korean geological and historical research).
Later the Japan-Manchuria Cultural Society published Man mo shi ronso (Collected studies on Manchurian and Mongolian history). After Manzhouguo was established, the Manchurian Cultural Society in Dalian published Manshu gakuho (Manchurian research bulletin). The Society for Manchurian Historical Studies issued Manshu shigaku (Historical study of Manchuria).
However, after World War II, Manchurian studies waned, while a new tide of research on the Japanese invasion of Manchuria swept in. Historical research was supplanted by research on invasions, their focus being the verification of the criminality of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria and of colonial invasions. The commitment to verifying information reported as fact, prominent in prewar studies, was abandoned. Books with titles like Illegitimate Manzhouguo, which one would never encounter anywhere other than in China, began to appear in Japan as well.
If Manchuria has no history, neither does China
The assertion that “Manchuria was never Chinese territory,” made by Dr. Yano Jin’ichi in Manshukoku rekishi (History of Manzhouguo) and Manshu mondai ni tsuite (On the Manchurian problem), is widely known and has attracted much criticism.
Yano maintains that Manchuria’s most significant peculiarity is that it was not originally Chinese territory, not even during the Qing dynasty. The reason he gives is that Manchuria was a region reserved for the Manchurian banners to live in during the Qing dynasty. The Qing dynasty was a Manchu dynasty and a Manchu empire’; it was not Chinese.
He writes, in Manshukoku rekishi, that there have been objections to the term “Manzhouguo’s history” because it assumes that Manchuria has a coherent national history. It is true that many ethnic groups have risen and fallen, as have many states. But that does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that Manchuria has no national history. On the other hand, it is just as unreasonable to insist that Manchuria’s history is only the story of the Manchus.xi
If the argument that Manchuria has no national history holds water, then using the same logic, we can conclude that China also lacks a national history (the reasons being that in China, many ethnic civilizations rose and fell, many dynasties prospered and perished, and many unions and divisions took place).
Yano believes that Manchuria had existed as Manzhouguo since ancient times. Shiratori disagrees, arguing that Manchurian history does not involve coherent historical development and evolution. In a paper entitled “Rekishijo yori mitaru Manshukoku” (Manzhouguo seen from a historical viewpoint), he writes, “Manchuria was a land where battles for power were fought among Manchus, Mongols and the Han. At times, waves of those three peoples moved south instead of north, or east instead of west. Manchurian history has been intermittent or spasmodic, and as such, lacks coherence.”xii
Siku quanshu, compiled during the reign of Qing Emperor Qianlong, was, as mentioned previously, a Chinese encyclopedia. In it Manchurian history is referred to as that of a state existing independently from China ever since the ancient mythological Emperor Huang founded China. Yano agrees. Still, Shiratori is correct in pointing out that Manchuria has no coherent history. The fact that both Korea and China were frequently controlled by other ethnic groups explains the gaps in continuity. I see little difference between the lack of coherence in Korean and Chinese history, and that in Manchurian history.
Makeshift names: “Northeast”, “China” and “Chinese people”
Traditionally, the Chinese regarded Manchuria as a region beyond the border, as they did Xinjiang and Mongolia. They had only a vague notion of that land outside the Chinese world. Their claim that there is no such place as Manchuria, and their decision to call Manchuria “Northeast” is opportunistic and self-serving.
The name Manchuria has a place in historiography; the same cannot be said for an overly generic place name like “Northeast,” which merely indicates geographic location. A place inside China might be called North China, Central China, South China, or possibly East China, but as Manchuria is outside the Chinese world, the Chinese could not come up with anything better than “Northeast.”
I may be digressing a bit here, but not only the name “Northeast,” but also “Zhongguo” (China) and “Chinese” were makeshift names created by political campaigners in the 20th century. Originally, there were other candidates (Daxia, Huaxia, Zhonghua or Zhendan ) as well as Zhongguo, which was selected only after much debate. After all, Zhongguo is a product of Chinese perception, and the place name “Northeast” was invented much later than “Manchuria.”
After the Mukden Incident, the Chinese claimed that Manchuria had been Chinese territory since the dawn of history. A typical example is the aforementioned Dongbei shigang (Outline of northeastern history). The editors of the book were prominent scholars like Fu Sinian, Fang Zhuangyou, Xu Zhongshu, Su Yishan and Jiang Tingfu. According to Dongbei shigang, the claim that Manchuria and Mongolia are not historically Chinese territory is a groundless fallacy, and the Japanese aim then was to invade the northeast. The editors add that the question of whether the three eastern provinces are Chinese territory should not be argued in the context of historical events. The decision that a region belongs to a particular state is made according to two criteria: first, its status is mandated by the state’s constitution and international law and second, the decision is to be made by the region’s inhabitants.
There are other disturbing pronouncements in the book: historically, the Bohai region is the birthplace of the Chinese culture, all of the Liaodong Peninsula has been a Chinese province or prefecture since antiquity, the Greater Changbai Range and Heilongjiang River have long been Chinese territory, and Manchuria was a tributary state of the Ming dynasty.
Dongbei shigang contains a strong assertion, namely that North China and Manchuria are one and the same entity in all respects (ethnicity, culture and history), and that the region should not be called Manchuria, but “Northeast.”xiii
No one ever claimed that Manchuria was Japanese territory
The opinion that Manchuria is not Chinese territory was expressed not only by Dr. Yano of Kyoto University, but also by Professor Wada Sei of the University of Tokyo in a paper entitled “Rekishijo yori mitaru shina minzoku no hatten” (Evolution of the Chinese from a historical viewpoint).xiv
To counter arguments like the one made in Dongbei shigang, Wada contributed two papers (103 pages in all) to Manshukoku rekishi (History of Manzhouguo): “Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Statement ? the League of Nations’ view that Manchuria is part of China” and “A refutation of the assertion made by Chinese scholars that Manchuria is part of China proper.”
Although Yano insisted that Manchuria had never been Chinese territory, he never suggested that Manchuria was Japanese territory.
Reactions to the opinion that Manchuria had never been Chinese territory were given ample coverage in Chinese newspapers and pamphlets. European countries and the United States published translated articles on the subject. Furthermore, the matter was referred to in a memorandum stating the policy of Prime Minister Tanaka Giichi’s Cabinet vis ? vis Manchuria and Mongolia. The memorandum was presented to the Emperor of Japan, and was soon surrounded by controversy. However, it turned out that the prime minister’s memorandum was a Chinese forgery.
Prof. Yano commented on his own argument, saying that he intended to allow Chinese scholars who had stubbornly insisted that Manchuria was part of China proper some time for reflection. He added that he also intended to supply concrete, logical proof of Manchuria’s independence. His objective was to fulfill the academic obligations that emanated from his research on Manzhouguo.
Chapter Three: Manchuria Devastated Under
the Rule of Bandits and Warlords
1. Land of unions and divisions
Autocratic Chinese, republican nomads
Chinese empires rose and fell in accordance with what were believed to be decrees from Heaven. The nomadic empires in the north also experienced their own vicissitudes.
What distinguishes this belief about dynasty changes is that autocratic imperial rule and centralized systems persisted in China for more than 2000 years. The People’s Republic of China is the successor.
Conversely, most of the nomadic empires were characterized by coexistence and co-prosperity among various ethnic groups in the form of a republican government that resembled a confederation of kingdoms or a federal government. Consequently, unions were frequently formed. Sooner or later, they would dissolve, and the process would begin all over again. An ethnic group would suddenly appear on the stage of history, then exit without fanfare.
Moreover, in nomadic societies a powerful, competent leader is chosen or promoted as khan (leader). In contrast to the principle of bloodline legitimacy that prevailed in China, nomadic societies seem to have placed more emphasis on an individual’s performance and capability.
In North Asia, many ethnic groups rose and fell, e.g., the historically famous Huns, Xianbei, Rouran and Uighurs. From medieval times on, various empires came into power (e.g., Liao, Jin, Xixia and Mongolian) and later disappeared. Geographical distribution was as follows: in and around the Mongolian Plateau were the Huns, Xianbei, Wuhuan and Rouran; to the east, in Manchuria, were first the Fuyu and Koguryo peoples, and during the Tang dynasty and afterward, the Mohe, Bohai, Qidan and Nuzhen (Juchen).
The tribal distribution in North Asia tells us that there was a Turkish sphere in the west, a Mongol sphere in the center, and a Tungusic sphere in the east. In Manchuria, various nomadic empires waxed and waned ever since the earliest times, and besides the major Tungusic peoples, diverse ethnic peoples established various states there.
What is most remarkable here is that though history of this particular region remains recorded only as a part of Chinese history, even Chinese history reveals a very interesting fact: since the dawn of history, nomadic empires in the north conquered and controlled China from time to time, but never once did China conquer the nomadic world in North Asia. This is one of the most salient facts revealed in the long history of conflicts between the nomads and the farming peoples. Specifically, the Northern Wei, Liao, Jin, Xixia, Mongolian (Yuan) and Qing were the conquering dynasties that controlled the grasslands along the middle and lower reaches of the Huang River.
The rise and fall of various ethnic groups in Manchuria and Mongolia
Which ethnic groups have found their way to Manchuria, formed alliances with other groups, severed those alliances, and then left the region since the dawn of history?
Chronologically, in the Mongolian Plateau were Huns between the 3rd century BC and the 3rd century AD, the Xianbei between the 2nd century BC and the 6th century AD (as far southeast as Liaoning), the Wuhuan between the 2nd century BC and the 3rd century AD (in the southeastern part of Mongolia), the Rouran between the 4th and 6th centuries, and the Qidan between the 10th and 12th centuries.
In Manchuria lived Koguryo people between the 1st century BC and the 5th century AD, the Mohe in the 6th and 7th centuries, the Bohai (descendants of the Koguryo and Mohe peoples) between the 7th and 10th centuries, and the Nuzhen (Juchen) between the 10th and 13th centuries.
Familiar to the Japanese were the Sushen (Mishihase) and Bohai. There had been trade and other exchange between these two peoples and the Japanese since ancient times. According to one account, seven Sushen visited to Japan in the 5th year of Emperor Tenmu (676). According to a description in Shoku Nihongi (Second history of Japan) written in the 4th year of Yoro (720), six Japanese envoys including Morokimi no kurao were sent to Bohai.
Very little is known about the Sushen, who appear in the classical literature of the Former Qin period. Suishu (Book of Sui) mentions that the Mohe arrived in Manchuria later than the Sushen (here Mohe means Bohai).
In western Manchuria, prior to the Tang and Song dynasties, were the Mongolian-Tungusic Donghu. In the east along the Liaohe River and in the northern part of the Korean Peninsula, were the agricultural Suibai. South of the northernmost Songhua River were hunters of pure Tungusic extraction; in the north of the Songhua River lived the Donghu, who both farmed and hunted. This ethnic distribution remained almost unchanged from the dawn of history to the Tang dynasty.
Both the Fuyu and Koguryo established powerful states in Manchuria.
The Yilou, described in “Weizhi” (History of the kingdom of Wei) of Sanguozhi (History of the three kingdoms), as well as the Wuji people referred to in Weishu (Book of Wei), were pure Tungus.
After Fuyu and Koguryo perished, the surviving Koguryo people and the Mohe established Bohai. Those who had once been incorporated into Koguryo, and later gained control were pure Tungusic Nuzhen people (Juchen). Therefore, the establishment of the Jin empire by the Juchen was a major turning point in Chinese history.
After the collapse of the Jin empire (1234), the Juchen were ruled by the Mongolian Yuan dynasty, and then by its successor, the Northern Yuan dynasty. The Juchen were divided into three major groups: Haixi Juchen in the region along the Songhua River, Yeren Juchen along the lower reaches of the Heilong River, and the Jiangzhou Juchen along the Mudan River. Among them, it was the Jiangzhou Juchen who produced Nurhachi, the founder of the Qing dynasty.
2. Manchuria devastated by policy keeping the Han out
Investiture system and robust Eight Banner Army sustain Qing empire
Nearly 200 years after Nurhachi (the first emperor of the Qing dynasty), established the Later Jin dynasty, a vast Qing empire came into being. It was a coalition of diverse ethnic groups, each with their own history and culture. The system of government established in this multi-ethnic society was based on tributary states and investiture of the rulers of those states. Under this fundamental structure, there were various forms of government.
Having adopted the system of tributary states and investiture (cefeng), the central government of the imperial court exercised benign rule over neighboring countries that paid tribute to the emperor. In return, the central government gave those nations the authority to rule in their respective regions. Not everything was centralized; control was fairly loose, this being a system of mixed (direct and indirect) control.
China proper was ruled directly by the emperor, and many of the Ming systems were adopted.
Mongolia, Huibu (now the Uighur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang) and Tibet were not included in the Chinese world. They were called fanbu (colonies). A minister holding a rank between below governor but above ambassador was appointed to represent each colony.
Regions like Korea, the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa) and Yuenan (Vietnam) were regarded as tributary colonies and paid tribute to the Qing emperor on a regular basis.
Manchuria had a different system of government from China. China had a civil government, but it was martial rule in Manchuria. A general was stationed in Shengjing (today Shenyang), Jilin and Heilongjiang; these officers were administrative as well as military leaders. There were approximately 11,000 cavalry (with infantry below them) in the entire region during Kangxi rule (1661-1722). Their numbers increased to 37,000 during the reign of Emperor Qianlong.
The realm of the Qing dynasty was sustained by the powerful and competent (though small in number) Eight Banner Army. According to a popular saying, “There are fewer than 10,000 Manchurians, but 10,000 Manchurians would be truly invincible.” Their invincible cavalrymen were born and raised in the Manchurian environment. The members of the banner armies were instilled martial spirit on Manchurian soil.
The banners sustained the power structure. In turn, the Qing dynasty protected the banners through a hereditary system that maintained their martial traditions and prohibited them from engaging in business activities. Moreover, the banner members were not allowed to intermarry or live with the Han; Han women could not serve as court ladies.
What the Qing dynasty feared most was that the Manchurians might be absorbed by the Han majority. Throughout history, many nomadic tribes succeeded in conquering the Chinese, but most of them were absorbed by the vast sea of Han people. That is exactly what happened to the Northern Wei dynasty. The Qing dynasty wisely avoided the mistakes made by past conquering dynasties.
The devastation of Manchuria
Manchuria, the birthplace of the ancestors of the Qing dynasty, was designated as forbidden land. The Han people were prohibited from settling there.
In 1621, off-limits areas were defined in the Liaodong Peninsula for the first time. Gradually, off-limits enclosures were expanded to Shengjing (today Shenyang) and to the forest region of Jilin. The enclosures were reserved as hunting and training grounds for members of the Eight Banners.
Besides the enclosures made since the Jin empire, the government of the Qing dynasty declared many areas restricted to protect special natural resources like the ginseng, gold, sables, freshwater pearls and precious stones intended for the imperial family from poachers. In addition, as poaching by the Han and Koreans persisted, the government stationed additional guards on the border between Manchuria and Korea, rigorously inspected Han people passing through Shanhaiguan Gate (the easternmost point in the Great Wall), and pronounced all of Manchuria’s forests and fields off-limits.
However, since the times of the first emperor, Nurhachi, the Qing dynasty was continually forced to dispatch military expeditions. As long as Manchurians were battling the Han, young Manchurian men were organized into the Eight Banner Army. Consequently, the once fertile Manchurian banner land (given to banners by the emperor) was deserted and reverted to wilderness.
After the Qing dynasty moved to Beijing, not only soldiers, but also their families left the Manchuria in a rush, pouring into the region south of the Great Wall in great numbers. This population shift further accelerated the devastation of Manchuria.
The prohibition against the Han’s settling in Manchuria was intended to preserve and maintain Manchuria as it originally had been, where the population had drastically dwindled. In spite of the ban, the Han continued to sneak into Manchuria and secretly reclaimed land there. Organized mobs of bandits stealthily dug up ginseng and gold, while prisoners held in the northernmost Heilongjiang and Jilin regions attempted to escape southward. Many of the escapees ended up joining mounted bandits and other robbers in Manchuria.
A policy intended to prevent the Han from illegally entering Manchuria was implemented in the 1740s (at the beginning of Qianlong’s reign); in 1746, an order to tighten control over passage through Shanhaiguan Gate was issued. In 1750, security measures against refugees sneaking across the border were bolstered.
In China, during the waning years of Emperor Qianlong’s reign, the natural environment steadily deteriorated. Famine after famine turned a significant portion of the population into refugees, more and more of whom went to Manchuria. Such dire conditions prompted bans against settling in Manchuria and private exploitation, implemented in 1803 and in 1808, respectively, but neither measure effectively stemmed the influx of refugees.
The policy that declared Manchuria off-limits was withdrawn after the Muslim rebellions were put down.
When the Dzungar empire was conquered by Emperor Qianlong in the mid-18th century, scattered Muslim (Hui and Uighur) rebellions broke out. After the historically famous Taiping Tianguo (Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace) Rebellion (1851-64) was suppressed, most civil disturbances were fomented by Muslims. One rebellion that began in 1864 spread to the provinces of Shanxi, Gansu and Yunnan; a revolt in the northern and southern routes through the Tian Mountains was crushed in 1878. The provinces of Dzungar and Hui were combined to form Shinjiang Province in 1882.
Why were restrictions affecting Manchuria lifted?
In order to control the Han majority and to suppress any attempts on their part to gain more power, the Qing dynasty designated the regions north and west of the Great Wall, as well as Tibet and Taiwan, as off-limits areas and banned emigration to those areas. However, after the Muslim rebellions, the fear that the Great Powers might encroach on China inspired the Qing dynasty to gradually lift the ban and allow emigration to Manchuria, Taiwan and other colonial regions.
For 270 years, Qing dynasty policy banning the Han from emigrating to Manchuria lacked consistency. For about 90 years (1651-1739), i.e., from the 8th year of Shunzhi’s reign, following Qing entry into Beijing, to the early years of Qianlong’s reign, such policies were instituted, then relaxed, then reinstituted. For about 150 years (1740-1893), i.e., from the 5th year of Qianlong’s reign to the 19th year of Quangxu’s reign, emigration was banned.
Changes in the global situation following the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars were partly accountable for changes in Manchuria policy and for the lifting of the ban on emigration.
Throughout history, the Russians had always been eager to move eastward to Siberia. In 1689, during the reign of Emperor Kangxi, the Chinese concluded the Treaty of Nerchinsk. The pact temporarily prevented the Russians from advancing southward, but the threat of such an advance never vanished.
To prepare for a possible southward Russian advance, Qing ordered Eight Banner Army men to settle as farmer-soldiers near the Helong (Amur) and Zeya rivers, as early as 1685. They were stationed there both to keep the area secure and to reclaim the land. During the reign of Emperor Qianlong, the Qing dynasty attempted several times to send banner members to Manchuria to farm. But those residing in Beijing had become accustomed to an urban lifestyle. Even when they were forced to move to Manchuria, they would return to Beijing before long. The Qing government spent a vast amount of money on these projects, but Manchurian bannermen were no longer capable of contending with the harsh natural environment of their homeland. Thus, the plan to return Manchurians to their native land was a complete and utter failure.
The threat of a southward Russian advance increased in the 19th century, and compelled Qing China to adopt an emigration policy.
Another factor was the financial predicament of the Qing dynasty following the Opium War and the Taiping Tianguo Rebellion. Moreover, since Manchuria was poorly armed, it was urgently necessary to increase taxes and to encourage the Han to help reclaim the Manchurian Plain. Otherwise, grave financial difficulties would never be overcome.
As rulers, the Manchurians enjoyed special privileges and protection. However, with the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, a law restricting the banners’ range of activity was abolished. Consequently, members of Manchurian banners were allowed to dispose of their land and to engage in occupations of their choice. They no longer enjoyed privileged status.
In 1908, three years prior to the Xinhai Revolution, the Han were encouraged to emigrate to the Heilongjiang region and to reclaim the land there, and the traditional policies that isolated Manchuria were abandoned.
3. Huge waves of emigrants and refugees in the last days of the Qing dynasty
Devastation of a nation infested with bandits, beggars and refugees
The Han regarded the region north of the Great Wall as a wasteland populated only by ogres and serpents. The region inspired so much fear that, according to a popular saying, “People are as afraid to go beyond the gate of Shanhaiguan (the easternmost point of the Great Wall) as they would be if a tiger awaited them there.” Not until after China was conquered by Manchurians did this perception change.
As we mentioned earlier, after the reign of Emperor Qianlong, both the natural and social environments of Qing China began to deteriorate. Wars and famines made the situation even worse; China was trapped in a vicious cycle.
Those phenomena were already apparent in the late 18th century, during the last days of the Qianlong era. For instance, they were mentioned in accounts by George Macartney and other members of the British mission to China in 1793. After Emperor Qianlong rejected their request for trading rights, Macartney’s party traveled from Beijing to Guangzhou by land, and then returned home by sea. According to their report, all the people they encountered during their travels were either bandits or beggars.
In 19th-century China, hardly a year went by without civil unrest. In fact, there were a great many uprisings, from the While Lotus Rebellion, through the Taiping Tianguo rebellion, to Muslim rebellions. No year passed without a famine. Each of the major famines (1810-11, 1849, 1876-78) claimed more than 10 million lives. It was not at all rare for hundreds of thousands or even millions of people to starve to death in the space of a year.
Every famine produced a huge number of refugees. According to Donghua xulu (Annals of East China, part 2), the drought of November 1876 caused approximately 10 million Chinese to abandon the region north of the Yangzi River. They crossed the river and headed for Suzhou and Changzhou. Also devastating was the 1928-30 famine in the northeast that forced two million people from Shanxixing province (one sixth of the population) to leave their homes.
Since China was afflicted with famines and wars, those who didn’t starve to death streamed into Southeast Asia, becoming huaqiao (overseas Chinese). Refugees from north China went to the Mongolian grasslands; Manchuria was the chief destination for refugees from Hebei and Shandong provinces.
In 1918, the Research Department of the South Manchuria Raiway published a report entitled “The Situation in Manchuria and Mongolia: Population, Arable Land and Agricultural Products.” According to the report, the population increase in Shandong province in 1918 was approximately 450,000; two thirds of that number left the province to seek work elsewhere. Each year, about 400,000 inhabitants of Hebei province went to Manchuria and Mongolia looking for work. More than 80% of them (approximately 300,000) remained in Manchuria.
The huge efflux of refugees was the result of a complete ecological breakdown brought about by overpopulation in China. Between the Qin and Qing dynasties, the population seldom exceeded 100 million. However, during the Qing dynasty, the population rose to 180 million (1749); by 1851, it exceeded 400 million. The natural resources of the region could not support the population explosion.
The land owned by the Manchurian banners, who had played a major role in Nurhachi’s establishment of the Later Jin and Qing dynasties, was maintained by serfs. After the king, nobles and banners moved to Beijing, within the Great Wall, there was no one left to farm. Then refugees from China entered Manchuria and worked the abandoned farmland. When kings, nobles and banner members sold off their land, banner system began to collapse.
Manchurians and Mongolians driven to outlying areas and slaughtered
The population of Manchuria in the early 20th century was about 10 million. The Han were in the majority (minority ethnic groups, including Manchurians accounted for only 10% of the population). By the time the Mukden Incident occurred, nearly 30 years later, the population had jumped to 31 million.
Many scholars believe that the population of Manchuria was no more than a million when the Sino-Japanese War broke out. That was the estimate Matsui Kimio made in Kataribe no Manshu (Eyewitness accounts of Manchurian history).xv In any case, that was the consensus among those knowledgeable about Manzhouguo at the time.
The settlements of immigrants to Manchuria and Mongolia were not restricted to unexploited land. They trespassed on pastures used by nomads, hunting and gathering zones, and land that was already occupied. The Tungusic and Mongol tribes were driven out of the plains and pastures to remote areas. The Mongolian plains were the scene of the most tragic turn of events. At the height of the Qing dynasty, farmers and refugees who crossed the Great Wall and trespassed on pastures were sent back south of the Great Wall. But as the dynasty lost power and declined, Manchurians and Mongolians were deprived of their pastures and hunting grounds by the flood of Han refugees, and driven to the frontier.
Thus, random exploitation by Chinese immigrants ruined the Mongolian plains and forests north of the Gobi Desert. An increasing amount of land reverted to desert, and natural forests disappeared.
As noted earlier, when Manzhouguo was founded, Manchuria already had a population of 30 million. However, the recorded number of Han immigrants was less than seven million. Therefore, we assume that the other 23 million were either illegal immigrants or descendants of Han who intermarried with Manchurians or Mongolians.
After the Xinhai Revolution of 1911, an event that astounded the entire world took place. The Xian Revolutionary Army committed genocide against Manchurians. Han Chinese shot, stabbed and burned Manchurians to death; they raped Manchurian women.xvi As a result of the atrocities, which lasted for a week, 20 to 30 thousand people were slaughtered. Sun Yatsen’s revolutionary slogan, “Drive the Manchurians out,” was acted upon in the most violent way possible.
Where did Manchurians go after the Qing Manchurian state collapsed? Presumably, they hadn’t been swallowed up by the vast sea of Han people, but had chosen to live in anonymity and secrecy, hiding their identity as Manchurians. The exceptional few who dared to identify themselves were all members of the Zongshe Party, which advocated reestablishment of the Qing dynasty.
I can well understand why they were reluctant to openly declare themselves Manchurians. Even after the People’s Republic of China came into being, the Manchurian population did not show a marked increase until after the Cultural Revolution.
4. Failure of the million-household 20-year plan for Japanese emigration to Manchuria
Another phase: Manchuria as home to the Korean people
Manchuria went through another phase: home to the Korean people. For a time after the collapse of Koguryo and Bohai, Koreans were reluctant to move to Manchuria. But when the Qing dynasty came into power, farmers began to flow into the “forbidden land” of Manchuria. Consequently, from 1861 onward, there was mass immigration into Manchuria.
Around the mid-19th century, during the reign of Qing Emperor Xianfeng, more and more Koreans ignored the ban on entry into Manchuria imposed by the Qing dynasty. Secretly they crossed the Tumen (Douman) River and settled near Mt. Changbai (Mt. Paekdu). They engaged in illicit trading, logging and other private exploitation of natural resources.
At first, most Korean immigrants were employed as loggers by Han Chinese on the banks of the Hun River (a branch of the Yalu River on the Manchurian side). Later, they began to settle near the river, having found fertile land there. A poor harvest in the western part of the Korean peninsula in 1869 triggered a huge wave of emigration, which expanded toward the plains of Yanji. Eventually, the Jiandao region north of the Tumen River, inhabited by Manchurians, Koreans and Han, became a battleground.
Koreans had, however, emigrated to Manchuria well before the last days of the Qing dynasty. Before the Manchurians entered Beijing, in 1636, Qing China had defeated the Korean Yi (Joseon) dynasty in the second Manchu invasion of Korea. At that time, a vast number of Koreans were abducted and taken to the north by Manchurians and Mongolians. A historical account states that as many as 600,000 Koreans were traded at a slave market in Shengjing (today Shenyang). Once bought, Korean slaves generally became serfs on banner land. As an indispensable labor force, they contributed greatly to the conquest of Chinese. They remained farmers in Manchuria, and made it their home.
At the end of the Yi dynasty, the Korean peninsula was politically unstable. Harsh policies: land taxes, compulsory military service and grain loans (in time of need, the government supplied farmers with storage grain, which they were obligated to return with exorbitant interest) took their toll on farmers. Fleeing from hardship and merciless taxation, more and more Koreans entered Manchuria.
Claim that Japanese atrocities spurred immigration to Manchuria, a distortion of historical fact
A large-scale northward Korean emigration began after the Russo-Japanese War. Many of them went to Jiandao in Manchuria and Dongbiandao near the Yalu River. When Manzhouguo was established, there were already 630,000 Korean residents in Manchuria; by the late 1940s, the population had doubled to 1.3 million.
Immediately after the Mukden Incident, the Office of the Korean Governor-General, the Manchuria Raiway, Toyo Takushoku Co., Mitsui and Mitsubishi established the Korean-Manchurian Reclamation and Settlement Co., backed by capital of 20 million yen. The company drew up a plan that involved attracting 750,000 immigrants to Manzhouguo over 15 years. By 1936, about 70,000 Koreans had settled there, followed by 30,000 more between 1937 and 1941. According to the 1940 census, there were approximately 1.3 million Koreans living in Manchuria, .55 million of whom had settled in Jiandao province.
Modern historians often describe the Koreans in Manzhouguo as people who were deprived of their land by the Japanese, further victimized, and eventually driven into Manchuria, where they set up a base for anti-Japanese activities. But this is a distortion of history. Koreans were settling in Manchuria when it was still a forbidden land. Therefore, their emigration was voluntary. Once the ban against immigration was lifted, more Koreans headed for Manchuria.
In those days, it was not only Koreans who were emigrating. Chinese and Japanese were also moving overseas. Emigration was common in East Asia, in the 19th century and thereafter. Chinese emigrated to Manchuria by the million every year.
Failed attempt to encourage one million families to emigrate to Manzhouguo in 20 years
Following the February 26 Incident of 1936, Prime Minister Hirota Koki’s Cabinet established a plan for the emigration of a million households to Manchuria over 20 years, one of seven national policies. Although this plan was put into practice, it was a failure. By 1945, only 270,000 people had emigrated to Manchuria.
There were reasons behind the failure of the Japanese emigration plan. The last president of the Manchuria Raiway, Yamasaki Motoki, described them as follows. First, it was difficult to acquire land because nationalism was running high. Second, workers’ wages posed another problem, being half or one third of the wages paid to skilled workers in Japan; unskilled workers were paid much less. Third, China proper was overpopulated. The Japanese emigration policy was crushed by a million refugees rushing into Manchuria every year like swarms of locusts.
After the Russo-Japanese War, Japanese inhabitants of in Manchuria rapidly increased in regions like Guandongzhou in the Liaodong Peninsula, along Manchuria Raiway lines, and also in major cities. They numbered 70,000 in 1910, and more than 220,000 in 1930. As Manchuria was controlled by bandits and warlords, only 15,000-16,000 Japanese settled on land not belonging to the Manchuria Raiway. State-sponsored emigration was promoted on a large-scale after Manzhouguo was established. In 1945, when Manzhouguo collapsed, the Japanese population was a little over 1.55 million.
In the 14 years between 1932 and 1945, Japan sent about 270,000 agricultural emigrants to Manchuria. By the time the war was over, 50,000 of the 270,000 Japanese in Manchuria had been drafted into military service, and 220,000 had settled on reclaimed land. However, when Manzhouguo fell, approximately 80,000 Japanese, mostly children, disappeared into the vast reaches of Manchuria.
5. Bandits and warlords controlled Manchuria
Why were mounted bandits and other outlaws rampant?
As mentioned previously, Manchuria was infested with mounted bandits. Its three eastern provinces are described as “filled with mounted bandits” in Heilongjiang shulue (The Amur River Overview), published before the Sino-Japanese War. According to Inaba Iwakichi’s Manshu hattatsushi (Development of Manchuria),xvii since the Xianfeng and Tongzhi eras, the areas east and west of Mt. Paekdu had been at the mercy of mounted bandits. By the middle of the 19th century, Manchuria was already controlled by mounted bandits.
Fundamentally, China is a bandit state. That is, bandits far outnumber soldiers. It is also a society in which the powerful win and the perception that “the winners become the government army, while the losers become the rebel army” is more highly valued than anywhere else in the world.
As stated earlier, after the founders of the Qing dynasty conquered China, Manchuria was designated off-limits to protect the dynasty’s birthplace. However, in spite of the ban, or because of it, Chinese refugees poured into Manchuria. The Han refugees were making their livings by illegally reclaiming land, harvesting crops or appropriating natural resources. Most of them had entered Manchuria illegally.
When the Manchurians conquered China, they wished to take firm control of the vast country. To that end, they realized that they, being an ethnic minority, should appoint Han Chinese to govern their own people. But Han officials were not sufficient in number. Consequently, most members of the Manchurian banners moved to Beijing. As though they had changed places with the Manchurians, the Han became refugees and bandits, and entered the Manchurian plain. Manchurians became the minority in Manchuria, which turned into a gathering place for mounted bandits and other outlaws. Manchurian society fell under the sway of warlords and bandits (of which there were three categories: bureaucrat bandits, military bandits and academic bandits). In 1924 Lieutenant Colonel Takahashi Sutejiro wrote a research report titled “Mounted Bandits in Manchuria,” in which he lists the following factors responsible for the emergence of mounted bandits:
1) Chinese attributes: rugged individualism, duplicity, cunning, practicality, absence of morality except where personal gain or loss is involved; lack of national allegiance, lack of empathy, follower mentality
2) Inadequate education
3) Overpopulation and natural disasters
4) Lack of transportation
5) Private armies
6) Corrupt civil servants and military officials
Takahashi pays special attention to the following factors, which he believes are responsible for the emergence of mounted bandits in northern Manchuria:
1) Illegal mining of gold and cultivation of ginseng
2) Growing of poppies (for opium)
3) Illicit logging
4) Disdain for Manchurian immigration policy
5) Accessibility of weaponsxviii
In Manchurian society relations among mounted bandits, other gangs of outlaws, the police and the military were on a middle ground ? neither close nor distant. For that reason, it was difficult to distinguish soldiers from bandits. Zhang Zuolin, one of the most prominent Manchurian warlords and once a bandit himself, became a military man at the request of the government. As his case indicates, the “heroes of the anti-Japanese movement” as described in works of modern Chinese history were often bandits.
Becoming a bandit the only path to success
Farmers in Manchuria, though cruelly exploited by heavy taxation and soldier-bandits, formed a society that was uniquely Manchurian.
Most of the farmers were refugees from the provinces of Shandong and Hebei or former farmers who had lost their livelihood; there were many seasonal workers as well. The female population was extremely small. For example, in 1909 the population of Fengtian province was approximately 2.5 million, or about 70% of the entire Manchurian population; however, the female population was only around 60% of the male total. Since Fengtian province was centrally located, it is likely that there were even fewer females in remote areas. Consequently, several men sometimes shared a wife, and in many cases, abducted women were sold.
Farming villages were not only subject to attacks by mounted bandits, but also levied heavy taxes by the government. It was quite common for villagers to pay a monthly protection fee to mounted bandits. The relationship between the villagers and bandits was one of coexistence and mutual prosperity. Bandits regularly plundered farmers’ villages; they abducted and raped women.
Not only in Manchuria was there no clear dividing line between bandits and soldiers. The same was true of Chinese society in general. Bandits plundered at night and in secret, while soldiers plundered in broad daylight.
Bandits sometimes acquiesced to requests from the government, and were assigned given military status. But after the Taiping Tianguo Rebellion, the army was composed mainly of private soldiers hired by powerful local figures. They were called soldier-bandits and when they were defeated in a battle, they immediately reverted to mounted bandits.
It was a time-honored rule in Manchuria that Manchurian mounted bandit chiefs would ascend the social ladder every time they completed the cycle of surrender, obedience and rebellion. Consequently, alternating between banditry and military services was a necessary ritual for those who wished to establish themselves in the world. It was quite possible for a bandit to become a warlord overnight by waiting for the right opportunity and seizing it. Zhang Zuolin, Wu Junsheng and Lu Rongting trod such a path.
An old Manchurian saying goes, “Female prostitutes, male bandits,” meaning unless women are prostitutes and men bandits, they are unlikely to succeed in life.
6. Former bandit rules Manchuria
Zhang Zuolin’s loyalty wins him prominence after many setbacks
In 1873, Zhang Zuolin, who came to be known as the boss of the Beiyang warlords, was born into a farmer’s family in Haicheng prefecture, Fengtian province. At the age of 16, he joined a group of bandits led by Li Gongsheng. Prior to the Russo-Japanese War, Zhang submitted to the Fengtian Army with his 200 men and became head of a LOCAL guard unit. During the Russo-Japanese War, he was arrested by the Japanese and charged with collaborating with the Russians. Subsequently, he shifted his loyalties to the Japanese.
After the Xinhai Revolution, he became a follower of Yuan Shikai, and was appointed chief of the Army’s 27th Division. After Shengwu became Fengtian general, supplanting Duan Zhigui, Zhang became the Fengtian Army’s superintendent of military affairs and deputy inspector-general, and then the Fengtian Army commander and deputy provincial governor.
Joining forces with Wang Yongjiang, an advocate of civilian government, Zhang fought against Tang Yulin. In 1917, joining Wang Yongjiang’s baojing anmin (preserve the borders and keep the people safe) movement, Zhang declared the three eastern provinces independent, seceding from the central Beijing government.
Following Yuan Shikai’s death in 1916, China was split between the Beijing central government army (warlords’ army) in the north and the anti-government army (revolutionary army led by the Guomindang Party) in the south. As the north-south conflicts escalated, the Beijing government began to change, and an age in which warlords controlled politics and entered into military conflicts with other warlords dawned. After the Zhili-Anhui War in 1920 between the Anhui faction (led by Duan Qirui) and the Zhili (today Hebei) faction (led by Cao Kun and Wu Peifu), there was a conflict in the Beijing government between Zhang Zuolin’s Fengtian faction and Wu Peifu’s Zhili faction. That conflict developed into the First Zhili-Fengtian War in 1922. Zhang Zuolin, having been defeated, found himself in a very difficult position.
The Beijing government was dominated by President Xu Shichang and the Zhili Army, led by Wu Peifu. In May 1922, Zhang Zuolin was dismissed from the posts of touring inspector-general and commander of the Fengtian Army. In his place Wu Junsheng was appointed Fengtian Army commander and Feng Delin, Heilongjiang Army commander. Even after his defeat, Zhang Zuolin formed an autonomous guard unit. He also appointed himself garrison commander in chief for the three eastern provinces and governor of Fengtian province. For all practical purposes, Zhang was still in control of Manchuria, assisted by the Japanese Guandong Army.
The Zhili Army, having won hegemony over North China, confronted the revolutionary army in the south, and at the same time attempted to gain total control of China. When Cao Kun was installed as president, he appointed Wu Peifu commander in chief and launched a campaign to eliminate Zhang Zuolin.
The result was the Second Zhili-Fengtian War. During that conflict, there were series of advances and retreats in the theaters of Shanhaiguan, Zhaoyang and Rehe. However, the Northwest Army (led by Feng Yuxiang, commander of the 3rd Division of the offensive forces) suddenly shifted its loyalties to Zhang Zuolin’s Fengtian Army, returned to Beijing and attempted a coup d’etat. President Cao Kun was urged to order a ceasefire and discharge Wu Peifu. Betrayed by Feng Yuxiang’s army, the Zhili Army was attacked from the front and rear; the war ended with a victory for the Fengtian Army. Zhang Zuolin now held the reins of the Beijing government and for a while, his influence extended from north to central China.
Bid for presidency thwarted
Zhang Zuolin received a great deal of assistance from the Japanese government while the two Zhili-Fengtian wars were raging. During the second conflict, Zhang repeatedly asked Shidehara Kijuro, Japan’s foreign minister, for help via a local Japanese government branch office. Great Britain and the United States had been supporting Wu Peifu, while the Russians were assisting both the Beijing government and Sun Yatsen’s Guangdong government in an attempt to convert China to a communist state. Zhang argued that under the circumstances, Japan should assist the Fengtian Army, given the special privileges the Japanese enjoyed in Manchuria and Mongolia (see Chapter Four).
Meanwhile, the Japanese government had adopted a noninterference stance toward the Chinese civil wars. Japan did not want the war to expand to Manchuria and Mongolia, and threaten Japanese interests there. However, the mutiny attempted by Feng Yuxiang’s army during the Second Zhili-Fengtian War was allegedly orchestrated by Lieutenant-Colonel Doihara Kenji of the Japanese Guandong Army, who objected to the noninterference policy maintained by his government.
Japanese Army officials were determined to keep the chaos in China from spreading to Manchuria. Army Headquarters in Shandong province had vowed never to allow the Chinese Army to invade Manchuria, either from the north or the south.
However, in November 1925, Zhang Zuolin’s right-hand man, Guo Songling (deputy commander of the Fengtian Army’s 3rd Division) entered into a secret alliance with the People’s Revolutionary Army. Suddenly raising the enemy’s banner, Song was about to attack Fengtian with his 70,000 men. It looked as though Zhang Zuolin’s fate was sealed.
But Zhang escaped with his life, thanks to General Shirakawa Yoshinori, commander of the Guandong Army. Guo Songling and his wife were captured and executed.
In 1925, following the death of Sun Yatsen, the Nationalist government was established in Guangdong. Chiang Kai-shek was appointed commander in chief of the People’s Revolutionary Army and proceeded to launch a northward campaign. Though the Beiyang warlords had divided into factions, they set aside their differences and joined together to combat the army advancing from the south. They formed a northern defense army, which confronted the People’s Revolutionary Army. In November 1926, 16 provincial governors, including Sun Chuanfang, Yan Yishan, Wu Junsheng and Zhang Zongchang nominated Zhang Zuolin as commander in chief of the Northern National Defense Army.
At first Zhang Zuolin had his eyes on the presidency. But because of the strength of the revolutionary army in the south, and in light of potential conciliation between north and south, he was made Grand Marshal instead. He did not, however, abandon his presidential hopes. Zhang established his government by issuing an order that proclaimed the birth of the Republic of China’s military government.
Despite unceasing internecine disputes, the People’s Revolutionary Army in the south led by Chiang Kai-shek, battled warlords in various theaters and won victory after victory. On May 1, 1928, as Jinan in Shandong province surrendered, the national defense army suffered a definitive defeat. Realizing that it would be difficult to correct the grave situation, Zhang issued a statement to the effect that his forces would retreat from Beijing. On June 4, on his way back to Fengtian (Mukden), an explosion on his train brought his eventful life to an end.
7. Zhang’s son self-destructs
Emergence of a new powerful figure, Zhang Xueliang
Civil wars waged in China after the Xinhai Revolution fall into three categories. The first is the wars among the Beiyang warlords. The second is wars among the revolutionaries, i.e., Nationalist Party (Guomindang) elements. The third was tripartite wars among the autonomous federate advocates (federal government advocates) in the middle and southwestern regions, the southern government and the northern government.
During the northward campaign of the Chiang Kai-shek’s People’s Revolutionary Army, there was much conflict within the Guomindang itself. The disputes extended to the various governments established in succession, pitting the Nanjing government against the Wuhan government, or the Beijing government.
The largest-scale Guomindang civil conflict was the Central Plains War in 1930, fought between a group headed by Yan Xishan, Feng Yuxiang and Li Zongren, and Chiang Kai-shek’s army. The number of troops deployed was 1.5 million in total, with estimated casualties of 300,000. It was the largest-scale civil war ever fought in the Republic of China. Chiang Kai-shek won the brutal conflict. The Fengtian Army, led by Zhang Xueliang (Zuolin’s son), assisted Chiang’s army and was instrumental in its victory.
After the great Central Plains War, Zhang Xueliang’ s army obtained land north of the Huanghe (Yellow River). Zhang was entrusted with the vice commandership of the Army, Navy and Air Force by Chiang Kai-shek. A new powerful figure had emerged in Manchuria.
Born in 1898, Zhang Xueliang was the eldest son of Zhang Zuolin. He later acquired fame for a major role in the Xian Incident of 1936 (Chiang Kai-shek was arrested because of an argument over which enemy to confront: the communists or the Japanese). After Zhang Zuolin was killed in a train explosion, Zhang Xueliang became deputy director of Fengtian province, and then garrison commander in chief for the three eastern provinces.
According to one theory, Guo Songling’s 1925 attempted mutiny was in support of Zhang Xueliang. During the struggle for power after Zhang Zuolin’s death, Zhang Xueliang assassinated faction leaders Yang Yuting and Chang Yinhuai, who had conspired with Bai Chongxi of the Guangxi faction. Now their power was in Zhang’s hands.
On December 27, 1928, Zhang Xueliang called an executive meeting of the Fengtian faction. On December 29, he issued an order to hoist Guomindang flags (a white sun on a blue background) in place of every five-colored flag previously used in the three eastern provinces (except for the Guandongzhou region and property belonging to the Manchuria Raiway).
Then, a statement to the effect that Zhang Xueliang, Zhang Zuoxiang (governor of Jilin province and vice commander of the Northeastern Regional Defense Army), Zhai Wenxuan (governor of Fengtian province), Wan Fulin (governor of Heilongjiang province), Tang Yulin (governor of Rehe province) and Chang Yinhuai would recognize the Guomindang government, signed by the aforementioned governors, was distributed throughout China. This statement signaled what was referred to as the “changing of the flags in the three eastern provinces.”
With only 15,000 troops, Guandong Army occupies Manchuria
The Mukden (Liutiaohu) Incident, triggered by a plot involving the use of explosives to sabotage a section of the Manchuria Railway, occurred in November 1931 in the suburbs of Fengtian. Japanese Army officials reacted by ordering the Guandong Army, which had only 15,000 troops at its disposal, to occupy all of Manchuria. The primary reason for the success of the occupation was Manchurian support of the Japanese.
In Manchuria at that time, warlord Zhang Xueliang commanded an army of 15 to 50 times more men than the Guandong Army. Historical fact indicates not that they failed to resist the Japanese occupation, but rather that they were forsaken and expelled by the Manchurian people themselves.
Russia was preoccupied with its first Five-year Plan then, and made clear its intentions to remain neutral. Both Great Britain and the United States were still recovering from the Great Depression. Moreover, the Guomindang Army, led by Chiang Kai-shek, gave priority to unifying the country under the slogan of “first internal pacification, then external resistance.” They claimed to be advocating non-resistance (to the Japanese). But, in actuality, they were unable to resist, and were afraid that a confrontation with the Japanese Guandong Army would further decimate their ranks.
Zhang Xueliang’s troops, hoping to keep their forces intact, preferred to avoid a Guandong Army offensive or any confrontation with that army. However, they were also loath to welcome Chiang Kai-shek’s army to Manchuria, the homeland of the Zhangs, father and son.
The details of the expulsion of Zhang Xueliang by the Manchurian warlords, were described by Zhao Xinbai, mayor of Fengtian, the capital after the Xinhai Revolution (Zhao had earned a law degree at Meiji University, and was legal adviser to Zhang Xueliang) in December 1931. Zhao wrote: “Zhang Xueliang slept during the day; he spent his nights womanizing, gambling and smoking opium. He was mentally unstable. Holding sway over the four northeastern provinces, he exploited the people so he could indulge in selfish pleasures. He randomly issued inconvertible notes, which he forced farmers to accept for the crops they had worked so hard to produce. Zhang exchanged the crops for foreign currency, which he added to his store of assets. He also taxed the people beyond their ability to pay, using the revenue to buy weapons and ammunitions. He ordered his army to slaughter hundreds of thousands of their fellow citizens, expanded his territory and amassed more and more power. To satisfy his own desires, he gladly sacrificed lives and property of 30 million people in the northeast. During the four years after Zhang became military head of the four northeastern provinces, many residents of the region lost their homes and fortunes. Countless shops suffered tremendous damage and were forced to close down. It was a living hell for those 30 million people in the northeast.”
Mayor Zhao expressed his appreciation to Japan: “We are deeply grateful to the Japanese Army for having eliminated Zhang Xueliang and his army, thus saving the people of the northeast from the hands of the evil arch-villain.”xix
8. Manchurian people bled dry
Military budget shortage offset by funds obtained from abductions, extortion and blackmail
As we have seen so far, words cannot express the suffering of the Manchurian people under Zhang Zuolin’s rule; they were forced to endure both exploitation and looting. Manchuria was a land of immigrants, but also a land of outlaws. For example, the number of mounted bandits and other outlaws was estimated at somewhere between 300,000 and three million. Looting, arson, rape and abduction were unexceptional events. It took all the energy of ordinary citizens simply to survive each day.
There was no firm distinction between mounted bandits and the military. Soldiers were even referred to as “soldier-bandits.” The only difference between the two was that military bandits publicly robbed people, while mounted bandits did so privately. Every once in a while mounted bandits were invited by the government to serve in the army, but once they were defeated in a war, they immediately reverted to their former “professions.”
Upon examination, ethnic heroes praised as anti-Japanese patriots in the contemporary Chinese history texts often turn out to have been mounted bandits or other types of outlaws. This fact cannot be overemphasized.
In fiscal 1929, prior to the Mukden Incident, income for all of Manchuria (the three eastern provinces) was 121 million yuan, and expenditures were approximately 148 million yuan, resulting in a deficit of 27 million yuan. About 102 million yuan (approximately 80% of total revenue) was allotted to military expenses. To maintain 250,000 troops, a huge military budget was needed.
Income came mainly from the salt tax and opium. Shortages were offset by appropriation of private property, blackmail and abductions.
But why was it necessary to appropriate such a huge sum of money for the military budget? The answer is that the Chinese people of the 20th century, whether government officials, warlords or revolutionaries, depended solely on military power for survival. Defeat in war or the loss of military forces was tantamount to losing everything.
Originally, Zhang Zuolin had held up the slogan “Preserve the borders and keep the people safe.” He believed that all the Manchurians needed to do was keep Manchuria safe. After all, other warlords south of the Great Wall lacked the forces nor to encroach on Manchuria. Moreover, the Japanese had interests in Manchuria; with the Guandong Army backing him up, Zhang Zuolin could well afford to play the part of a king and the strongest man in Manchuria. However, Zhang never gave up his dream of becoming emperor of China. He took part in the struggle to gain hold of the Beijing government, and in the two Zhili-Fengtian wars.
To make up for the revenue deficit, the government kidnapped the wealthy, executed them and then confiscated their fortunes. But they didn’t stop there. Not only did they levy taxes on farmers’ crops and domestic animals, they also collected those taxes five years in advance. The salt tax was five times higher than in the Japanese concession in Guandong province.
Random, numerous issuances of currency lead to hyperinflation
When Manchuria was in the hands of warlords Zhang Zuolin and his son Xueliang, prior to the establishment of Manzhouguo, one of the worst aspects of their monetary system was currency chaos.
Each Manchurian province had its own paper currency, issued by its ruler. These notes did not, of course, circulate in other provinces. There were, reportedly, perhaps as many as 100 types of currency ? international, domestic, public, and private.
The value of each type of currency changed constantly. In particular, notes were issued by the central bank owned by the ruling warlord in each province, at the behest of that warlord. Consequently, oftentimes the value of paper currency plummeted until it was worth no more than the paper it was printed on. Every time a powerful figure in a province or region took up the reins of government, he would issue new currency at will, exploit the people until their money was gone, and amass a tremendous fortune. Currency was issued at harvest time in autumn. The new money would buy freshly harvested grain, which was sold to foreign customers. The proceeds would be used to equip the army and further expand the ruler’s power.
The only way to make up for a shortage of cash was to issue additional notes in great numbers, an act that accelerated inflation and threw the Manchurian economy into utter confusion.
Even in Fengtian, the richest province, the staple food for 40% was millet; 60% made their living by bartering goods. Under Zhang Xueliang’s rule, the fate of the Manchurian people worsened with each passing day. These were the circumstances that prompted local warlords and citizens to expel Zhan Xueliang after the Mukden Incident.
Zhang Zuolin, Zhang Xueliang and their relatives were not the only ones who accumulated tremendous wealth in Manchuria. Wu Junsheng and Wan Fulin of Heilongjiang province, Zhang Zuoxiang of Jilin province, Tang Yulin of Rehe province and others used their military power to acquire mammoth fortunes.
For example, the Industrial Bank of Rehe, owned by the Rehe provincial government, issued three different types of “Rehe notes” on three occasions, starting in 1926. Each time they issued new notes, they declared all old notes invalid, thus robbing people of their assets.
When a currency is unstable, modern industry is unlikely to develop. Capital cannot be accumulated, except for real estate. Industrial investment is required to accumulate capital. However, in that era, the augmentation of military strength eclipsed everything else.
While Manchuria was ruled by warlords, one of the easiest ways to raise funds was taxation. The monopoly system also helped line their coffers.
The idea behind taxation was to collect as much money as possible, and the tax- farmer system (entrusting tax collection to private citizens or groups) was introduced as the easiest way to collect taxes. It was what was called “surplus incentive fee system.” A percentage of any surplus amount collected would be returned to the collector as an incentive fee; a certain portion of the collected taxes was earmarked for the collector’s salary. Therefore, collectors were motivated to secure as much revenue as possible.
Serving as director of the Tax Agency was the quickest way to make huge sums of money. Since the position was bought, every time the directorship changed hands, the entire office staff (the boss’s relatives) would be replaced. The auctioning off of the directorship also furnished additional income to warlords.
The taxation system in every province of Manchuria was complex, and taxes were numerous (taxes were collected on about 130 items!).
The loss of the national wealth of Manchuria was not entirely due to exploitation by and the struggle for spoils among the warlords and tax collectors. Whenever a social problem arose, outlaws and rioters ransacked the tax office and stole grain and salt from storehouses. The sheer numbers of bandits ? officials, the military and local thieves?made it extremely difficult for the Manchurian economy to grow.
George B. Rea, the aforementioned China specialist, criticizes American policy toward China at that time in The Case for Manzhouguo, as follows.
[The Stimson doctrine]xx has inspired every free-lance bandit chief and war-lord from Hopei to Kwangsi to look forward to restoring his rule over the most prosperous provinces of China, so rich in loot that the Chang [Zhang] r?gime squeezed out of their thirty million people revenues equal to, if not greater than those collected by the recognized government at Nanking. It has emboldened native bandits to continue their raids, massacres and general lawlessness in order to discredit the new state and make difficult the establishment of orderly government. It has sown the seeds of a new war in China that every radical leader south of the Yangtsze [Yangzi] River is now preparing for.xxi
Chapter Four: Behind the Manchurian-Mongolian
1. Russia spends a fortune acquiring rulerless Manchuria
Delusion that Siberia too is Chinese territory
The Russian Empire’s eastward and southward advances began during the rule of Ivan III (1462-1505). However, the Russians were checked by a campaign led by Qing Emperor Kangxi. In 1689 the Nerchinsk Treaty, which established the border between the two empires, was concluded between the Chinese emperor and Peter the Great.
The Chinese (mistakenly) perceive Russian development of Siberia as Russian encroachment on Chinese territory, a view that is stated in Chinese history textbooks.
However, this perception is the result of a persecution complex, which in turn is a product of Chinese misconceptions about what constitutes China proper. In actuality, during the Ming dynasty, north of the Great Wall were Northern Yuan territory and Manchuria, neither of which belonged to China. Even during the height of the Manchurian dynasty’s Qing Empire, Emperor Kangxi did not expand his sphere farther north than the Amur River. Historical sources indicate that there were Sino-Russian confrontations that straddled the Amur River.
Two hundred years later, the Qing Empire was defeated by Great Britain in the First Opium War (1840-42). Then Qing China sustained another defeat in the Arrow War or Second Opium War (1856-1860); subsequently Beijing was occupied by Anglo-French forces.
For mediating between Qing China and Great Britain and France, Russia acquired the region north of the Amur (Heilong) River and a region on the coast of the Sea of Japan (today Primorsky Krai) under the Convention of Peking (1860). Moreover, a secret pact between Li Hongzhang and A.B. Lobanov-Rostovsky (the Sino-Russian Secret Agreement of 1896) gave Russia the right to build the Chinese Eastern Railway, which runs obliquely across Manchuria via Harbin from Manzhouli to Vladivostok. The railroad was completed in 1904. In 1898, by signing the Russo-Qing Treaty, Russia gained 25-year leaseholds in the Liaodong Peninsula, Lushun (Port Arthur) and Dalian, as well as the right to build a branch line of the Chinese Eastern Railway extending from Harbin to Dalian and Lushun. The leased territory was named Guandongzhou.
Thus, both the Russian and Qing empires were contending for control of Siberia and Manchuria. Territory has changed hands when empires wax and wane from time immemorial. The current pet Chinese claims that certain regions are part of “China proper” are not based on territorial acquisitions by their forebears, but arbitrary definitions fashioned by the Chinese of today or, more simply put, opportunism.
The Treaty of Shimonoseki concluded after the Sino-Japanese War was affected by the Tripartite Intervention (by Germany, France and Russia). The war had resulted in the permanent cession of Taiwan to Japan. Criticized for having taken too much territory from Qing China, Japan found itself obligated to return the Liaodong Peninsula, even though the cession pact had already been signed. Meanwhile, Russia obtained special privileges in the Liaodong Peninsula from China as a token of gratitude for its intervention.
The Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901) was an uprising against Western civilization and Christianity effected by a religious group called Yihetuan (or the Boxers), whose main activity was honing their boxing skills. Acting on their slogan “Support the Qing, annihilate the Western powers,” they demolished Christian churches, killed Christians and also ravaged modern railroad and electric communication facilities.
Many of the Chinese today laud the Boxer Rebellion as an anti-imperialist, nationalistic movement that evolved around a core of farmers. In fact, it grew out of countless uprisings of secret societies, which had been going on ever since the White Lotus Revolution in the late 18th century.
After the Boxers entered Beijing, the Qing government declared war against all nations of the world on June 21, 1900, with the support of Empress Dowager Cixi. The allied forces of Japan, Great Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Russia, Italy and Austria attacked Beijing to protect their consulates and citizens living in the concessions. This incident became known as “55 Days at Beijing.”
Of the eight allied powers involved in the Boxer Rebellion, the Russian Army was guilty of the worst acts of plunder. At the same time, we acknowledge that Russia sustained the most serious damage to its railroads and other real estate during the ensuing uprisings of Boxer-related bandits, which spread to Manchuria.
“Yellow slaves” more fortunate than refugees
According to C. F. Remer’s Foreign Investments in Chinaxxii, the investments in Qing China by the Great Powers in 1902 amounted to $788 million. The amount invested in Manchuria was the largest, accounting for 27.4% of all investments in China.
Russia was the leading investor in Manchuria. Moreover, 98% of the funds spent in China by the end of 1903, or 550 million rubles, was earmarked for Manchuria. Most of it was used to build the Chinese Eastern Railway and the ports of Dalian and Lushun.
In this respect, Russia was perhaps hit hardest by the Boxer Rebellion. Since Russia spent its entire military budget of 100 million rubles to suppress the Boxers, its occupation of Manchuria after the incident is quite understandable. The Russian empire used up a tremendous amount of energy and national wealth in its attempt to acquire Manchuria.
Meanwhile, the Han continued to invade Manchuria, but there was a significant difference between Russian and Han invasions. Most of the Han invaders were refugees who intended to poach in Manchuria or secretly exploit its natural resources, while the Russian invaders were building cities and railroads with a definite national strategy in mind.
For example, Russia recruited 200,000 railroad workers to construct the Chinese Eastern Railway. Most of the applicants were starving Chinese refugees from Shandong and Hebei provinces.
The construction of the Siberian Railroad was just as laborious as railroad construction in the U.S. Chinese workers sought jobs in both places. In those days, they were sold to Americans as “yellow slaves.” As many as 500,000 Chinese workers were sent to the European front during World War I. But they were more fortunate than those refugees enduring civil wars and famines at home.
Readers of northeastern regional history (Manchurian history) written by the Chinese government will find pages filled with phrases like “slave labor,” “miserable lives,” “anti-imperialist struggle,” “heroes defending their nation,” “armed suppression by invaders,” “merciless exploitation,” “plunder of resources.” The accounts in which these terms appear are more myths about nationalist heroes fighting imperialists than descriptions of historical fact.
The Russians were just as enthusiastic about building Harbin. Hoping to create a Moscow of the East, they spent 260 million rubles in all between 1895 and 1917. They spent 500 million rubles on the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway, while using half that amount to build just one city. The other Great Powers were amazed at the Russian commitment to urban development along the Chinese Eastern Railway, which surpassed that of development in the American West.
Russia was planning an emigration of 600,000 to populate the areas near the railroad lines after completion. Accordingly, the Qing government made it known that there would soon be a flood of immigrants into Manchuria, and lifted the entry ban. The result was a huge influx of refugees into Manchuria.
It was in 1907, after the Russo-Japanese War, that the three eastern provinces of Manchuria officially became local administrative governments of China.
2. Behind the Russo-Japanese War: secret Sino-Russian agreement
Japanese privileges in Manchuria and Mongolia
Japanese special privileges in Manchuria-Mongolia mentioned thus far were established by two treaties: the Sino-Japanese Treaty Concerning Manchuria (1905, details to follow) based on the Treaty of Portsmouth (signed following the Russo-Japanese War), and by the Twenty-One Demands (1915). Specifically, the privileges included the right to build railroads, operate mines; lease land, reside and operate businesses in specific areas.
As U.S.-Japan relations worsened because of the Twenty-One Demands, the Ishii-Lansing Agreement, which gave the Japanese special privileges, was signed in 1917. In it the U.S. recognizes Japanese special interests in China, given the geographical proximity of the two nations, as long as they do not compromise China’s independence.
Japanese special interests are the key to understanding the establishment of Manzhouguo. The conflict between Japan and the Republic of China, the former attempting to protect its privileges and the latter to eliminate them, worsened as the perception that Manchuria was Japan’s lifeline took hold.
Before Manzhouguo was established, the Republic of China constantly encroached on Japanese privileges. For instance, Japan’s railroad rights and mine operation were sabotaged, taxes were arbitrarily imposed, lease rights were violated and residential rights were constrained. All of these obstacles stemmed from the Washington Conference in 1921, which rejected portions of the Twenty-One Demands and abrogated the Ishii-Lansing Agreement.
Any account of the establishment of Manzhouguo should begin with the Russo-Japanese War, the outcome of which established the privileges in question in the first place.
Secret Sino-Russian pact
In the previous section, we mentioned the Russian southward advance policy. Similar to the situation on the continent, Russia was also approaching Japan by way of the Korean peninsula and the Kuril Islands prior to the Meiji Restoration. Such behavior posed a serious threat to the very existence of Japan as a nation. It was one of the great external pressures that prompted Japan to emerge from isolation and undergo renovation at the end of the Edo Period.
After the Sino-Japanese War, Japan was obligated to return the Liaodong peninsula to Qing China (said peninsula had been conceded to Japan by the Treaty of Shimonoseki) due to the Tripartite Intervention. As a result, in the Korean peninsula, the conflict between Japan and China was being replaced by a new conflict between Japan and Russia, whose repercussions were felt in Manchuria.
After the Boxer Rebellion, the Russian Army succeeded in occupying Manchuria. Qing China, while protesting against this action, seemed to have yielded Manchuria to Russia. Great Britain and the United States also protested, but neither nation seemed motivated to use force. According to the Memoirs of Count Witte, Russia intended to gain control of Manchuria at that time. But for the Russo-Japanese War, Manchuria would have been merely an extension of Siberia, in an inevitable historical process.
Traditionally, Chinese national strategy has advocated befriending distant nations and antagonizing neighboring states. After the Sino-Japanese War, the Sino-Russian Secret Treaty of 1896 was concluded to counter the perceived Japanese threat.
The Japanese invested their national destiny in the Russo-Japanese War. If they had lost, all of Japan would have been annexed to Russia, not to mention the Korean peninsula. That thought was in Ito Hirobumi’s mind and in that of almost everyone in Japan at the time. Furthermore, Manchuria remained in Russian hands. Great Britain was Japan’s ally, but British influence in Asia was diminishing. It was practically certain that Russia, France and Germany would become increasingly interested in Asia.
The war was inevitable, as Russia had been a potential enemy ever since Japan emerged from isolation. It was essential that the conflict not be fought on the main Japanese islands. Victory would be impossible unless China remained neutral. Because Germany, France and Russia had been allies since the Tripartite Intervention, Japan choices were limited to Great Britain and the United States.
Japan had the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and Russia had huge powers behind it; the two nations were to clash on Manchurian soil. Only 30 years out of isolation, Japan was forced to engage in modern, full-scale warfare.
The Russo-Japanese War was fought within China, but Qing China, incredibly, openly declared neutrality. But China, actually Russia’s ally by virtue of the secret pact, opposed Japan behind the scenes.
What did China do in the Russo-Japanese War?
Ultimately, Japan emerged victorious from the war. Not only was Russia driven out of East Asia, but also for the first time in modern history, the yellow race had prevailed over the white, overturning the notion of white supremacy.
The land battles of the war were fought mainly in southern Manchuria. Therefore, most modern Chinese historiography criticizes Japan and Russia for using the sacred land of China for its battle arenas. But this historical perception is not at all accurate.
As Qing China was a Manchurian empire, the sovereignty of Manchuria at that time was in China’s hands. But we should not forget about the secret agreement between Russia and China.
According to the Russo-Qing Treaty of 1898, Russia leased the Liaodong Peninsula and Manchuria. After the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, those regions were practically under Russian control. As the postwar peace treaty indicated, Japan fought the Russo-Japanese War to resolve serious problems concerning Manchuria and the Korean peninsula.
It behooves the Japanese of today to face their own modern history a little more squarely. They seem to have completely forgotten about the Sino-Russian Secret Agreement.
Article Three of that agreement (signed on May 22, 1896) states that during military action, all ports in China shall be available to the Russian Fleet as necessity arises. Articles Four and Five regulate the building of railroads, provision of food, transportation of military supplies. Japan’s and Russia’s reasons for fighting in Manchuria were clear; there was never any violation of sovereignty.
As a result of the Russo-Japanese War, Japan expelled Russia from southern Manchuria. Moreover, after the Portsmouth Treaty was concluded, Japan and Russia paid 1.5 million yen and two million rubles, respectively, to China for having used its land as battlefields. Any war causes casualties and damage among not only the combatants, but also those who became its victims involuntarily. However, once battlefield fees had been paid, China couldn’t claim that its sovereignty had been violated from the viewpoint of international law. Postwar procedure had been duly observed.
With the forces Japan had at that time, the Russo-Japanese War was won only at great cost, after Japan had made all possible sacrifices. The number of war dead, including those who died of illness, amounted to 120,000. War expenditures totaled 1.5 billion yen. The Japanese government did not have sufficient resources to support a war of that magnitude. They experienced great difficulty procuring 800 million yen in domestic bonds and 700 million yen in overseas bonds. Yet the Treaty of Portsmouth fell far short of rewarding Japan enough to make up for the monumental cost of the war. Such an outcome would certainly generate discontent and disappointment among the Japanese people.
However, since then the Chinese have launched into tirades about Japanese imperialism every time the subject of Manchuria has been raised. They have not demonstrated the least bit of gratitude to the Japanese for having recovered Chinese territory from the Russians. In those days, the following question was often posed in Japan: “Exactly what did the Chinese do during the Russo-Japanese War?” It is no wonder that those angry voices eventually influenced the acquisition of special Japanese privileges in Manchuria and Mongolia.
3. Sun Yatsen offers to sell Manchuria
Sun Yatsen overrated by historians
Not only Chinese, but also Japanese scholars have often misinterpreted (unintentionally and intentionally) the Xinhai Revolution and the establishment of the Republic of China. For instance, the revolutionaries are more appreciated than the reformers. Among the revolutionaries, Sun Yatsen’s faction receives the most praise. The Beiyang warlords, however, are treated as if they had actually caused the disturbances that plagued the Republic of China.
However, such views can, for the most part, be traced to propaganda produced by Chiang Kaishek’s faction after the Northern Expedition. They are yet another example of the distortion of modern Chinese history.
The reformers active during the last days of the Qing dynasty were mostly members of the established intellectual class who had passed the imperial examinations. Among the leaders of the Beiyang Army were uneducated men like President Cao Kun, but many of the officers were graduates of the prestigious Military Academy.
In contrast, the revolutionaries were mostly men who had failed the imperial examinations or underachievers, far removed from the mainstream of dynasty officials. Before the Huangbu Military Academy was established, the revolutionaries were largely unknowns who belonged to clandestine organizations in the south or other illicit groups. Sun Yatsen took charge of those people and trained them.
Consequently, Sun Yatsen raised an army on 10 occasions, in attempts to bring about revolution, only to fail each time. The Xinhai Revolution, with which he was not involved, was the only one that succeeded. Sun also established a government three times in Guangzhou. Though he loudly proclaimed that his government would represent all of China, it would collapse every time because of internal conflicts. It would be fair to say that he was somewhat lacking in the ability to form a government.
Sun’s empty promises fill revolutionaries’ coffers
Sun Yatsen’s revolutions were characterized by his fundraising methods: he made promises that he could not keep, offering mining concessions and railroad construction opportunities to the Great Powers. Most of the mines and railroads in question were located in regions that the revolutionaries did not yet control.
Using the same tactics, Sun Yat-sen approached Kodama Gentaro, the fourth governor-general of Taiwan, to solicit support for his troops and war chest, prior to the Xinhai Revolution. Furthermore, after the Russian Revolution, Sun asked the Soviet Union for financial assistance for the southern revolutionaries. He also negotiated with Japan about the sale of Manchuria. The Japanese should pay more attention to this fact.
The “Twenty-One Demands,” which Japan presented to Yuan Shikai, the first president of the Republic of China, are supposedly the key to the conflict between Japan and China. However, the 21 demands were originally the conditions for the transfer of concessions in a secret agreement between Sun Yatsen and the Japanese government. Sun was soliciting support for his revolution, while in exile in Japan, after the second revolution against Yuan Shikai in 1913 failed. Therefore, the author of those demands was none other than Sun Yat-sen.
The secret agreement between Sun Yatsen and the Japanese government was exposed on an NHK television program entitled “Contemporary History Scoop: An Account of Sun Yatsen’s 933 Days in Exile and His Pact with Japan,” broadcast on April 20, 1991. This was probably the first time that the topic, which had previously been the purview of historians and scholars, was brought to the attention of the general public.
When Sun Yatsen established a revolutionary group called Xingzhonghui (Revive China Society), later incorporated into the Revolutionary Alliance, he was already advocating a policy that would expel the Manchurians and revive China. Like Sun, at the beginning of the Xinhai Revolution, the majority of Revolutionary Alliance members advocated an ethnic revolution. They referred to the Manchurians as an “outcaste race in the eastern region,” “descendants of the worthless,” “Manchurian inferiors” and “Tartar savages.” Furthermore, Sun and his followers accused the Manchus of having usurped the sacred land of China, oppressed the Han people (the descendants of Yanhuang, the mythological Han founding father), and autocratically deprived the Han of their dignity and rights. As these aspersions imply, Sun Yatsen never considered Manchuria part of China.
Though Sun secretly negotiated with Japan for the sale of Manchuria, the influential Yamagata Aritomo flatly declined his offer. Kita Ikki’s book Shina kakumei gaishi (Private history of the Chinese revolution) denounces Sun Yatsen to the point of calling him a traitor, because Sun sold Chinese concessions to Japan, the United States and Russia.
Twenty-One Demands the work of Sun Yat-sen
Sun Yatsen exiled himself to Japan after his second revolution failed; there he asked leaders of prominent ultranationalist groups Genyosha (Toyama Mitsuru) Kokuryukai (Uchida Ryohei) for their protection. Contemplating a comeback, Sun concluded that without ample resources, he would not be able to contend militarily with the Beiyang Army, then holding the reins of the Beijing government. To obtain aid in the form of money and arms from the Japanese government, Sun’s group was obligated to offer the Japanese government many concessions.
Sun Yatsen held secret negotiations with Koike Chozo, director of the Political Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on behalf of Foreign Minister Kato Takaaki on March 14, 1914.
Sun Yatsen’s party proposed a list of 11 concessions, including expanded Japanese privileges in connection with Manchuria and the Manchuria Railway and succession to privileges in the Shandong Peninsula (including Qingdao), recently recovered from Germany.
Sun and Chen Qimei signed that secret document and affixed their seals to it. The Japanese signatories were Inuzuka Shintaro, director of the Manchuria Railway, and Yamada Junzaburo, the railroad’s representative in Shanghai.
The secret document was signed and sealed on February 5, 1915 in Sun Yatsen’s hiding place at the back of Toyama Mitsuru’s house. Others present were Chen Qimei, Wang Tongyi (commander in chief of the Revolutionary Party’s navy) and Yamada Junzaburo. The pact was discussed and signed. It is likely that the document was penned by Admiral Akiyama Saneyuki, renowned for his service during the Russo-Japanese War and an ardent advocate of the third revolution.
To this day, Guomindang government officials in Taiwan stubbornly deny the existence of any such pact between Sun Yatsen and Japan. They insist that the Japanese invented it, and that they used Sun Yat-sen as a pawn in their plans to invade China.
But according to the recollections of Yamanaka Minetaro, Yamanaka introduced Sun Yatsen to Lt.-Gen. Uehara Yusaku, with whom Sun met in secret at the residence of Wang Tongyi in 1914. At that meeting Sun offered special privileges in Manchuria to Japan in exchange for military aid in the form of Japanese reserve officers and troops, and enough weapons to equip three divisions.xxiii
The Japanese government weighed the pros and cons of supporting the government in Beijing and the revolutionary forces in Guangzhou. Ultimately, it decided against Sun’s offer, since he was not yet in power. Instead, the Japanese amended the conditions stated by Sun Yatsen and addressed the Twenty-One Demands to President Yuan Shikai.
American journalist’s biting criticism of Sun Yatsen
American journalist, George Bronson Rea, who maintained contact with Sun Yatsen until the latter’s death, once served as Sun’s advisor. Rea wrote about Sun Yatsen, who constantly made empty promises on revolution-related privileges, in his book entitled The Case for Manchoukuo as follows.
Dr. Sun Yat-sen at Nanking tried desperately to raise a foreign loan that would have Enabled him to hold out against Yuan Shih-kai. Realizing that he could expect no direct assistance to his government, he sought by indirect methods to obtain funds. All the important public utilities and commercial undertakings in Central and South China were willing to give their properties as security for loans whose proceeds could be employed to tide Sun Yat-sen and the Republic over this crisis. The Kiangsu and Chekiang Railway Companies, the China Merchants Steam Navigation Company, operating the largest mercantile fleet in the country and the Hanyang Iron & Steel Works, with its iron mines at Tayeh and coal fields at Pinghsiang, offered their properties as security for such loans.
When the State Department turned it down, the Chinese tried to raise the money in Europe. Failing there, they went to Japan and obtained Yen 25,000,000 on the security of the Han-Yeh-Ping properties. The contract and terms were perhaps the most favorable ever recorded in Chinese commercial loan transactions.xxiv
Sun Yatsen attempted to sell Chinese privileges, which were not yet his to sell, piecemeal. Ultimately, he sold concessions that had been rejected by European countries and the United States to Japan.
Rea describes Sun’s character as follows: “Somewhat of a dreamer, highly impractical in administration, with little executive ability and a strong leaning towards socialism, Sun Yat-sen was above everything else, all that an honest man and a patriot should be, yet quite incapable of mastering the overwhelming task of unifying China.”xxv
4. The Mukden Incident cannot be fully explained by “conspiracy theory” alone
Look at historical fact, not historical perceptions
Any discussion of the establishment of Manzhouguo is sure to include mention of incidents such as the one in which Zhang Zuolin was killed in a train explosion in 1928, or the Liutiaohu Incident in 1931. An accurate understanding of Manzhouguo certainly requires knowledge of the events that culminated in the Mukden Incident and of the incident itself.
At the same time, it is equally important to learn about the Wanbaoshan Incident and the murder of Captain Nakamura. There is little historical significance in viewing the establishment of Manzhouguo as a Japanese Guandong Army conspiracy and declaring Manzhouguo illegitimate.
As we stated previously, the historical background of Manzhouguo involves both Japanese interests as a nation and the Zhang family (Zuolin and Xueliang), who had great influence over Manchuria at that time. The direct cause of the Mukden Incident was the fact the Zhangs went too far in their methods of controlling Manchuria and their oppression of the Japanese (including Korean Japanese), against which the Japanese Army retaliated. The establishment of Manzhouguo was an ideal born out of such historical circumstances and the desperate hopes of everyone concerned, including the Manchurian people.
Behind the Mukden Incident are conflicting objectives like Japan’s desire to protect its special privileges, and the desire of the Manchurian warlords and the Guomindang government to take away those privileges. There was one more factor that should not be ignored, i.e., ethnic strife between the Chinese and the Koreans, as illustrated by the Wanbaoshan Incident.
Wanbaoshan Incident: Oppressed Koreans strike back
The Wanbaoshan Incident broke out in July 1931 at Wanbaoshan in the suburbs of Changchun (Xingjing). It was triggered by a clash between farmers when the irrigation canal built by Korean farmers for their rice fields was destroyed by Chinese farmers, and developed into a full-scale confrontation between Han and Korean farmers.
In almost all the accounts of modern history written after World War II, the Wanbaoshan Incident is described inaccurately. In the first place, it is depicted as an anti-Chinese incident caused by Koreans instigated by the Japanese government (typical of the historical perception of Koreans as fools). Moreover, the Japanese are accused of having contrived to exacerbate the antipathy between the Chinese and Koreans (alienation, according to the prevailing historical perception). Judging from these accounts, one cannot help wondering whether historians are so incompetent they cannot understand history except when presented in the context of conspiracies like agitation and alienation.
Over the centuries the Chinese had driven the Koreans out of their home in the Liaodong peninsula in Manchuria to the Korean Peninsula, and turned their country into a tributary state. They had also been abducting Koreans since ancient times. Koreans engaged in farming in Manchuria were oppressed by Chinese government officials, discriminated against as outcastes, deprived of their land, and expelled from Manchuria.
Cases where Koreans retaliated against the Chinese, as in the Wanbaoshan Incident, were natural outbursts of emotions that had long been brewing through historical conflicts between the two peoples. Such confrontations occurred not because Japanese imperialism hindered friendship between the Chinese and the Koreans, capitalized on their mutual antipathy, and thus contrived conflicts. History is not so simple as to be driven by human conspiracies alone.
The Chinese continue to disparage the Korean people, even to this day, although the Japanese are not informed about this phenomenon. For example, during the Cultural Revolution, there were many cases involving Koreans in Jilin province who fled to North Korea to escape attacks from Red Guard soldiers. Historical fact cannot be rescinded.
Japan tries to protect the Koreans
Korean farmers were engaged mainly in the cultivation of rice paddies, while Han farmers in Manchuria, most of them from North China, cultivated field crops because they did not know how to grow rice. Moreover, the literacy rate of Han farmers was extremely low, while that of Korean farmers was estimated at around 50%, even in the 1920s.
By the 19th century, Korean farmers were living and growing rice in every part of east Manchuria. They were oppressed by Chinese government officials in a multitude of ways. Some of them were bans against tenant farming contracts, residence restrictions, prohibitions against the opening of schools, closing down of schools, illegal arrests, forced naturalization and breaches of the Jiandao Agreement. The oppression worsened as time passed.
After Japan annexed Korea in 1910, the Japanese often clashed with the Chinese in attempts by the Japanese to protect the Koreans, who were now Japanese citizens. The Japanese government could not help but take firm action against Manchurian officials to safeguard its people’s lives. Beginning in 1928, there were more than 100 skirmishes between the Koreans and Chinese over three years. The biggest among them was the Wanbaoshan Incident.
As soon as the news of conflict between Chinese and Koreans in Manchuria reached the Korean peninsula, angry Koreans in Seoul, Pyongyang, Inchon and Sinuiju launched a massive attack on Chinese residents. In Pyongyang alone, 94 Chinese were killed and 118 wounded; 40 police officers were also injured.
However, Han farmers regarded their Korean counterparts as deadly foes and obstinately attempted to get rid of them. Manchurian warlord Zhang Zuolin was notorious for his hatred of Koreans. He openly made remarks like “Let not one Korean enter Manchuria” and “Since Koreans are evil-minded, not one of them shall tread on Manchurian soil.” When there was a revenue deficit, land reclaimed by Koreans was the first to be confiscated. Koreans were robbed of their land and then expelled. Discrimination against and oppression of Koreans were pervasive in Manchuria.
Despite protests from the Japanese government in Guandong province, Manchurian farmers and Chinese government officials continued to oppress Korean farmers.
Since Korean peoples were Japanese nationals after Japan’s annexation of Korea, the problem of the oppression of Koreans became a major issue involving the Japanese government, the Guandong Army and Zhang Zuolin’s government. By killing Zhang, the Guandong Army was also protecting the 400,000-600,000 Koreans in Manchuria.
Chinese witch hunts of Koreans
Japanese imperialism, now censured by North and South Koreans, once provided Koreans in Manchuria with funds and enabled them to buy land owned by the Chinese. However, Chinese and Korean scholars alike now claim that Koreans were pawns of the Japanese used to help Japan invade Manchuria.
However, this matter deserves more consideration. What does the claim that every year tens of thousands of Koreans were exploited by Japanese imperialism, serving in advance parties in the Japanese invasion of Manchuria indicate?
South Korean history textbooks will tell you how gallantly the Koreans fought resisting the Japanese. However, isn’t the notion of so many Koreans working as running dogs for Japanese imperialism a little bit embarrassing? Or does it perhaps contradict current historical accounts?
Chinese oppression of Koreans in Manchuria is traditional and cultural. Many scholars blame Japanese imperialism for the oppression. They certainly would do well to study history more thoroughly.
The Chinese still hate the Koreans. They believe Koreans are shifty, cowardly and bullies of the weak. Traditionally, the Chinese fear Mongols and Manchus, who were once known as Tartars, but their sentiments toward Koreans are in diametric opposition.
After Japan annexed Korea, Koreans became Japanese nationals. They acquired new, Japanese names in accordance with the decree regarding Korean family names, which permitted Koreans to assume Japanese names. They then began to retaliate against the Chinese, tormenting them as they had been tormented. The Chinese called the Japanese “Japanese devils,” and referred to the Koreans as “No. 2 devils.” Koreans were feared even more than Japanese by the Chinese inhabitants of Manchuria.
Korean farmers were very industrious. Chinese settlers in Manchuria perceived them as threats. When Zhang Zuolin came into power, the oppression and repudiation of Koreans in Manchuria took extremely violent forms. A Korean youth was murdered, his body crushed and disemboweled, then abandoned in the middle of a main street. In some cases, the beheader of a Korean was given two pairs of shoes and 40 yuan upon presenting the head to the authorities. In others, the capture of a Korean was rewarded with 20 yuan. When Chinese captured the children of Korean farmers, they cut off their fingers so they would never be able to farm.
In protest against the witch hunts perpetrated by the Chinese, a demonstration marking the launching of a campaign to save fellow Koreans in Manchuria was staged at Iri, Jeollabukdo province on December 6, 1927. On December 9, a movement to save Koreans in Manchuria was founded in Seoul. It gave impetus to other movements intended to halt Chinese oppression of Koreans; nationwide organizations were formed and campaigns of protest spread to major cities like Osaka and Tokyo in Japan, and Nanjing and Shanghai in China.
After the Wanbaoshan Incident, Chinese residents of Korea were frequently attacked or killed by Koreans. Concluding that those incidents were products of conspiracies and agitation on the part of the Japanese government is tantamount to fabricating history. It is impossible to analyze those events without knowledge of the history behind the conflicts between the Chinese and the Koreans.
Murder case of Captain Nakamura induced by “Expel and repudiate the Japanese” campaigns
Another immediate cause of the Mukden Incident was the murder of Captain Nakamura Shintaro in 1931. An expedition party led by Captain Nakamura was on its way to a location east of the Greater Khingan Range to perform a military geological survey. On June 27, the party was captured by Guan Yuheng, deputy chief of the 3rd Division of Khingan farmer-soldiers and killed.
The incident was made public by the Japanese in August. Envoy Shigemitsu Mamoru, then stationed in Nanjing, issued a strong protest to the Foreign Affairs Department of the government of the Republic of China. The response from department chief Wang Zhengting was that the incident had been fabricated by the Japanese Army. Since the Wanbaoshan Incident had also occurred at about that time, Japanese public opinion became increasingly anti-Chinese. In early September, the ROC government admitted that the incident had actually taken place, for the first time, and arrested and court-martialed Guan.
This incident was typical of the chain reaction whereby the ROC government’s anti-Japanese campaign forced the Japanese Army to take military action against the Chinese, which in turn further augmented the tension between the two countries.
It might as well be argued that the greatest factor lying in the background of the Mukden Incident was the campaign to expel and repudiate the Japanese conducted by the ROC government. The anti-Japanese slant on education thoroughly distorted historical fact. The idea behind it was to eliminate the Japanese presence while keeping Chinese failures and wrongdoings secret, blaming the Great Powers for oppression-induced disasters, and instilling xenophobic, Sinocentric ideas in Chinese minds. That propensity has remained basically unchanged to this day.
The ROC’s anti-Japanese curriculum included subjects such as the Chinese language, history, civics, sound practical judgement and singing. The headquarters of the anti-Japanese movement was the People’s Foreign Relations Association established in 1929. The Association’s branches numbered more than 40 in 1931.
The ROC government had a political agenda: immediate reacquisition of Japanese concessions (the Manchuria Railway, Lushun and Dalian) and nullification of the Sino-Japanese Treaty concluded in May 1915. Therefore, as a national policy, the anti-Japanese campaign gained further momentum.
Outnumbered Guandong Army defeats Zhang Xueliang’s troops
The Mukden Incident was triggered by a military clash at Liutiaohu in the suburbs of Fengtian, in September 1931. The Guandong Army expeditiously expelled Zhang Xueliang’s army and occupied all of Manchuria.
At the time of the Mukden Incident, the Guandong Army was not huge. The Sino-Japanese Treaty of 1905 stipulated that only 15 soldiers per kilometer would guard the Manchuria Railway. Accordingly, the length of the Manchuria Railway trunk line between Lushun and Changchun being 764.4 kilometers, the Japanese were permitted to deploy a total of 14,419 troops, including commanding officers.
During the Mukden Incident, approximately 300,000-450,000 troops from Zhang Xueliang’s army were instantly defeated and driven out of Manchuria by the Guandong Army with only 15,000 soldiers. Of course, the Chinese fought back. Then why was Zhang’s army, with perhaps 60 times more men than the Guandong Army, defeated?
Zhang’s troops were boasting about their modern military equipment and fighter planes, purchased using more than 80% of the annual Manchurian budget. The answer is that the best and strongest of them were fast asleep when the Guandong Army attacked with its 30-centimeter cannons. Surprised by the resonant sound of the cannons, Zhang’s men scattered. Modern Chinese history refers to this battle as an instance of Chiang Kaishek’s philosophy of non-resistance. One can only laugh at the absurdity of this blatant distortion of history.
Zhang Xueliang’s army was intent on recapturing Japanese interests for China; it was so caught up in the anti-Japanese movement that it totally underestimated the Guandong Army. Never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that the Guandong Army would strike back. Zhang’s soldiers had been taught to hate Japan, but their fighting ability was no better than that of a band of marauders. Zhang’s army was in such sad shape that its officers, fearing mutiny or misuse of arms, ordered that all weapons be kept in storage at night. It was no wonder that they lost the battle.
After the bulk of Zhang’s army fled, the balance of power in the region became clear. Warlords in various parts of Manchuria extricated themselves from Zhang’s influence and declared independence. Thus, in a natural way, the stage was set for the establishment of Manzhouguo.
5. Manchu-Mongol independence and harmonious coexistence among five ethnic groups
Establishment of Manzhouguo not part of Ishihara Kanji’s original plan
The ROC, which supplanted the Qing at the turn of the 20th century, never exercised its sovereignty in Manchuria. Nor did the ROC ever have the opportunity to intervene in the Manchurian problem.
After the Boxer Rebellion, Manchuria was under Russian influence. The outcome of the Russo-Japanese War was the north-south division of Manchuria by the Russians and the Japanese. Even after the ROC was founded, Manchuria was ruled by Russian, Japan and Manchurian warlords. Manchuria and China were completely different spheres.
Reflecting this historical background is Prof. Yano Jinichi’s claim that Manchuria was not, traditionally, Chinese territory and his defense of special Japanese privileges in Manchuria and Mongolia.
Ishihara Kanji, staff officer of the Guandong Army at that time, investigated the possibility of obtaining sovereignty over Manchuria, and concluded that solving the Manchu-Mongol problem was key to Japan’s survival. He also argued that Japanese possession of the region would solve that problem, an idea that had tremendous impact on the Japanese people. Ishihara did not, however, conceive of establishing of Manzhouguo. Some say the mastermind of that plan was Kanai Shoji, deputy chairman of the Manchurian Youth Federation and senior advisor to the Guandong Army.
In Genzai oyobi shorai ni okeru Nippon no kokubo (Japan’s national defense today and tomorrow), Ishihara states, “It is essential to acquire Manchuria and Mongolia, and to institute governor-generalships there similar to those in Korea and Taiwan. By doing so, we may find a new way to both revitalize Japan and consolidate a strategic plan.” At the time there was a need to revitalize a stagnant economy and to combat overpopulation and a food shortage.
Moreover, in Kantogun Manmo ryoyu keikaku (Plan for the acquisition of Manchuria and Mongolia by the Guandong Army), Ishihara argues that “the only way for Japan to survive, given the current domestic unrest, is the resolution of the Manchuria-Mongolia problem. That resolution lies in the acquisition of Manchuria and Mongolia, which can be accomplished admirably by the Imperial Japanese Army.”
Ishihara had been stationed in Manchuria, where he served the Guandong Army as chief of staff for strategy, since October 1928, after Zhang Zuolin was killed in a train explosion. At the time Chinese nationalism was at its height, and public sentiment was vehemently opposed to special Japanese privileges in Manchuria and Mongolia. And back in Japan, there were many activists who, believing that it was a matter of life and death for Japan, called for the resolution of the Manchu-Mongol problem.
The Japanese believed that the price of their special privileges in Manchuria and Mongolia had been huge: 200,000 precious lives and two billion yen during the Russo-Japanese War and the subsequent advance toward China. They also felt that it was their responsibility to protect those hard-won privileges. Such a historical perception was quite common in those imperialistic days. The plan to acquire Manchuria and Mongolia was strongly supported by the leaders of the Guandong Army.
Modern historical accounts of Manchuria generally conclude that the Guandong Army ran rampant in the reckless and violent execution of Ishihara’s plan. In actuality, however, the Manchu-Mongol policy formulated by Tanaka Giichi’s cabinet collapsed due to the attempt to kill Zhang Zuolin in a train explosion. The perpetrators were a group led by Colonel Komoto Daisaku, senior staff officer of the Guandong Army. Komoto was replaced by Colonel Itagaki Seishiro, who arrived in Manchuria in May 1929.
Resolving the Manchuria-Mongolia question once and for all
In his plan for the acquisition of Manchurian and Mongolia, Ishihara states, “If Japan resolves the Manchuria-Mongolia question by acquiring and developing that region, Japan will be able to weather global economic recession, and also to stanch the anti-Japanese movement in China proper.” Natural resources in Manchuria and Mongolia would have allowed imperial Japan to become self-sufficient. Conversely, without Manchuria and Mongolia, Japan would be hard put to find a way to survive.
Ishihara was contemplating military occupation as a means of resolving the Manchuria-Mongolia question once and for all. That required taking risks, perhaps even the determination to eventually wage war with the United States. On the other hand, Ishihara believed that the USSR was so preoccupied with post-revolution economic reconstruction to meddle in Japan’s resolution of the Manchuria-Mongolia question.
However, the United States continued to insist on equal opportunities and an open-door policy in China. Americans objected to the special Japanese privileges in Manchuria and Mongolia, and supported Jiang Kai-shek’s goal of unifying China. This is why Ishihara believed that war between Japan and the U.S. was inevitable. He believed that the final struggle for the integration of the Western and Eastern civilizations was drawing closer by the minute.
A confrontation between the Western and Eastern civilizations was already being advocated by Okakura Tenshin, Naito Konan, Mitsukawa Kametaro and Okawa Shumei.
For Ishihara, a military historian and a Buddhist of the Nichiren sect, it was quite natural to think that the clash between the Western and Eastern civilizations would culminate in a final war between Japan and the U.S. After the war, the civilizations of the world would unite, and all living beings under heaven would embrace the wondrous Dharma, in accordance with Buddhist belief.
Ishihara also maintained that the possession of Manchuria and Mongolia was not only necessary to Japan, but also would be most welcome to many Chinese. Japan should accomplish this task in the cause of justice.
In war-ridden China, the creation of a paradise free of wars, a place of refuge, was what most people longed for. The fact is that every year a million refugees were crossing the Great Wall to Manchuria.
Postwar historians, whether Japanese, Chinese or Korean, have repeatedly criticized Japanese imperialism. But if equipped with a very basic perception of Chinese history, they would realize that acquisition of Manchuria was a just cause.
Ishihara had advocated revolution in China since his school days. However, the Xinhai Revolution resulted in nothing but strife among warlords. Ishihara ardently believed that in order to bring true happiness and peace to the Chinese people, a hero should emerge to oust professional soldiers and professional politicians. Otherwise, the only choice would be to entrust national security to foreign powers. About happiness for the Chinese, he felt that the Japanese had been entrusted with the mission of overthrowing the military bureaucrats, the enemies of 30 million Manchurians.
Historically, the happiest times the Chinese experienced were under foreign (Manchu) rule. In reality, however, decent social order was maintained only in concessions inhabited by foreigners. This is the truth about the modern Chinese history, regardless of how reluctant the Chinese are to admit it.
Evolution of the concept of peaceful coexistence among ethnic groups and independence for Manchuria and Mongolia
In January 1932, prior to the establishment of Manzhouguo, Lt.-Col. Ishihara wrote:
Since the last days of the Qing dynasty there have been frequent domestic conflicts in China. I have come to doubt the political capability of the Chinese people, and thought it impossible for the Chinese to build a modern nation on their own. Consequently, I advocated the Japanese occupation of Manchuria and Mongolia, as the sole solution of the Manchuria-Mongolia question, since it would ensure Japan’s survival and bring happiness to the Chinese. However, by the end of 1931, the Mukden Incident had taught me that Manchurian and Mongolian independence, with the diverse ethnic groups living in peaceful harmony, would be preferable. One of the major reasons for my change of heart was my discovery of politically competent Chinese. Furthermore, during the Mukden Incident, I observed influential Manchurians readily and actively cooperating with the Japanese Army. They were striving ardently to overthrow the warlords and, above all, exercised remarkable political acumenxxvi.
Ishihara once thought that Manchuria and Mongolia were not originally Han territory, and that the Chinese lacked the ability to govern. He realized that if the Japanese population continued to increase, there would certainly be food shortages. Under those circumstances, it was quite reasonable for Ishihara to attempt to seize opportunities on the Chinese continent to exploit privileges in Manchuria and Mongolia, which had been obtained at huge cost. But his ideas changed as time passed.
China has a difficult time establishing its sovereignty because it is always in the midst of civil warfare. If Japan is responsible for maintaining security in China, and the various ethnic peoples can coexist and prosper together, development in the region is sure to succeed. Japan’s objectives are loftier than national interest. When Manchuria and Mongolia have been acquired, Japan will establish a governor-generalship. The Japanese will be in charge of military affairs and large-scale enterprises. The Chinese will engage in commerce and agriculture, the Koreans in rice cultivation, and the Mongols in pasturage; each people can exercise its traditional activities to advantage. Consequently, the purpose of Japanese acquisition of Manchuria and Mongolia is to overthrow the northeastern warlords, the enemy of all 30 million residents of Manchuria. Moreover, its objectives should be the happiness and prosperity of each and every ethnic group. The present inhabitants of Manchuria are ethnically closer to the Yamato people (the Japanese) than to the Han.xxvii
Both Ishihara’s historical perception of Manchuria and his concept of a new Manchu-Mongol nation speak to the true nature of history. It was a magnificent idea for the future of East Asia, and there was no other path for Manchuria to take.
In peacetime, the Guandong Army, stationed along the Manchuria Railway track for a stretch of 1,000 kilometers south of Changchun, had only 15,000 troops with equally meager equipment at its disposal. Yet neither Zhang Xueliang’s Dongbei Army nor other forces deployed mainly in Fengtian (but also in Changchun, Yingkou and Fenghuangchen) ever succeeded in defeating the Guandong Army. Under ordinary circumstances, even the most competent commander with the most effective strategy could not have routed Zhang’s army with its 300,000 to 400,000 men.
Following Zhang Zuolin’s death, Zhang Xueliang inherited control of the Dongbei Army and was watching intently for a chance to drive the Guandong Army out of Manchuria and deprive the Japanese of their privileges in Manchuria and Mongolia. But together, Ishihara Kanji, staff officer of the Guandong Army renowned for his wisdom, and Itagaki Seishiro, a resilient man of action and certainly Ishihara’s equal, had taken charge of the Guandong Army. Zhang Xueliang’s hands were tied.
Chapter Five: A Harmonious Multi-ethnic State Is Born
in a Land Devastated by Civil Wars
1. Ideas and ideals of Manzhouguo
A nation established under Confucian ideas and modern ideals
The establishment of Manzhouguo was proclaimed on March 1, 1932. The founding principles were 1) peaceful governance of the people in accordance with the will of Heaven, 2) virtuous rule, 3) cooperation among diverse ethnic groups and 4) an open-door policy. Since the first two principles were based on Confucian ideas, Datong was designated as the era name, after another Confucian ideal meaning “great harmony.”
Why did Manzhouguo make the Confucian principles of peaceful governance of the people following Heaven’s way and virtuous rule its national concepts? At the same time, the ROC was boasting about being a people’s republic with a strong progressive tinge. Did Manzhouguo’s leaders adopt Confucian principles because they were keenly aware of its being the successor state to the Qing dynasty?
Cooperation among ethnic groups and an open-door policy were not necessarily rooted in Confucianism. Rather, they were principles that signified the forging of a new era. They were adopted because Manzhouguo was a new, immigrant nation about to become a multiethnic state.
The idea of cooperation among ethnic groups can be traced to the special situation in Manchuria: there were Mongol tribes in the west, Tungus in the east, as well as other smaller tribes. Additionally, Han and Korean immigrants had settled in Manchuria, followed by Japanese immigrants, and Russians from the north. Manzhouguo aimed to achieve cooperation among all those groups.
The other idea, the open-door policy, was supposedly the result of American influence. The Americans were slow to join in the partition of China in the late 19th century. At that point, all they could do was demand equal privileges and an open-door policy. Of course, Manzhouguo, aspiring to become a modern nation-state, had no intention of isolating itself in accordance with East Asian political tradition. An open-door policy was indispensable to emergence from isolation.
The ROC had not yet acquired complete statehood, although 20 years had already elapsed since the republic was established as a result of the Xinhai Revolution (1911-12). Warlords ran rampant and civil wars grew worse and worse, while the powers in the north and south were busy playing at forming governments. Moreover, from one political party rose two governments, which battled each other incessantly. Multiple governments remained the status quo. Anyone aware of those disorderly and complicated conditions in China would understand how natural it was for the majority of the people to support the establishment of a new nation, dreaming of the creation of a utopian state in the land of Manchuria.
The principle of virtuous rule vs. the Three Principles of the People and Marxism
At that time, a principle for unifying China already existed in the form of the “Three Principles of the People” (ethnic independence, government by the people, and social welfare) espoused by the Guomindang government in Guangzhou, South China, for their northward military campaign. The fact that even Manchurian warlord Zhang Xueliang embraced this principle, raising the Guomindang flag with its white sun in a blue sky, indicates that it had become mainstream in China.
The Three Principles of the People had a formidable rival: Marxism/Leninism, which had become very popular. Besides being a major revolutionary force, it presented a huge threat to East Asia. (In those days, the world trend was shifting slightly toward parliamentary democracy.)
The guiding principle of Manzhouguo was virtuous rule. This was the principle used to legitimize the Chinese empire before nationalism became the major current in the world. It was also the principle of the Chinese world. There was probably no other choice but virtuous rule to counter the Three Principles of the People advocated by the Guomindang, and the socialism to which the communists aspired after the revolution.
At first, Manzhouguo’s founding principle was the creation of a utopian state rooted in Confucianism. Then, as the international situation changed, it shifted to kan nagara of Shintoism, meaning the “divine way,” then to “a united Manchuria and Japan” and finally, to the “Greater East Asian Coprosperity Sphere,” the ideology of the Confucianism-based emperor system.
Thus the principles on which the development of Manzhouguo and the unification of its people were based were in constant flux. However, we must remember that the inhabitants of Manzhouguo enjoyed a remarkably stable lifestyle, especially compared with the war-ridden ROC.
Manchuria had been a totally chaotic society, being as it was a constant target of exploitation, plunder. It was also the arena of conflicts instigated by warlords, local marauders and mounted bandits. The creation of a utopian state was a dream shared by all immigrants in Manchuria, one in which warlords would be expelled, marauders and bandits subdued, and the people freed. But before Manzhouguo was established, that dream remained unfulfilled.
It was quite natural the Manchurians of that time to try to avoid the confusion they believed would result if Manchuria were to be controlled by the ROC government, as China was.
To inform the public and promote the guiding principles of the establishment of Manzhouguo, a society called Kyowakai (Concordia Society) was organized in July 1932. The Society’s parent organization was the Republican Party, a political party organized in April 1932, and working toward the establishment of a new nation. Among the Society’s leaders were Yamaguchi Juji and Ozawa Kaisaku of the Manchurian Youth Federation.
The honorary president of the Society, which aimed to create a utopian state and promote cooperation among Manchuria’s ethnic groups, was Puyi; the commander of the Guandong Army was honorary advisor. Membership was approximately 300,000 in 1934. It grew to 800,000 in 1937, one million in 1938, 2.8 million in 1941, 3.2 million in 1942, and finally to 4.3 million in 1944 (one tenth of the total population of Manzhouguo).
Subduing bandits and expelling warlords
Until the late 19th century, Manchuria was a forbidden land where no one was welcome except for Tungus and Mongols. The Han inhabitants in Manchuria were mainly exiled prisoners, refugees engaged in illegal farming, logging, mining or poaching, and bandits.
All inhabitants of Manchuria, except for the natives, were related to or descended from marauding hordes or mounted bandits. Often desperate, poverty-stricken farmers joined groups of mounted bandits and attacked other farmers in the vicinity. There were many kinds of bandits: former government officials, soldier bandits, and even scholar bandits. Manchurian society was not different from its Chinese counterpart: a living hell rife with rampaging bandits and warlords.
When Manzhouguo was established, there were an estimated 0.36 to 3 million bandits in Manchuria. According to Manshukoku shi: kakuron (Details of the history of Manzhouguo), in addition to the professional mounted bandits who roamed over all of Manchuria, the following bandits were secretly active.
1) Part-time bandits (farmers who were good citizens at times and bandits at others)
2) Religious bandits (bandit groups organized by secret religious societies like Dadaohui (Large Sword Society) and Hongqianghui (Red Spear Society)
3) Political bandits (after the Mukden Incident, ex-soldiers in the former Dongbei Army, local guard corps and private groups who attempted coups and created disturbances
4) Communist bandits (guerrillas engaged in communist activities and attempting to organize political and local bandits)xxviii
There were also Korean and Mongol bandits. Basically, there were two types of bandits in Manchuria: local and political. However, in accounts of modern Chinese history, there is no distinction made between them: all bandits are lumped together as anti-Japanese guerrillas. Whatever one calls them, the residents of Manchuria suffered terribly because of the bandits.
Political bandits can be classified as communist or anti-Manchu and anti-Japanese bandits. Communist bandits were working toward world revolution and the end of private land ownership. The anti-Manchu and anti-Japanese bandits were former Dongbei Army soldiers who, together with the local bandits, attempted to regain their lost influence and fought for their respective causes.
Most of the mounted bandits and marauding hordes in Manchuria roamed mainly in the mountains and forests, or along the remote national, provincial and prefectural borders, where it was almost impossible for troops to reach them. During the summer, when the corn and reeds grew tall and thick, the bandits would approach villages near the railroad or cities, and launch frequent attacks at night under the cover of overgrown vegetation. In fiscal 1933 alone, 27 attacks on cities and 72 raids on trains were reported. By fiscal 1933, the number of mounted bandits had declined drastically to about 52,000 (except in the province of Rehe). That figure indicates that the military campaign to subdue them had almost ended, but the number of bandits was still considerably high.
2. Why the difference between Manzhouguo and the Yungui Plateau?
Make a simple comparison between the two
Soon enough, Manchuria ceased to be monopolized by mounted bandits and marauding hordes. A huge influx of refugees from China began arriving there. After the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), the number of Chinese immigrants into Manchuria surpassed a million per year.
The Han were foreigners in Manchuria. If the Russo-Japanese War had not been fought, what would have become of Manchuria? It is most likely that Manchuria today would be filled with Russian immigrants, just like present-day Siberia. Manchuria under Japanese influence received millions of immigrants from China, but the Russians would never have allowed Chinese to settle there.
I would recommend comparing immigration into Manchuria with immigration into the Yungui Plateau (Yunnan and Guizhou province and part of Guangxi province). The Yungui Plateau experienced a similar, coeval wave of Chinese immigration. The relationship between Manchuria and the Yungui Plateau is closely similar to that between Taiwan and Hainan Island. Another study likely to produce interesting results would compare Manchuria with the current Tibet problem.
Chinese advances into (or invasions of) Guangxi province and the Yungui Plateau date back to the 18th century. During the Ming dynasty in the 17th century, there were few Han inhabitants in the region. The percentage of Han immigrants into Guizhou province during the Ming era is estimated at less than 10% of the entire population. Even in Guangxi province, the Han accounted for only 20% of the population.
It was after the gaitu guiliu policy (involving replacing hereditary native leaders with Han officials) was fully implemented in the early 18th century that Han people moved to the Yungui Plateau in great numbers. The policy was adopted during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties in an attempt to subjugate the various ethnic peoples in the southwestern region. Consequently, in Guangxi province between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Han came to account for 60% of the population of the province.
The Han immigrants and local minorities coexisted, but in fact lived separate lives. For instance, the Miao lived in the mountains, the Buyi near water, and the Hakka (Han) people in towns.
When the European Great Powers began to advance eastward and colonize Asian territory, Chinese began a very active advance toward South China. The land belonging to minorities was usurped by the Han, who then became landlords, reducing the former land owners to tenant farmer status.
The upshot was unceasing ethnic conflicts and anti-Han rebellions demanding that the Han return the land they had stolen. There were frequent Miao rebellions during the 18th century, desperate anticolonial struggles against the Chinese empire.
At around the time when the First Opium War was fought (1840-42), ethnic minorities often revolted. In 1820, a Buyi rebellion broke out in western Guizhou province, followed in 1832 by a Yao rebellion along the borders of Hunan, Guandong and Guangxi provinces. The Yao also revolted in 1836 and 1847 in southern Hunan province, as did the Miao in 1855 in southeastern Guizhou province. All of the uprisings were anti-colonial struggles against Han rule, struggles that had the same structural attributes as today’s Tibet and Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region questions.
Victory in the Russo-Japanese War enabled Japan to drive the Russians out of Manchuria and keep them from advancing further southward. Then, in a totally desolate land, Japan constructed a railroad and developed modern industries. At first, only about 10,000 Guandong Army troops were stationed in Guangdong province, but they were effective in preventing local warlords from exploiting the region. And soon, more than a million Chinese refugees were pouring into that region every year.
When the Siberian Railroad was completed, prior to the Russo-Japanese War, the population of Manchuria was not known with any certainty, but was estimated at about one or two million. However, by the outbreak of the Xinhai Revolution, it was 18 million, and it reached 30 million when the Mukden Incident occurred. Now there are more than 130 million people living in Manchuria, more than the total population of Japan. We must remember that it was the Japanese who built the modern infrastructure that facilitated such remarkable development.
Though the Yungui Plateau has abundant natural resources, the Chinese have yet to build a basic infrastructure there. On the contrary, pristine nature was ruined, and the rich soil rendered barren by the hordes of Chinese refugees who poured into the region. At present, society there remains at a primitive level, in stark contrast to Manchuria.
Why the great difference between Taiwan and Hainan Island?
I would like to refer those who believe that Manzhouguo was a Japanese colony to the respective histories of Taiwan and Hainan ? two diametrically different islands.
The area of Taiwan is 35,873 square kilometers, while that of Hainan is 35,730 square kilometers. The islands are situated to the southeast and the south of China, respectively. Both are islands of about the same size as Kyushu, Japan. As recently as 100 years ago, both Taiwan and Hainan had extremely poor agricultural societies. However, in 1999 Taiwan’s per capita GNP exceeded $16,000, and is now about $24,000. China’s per capita GNP is less than $1,000, about 1/20 of Taiwan’s. Furthermore, Hainan province is one of the poorest regions in China, with GNP about half the Chinese average.
Geographical and environmental conditions were the same in Taiwan and Hainan 100 years ago. What factors determined the huge difference between the two today?
When asking questions like “What constitutes colonial rule?” or “What is the nature of Japanese civilization?” Taiwan and Hainan provide us with interesting clues to the answers. Similarly, those two islands hold the key to an understanding of the “Manzhouguo” question.
A comparison of Taiwan and Hainan tells us that conditions in Hainan (history, geography, natural environment, etc.) were far more favorable than Taiwan.
For example, Hainan has 1,500 kilometers of coastline and over 60 ports. It is near Guangzhou, which is the largest port in South China and has been a busy gateway for more than 1,000 years, since Arab and Persian traders began to use it in the Tang dynasty. Even before the days of great voyages dawned, Hainan was perfectly situated for maritime expeditions and development.
Hainan is closer to China than Taiwan. Besides being blessed with the highest-quality iron ore in all of China, the island has over 30 types of subterranean resources like coal, oil, aluminum, manganese, tin, gold, uranium, rock crystal and gemstones. In the waters that surround it are oil and natural gas mines; the island itself is covered with rain forests. It is China’s “treasure island” both in name and reality.
However, Hainan today is the least-developed, poorest region of all the administrative districts in China.
Looting the Japanese legacy and Nature’s bounty in the name of liberation
For 2,000 years, Hainan had been under Chinese influence, but after the Treaties of Tianjin concluded between China and France in 1858, following the Arrow Incident, it came under French influence. Not until Japanese “militarists” invaded the island in 1941 did Hainan begin to develop rapidly.
In 1950, after Japan was defeated in World War II, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army), not yet equipped with a navy, approached Hainan on board 300 junks and rafts. Having landed, the soldiers joined forces with the islanders and expelled 100,000 Guomindang Army troops in only two weeks. The PRC refers to this as the “liberation of Hainan.”
As soon as the island was returned to China, officials began plundering the modern industrial facilities and equipment there, as well as strategic supplies that the Japanese had left behind. As a result, Hainan reverted to its previous backward state.
After Hainan was “liberated”, the legacy of modern industry disappeared, and natural resources became the next target of the plunderers. Virgin forests covering 860,000 hectares in 1956 were reduced to a mere 240,000 hectares by 1978, and the area they covered from 27.7% to 7.05%. Now Hainan’s forests are smaller than those in the People’s Republic of Mongolia, a desert country.
As the natural environment deteriorated, agriculture faltered and water resources became scarce. Floods became more devastating, and the desert area expanded further toward the coasts. Underground resources were sold for a pittance by the PLA. Agricultural and industrial output per capita are 50% of the national average. Even today, the living standards of 80% of the people of Hainan are primitive; they have no electricity.
China’s modernization attempts sure to fail
I find it intriguing that the post-colonial social development of a region under colonial rule differs greatly from that of another region that was not colonized. Why does this happen? Of course, there is no single answer. The Chinese have applied modernization according to the philosophy whereby both Chinese traditional culture and Western technology are embraced. The two are in conflict, which explains why policy after modernization policy has failed. Western medical practices were adopted, but they proved to be ineffective when the Chinese failed to sterilize hypodermic needles and keep medical records.
But one cannot manage a colony in that way. Not only politics, but also every aspect of economic, social and cultural activity must be conducted in accordance with a modern value system. Nothing is achieved unless the building of the social infrastructure, investment, organization, control and management all go hand in hand.
3. So many blueprints for a new nation
Japanese grand design for Manzhouguo
Many Japanese were thinking of modeling the new state, Manzhouguo, after the United States. Among them was Dr. Yano Jin’ichi. In Manshukoku rekishi (The history of Manzhouguo), he writes:
Canada and several midwestern U.S. states were once desolate and undeveloped regions. But members of the Anglo-Saxon race turned them into world industrial centers, as well as hubs of Western capitalist civilization in only 100 years. These achievements brought home to me the difference between Westerners and Asians. Manchuria and Mongolia were under the influence of Asians for several thousand years, but remain desolate and undeveloped, left to the mercy of local marauders and mounted bandits. But now, by establishing Manzhouguo in Manchuria and Mongolia, we are about to realize East Asian government based on the principle of virtuous rule. In doing so, we will adopt the admirable aspects of Western culture and learn from its failings.xxix
After the Mukden Incident, the Japanese discussed many ideas relating to the establishment of a new state in Manchuria. For instance, Col. Doihara Kenji, a staff officer of the Guangdong Army, advocated cooperation among the five ethnic groups, with the Japanese taking the lead. Maj.-Gen. Tatekawa Yoshitsugu of Staff Headquarters proposed establishing a pro-Japanese government with Emperor Xuantong (Puyi) as its head.
Manchurian Youth Federation members Nakanishi Toshinori (manager of the Archives Department, Head Office, Manchiria Railway) and Shoha Kurakichi (Manchiria Railway employee) proposed a free state called “Northeast” (to be renamed “Manchuria-Mongolia”). Tachibana Shiraki, editor-in-chief of the Manshu hyoron (Manchurian review) championed an ethnic federal state. Takagi Shonosuke, secretary-general of the Citizens’ Diplomatic Association, suggested an independent Manchu-Mongol republic, meaning a constitutional republic under which Japanese, Manchurians, Han and Mongols would be united. Other ideas, such as a decentralized autonomous state and an autonomous, democratic state of farming villages were broached.
After the Mukden Incident, there was a major change in the views of Japanese residents of Manchuria. Until then, the mainstream attitude was patriotism devoted to protecting the Japanese concessions in Manchuria at all costs. But the trend shifted toward the advocacy of the establishment of a new independent state and of Manchu-Mongol independence.
Chinese concepts for a new state
It was not only the Japanese who worked hard to establish Manzhouguo. Manchurians, Mongolians and Chinese were also enthusiastic participants in the grand design. Among them were hardliners who were determined to preserve the ancient regime, as well as those who were committed to reforming old, bad habits and building a new state.
An agreement concerning the administrative framework of the new state was reached, designating Puyi as its head. But opinions were divided about the name of the new state, the era name, the national flag, the type of state and form of government. Zhang Yanqing, Xie Kaishek and Shao Lin advocated imperial statehood, while Zhang Jinghui, Zang Shiyi and Zhao Zhongren supported a constitutional republic.
Dazhongguo (Greater China), Datongguo (Unified State), Manmeng Ziyouguo (Manchu-Mongol Free State) and Manzhouguo were the leading candidates for the name of the new state. There were arguments on behalf of an imperial state, as well as those for a monarchy and a republic. Both monarchic and democratic governments were proposed. As far as the head of state was concerned, an emperor, president and other types of leaders were mentioned.
Even before the Mukden Incident, Zhang Gu, a political commentator in Tianjin, presented the following argument: Japan, China and Russia are struggling for control over Manchuria and Mongolia. Therefore, there is only one way to achieve a lasting peace in East Asia, i.e., is to protect the region from the three competing nations and establish a peaceful unified state populated by six East Asian peoples.
At the same time, in Manchuria, there were groups that advocated baojing anmin (providing good lives for the people and protecting them from outside invasions), as did Wang Yongjiang and Yu Chonghan. Others wished to see the Qing dynasty revived. Mongol youth groups wanted independence for the Mongols. All of these elements plotted to overthrow warlord Zhang Xueliang.
In that Wang Yongjiang, Yu Chonghan and their followers were strong advocates of Manchu autonomy and independence, they had something in common with those who favored a federation of provinces in China.
Demands for federalism had already been made at the time of the Xinhai Revolution. The post-revolutionary commander-in-chief of the Army, Li Yuanhong (who later became president), once polled each of the provinces about the establishment of a Chinese federal republic. Other ROC political leaders with federalist leanings were Zhang Binglin, Chen Duxiu and Li Dalie.
In his youth, Mao Zedong was also an autonomist. He advocated “people’s autonomy for every province” in 1920, arguing that the 22 provinces, three special districts and two tributaries (27 regions altogether) should become 27 independent states.xxx Mao also spoke in favor of the establishment of a Hunan Republic.
After the Xinhai Revolution, there were as many as 600 political groups in the ROC, including political parties; a wide range of opinions was voiced.
Chinese history at that time was one of unending conflicts. However, the Japanese do not know what those conflicts were really like. Books written by China experts often mislead readers into believing that there was strife between the Beijing government and the Nanjing-Guangzhou government in the south, and that north-versus-south civil wars were fought between the Beiyang Army and the Southern Revolutionary Army.
In actuality, in addition to the north-south conflict, there was a third axis of contention involving advocates of a federation of provinces. In particular, central China along the Yangzi River, and the southwestern region were the stronghold of the federalists. The war between Hunan and Hubei provinces in 1922 was waged between federalists and the Beijing government. Moreover, the Guangxi-Guangdong War was fought between autonomists and Sun Yatsen’s Guangzhou government. China in those days had reverted to the Sanguo (Three Kingdoms) era of the third century.
As if in response to the triangular conflict in China proper, Manchuria became the scene of ceaseless struggles between those who advocated baojing anmin and the warlords, which continued until the establishment of Manzhouguo.
4. Baojin anmin: the idea of Manchurian autonomy
Influence of the advocates of a federation of provinces in Manchuria
Here I would like to examine once again the relationship between the advocates of a federation of provinces, who have been underestimated in Japan, and the idea of the establishment of Manzhouguo, together with the state’s actual development.
As I mentioned in the previous section, post-Xinhai Revolution China, there was an autonomist group that advocated a federation of provinces, apart from the struggle between the Beiyang Army and the Southern Revolutionary Army. The federalists wielded a great deal of influence in central and southwestern China. However, in the 1920s, they were obligated to keep a low profile because of civil wars among warlords that lasted for ten years, and the Guomindang’s forced unification of China.
The federalists were a covert influence in Manchuria. As mentioned previously, after defeat in the first Zhili-Fengtian War, Zhang Zuolin declared the three eastern provinces independent, based on demands made by advocates of a federation of provinces.
For example, immediately after the Mukden Incident, the October 16, 1932 issue of Manshu nippo (Manchurian daily) reported: “The authorities of the four northeastern provinces have decided to build a great independent state, with Emperor Xuantong (Puyi) as president and Yuan Jinkai as prime minister.” Imperial Manzhouguo with Puyi as emperor actually came into existence later on. This historical material tells us how influential the supporters of a federation of provinces were in Manchuria.
After Zhang Xueliang’s army was expelled, leaders in various parts of Manchuria united and began to work vigorously toward the establishment of a new state. Finally, a plan to establish Manzhouguo was devised that would unite the provinces of Jilin, Heilongjiang and Liaoning.
The greatest contributor to the establishment of Manzhouguo was Yu Chonghan, who was highly praised by Ishihara Kanji. Like Yuan Jinkai and Wang Yongjiang, Yu was an advocate of baojing anmin, and argued for Manchurian autonomy and independence from war-ridden China proper. Once a Chinese instructor at the Tokyo College of Foreign Languages, Yu joined the Japanese Army during the Russo-Japanese War and was given an imperial award (Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays). He had close ties with Japan. Yu also served as advisor to Zhang Zuolin and was well acquainted with Honjo Shigeru, commander of the Guandong Army.
Yu Chonghan was a central figure among the advocates of baojing anmin, the overthrow of the warlords, an end to cruel taxation, the cultivation of popular strength, and reform of the police system. He even opposed the training of soldiers, believing in abolishing military service and entrusting national security to Japan.
He may be called the originator of the unarmed neutrality concept, which was adopted by the Japanese Socialist Party and many other progressive intellectuals after the World War II. Yu proposed establishing a neutral, independent state like Switzerland by separating Manchuria from China proper and instituting virtuous rule there.
Baojing anmin and the abolition of defense forces
The ideal for the establishment of Manzhouguo was, in a sense, the Monroe Doctrine. It involved implementing the baojing anmin philosophy and applying the Monroe Doctrine in the four northeastern provinces. Using terms popular in those days, it was the “creation of a utopian state”, where there exists neither conflict nor discrimination, where everyone is equal and content.
Yu Chonghan was not the only leader who broached the idea of doing away with defense forces. Yuan Jinkai also stated that he would nurture an efficient police force to maintain security, but not an army.
The idea of not having an army was not heresy at that time. The first prime minister of Manzhouguo, Zheng Xiaoxu, wanted the fighting to stop. Therefore, he favored abolishing troops and advocated the principle of virtuous rule. Such was the idealism embraced by the Manchurians and born out of the disasters resulting from the arms race among the Great Powers and civil war in China. This idealism never took root in Manchuria. But in post-war Japan it became the basis for single-state pacifismxxxi and nominal pacifism. The post-war Japanese entrust their national defense to the United States, just as Manzhouguo used to entrust its to the Guandong Army. How many Japanese are aware of these facts today?
The preparations for the establishment of Manzhouguo were made with the concept of a virtuously ruled federation, proposed by Tachibana Shiraki, as one of the founding ideals. Manzhouguo would be more than a paradise for its inhabitants, and more than a lifeline for imperial Japan; it would not be an arena for fascism. Its founders wished to create a virtuously ruled Asian society whose inhabitants would coexist harmoniously and enjoy coprosperity. That was in line with the “East Asian federation” concept espoused by Ishihara and the Manzhouguo Cooperation Society.
Wang Yongjiang, Yuan Jinkai and Yu Chonghan were called the troika of the autonomists. They were determined to achieve Manchurian autonomy and baojing anmin. The latter stemmed from the earnest desire of the Manchurian people to prevent Chinese civil war from spreading to Manchuria.
Manchurian warlords also enthusiastic about statehood
Manchurian warlords like Zhang Zuolin used more than 80% of the wealth they had unduly acquired in Manchuria for military expenses, and fought each other unceasingly in their quest for power. The funds procured through the ruthless taxation of the Manchurian people were all used exhausted during those civil wars.
After he lost the first Zhili-Fengtian War, Zhang Zuolin went back to Manchuria temporarily and proclaimed the three eastern provinces independent in May 1922. He was proposed as general commander in charge of security for the three eastern provinces by the congress of the Federation of the Three Eastern Provinces, which hoped he could achieve baojing anmin. However, Zhang had not yet abandoned his ambition to unite China. Therefore, Guo Songling opposed Zhang Zuolin in 1925. Citing all the mistakes made by Zhang during his rule of Manchuria, Guo made an attempt to win independence for Manchuria, his cause being baojing anmin.
Modern appraisals of those competing figures vary. Among them, Ma Zhanshan is celebrated in Chinese school textbooks as a hero in Manchurian history who was anti-Manchu and anti-Japanese. He was even glorified in a Japanese song of his time. Also, his biography, written in Japanese, was published.
General Ma was influential in the region as commander in chief of the Heilongjiang Army. When Manzhouguo was established, Ma was persuaded by Zhang Jinghui to join the council for the establishment of Manzhouguo. According to an anecdote, Ma produced 100,000 yen from his pocket at a council conference, and instructed that it be used for preparations: “Without money, it is impossible to build a state.”
However, he left the Manzhouguo government later and became a leader of the anti-Manchu and anti-Japanese movements. As Ma was illiterate, he would draw a picture of a horse on a document instead of signing it. According to another anecdote, he was ridiculed by Xi Qia (an influential Manchurian bannerman) for this “signature”; humiliated, Ma left Manzhouguo.
5. Grassroots support for establishment of Manzhouguo
Influential Manchurian leaders declare independence
Zhang Xueliang’s military government has been criticized by historians because it devastated the vast, fertile land of Manchuria and used the proceeds for the training of private soldiers and other military expenses; mercilessly squeezed the last drop of blood from the poor people (70-80% percent of this plunder went into the military budget); and bankrupted 30% of the region’s merchants and drove them out of their homes. The Manchurians were overjoyed and grateful beyond description when the Japanese Guandong Army overthrew Zhang’s government. This is another undeniable historical fact.
In the city of Fengtian, Zhang Xinbai, Zhang Zuolin’s legal advisor, was recommended for the position of mayor. Then the commercial representatives of Fengtian province, in cooperation with the autonomists, organized the Fengtian Autonomy Preservation Committee with Yuan Jinkai as chairman and Yu Chonghan as vice-chairman. Seceding from China proper, and aspiring to establish a new government that reflected public opinion, the members reorganized the committee as the Liaoning Province Regional Maintenance Committee, which was to become the province’s administrative body. Their ultimate goal was to win independence for Liaoning province. Their guiding principles were ethnic self-determination, respect for public concerns, and the establishment of an independent republic.
Jilin province also declared independence. As Zhang Zuoxiang, head of Jilin province, was in Tianjin at the time of the Mukden Incident, Xi Qia (then deputy commander of the Northeastern Frontier Army and government chief of staff) expelled Cheng Yun and Feng Zhanghai (followers of Zhang Xueliang who were intent on reviving the Qing dynasty) from Changchun, and declared independence.
Simultaneous to Jilin province’s declaration of independence, the Liaoning Province Regional Maintenance Committee issued its own declaration of independence. The announcement was made in cooperation with the Interim Liaoning Maintenance Committee Representing Four Peoples, which was organized by a group favoring a military government, one of whose members was Kan Zhaoxi, former commander-in-chief of Rehe province.
Liaoning’s declaration of independence states: “We northeastern people have been under the vicious influence of a military government for more than a dozen years. Now we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to defeat this malicious power (…) we were left with no other choice but to establish a new independent government. For this purpose, this committee has resolved to reject the ridiculous statement made by the government of Jinzhou, which has ties to Zhang Xueliang, the evil Chiang Kaishek and others.”
Col. Itagaki Seishiro persuaded Zhang Jinghui, mayor of Harbin (a special eastern zone), to organize a security preservation committee and declare independence on January 1, 1932.
Yu Zhishan, the security commissioner of the eastern region, was regarded as favoring Manchu-Mongol independence. He observed the situation in the aftermath of the Mukden Incident, and eventually sided with the baojing anmin advocates.
After Zhang Xueliang and others were expelled from Manchuria by the Japanese Guandong Army, a grassroots movement seeking the establishment of a new state swept the region.
In February 1932, the All-Manchuria Joint Convention for the Establishment of a New State was held in the Autonomy Guidance Division auditorium in Fengtian Castle. In addition to representatives from each province, about 700 people attended. Also represented were Mongolia, various organizations, the Manchu-Mongol Youth Federation, Koreans from Jilin province and the Special Eastern Zone. Together, the attendees resolved to establish a Manchurian state.
The four Manchurian leaders, Zhang Jinghui, Xi Qia, Ma Zhanshan and Zang Shiyi met at the residence of Fengtian mayor Zhang Zinbai to discuss the establishment of the new state. They decided on the founding principles and general framework, but could not reach an agreement about the type of state or government, despite heated discussions that continued all through the night. However, they did set up the Northeastern Administrative Committee, electing Zhang Jinghui chairman and appointing six committee members; Zang Shiyi, Xi Qia, Ma Zhanshan, Tang Yulin, Qi Wang and Ling Sheng.
The government of Manzhouguo announced the establishment of Manzhouguo in March 1932. The declaration reads, “In response to the hopes and desires of 30 million people, we hereby secede from the Republic of China and establish Manzhouguo.”
Puyi earnestly desires imperial throne
There were many opinions about the type of state to establish when Manzhouguo was in its infancy.
The Chinese call a government born of strong influence or support from foreign powers “illegitimate” or a “puppet state.” Since the Later Jin dynasty, one of the Five Dynasties, was established with the help of the Liao (Mongol Khitans), the Chinese refer to it as a “puppet dynasty.” When East Pakistan became independent from West Pakistan, Premier Zhou Enlai disparaged the new nation, describing it as the Indian version of “Manchuria.” But even he could not resist the trend of the time for long. As soon as Bangladesh won its independence, Zhou was among the first to recognize it.
The ROC government also characterized the PRC government as “illegitimate,” and “Russia’s puppet.” On the Korean peninsula, where Chinese influence has been particularly strong, the Republic of Korea regards North Korea as a Russian puppet state, while North Korea labels South Korea as an “American colony.”
Those examples clearly indicate that Chinese perceptions of order and history do not reflect reality, and that the Chinese stubbornly regard governments they do not wish to recognize as illegitimate or puppet states. Anyone who believes claims made by Chinese scholars (who are beholden to the authorities) denying Manzhouguo’s legitimacy will never be able to look squarely at historical facts pertaining to Manzhouguo
When the Japanese Guandong Army attempted to restore Puyi to the throne, it ran into opposition even within the Japanese government. For instance, Matsuoka Yosuke, former president of the Manchuria Railway, Army Minister Minami Jiro and Foreign Minister Shidehara Kijuro strongly opposed the plan. They believed that Puyi’s assumption of the throne would be misinterpreted as an attempt to restore the Qing dynasty.
Army Staff Officer Itagaki consulted with Puyi at Lushun on January 29, 1932 under orders from Commander Honjo Shigeru of the Guandong Army. At that time Puyi insisted on restoration of the Qing dynasty, primarily for the following reasons:
1) Both Manchus and Mongols wanted an imperial regime.
2) When the last emperor (Xuantong) was ousted, Puyi had retained his royal title under conditions favorable to the Qing imperial family. Therefore, he was still emperor.
3) Since the cultural level of the Manchurian people is low, an imperial regime was appropriate.
4) Puyi wished to form a cabinet, which would be supervised by a higher governmental body directly under the authority of the emperor.
Puyi’s desire to restore the imperial regime was strongly supported not only by his old subjects like Zheng Xiaoxu and Lu Zhenyu, but also by restorationist Xi Qia.
Manchurians support founding of Manzhouguo
At a Fengtian Regional Maintenance Committee meeting held on November 24,1931, several decisions were made. Those present agreed to establish a federation of four autonomous provinces (Fengtian, Jilin, Heilongjiang and Rehe), and to hold a conference attended by representatives of those provinces. At a conference (held on December 15 at Fengtian Castle) attended by representatives of Fengtian, Zang Shiyi was proposed as provincial governor. Zang was former government head of the Liaoning (now Fengtian) province.
In Jilin province, on September 26, immediately after the Mukden Incident, Xi Qia, deputy commander of the Northeastern Frontier Army, established a provincial government and took the lead in declaring independence. In Heilongjiang, Ma Zhanshan at first put forth some resistance, but when the overall situation became clear, Ma became Heilongjiang provincial governor, with Zhang Jinghui’s support. Zhang became director of the Special Eastern Zone. The two men conferred about building a new state. Tang Yulin, governor of Rehe province, kept close watch over the activities of Zhang Xueliang and the Guomindang government, as well as those of the Japanese Guandong Army, maintaining relations with all three entities that were neither close nor distant.
Here the greatest impetus to the establishment of Manzhouguo was provided by the fact that the Manchurians did not regard the Japanese Guandong Army as their enemy. Since the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese Army was strictly disciplined, unlike the Russians and the Manchurian warlords, and its men never looted or plundered. On the contrary, after being victimized by the brutal rule of the warlords, the people welcomed the Guandong Army as liberators.
Today, descriptions of Manzhouguo often end with the phrase “Guandong Army conspiracy.” But however well equipped with state-of-the-art arms the Guandong Army might have been, it could never have accomplished such remarkable feats without popular support.
What modern Chinese historians refer to as anti-Japanese guerrillas are simply soldier-bandits who ruthlessly robbed innocent people. They were hardly any different from the ubiquitous local bandits, politician-bandits and scholar-bandits in Manchuria. No matter how loudly the Chinese shout anti-Manchu and anti-Japanese slogans, they cannot transform bandits into an army battling for justice. Moreover, the Guomindang and the Communist Party were behind the anti-Japanese campaigns. Behind them, in turn, were the United States and Great Britain, not to mention the Soviet Union and Comintern. Under those circumstances, Japanese military force alone could not have succeeded in establishing Manzhouguo.
What made Manzhouguo a reality was support from all quarters ?local influential figures, powerful mounted bandits and the people.
6. To call Manzhouguo a puppet state is to ignore history and reality
Is it irrational for a new, independent state to accept guidance?
It is often mentioned that the Japanese government and military officials provided “guidance from within” to the bureaucrats of Manzhouguo, manipulated their politics and forced a national strategy on them. This may be the main reason why Manzhouguo is called a puppet state so often.
Research by historian scholar Awaya Kentaro reveals that by 1940, as many as 420 Japanese high-ranking bureaucrats (senior civil servants) had resigned and then become government officials of Manzhouguo. Eventually, 72 of their number returned to their former positions in Japan.xxxii Therefore, Manzhouguo became known as the “training center for Japanese bureaucrats.”
It is true that Japan had tremendous influence in Manzhouguo. However, from a world history perspective, that was not an unusual phenomenon, and the labeling of Manzhouguo as a “puppet state” is hardly appropriate. There are many ways in which cooperation of and guidance from other countries are indispensable to a new nation at its birth and for a time afterwards.
After the Soviet Union was founded, communist parties in various nations of the world (including the parties in Eastern Europe and the Chinese Communist Party) were under the guidance of the Comintern. In Chiang Kaishek’s ROC government, the army received guidance by the Comintern at first, and later from German and American military advisors. After World War II, many burgeoning states received “guidance from within” from America and their European mother states. This practice was certainly not peculiar to Manchuria.
Guidance from within was necessary to build a modernized society. The Japanese were correct in providing it.
Manzhouguo desired cooperation among its various ethnic groups, but all important posts were occupied by the Japanese. This system may have provided ammunition for the “puppet state” accusation. But it was practically impossible to assign positions in accordance with the percentage of the population accounted for by each ethnic group. The Japanese had far more experience in every aspect of modern society (personnel, practical and financial matters) than the majority ethnic group, the Han. In fact, the Japanese had built a modern nation-state more than 60 years before Manzhouguo was established. Japan was blessed with ample human resources and financial capital.
On the other hand, most of the Chinese residents were uneducated refugees who were not capable of founding a nation. Moreover, China had a 5,000-year history of rapacious, corrupt officials. If the Chinese were to be given control, politician-bandits would be running rampant in no time, thus destroying the new state. In actuality, the ROC was deep in a quagmire of multiple governments and civil war, which proves my hypothesis. The Manchurian people were united in their desire to prevent the wars in the ROC from reaching Manchuria, if possible.
Is Dr. Yanaihara’s criticism justified?
Colonialism specialist Yanaihara Tadao argues that Japan had full control of Manzhouguo. His reasons: The government of Manzhouguo was administered by the Japanese, and most of the civil servants were Japanese. The Japanese Guandong Army was responsible for national defense, supplemented by the Manzhouguo National Army. Furthermore, Japanese Army officers joined the national army. Wasn’t Manzhouguo a Manchu-Japanese coalition? All capital used to build industries came from Japan; the Manchurian Telephone & Telegraph Co. was financed 100% by Japanese capital. The government, military affairs and the economy were all in the hands of the Japanese.
If we think objectively, however, Manzhouguo was like a newborn baby. It had no experience as a modern state. Manzhouguo was a new nation of immigrants from diverse ethnic groups that were to coexist harmoniously. It would be rather illogical for the Japanese, with all their experience managing a modern nation-state, to withhold guidance.
However competent some Chinese might be, one couldn’t expect them to be good leaders. No one had demonstrated the ability to cope effectively with the problem of civil war.
Militarily, it made good sense for the superior Guandong Army to protect the infant Manzhouguo.
If the presence of the Guandong Army was proof of a Manchu-Japanese coalition or union, how about post-war Japan? Japan concluded a security treaty with the United States, which provides for Japanese national security. Shouldn’t we conclude, then, that Japan and the United States are a union?
When it was established, Manzhouguo could not obtain sufficient income from tax revenue alone. To build an infrastructure, a vast amount of capital was required. Therefore, Manzhouguo issued official bonds, nearly all of which Japan purchased. Industrial development was made possible by Japanese investments. Should this be called a Japanese invasion? Wasn’t the nurturing of industry in Manzhouguo Japan’s greatest contribution to Manchuria?
The Japanese are to be commended for their investments for several reasons. First, at that time the Chinese had only a small amount of commercial capital; there was very little capital accumulation in all of China, and capital investment for building an infrastructure was virtually impossible.
Second, not only during the life of Manzhouguo, but also today, half a century later, China still depends heavily on foreign capital and technology. Still one of the poorest nations, China is being supported by ODA from Japan, loans from international financial institutions, and assistance from the United Nations. The fact that Japan monopolized industrial investment in Manzhouguo indicates that the Japanese laid the foundation for modern industry and modern society in the new state. If we awakened to the scarcity of accumulated capital in China in those days, we would offer praise to Japan, not criticism.
7. The making of a state begins with educating the people
Why teach the Japanese language?
Most of the inhabitants of Manchuria were uneducated refugees from North China.
Private schools did exist in China, of course, in the form of xuetang (academies) and shufang (schools that taught reading and writing). But it was not until 1904, when the Official Education Act was promulgated, that a school system designed to educate the masses was established.
After the Russo-Japanese War, in addition to schools for Japanese residents, institutions schools for the Han were founded in Guandong province and on property belonging to the Manchuria Railway. The 1920s, when Zhang Xueliang held sway over Manchuria, saw the introduction of an educational system regulated by the ROC government’s Bureau of Education in Nanjing. There education was based on the Three Principles of the People.
In the early days, education in Manzhouguo was patterned after the school curriculum used in the ROC. In July 1932, a Bureau of Education was established. Independent of the civil government, the bureau conducted a survey on education in various parts of Manchuria. The survey results convinced officials that the ROC system should not be used in Manzhouguo. As I will discuss later, a new school system and a teacher-training program were introduced.
The building of any new state begins with education. To nurture the people of Manzhouguo, it was necessary for them to acquire a common language, culture and knowledge, and to cultivate uniformity and a sense of nation among them.
In Manzhouguo’s infancy, the guiding principle of education was virtuous rule, which was also the founding ideal. The purposes of education in accordance with the Three Principles of the People were to instill nationalism and the concept of nationhood. In its place a decree was promulgated that required schools to teach sishu wujing (the Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism).
However, as the international situation changed, so did the governing principle of Manzhouguo, which became Manchurians and Japanese cooperation for mutual benefit. Education followed suit. Changes were made, among them the combining of subjects like ethics, language, history and geography into one discipline: Manchurian civilization and culture. In addition to the history of Manzhouguo, Japanese history was taught.
Manzhouguo was a multilingual state. The Beijing dialect of Chinese, Mongolian and Japanese were designated as the official languages. Incidentally, there were 240,000 Japanese in Manchuria (less than 1% of the total population) when Manzhouguo was established. Those who alleged that Manzhouguo was an illegitimate state were (and still are) critical of the fact that Japanese was the first national language.
Perhaps this matter requires a bit more explanation. There was no such thing as the Chinese language at that time. The Han constituted the absolute majority of the population, but their language had not been unified. Chinese classics existed, but there was no common Han language. Even today, dialects of the Chinese language differ from place to place, to the extent that in their spoken form, they are not mutually intelligible.
On the other hand, the Japanese language has a completely unified system. Since Japanese was the most modern language in all of East Asia, there was no alternative but to use it as a tool to modernize and unify education.
Manzhouguo was a composite state populated by multiple ethnic groups with diverse languages, customs and history. Therefore, like other new nations (the United States and Australia, for instance), it had no national tradition. It was necessary for each ethnic group to abandon its ethnocentrism and work together with the others. To that end, it was necessary to conduct the nation’s education in a language that had been unified.
In traditional Chinese education, literary achievements were more highly valued than business acumen. The new school system abandoned traditional Chinese educational priorities, including the near-worship of the study of law. Instead, it concentrated on practical education, offering complete curricula at each stage.
There were three stages: elementary and middle school (three levels), high school (including a high school for girls) and university. Also available were teacher training and vocational education.
One of Manzhouguo’s objectives as a new state was the elimination of illiteracy. The plan was to achieve a school attendance rate of 70% by fiscal 1950, but the nation collapsed 13? years after its establishment. Nonetheless, the school attendance rate at the end of 1936 (22%) had swelled to 45.5% by April 1, 1941. Compare this with the literacy rate in China, which was then below 20%.
University established to nurture human resources for Manzhouguo
From the outset there was a plan to establish a university in Manzhouguo to facilitate national growth. The first proposal involved founding an “Asian university” that could contribute to the restoration of Asia, offered by Col. Ishihara Kanji of the Guandong Army’s General Staff Office. Maj.-Gen. Itagaki Seishiro, chief staff officer of that army, approved the proposal and ordered Capt. Tsuji Masanobu of the Staff Office to formulate a detailed plan.
Capt. Tsuji presented a draft to the Japanese Army Ministry, which appointed scholars Hiraizumi Kiyoshi, Kakei Katsuhiko, Sakuda Soichi and Nishi Shinichiro to the Steering Committee. Many opinions were presented, and many debates held over the policies that would govern the foundation of the university. Discussions dragged on until Maj.-Gen. Tojo Hideki, chief staff officer of the Guandong Army, was appointed chairman of the Steering Committee after Maj.-Gen. Itagaki was transferred.
As a result, the argument that it was Japan’s responsibility to gather as many students as possible from all over Asia and educate them at an Asian University began to dominate the discussions. Committee members believed that priority should be given to nurturing human resources for the building of a new state and decided, unofficially, to name the institution National Foundation University.
In August 1937, legislation decreeing the establishment of National Foundation University was enacted. Zhang Jinghui, premier of Manzhouguo, was appointed president, and Dr. Sakuda Soichi vice-president.
The National Foundation University began accepting applications from students in fiscal 1938. The ethnic distribution of the 150 students to be admitted was to be 75 Japanese (50%), 50 Manchus and 25 each Koreans, Mongolians and White Russians. That fact that 10,000 Japanese students applied for the 75 available slots shows how popular the new university had become.
The purposes of the National Foundation University were to nurture human resources capable of building Manzhouguo and to enrich cultural life in the new nation. These purposes went beyond the concept of other modern universities, which placed too much emphasis on learning for learning’s sake. Japanese higher education had been modeled after modern university education in Western nations since the Meiji Restoration. Therefore, the new university in Manzhouguo was quite different, and unique in this respect. It began with the common recognition that a national university should, in all ways, belong to the nation in which it was founded.
The university provided standard education for the first three of six years, and specialized education for the second three. During those six years, students studied politics, economics or literature and pedagogy. Regardless of their ethnic backgrounds, all students lived in the same dormitory for six years and were given guidance about studying and living together. Aiming for higher education the likes of which had never seen before, the university endeavored to cultivate well-rounded adults. Its curriculum accomplished that goal by teaching students the basics of ethnic harmony and cooperation through daily experiences, and helping them understand the founding ideals of Manzhouguo.
8. Outrageous fabrication citing 420,000 forced immigrants
Why the rush of Chinese into a state under Japanese imperial control?
As I mentioned earlier, Manchuria was a forbidden land. Immigrants in the era before the ban on entering Manchuria was lifted were mainly from China and Korea; they made their livings by farming and mining illegally, and poaching. In today’s terminology, they were “illegal aliens.” We can only estimate how many there were, except for statistics obtained from occasional censuses.
According to a book by Tsukase Susumu entitled Chugoku kindai keizai shi kenkyu (History of the modern Chinese economy), the population was about 5 million in 1898. By 1915, it had jumped to 20 million, and by 1930, to 30 million.xxxiii
Prior to the Mukden Incident (1932-33), the population was 30 million. By 1941, it had increased to 43 million.xxxiv Although it is nearly impossible to obtain accurate statistics, the influx of immigrants into Manchuria between 1927 and 1929 is estimated at approximately one million per year.
For a time after the establishment of Manzhouguo, the number of immigrants was restricted for security reasons, dropping temporarily (to 320,000 in 1937). As the need for a labor force soon arose, recruitment of workers resumed in 1938, when the number of immigrants increased sharply. The largest influx (1.3 million) was in 1940.
It is commonly believed that Manzhouguo was then controlled by “Japanese imperialism,” and that its people were oppressed, massacred, persecuted and expelled by the Guandong Army. Nonetheless, each year more than one million Chinese flooded in. What does this fact imply?
Human beings will move from a dangerous place to a safer one, just as water flows downward. In that case, why did a million people rush into a living hell year after year?
It is hardly convincing to conclude that Chinese traveled all the way to Manchuria to experience colonial exploitation under Japanese imperialism. Could they have been motivated by patriotism? Were they so eager to risk their lives for the anti-Japanese cause that they crossed the Great Wall to form a human wave against Japanese imperialism? Or did the Japanese coerce Chinese to move to Manchuria at the rate of a million per annum, as some die-hards who cling to the forced immigration theory would have us believe?
Only haven on a continent rife with civil war
The Chinese harbor strong anti-bureaucratic perceptions and are extremely skeptical of their rulers. Also, they trust no one implicitly. They are indifferent to political matters and show little interest in their country. All they want is to have enough to eat. They do not wish to be burdened with national awareness.
Han farmers were the overwhelming majority in Manzhouguo; they regarded Manchuria as a foreign land. Therefore, they did not think of themselves as citizens of Manzhouguo.
In 1939 Japanese miners earned 2.33 yen per month compared with their Korean and Chinese counterparts (1.30 and 0.98 yen, respectively). These wages were not governed by any ethnic bias, but were determined after an evaluation of the workers’ capabilities.
After the Boxer Rebellion, Manchuria was occupied by Russia, which had sustained huge damage to its railroad and other facilities perpetrated by the Boxers. Four years later, the Russo-Japanese War broke out and Russian influence was swept out of South Manchuria. Japan made huge sacrifices to win that war. Consequently, the Japanese became acutely aware of their identity; nationalism was flying high. It was natural for them to think, “What were the Chinese doing during the Russo-Japanese War?” or “The Chinese are indebted to the Japanese for their peaceful and prosperous lives in Manchuria today. We Japanese have given our lives to rid Manchuria of Russian influence. Since China is plagued with wars and famine, Manchuria is the only place where Chinese can live and conduct business safely. All these benefits are the result of Japanese sacrifices.” The Chinese were preoccupied with civil war; only Manchuria was free of war.
Accusations like manhunts and forced immigration distort history
Historians sometimes criticize the Japanese in connection with events in Manzhouguo during the Sino-Japanese wars (1937-45). They say that refugees from various parts of China were packed into freight cars or otherwise abducted and transported to Manchuria. There they were forced to do hard labor; they were provided with very little sustenance, and were forbidden to eat rice. Chinese modern history sources even state that 420,000 of the workers who poured into Manzhouguo in 1940 were “victims of forced immigration.” Is any of this true? Isn’t it time for China to reexamine its modern history?
First of all, if 420,000 out of 1.3 million immigrants in 1940 had been taken to Manchuria against their will, what sort of people were the remaining 880,000? Why did they choose to head for a place that Japanese imperialists had to resort to abduction to populate?
As the Chinese mistrust everyone, it would have been difficult to talk them into going to Manchuria. To persuade them, one would need to be fluent in the Beijing dialect, as well as in several local dialects. It is very unlikely that any Japanese was that well versed in the Chinese language then. Common sense tells us that even an expert Japanese scholar of the Chinese language would not succeed in persuading a Chinese into moving to Manchuria if abduction was his true intention.
It is only natural that refugees from a China plagued with wars and hunger would be attracted to Manchurian society, which was safe and stable. Forced immigration was not necessary.
Moreover, most of the Chinese refugees in Manchuria were from Hebei and Shandong provinces. They grew grains like barley, corn and millet, not rice. Therefore, unlike the Japanese and Koreans, they rarely ate rice.
An immigration agreement was concluded between the Manzhouguo and North China governments in 1941. A workers’ association in North China sent 0.91 million Chinese to Manchuria in 1941, 1.06 million in 1942 and 0.78 million in 1943.
I must mention here the postwar Chinese practice of distorting history by describing those immigrants as victims of manhunts or forced immigration. In actuality, as was often the case in China, bosses pocketed a percentage of coolies’ wages. The same was true of the refugees who poured into the special maritime economic zones after reform and liberalization. They were not exploited by the Japanese.
Chapter Six: But for the Manchuria Railway and Guandong Army, Manchuria Would Have Remained Wasteland
1. Acquisition of Siberia, Manchuria and Mongolia Russia’s long-cherished desire
Reason for construction of Trans-Siberian Railroad
In the late 19th century, the world entered the age of long-distance railroads. Nations competed to construct the longest, farthest-reaching railroad.
The first transcontinental railroad in the United States was completed in 1869. In Russia, a plan to build the Trans-Siberian Railroad was drafted during the 1850s. Surveying of constructions site began during the 1870s, and construction began in May 1891, four years prior to the Sino-Japanese War.
The Trans-Siberian Railroad was a colossal national project into which Russia poured all of its energy. When the Great Powers held sway, railroad construction was promoted for economic, but also political and military reasons. This was true of transcontinental American and other railroads as well.
There were three major objectives behind the construction of the Trans-Siberian Railroad:
1) Support the Russian Navy in the Far East
2) Prevent Great Britain from advancing toward the Far East
3) Establish a political alliance with Qing China
The axis of conflict among the Great Powers over the Far East at that time pitted Russia against Great Britain. It explains the conclusion of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance prior to the Russo-Japanese War. Similarly, Russia was attempting to join forces with Qing China to counter the Japanese threat.
Russia succeeded in defining the Amur (Heilongjiang) and Agrun rivers (upstream of the Amur) as the border between Russia and China. Furthermore, in accordance with the Aihun Treaty (1858), the region east of the Ussuri River was designated as a zone to be jointly managed by the two nations. Through the Beijing Treaty (1860), Russia acquired the region east of the Ussuri. In 1901, Russia completed the East China Railroad, which extended from Manzhouli at the western end of Manchuria to Suifenhe (Pogranichnaya) in the eastern end; it reached Vladivostok by 1904. Now Paris and Vladivostok were connected via the Trans-Siberian Railroad.
Emperor Nikolai II’s dream was to acquire Manchuria and expand Russian influence to Manchuria, Mongolia and Xinjiang, and then farther southward beyond the Great Wall of China. For that reason, the Russians took great interest in the management of their part of the region. As mentioned previously, Russia invested approximately 700 million rubles in projects involving the construction of railroads, cities and ports.
Russia leaves “invader” legacy in Manchuria
Harbin today enjoys the dubious honor of being China’s biggest crime haven. When the Russians first built it, Harbin was so beautiful that it was called the “Paris of the East.” Moreover, Dalian and Lushun, ports that served as bases for the southward Russian advance, were modern cities of great economic and military importance.
Chinese books bearing titles like History of Russian Invasions of China and the like contain criticism after criticism castigating Russia for its frequent invasions of Siberia and Chinese territory over several centuries, beginning with the era of the grand dukes of Moscow. However, as mentioned earlier, the power of previous Chinese dynasties was rarely felt beyond the Great Wall. Is it logical, then, for China to claim the Siberian tundra as Chinese territory? Furthermore, Russia neither plundered nor exploited Manchuria, but created many valuable assets there.
In November 1897, the Jiaozhou Bay Incident broke out, which involved the murder of a German missionary. Under the pretext of controlling the moves of the British Eastern Fleet, Russia occupied Lushun. In March of the following year, Russia successfully obtained 25-year lease rights in Lushun and Dalian from China. After attaining its long-cherished desire, i.e., a warm-water seaport, Russia began constructing a new branch line of the East China Railroad from Harbin to Lushun and Dalian across central Manchuria. This was only three years after the Tripartite Intervention. In Japan, the East China Railroad’s southern branch line from Changchun southward is called the “South Manchuria Railway.”
The realization that Japan had objectives in Manchuria annoyed the Russians. One of the causes of the Russo-Japanese War was the need to prevent Japan from advancing into Manchuria. The East China Railroad was completed remarkably quickly ? only three years after construction commenced ? and operations began in October 1903. In the course of its construction, the Boxer Rebellion broke out (1900). Consequently, 960 kilometers of railroad (out of a total length of 1,387 kilometers) was destroyed during the revolt. Not counting these losses, Russia was forced to spend 100 million rubles to suppress the Boxers.
Then came the Russo-Japanese War. At each decisive point of the war (the attack on Lushun, the Battle of Mukden and the naval battle on the Sea of Japan), Japan emerged victorious.
In September 1905, at the American naval port of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a peace treaty was signed; U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt mediated. The ambassadors plenipotentiary representing Japan and Russia were Foreign Minister Komura Jutaro and Finance Minister Sergei Witte, respectively. Russia conceded its privileges in South Manchuria to Japan. It also ceded South Sakhalin to Japan, which obtained the railroad interests south of Changchun as well.
In December of the same year, Komura Jutaro concluded the Sino-Japanese Treaty in Beijing and obtained Chinese approval of the privileges won from Russia. In the Sino-Japanese Treaty, Qing China granted Japan (1) the right to lease Guandong province, (2) railroad privileges between Changshun and Lushun (including branch lines), and real property belonging to the railroad, (3) mining rights to coal mines belonging to the railroad, (4) the right to reside and conduct business in cities in South Manchuria, and ban on entry within 80 kilometers of the Japanese Army station posts along the railroad on the part of the Qing Army.
2. Secret pact concluded between Japan and Russia to divide and control Manchuria
Russo-Japanese secret pact that divides Manchuria north and south
After the Russo-Japanese War, though Russia conceded its privileges in South Manchuria to Japan, North Manchuria remained under Russian influence. Afterwards, up until the Mukden Incident in 1931, for nearly a quarter century, the status quo of Russia’s North Manchuria and Japan’s South Manchuria endured unchanged.
After the Russian Revolution, the Soviet government once declared that it would renounce all concessions held in China. That was the declaration made by Foreign Minister Karakhan in 1919, whereby all unfair treaties Czarist Russia had concluded with China would be abolished.
Nevertheless, Russia did not abandon the East China Railroad between Manzhouli and Pogranichnaya or Harbin and Changchun. Nor did it relinquish its mining and forestry rights along the railroad or its railroad business rights. Finally, in 1920, the railroad came under the joint management of the Chinese government and the Russo-Asian Bank, and was privatized in 1924.
After the Russo-Japanese War, Japan and Czarist Russia held four conferences regarding the division of the Korean peninsula, Manchuria and Mongolia, and concluded an agreement.
The first conference was held in 1907 after the Russo-Japanese War. All present confirmed that the Portsmouth Treaty would be respected and approved the independence of Qing China and the preservation of its territory, as well as equal opportunities for commerce and industry in China among the Great Powers.
At the same time, a secret Russo-Japanese pact was signed. Russia agreed not to interfere with Japanese plans for the Korean peninsula; Japan agreed not to interfere with Russia’s plans for Outer Mongolia. Both nations recognized Russian interests in northern Manchuria and Japanese interests in southern Manchuria. The dividing line was clearly defined to avoid future disputes.
The United States managed to insert itself into a project involving the construction of the Huguang Railroad (from Sichuan to Hankou and Guangdong), becoming one of the investors, along with the Chinese government, Great Britain, France and Germany. Then, America proposed rendering the Manchuria Railway politically neutral, and planned to construct the Jinai Railroad (between Jinzhou and Aihun). It would cover 1,200 kilometers upon completion. Since this enterprise went against Russian and Japanese interests, those two nations opposed it. France and Germany did not side with the United States in light of opposition from Russia and Japan.
The Russian Revolution voids secret pact dividing Manchuria and Inner Mongolia
In 1910, under tense and urgent circumstances, Russia and Japan concluded a second agreement in the hope of keeping the Americans out of Manchuria. The two nations pledged they would honor the first agreement, and maintain the status quo in Manchuria. The American neutrality proposal was rejected.
After the Xinhai Revolution, Russia and Japan concluded a third agreement, whereby Inner Mongolia would be divided into an eastern part and a western part by the meridian at 116°27′E. Japan would control the eastern part and Russia the western part. Signatories approved concessions in the respective regions and agreed to respect them.
During World War I (1914 ?18), Japan occupied Qingdao, a German leasehold on Jiaozhou Bay, in accordance with the Anglo-Japanese Alliance. Japan also presented the Twenty-One Demands to President Yuan Shikai in 1915.
Great Britain and the United States showed a great interest in this move on the part of Japan, and tried to forestall it. But Russia supported Japan in an attempt to promote closer ties between the two nations. One year after the Twenty-One Demands were issued, the fourth Russo-Japanese agreement was concluded.
This time the agreement covered all of China, including Manchuria. It stipulated that if territorial or other concessions in the Far East were encroached upon, Russia and Japan would discuss what action to take. This was a mutual defense agreement. It is likely that the agreement was concluded because both Russia and Japan believed the United States might encroach upon their concessions.
Nonetheless, the secret agreements that Russia and Japan laboriously concluded more than four times, dividing Manchuria north and south, and Inner Mongolia east and west, were nullified by the Russian Revolution.
The area north of Changchun was under Russian influence, with Harbin as its center. At that time, Harbin was the biggest stronghold of the Chinese Communist Party. In 1929, Zhang Xueliang attempted to suppress the Communist Party and gain control of the East China Railroad by force to rid northern Manchuria of Russian influence. But in the face of powerful Russian military campaigns, Zhang Xueliang’s ambition was shattered.
At the time of the Mukden Incident, the Japanese Guandong Army attempted to transport forces north of Changchun, but was thwarted because the East China Railroad was under Soviet control. In March 1935, after the establishment of Manzhouguo, Japan acquired the right to manage all of the East China Railroad lines. Russia conceded these rights to Japan with the intention of unifying railroad management.
3. Japanese Guandong Army: an independent combat group viewing the Soviet Union as a potential enemy
Guandong Army originally a railroad guard unit
I would like to once again list Manchurian interests conceded to Japan by Russia under the Treaty of Portsmouth.
1. Leased territory on the Liaodong peninsula, including Dalian and Lushun
2. East China Railroad (southern branch line) and other railroad interests involving 764.4 kilometers of track between Changchun and Lushun
Moreover, through the Beijing Treaty concluded with Qing China, Guandong province at the south end of the Liaodong Peninsula and the East China Railroad (South Manchuria Railway), which were both conceded by Russia, as well as the right to lease property along the track belonging to the railroad were officially granted to Japan.
Thus, part of the Liaodong peninsula, which Japan was forced to abandon due to the Tripartite Intervention after the Sino-Japanese War, was once again in Japanese hands.
The Portsmouth Treaty clearly states that the Japanese had the right to station 15 guards per kilometer to protect the railroad. Therefore, the maximum number of guards permitted was 14,419, or two divisions. This right is reiterated in Article One of the ensuing Sino-Japanese Treaty. The railroad guards were the origins of the Guandong Army.
The Guandong Army was an independent combat group, which viewed the Soviet Union as its potential enemy. It was officially inaugurated in 1918 with the Siberian campaign at the end of World War I.
The appellation “Guandong” comes from the guan of Shanhaiguan and dong (east), and signifies a location east of Shanhaiguan (situated near the Great Wall). It was applied to the Guandong Army by the Japanese, who also named the area “Guandong Province,” when they established the Governor-General’s Office there in September 1905. The Guandong Governor-General’s Office was under direct supervision of the Emperor. Army Gen. Oshima Yoshimasa was the first governor-general. In September of the following year, the Governor-General’s Office was renamed the “Guandong Governor’s Office.” The office reported to the Army minister and the chief of the General Staff for military administration and operations, and to the foreign minister for political matters.
Manchu-Japanese Allied Forces and Guandong Army’s guidance from within
For 19 years prior to the Mukden Incident, the Guandong Army consisted of one division, independent guards, a heavy-artillery battalion and military police, all of which were dispatched from Japan in rotation. Since the army was originally formed to protect the areas along Manchuria Railway lines, it could not easily augment its forces. However, as circumstances changed after the Mukden Incident, the army’s numbers increased every year, reaching 80,000 in 1936 and 300,000 in 1941. Its commanders were Tachibana Koichiro, Kawai Misao, Ono Minobu, Shirakawa Yoshinori, Muto Nobuyoshi, Muraoka Chotaro, Hata Eitaro, Hishikari Takashi and Honjo Shigeru.
When Manzhouguo was established, a Manzhouguo Army was also formed. Its members consisted of soldiers who had served former warlords and mounted bandits. Besides its usual duties, the Guandong Army was put in charge of the Manzhouguo Army. Consequently, the commander of the Guandong Army became, for all intents and purposes, the commander in chief of the Manchu-Japanese Allied Forces.
At the time of the establishment of Manzhouguo, there may have been as many as three million bandits in Manchuria. The Manchu-Japanese Allied Forces had to concern itself not only with the nation’s defense but also with the major task of suppressing the bandits. The Manzhouguo Army belonged to the military administration division; its first president was the famous Ma Zhanshan, a former mounted bandit.
When the Manzhouguo Army was first established, it numbered around 130,000 troops. During Operation Rehe, conducted in 1933 to expel Zhang Xueliang’s Army, which had by then retreated to Rehe province, the national army was augmented to 150,000. In 1934, the imperial regime was installed in Manzhouguo and Emperor Puyi enthroned. The national army became the Independent Imperial Army, and subsequently a conscription system was instituted. Incidentally, when Manzhouguo was established, the Guandong Army defined its jurisdiction as extending as far south as Rehe province. “Mongol,” as in the “solution of the Manchu-Mongol question,” referred mainly to Rehe province.
In Manchuria, there was talk of a quadrumvirate. This implied that the government had four heads: the commander of the Guandong Army, the consul, the secretary of the Guandong Office and the president of the Manchuria Railway. However, after Manzhouguo was founded, all authority and power was rested in the commander of the Guandong Army. That is why the Guandong Army was said to provide “guidance from within.”
After the Mukden Incident, the command headquarters of the Guandong Army was moved to Xinjiang (formerly Changchun, the city was renamed when Manzhouguo was established). The commander, who also served as ambassador plenipotentiary and secretary of the Guandong Office, became very powerful.
Following the founding of Manzhouguo, the Guandong Army not only defended the new nation, but also helped in many ways to build Manzhouguo. However, as the Sino-Japanese Incident in 1937 expanded to the Greater East Asian War, the strongest 20 divisions of the Guandong Army were transferred to the southern front. Immediately before the end of the war, the army was attacked suddenly and overwhelmed by 1.74 million Russian troops.
4. Deadlock caused by rejecting a partnership proposal on Manchuria Railway management
Railroad magnate Harriman proposes joint management of Manchuria Railway
Having wasted the middle of the 19th century on the Civil War, the United States began expanding overseas in the early 20th century, with a view to catching the coattails of imperialism. The primary American target in East Asia was Manchuria. The Americans announced they would join in the Russo-Japanese struggle over Manchuria, not with military force, but with financial strength. The first American to take action was railroad magnate Edward Henry Harriman.
Harriman bought Japanese wartime bonds worth 10 million yen during the Russo-Japanese War. Immediately after the conclusion of the Portsmouth Treaty, he visited Japan, having obtained an introduction through American Minister Griscom (who was stationed in Japan). There he proposed a partnership in the management of the South Manchuria Railway, offering financial assistance of 100 million yen, an extraordinary amount at the time.
Japan’s reserves had been totally depleted by the war. Though it had obtained the Manchuria Railway from Russia, Japan lacked the financial wherewithal to operate the railroad. When world-famous railroad magnate Harriman, backed by the American national strength, made his offer, Prime Minister Katsura Taro, South Manchuria Railway (hereafter Manchuria Railway) executives and many others were very excited.
At that time, influential veteran politician Inoue Kaoru was also thinking about joint Japanese-American management of the railroad. Shibusawa Eiichi was equally interested in the project. The only opponent to Harriman’s proposal in the Japanese government was Minister of Posts Oura Kanetake, whose objection was instantly silenced by harsh words of rebuke from Inoue. Amid the fever engulfing political and financial circles, the Katsura-Harriman Preliminary Memorandum was signed in 1905.
The Japanese political and financial circles, drawn in by the American open-door policy, broached ideas like international management of the Manchuria Railway. International cooperation became the new direction of Japanese diplomacy as expectations of capital investment from Europe and the United States rose.
However, Foreign Minister Komura Jutaro who returned from the United States after the conclusion of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty strongly opposed to the whole concept. The Katsura-Harriman Preliminary Memorandum was cancelled by the transmission of a single telegraph in what is called the Harriman Incident.
Rejection of partnership ruins comprehensive 100-year plan
The memorandum was rejected supposedly because there were already prospects of procuring the funds in the United States. Others believe the rejection stemmed from the American failure in connection with the construction of the Yuehan Railroad. The Americans had ventured into Qing China armed with watchwords like “open-door policy” and “equal opportunity,” but they became a target of the Chinese people, who wished to recover interests enjoyed by foreigners. The United States no longer intended to get involved in railroad management in Manchuria, and thought it inadvisable for Harriman to invest capital there. These intentions were conveyed to Japanese officials and convinced them to turn down Harriman’s offer.
Moreover, the unwillingness in American political and financial circles to invest in Manchuria can be partly explained by vehement anti-American sentiment welling up in China, triggered by the enactment in 1902 of a law that permanently restricted the number of Chinese immigrants. The Americans had lost interest in joint operation of the Manchuria Railway.
President Roosevelt did not want to openly take a stand against China. He believed that in the absence of outdoing Japan in Manchuria, the United States should not interfere with Japanese operations there. At the time, it made sense for the Americans to leave Manchuria to the Japanese.
In actuality, however, the Americans did not need to abandon their ideas of advancing into Manchuria. Even after the Harriman memorandum was nullified, Harriman again negotiated with Qing China and devised a plan to construct a railroad between Xinmindun and Fakumen, which he would then extend to Qiqihar and Aihun. But this railroad, which would run parallel to the Manchuria Railway, would violate the Sino-Japanese agreements stating that China could not construct any railroad parallel to the Manchuria Railway. When both Japan and Russia protested to China, Harriman withdrew his proposal.
Two years later, a provisional contract for a railroad line between Jinzhou and Aihun was signed by Great Britain, the United States and Qing China. American Secretary of State Knox also proposed managing all railroads in Manchuria jointly and internationally. These attempts show that the Americans had by no means abandoned their ambitions in Manchuria.
More than a few Japanese believe that the rejection of Harriman’s offer was one of the distant causes of war between Japan and the United States. Whatever the case, it was Japan’s first mistake in Manchuria. In fact, some suggest that a statesman with foresight, with a comprehensive 100-year plan, would certainly have favored joint Japanese-American operation of the Manchuria Railway.
If Japan and China were to go to war, Japan would also have to contend with American and British backing of China. Moreover, Russia might take Japan by surprise (this is exactly what happened). On the other hand, if Japan had run the Manchuria Railway jointly with the United States, China would have behaved differently. It is possible that there would have been no Mukden Incident, and no war between the Japanese and the Americans.
5. Manchuria Railway and Manzhouguo Make Remarkable Advances in Logistics
Modernization made possible by Manchuria Railway’s unified management
South Manchuria Railway & Co., Ltd. was founded in 1906 with 200,000 yen in capital, an unprecedentedly colossal amount. The chairman of the founding committee was Kodama Gentaro (chief of staff of the Manchurian Army and the fourth governor-general of Taiwan). When Kodama died suddenly in July, he was succeeded by Army Minister Terauchi Masatake. The company’s first president was Goto Shimpei, previously director of the civil administration in Taiwan. During an inspection tour of Manchuria, Goto noticed that the railway was the very lifeline to development. Accordingly, he offered advice to Gen. Kodama who was engaged in peace negotiations with Russia: “We absolutely must control the Manchuria Railway. The railroad is everything.” In the railroad, Goto envisioned prosperity for the Japanese people.
There were three major railroad systems in Manchuria’s transportation network at the time of the Mukden Incident:
1) Japanese-run South Manchuria Railway
2) Railroads run jointly by China and foreign partners: the East China Railroad (with Russia) and the North Ning Railroad (with Great Britain)
3) Railroads run by Manchurian warlords in Sitao, Taoang, Qike, Huhai, Jichang, Jidun, Fengji and Datong
When the Mukden Incident occurred, Japan had constructed 2,361 kilometers of track, Russia 1,789, China 1,186 and Great Britain 890, for a total of 6,226 kilometers.
Japan, Russia, Great Britain and China invested in the railroads, to varying degrees. Rivalry was fierce among those nations, and the railways were managed in irrational ways. For instance, even in railways supported by Chinese capital, management methods varied according to which local warlord was in charge. In one city, stations were constructed at random. The gauge of any given railway’s rolling stock was not compatible with that of any other. Communication was inefficient, and classifications and tariffs varied widely.
Therefore, after Manzhouguo was established, Premier Zheng Xiaoxu and Guandong Army Commander Honjo Shigeru concluded an agreement in August 1932 whereby the railroads, ports, waterways in Manchuria would be managed by the Guandong Army and, in turn, by the Manchuria Railway.
A contract concerning the management by the Manchuria Railway of railroads in Manzhouguo was concluded between the Manzhouguo government and the Manchuria Railway in February of the following year. On March 1, 1933, the Manchuria Railway established the General Railroad Authority.
The Manchuria Railway thus modernized railroad transportation by managing all domestic railroads on commission from the Manzhouguo government. No other entity in Manchuria had practiced modern business management. Nor had any corporate group implemented unified management. Had management been entrusted to Chinese bureaucrats or officials, deception and corruption would no doubt have been rife. And just like failed westernization movements in the past, railroads would most certainly have done poorly and eventually gone bankrupt.
Zhang Xueliang’s attempt to gain control of railroad interests thwarted
When the Manchuria Railway was entrusted with the management of all railroads by the Manzhouguo government, it took charge of railroads covering 4,098.2 kilometers, about 66.9% of the entire network. When it bought the North Manchuria Railroad (East China Railroad), which covered 1,932.8 kilometers, and the British-funded North Ning Railroad, nationalization and unified management of the railroads were accomplished. After the Mukden Incident, the Manchuria Railway made a huge contribution not only to military transportation, but also to the development and modernization of Manchuria and Mongolia. After Manzhouguo was established, the company constructed many new railroad lines throughout Manchuria, and invested its resources (human, technological and financial) to nurture industry, becoming the leading force for modernization in Manchuria.
The Manchuria Railway set a goal of 25,000 kilometers for railroad construction, and planned to install new, 4,000-kilometer-long lines in the first 10 years. In actuality, it laid over 10,000 kilometers of track by October 1939. Manchuria has one of the most hostile natural environments. In winter, the soil froze; in summer, rivers flooded. Plagued with the worst hygienic conditions and ubiquitous bandits (1,475 raids were reported between February 1931 and April 1939), railroad workers somehow managed to lay as much as 600 kilometers of track per year.
The Fengshan Railroad, constructed with British capital, was confiscated by the Fengtian provincial government, which declared independence immediately after the Mukden Incident. After Manzhouguo was established, an official statement regarding repayment of company loans was issued by the central government, solving the problem with Great Britain peacefully. Later, the railway was incorporated into the national railway (the North Manchuria Railroad).
Zhang Zuolin took advantage of the inexperienced Soviet revolutionary government after the Russian Revolution, and succeeded in convincing the Russians in agreeing to joint Russo-Chinese management of the Russian-built East China Railroad, although the actual operation rights belonged to the Soviets.
After succeeding Zhang Zuolin, Zhang Xueliang attempted to appropriate northern Manchurian interests. He joined in the movement to recover Chinese sovereignty, and took advantage of a weakened Soviet Union. Infuriated by Zhang’s move, the Soviets sent the Red Army’s strongest tank unit into Manchuria in what was referred to as the “Russo-Chinese dispute.”
Zhang Xueliang’s army turned out to be unexpectedly vulnerable. Maj.-Gen. Han Guangdi, the best commander in Manchuria, was killed abruptly in a single attack from the Red Army. After his death, northern Manchuria was at the mercy of the Red Army. Zhang Xueliang was overwhelmed by Soviet power, and had no choice to acquiesce to Soviet demands.
Subsequently, Manzhouguo repeatedly asked the Soviet Union, through Japanese mediation, to surrender the railroad. Once negotiations almost broke up over the purchase price. Finally, on March 2, 1935, an agreement was reached between Manzhouguo and the Soviets: Manzhouguo would purchase the railroad for 140 million yen. The management of this railway too was entrusted to the Manchuria Railway.
A typical Chinese trait surfaced during the Russo-Chinese dispute, i.e., the Chinese neither abide by their treaties nor keep their promises. When they speak of unequal imperialist treaties, they are simply being opportunistic. Treaties become valid only when both parties agree; whether or not they are equal depends on the relative strength of the nations involved. Treaties are always products of compromise, and yet the Chinese just do not understand that nothing is equally satisfactory to both parties.
As mentioned previously, in the abdication agreement of Qing Emperor (which promised conditions favorable to the imperial family) officially concluded between the government of the ROC and the Qing dynasty, Emperor Xuantong Puyi was to be treated with the same respect and courtesy extended to foreign kings and nobles. But it turned out that the agreement was only temporary; the ROC unilaterally abrogated the abdication agreement, expelled Emperor Xuantong from the Forbidden City, and robbed him of his property. Some disloyal patriots demanded that he be executed without trial.
Treaties concluded with China do not last long. Nor did the Chinese government have the strength to enforce its treaties. There were several reasons for this failure. First, even after the ROC was established, the government was unstable. To make matters worse, a number of governments were formed simultaneously. Every political force established a government whenever it liked. For example, Sun Yatsen established a government once in Nanjing and three times in Guangzhou.
In the ROC, there were often two or more governments “ruling” simultaneously. Not only at the state level, but also at the party level, the one true party always had two or more governments. Take the Guomindang, for instance. Ever since it established two governments in Wuhan and Nanjing, there were constantly two or more opposing governments being formed.
Moreover, though the ROC formed governments, it was totally negligent of its international responsibilities, possibly because it did not have the strength to assume them.
Construction of waterway traffic infrastructure and roads
Manchuria has a short coastline. When it was founded, it had only three commercial ports on the Bohai and the Yellow Sea: Yingkou, Dalian and Andong (later called Dandong). Most of the sea transportation was handled at Dalian.
Construction of Huludao in front of the Fuxin coal mine, in preparation for the development of heavy industry in the Jinzhou area, was launched in 1936. The first phase was completed in 1940 by the Manchuria Railway, which had set a goal of traffic capacity of 4 million tons.
The inland waterways were accessible, because there had been bustling river traffic since antiquity on the Liao, Yalu, Songhua, Heilong, Wusuli (Ussuri) and Tumen (Douman) rivers.
Though the situation differed slightly in northern and southern Manchuria, rivers froze between November and March; therefore, there was no river traffic during that time. After Manzhouguo was established, bandits were suppressed to the extent that the river traffic covered approximately 10,000 kilometers and steamship routes lengthened to 4,500 kilometers.
Roads in Manchuria froze in winter. In the rainy season, they became so muddy that wheel shafts would sink into them. In spring and autumn, the roads became so dry that carriage tracks were the only visual guideposts, and yellow dust devils plagued travelers. Worse still, as marauding bandits appeared frequently, the roads were extremely dangerous. During busy farming and harvesting seasons, horse-drawn carriages were the primary means of transportation. When winter came, it was a familiar sight to see horses galloping over the frozen land in front of carts filled with farm products. There were about 400,000 carts in Manchuria, each drawn by seven or eight horses.
Bandits were so rampant that as soon as Manzhouguo was established, the Guandong Army asked its government to build 10,000 kilometers of secured roads.
According to the first five-year road construction plan submitted to Manzhouguo by the Guandong Army in late September 1932, 25,000 kilometers of roads was to be completed in the first three years, and 34,000 kilometers in five years.
Manzhouguo established the National Road Agency (a branch of the Traffic Department). The agency’s main task was the construction of roads. A first-phase plan was formulated for the construction of national roads. Since they are the nation’s arteries, Manzhouguo planned to build 60,000 kilometers of national roads. Accordingly, local roads, roads to use when suppressing bandits, and frontier roads were constructed.
The original plan involved constructing 60,000 kilometers of roads over 10 years. That plan cut back somewhat during the preparatory stages of the First National Road Plan. But in 1945, when the war ended, 60,000 kilometers of national roads had been completed. Steady progress was made on local roads as well (50,000 kilometers). All of these roads were eventually handed over to China as Manzhouguo’s monumental legacy.
During the Qing era, some major roads (for horse traffic) connecting the capital, provincial roads and northern main roads existed. But they deteriorated because they were not maintained properly. When the ROC was established, the only roads that could handle vehicular traffic were in the cities and suburbs. Only 10% of them were open to automobile traffic during the rainy season. There were very few bridges spanning rivers, and passenger traffic was limited to a few ferry boats.
In Manzhouguo, bridges longer than 30 meters were built at 300 locations. Furthermore, 24 bridges were built on the Yalu and Douman rivers on the Manchurian-Korean border.
Super-express train “Asia” and first Asian highway
The Japanese authorities running the Manchuria Railway changed frequently. In 1907, when the railroad began operating, the minister of posts was the supervisor of the national policy enterprise. But in 1908, the prime minister began overseeing railroad operations, then the Railroad Authority, then the Development Agency. In 1920, control shifted back to the Railroad Authority, to the Development Ministry in 1929, and back to the prime minister in 1934. Finally, the ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Manzhouguo (concurrently commander of the Guandong Army) became the supervising authority, with ultimate authority resting in the prime minister.
Among the achievements of the Manchuria Railway, the one that won it the most global notice was the super-express train “Asia,” which was also very popular among the Japanese.
In 1913, the Manchuria Railway launched a research project with the intention of developing high-speed trains. Special express train Asia began operating in March 1934. Asia had a maximum speed of 150 kilometers per hour, with a peacetime speed of 130 km/h and an average speed of 81 km/h. In Japan at the time the fastest train ran at a speed of 70 km/h, so the Asia was truly a remarkable super-express train. It traveled the 704 kilometers between Xinjing and Dalian in seven and a half hours, making only four stops on the way. This superb technology was handed down to the postwar developers of the even faster Bullet train.
Innovations were not limited to railroads. Nearly 20 years prior to the advent of the Meishin Expressway in Japan, the first full-scale highway in Asia, the Hada Road, was built by the Japanese in Manchuria. It was the main artery connecting Harbin, Xinjing, Fengtian and Dalian.
The population in the area along the tracks (excluding Guandong province), at 10.33 million, accounted for about 30% of all Manchurian residents. There were 4,655 factories adjacent to the railroad tracks in fiscal 1936, about 70% percent of the total number in Manchuria. Annual production was 277 million yen (nearly 80 % of the Manchurian total). Construction of the Hada Road began in 1942; when it was partly completed, the war ended and the Chinese government took possession of the road.
In 1990, 45 years since the end of the war, the 375-kilometer-long road between Shenyang (former Fengtian) and Dalian was finally constructed by the Traffic Agency of Liaoning province and named Shenda Expressway. This was the first expressway completed by the PRC. Japan was asked for technical cooperation, which took the form of ODA (Official Development Assistance). It makes perfect sense to claim that the road was built by the Japanese.
In 1945, the Manchuria Railway and the National Railway together owned 47,166 railroad cars, the equivalent of 3.9 cars per kilometer. When we compare this figure with the average of 1.6 cars per kilometer at the time Manzhouguo was established, we realize how dramatically human and material logistics changed in the mere 13 1/2 years of Manzhouguo’s existence.
6. Manchuria Railway the greatest contributor to the modernization of Manchuria
More than railroads
Postwar Japanese history specialists sweepingly describe Manchuria as one of the three main colonies of imperial Japan, the other two being Taiwan and Korea. But this is a grave mistake.
Taiwan was Japan’s overseas territory, permanently ceded to Japan after the Sino-Japanese War. Korea was a coalition that came into being after annexation by Japan at the dawn of the 20th century. Manchuria was a new state established with the help of Japan (like the former East Germany).
Manchuria was not so much a Japanese colony as a receptacle for Chinese immigrants. As the Manchuria Railway grew, Manchuria became a real colony of Chinese immigrants. But for the Manchuria Railway, Manchuria today would be largely undeveloped, just like present-day Yungui Plateau.
Without a stable society, modern economies never flourish. The best way to understand the Manchuria Railway’s role in Manchurian development is to be familiar with Manchuria at that time (excluding Guandong province and property belonging to the Manchuria Railway, which was protected by the Quandong army). Since that part of Manchurian society was overrun by bandits and warlords, the people’s lives and properties were never safe. One step out of Guandong province and Manchuria Railway property was a terribly dangerous region. The people were defenseless against the marauding hordes, and were victims of cruel, exorbitant taxation as well.
In the living hell that was Manchurian society, the Manchuria Railway built modern industrial areas. During the period between the end of the Russo-Japanese War and the outbreak of the Mukden Incident, Japanese investments in Manchuria totaled nearly 1.5 billion yen. Investments made in the Manchuria Railway and its 57 affiliated companies, which had surpassed 700 million yen by the end of 1929, greatly contributed to the accommodation of a huge number of immigrants from the Chinese society, the development of remote areas, and the promotion of agriculture, technology, commerce and industry.
For example, the Manchuria Railway established a world-class central research center and agricultural laboratories, and conducted research on agriculture, mining and industry in Manchuria and Mongolia. Improved soybeans created through artificial species improvement were widely grown throughout Manchuria, which eventually became the world’s largest exporter of soybeans. An enormous amount of effort went into the management of coal mines and iron manufacturing. The coal mines in Fushun and Yantai, and ironworks in Anshan are now internationally known.
Manchuria Railway modernizes education, culture and medicine
The Manchuria Railway contributed greatly to the development and modernization of Manchuria. The company constructed not only the arterial railroad, but also helped construct branch lines. It completed the Jichang, Sitao, Taoang and Jidun lines and established multiple direct connections between all Manchurian provincial capitals and the coast.
Excluding air traffic, all transportation networks in Manchuria, (marine and land transportation operations of railroads, waterways and roads), were managed in a unified manner by the Manchuria Railway. The International Transport Company (warehouses and non-railroad freight forwarders), Dalian Steamship (marine transport), and Dalian Dockyards & Iron Works (shipbuilding) were all capitalized by the Manchuria Railway. The railroad also built and maintained all major roads in Manchuria.
The largest and finest pier in Asia was completed at the port of Dalian in 1913. Soon thereafter, foreign trade increased, reaching a figure ten times that of Chinese foreign trade. Prior to the opening of the port, the revenue from marine duties was only 20 million tael (liang). However, in 1929, it rose to 7.55 billion tael, an incredible 38-fold increase. Dalian was the tenth largest port of trade in all of China in 1907, but grew larger and larger until it ranked second only to Shanghai in 1917.
The Manchuria Railway’s contribution to Manchuria was not only its rapid development of modern industry, but also invaluable cultural and social achievements.
For a very long time the Chinese had regarded Manchuria as a remote wasteland. Actually, Dalian was practically the only city in Manchuria after the Russo-Japanese War.
The Manchuria Railway established cities (modern urban and rural hubs) and built roads. The company brought electricity, a water supply, sewer systems, gas, sanitation services, markets, parks and stadiums and other public facilities to Manchuria.
One especially valuable contribution was made in the area of medical insurance work. The Manchuria Railway constructed and operated a modern general hospital in Dalian and company-run hospitals in cities along its routes, a research center specializing in infectious diseases, the Manchurian Society for Prevention of Tuberculosis and nursing homes. By doing so, it helped prevent epidemics and encouraged medical professionals to make the rounds of remote areas.
There were other contributions. The Manchuria Railway established educational and cultural institutions like schools and libraries. It also owned the central research center and agricultural laboratories. Also, we must mention the famous Manchuria Railway Research Division, a geology laboratory, a railroad technology research laboratory, a public health laboratory, a veterinary laboratory, the coal mine at Fushun, the iron-manufacturing research institute at Anshan, the Manchurian Resources Center and the natural history museum at Lushun. The Manchuria Railway was truly the driving force behind medical, scientific and cultural developments in Manchuria.
Manzhouguo disappeared forever, leaving behind this monumental legacy. The PRC took possession of all those modern resources. And yet, China continues to accuse Japan (the bearer of those resources), of imperialism, invasion, exploitation and massacre.
Chapter Seven: Miraculous Leap toward Modern Nationhood
1. Recognition of Manzhouguo and international relations
International reaction to Manzhouguo
Once Manzhouguo was established, heated debates erupted in Japan over whether or not to recognize the new nation. But when the government of national unity headed by Saito Makoto was established after the May 15 Incident in 1932, in which the prime minister was killed, early recognition became the majority opinion. On June 16, a House of Representatives resolution in favor of expeditious recognition of Manzhouguo passed unanimously.
The 63rd Imperial Diet session began on August 25. In a speech concerning foreign affairs, Foreign Minister Uchida Yasuya stated: “All action taken by the Japanese Army since September 18 last year (the Mukden Incident) was defensive in nature. The Kellogg-Briand Pact does not restrict the right of self-defense. As the establishment of Manzhouguo can be traced to the secession movement in China, Japan’s recognition of Manzhouguo is not a breach of the Nine-Power Treaty. Chinese should not be prohibited from establishing an independent state, and Japan is in no way violating the Kellogg-Briand Pact or the Nine-Power Treaty.” Uchida concluded his speech as follows: “Even if the nation were reduced to ashes, we would stand up for the independence of Manzhouguo.”
At first, elements in Manchuria like the Guandong Army insisted that Manzhouguo be recognized immediately. The Army and Army Minister Araki Sadao also argued for immediate recognition. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, however, fearing that other nations might misinterpret the establishment of Manzhouguo as a union of two states, objected, stating that it was too early. The debate continued, nationwide.
On August 8, prior to the 63rd session of the Imperial Diet, the Japanese government appointed Gen. Muto Nobuyoshi commander of the Guandong Army and ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary in Manchuria. On September 15, the Manchurian-Japanese protocol whereby, for all intents and purposes, Japan recognized Manzhouguo as an independent state was signed and sealed by Ambassador Muto and Prime Minister Zheng Xiaoxu.
On January 20, 1933, Prime Minister Zheng proclaimed that Manzhouguo would have an imperial government to the governments of 71 nations of the world, excluding Japan.
Next to recognize Manzhouguo was El Salvador in Central America. Recognition came in April 1934 from the Vatican, and then between 1937 and 1938, from Italy, Spain (Franco’s regime) and Nazi Germany. In October 1938, Poland recognized Manzhouguo.
From 1939 afterwards, Scandinavian and East European nations (Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Finland, Croatia and Denmark) also recognized Manzhouguo. Though Dominica, Estonia and Lithuania did not officially recognize the new state, they exchanged diplomatic credentials.
During the Greater East Asian War, Thailand, Burma, the Philippines and the provisional government of Free India recognized Manzhouguo. But after the League of Nations decreed that the establishment of Manzhouguo was not legitimate, only 18 nations recognized Manzhouguo.
Relations with the Soviet Union, China and Mongolia deemed important
After the Mukden Incident, the country most closely involved with Manzhouguo was the Soviet Union, which up until then had held sway over northern Manchuria. The Soviet Union declared itself neutral toward Manchuria and promised not to interfere there.
At the time, the Soviet Union was in the midst of promoting its first five-year economic development plan, and could not spare the time or energy to meddle in the affairs of the Guandong Army. As I will discuss in the next chapter, the Soviet Union offered little cooperation to Lytton’s investigators. Despite the fact that the Soviet Union had not officially recognized Manzhouguo, in June 1932, it approved the establishment of Manzhouguo consulates in the cities of Blagoveshchensk and Chita. With its peace policy toward Japan, the Soviets seemed to have recognized Manzhouguo.
Moreover, the Soviet Union proposed concluding a Russo-Japanese non-aggression pact, which was nevertheless rejected by the Japanese government. Consequently, the Soviets approached China, and in December of the same year, the two countries agreed to resume diplomatic relations in Geneva. In 1934, the Soviet Union joined the League of Nations, now opposing Japan and Germany.
As it gained acceptance internationally, Manzhouguo placed a high priority on recognition by the ROC.
For instance, there was the case of Rehe province. The Rehe operation previously mentioned ended with the Tanggu cease-fire agreement of May 1933, when Rehe province was annexed to Manzhouguo. As a result, Manzhouguo lay adjacent to the ROC, bordering on the Great Wall.
Furthermore, from late 1934 to 1935, Manzhouguo and the ROC came to agreements about reciprocal train transportation, postal services, telegraph and shipping. From them we can conclude that the government of the ROC approved of Manzhouguo’s statehood for all practical purposes.
However, when the Sino-Japanese conflict broke out in 1937, the relationship between Manzhouguo and China began to worsen. Nevertheless, the provisional government of the ROC, established in Beijing in December 1937, opened a trade representative office in Manzhouguo.
In March 1940, Japan issued a joint communiqu? with Manzhouguo and China (the Nanjing government led by Wang Jingwei, who had united several governments). On December 1, 1940, the three parties agreed to mutual recognition; in 1941, they exchanged ambassadors.
However, among the multiple governments existing in the ROC, the Chongqing government of Jiang Kaishek consistently refused to recognize Manzhouguo.
The diplomatic policy of Manzhouguo was politically, economically, culturally and militarily so closely related to Japan’s that the two nations were to share the same fate. Therefore, it is no wonder that some have labeled Manzhouguo a puppet state of Japan. Manzhouguo regarded neighboring China and the Soviet Union as important neighbors, at the same time paying careful attention to relations with Inner and Outer Mongolia.
A border conflict with Outer Mongolia, triggered by an incursion by the Mongol Army, culminated in the Nomonhan Incident. Between May and early September of 1939, the Guandong Army and Soviet-Mongol Allied Forces clashed; the Guandong Army was defeated. Relations with Inner Mongolia were better. The Mongol autonomous coalition government, established in September 1939 and headed by Dewang, paid a courtesy visit to Manzhouguo on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the nation’s founding.
2. From exploitation of the people to land development
Development plan first great milestone in Manchurian history
After the establishment of Manzhouguo, the building of an infrastructure and land development on a national scale began in earnest (see Chapter Six).
The land development plan covered not only the railroads, roads, ports and airports, as mentioned previously, but also urban planning (water supply, sewers, electric power), and the care and maintenance of mountains and rivers.
In March 1933, Manzhouguo announced an economic development plan for Manzhouguo, which described the principal national land development policies. Chapter Four (“Improvement of Transport”) touches upon plans for building the nation’s infrastructure. Chapters Five (“Development of Agriculture”) and Six (“Promotion of Mining and Manufacturing”) outline the new nation’s industrial development plans.
Readers may take the work of developing a social infrastructure for granted. But when the Manchurian warlords were in power, they were too busy spending money on factional conflicts among themselves to even think about national development, let alone develop an infrastructure. The Journal of the Three Eastern Provinces published in Fengtian makes sarcastic mention of the only construction projects during Zhang Xueliang’s reign: several dance halls in Fengtian, Beiping and Tianjin. Nearly all revenue, at least 70-80%, was wasted on armaments and civil wars.
The biggest difference between the era of Manzhouguo and that of the Manchurian warlords was that the former focused on national development, while the latter focused on exploiting the people.
The water in Manchuria’s rivers is generally not plentiful, but floods are frequent once the rainy season sets in. But no effective plan was made to tame the rivers. Nor was there basic data or information about the rivers to use to formulate methods to control them. No observations had been made regarding rainfall or water levels in the rivers.
After Manzhouguo was established, flood-control research and construction work relating to the three major waterways (the Heilong, Liao and Yalu rivers) began. The area of land that is home to the Songhua River (a tributary of the Heilong River), is twice as large as Japan’s main island. After the Transport Department established a Waterways Office in July 1937, research was conducted on methods to prevent floods and landslides, as well as the building of dams and embankments.
The Songhua River, which runs through the great plains in North Manchuria, would frequently flood. A dam was built upstream, and vast areas of land were reclaimed through draining. Downstream, embankments to protect against floods, and ponds to accommodate surplus water were built. On the border between Manchuria and the Korean peninsula, the Yalu River Hydroelectric Company was founded, and dams were built, among them Shuifeng Dam. In August 1941, 200,000 kilowatts of electric power reached Manchuria. See the next section for more about electric power development.
Construction of modern cities
The most remarkable facet of land development in Manzhouguo was the building of cities and a new capital, and the redevelopment of old cities. That work was accomplished in accordance with a modernized land-development plan, and with the help of Japanese talent, nurtured during the Meiji Restoration, and great enthusiasm for building a new state. With modernization and urbanization as goals, spacious parks and greens cropped up in urban areas, while in the suburbs, vast green areas were preserved.
The first-phrase plan was for Xinjing (formerly Changchun), Fengtian (formerly Shenyang) and Harbin. The second-phase plan targeted for eight cities: Jilin, Qiqihar, Chengde, Yingkou, Jinzhou, Mudanjiang, Beianzhen and Sipingjie. One hundred nine cities were to be built by the end of 1942.
The initial plan to build large cities was made by the Guandong Army’s Special Agency and the Economic Research Department of the Manchuria Railway. Then the final plan was drafted after consultations with the Public Works Office of the Civil Administration Department.
Soga Kensuke, then construction manager of the Capital Construction Agency, discusses existing government office buildings in Pictorial Diary: “They were ugly, unsanitary, small, cramped and inconvenient, being scattered over a wide area.” Four or five staff members were forced to squeeze into tiny rooms, each 2.7 meters square.
In their existing state, the traditional Chinese office buildings and residential quarters were totally unsuitable for the cities of a burgeoning nation.
Through the efforts of talented Japanese architects, beautiful, modern cities blossomed in the wilderness of Manchuria. One might describe them as a manifestation of the powerful desire to construct a new nation.
During the first phase of the project, the population of Xinjing, the new national capital, grew rapidly from 120,000 to 500,000. Construction beginning in 1942 was done according to a plan to build a city that could accommodate 1,000,000 people. Electricity, water supply and sewers were improved. The first flush toilet in East Asia made its debut in Xinjing.
At the end of World War II, Xinjing was in the midst of the second phase of the construction plan. Today the city boasts of a beautiful, rich green environment, and is known as the “park city.”
3. Construction of the world’s largest dams and electric power development
Electric power in postwar China a gift from Manzhouguo
Manchuria had abundant resources, one of which was coal. It was obvious that thermal power generation was the best option for Manzhouguo. The region’s major rivers (the Songhua, Yalu and Liao) were potential sources of water power.
The first electric power plant in Manchuria started operation in 1900, when the Russians installed three 250-kilowatt generators in Dalian. In Guandong province and on Manchuria Railway property under Japanese control, there were power generators. Other cities also had an electric power industry, though it was run rather haphazardly.
In November 1934, after Manzhouguo was established, all thermal power companies in all of Manchuria were incorporated into the Manchurian Electric Enterprise Co., Ltd. By the end of 1938, there was a 600,000-kilowatt supply of electricity, including electricity generated by the Manchuria Railway.
The annual rainfall in Manchuria is 300-500 millimeters, nearly one third of that in Japan. Moreover, 70-80% of the rainfall occurs in July and August. Therefore, Manzhouguo’s river development plan gave priority to building dams. The dams were for multiple purposes, among them hydroelectric power generation, irrigation, flood prevention and river transport.
In November 1936, a five-year industrial development plan for Manzhouguo was drafted. The goal for electric power supply was 1.4 million kilowatts, of which 590,000 kilowatts were slated for hydroelectric generation. But soon total electric power supply was corrected upward to 2.57 million kilowatts, 2.24 million kilowatts of which was accounted for by hydroelectric generation. As a result of later surveys, 50 locations were selected in Manchuria, and potential generating capacity was estimated at 7.5-10 million kilowatts.
Total electric power generated in 1928 throughout China was 380,000 kilowatts, while 20 years later, in 1947, the total was barely 1,006,700 kilowatts, according to the Chinese Administrative Authority Newspaper Bureau. Almost all of it was the legacy of the Great Powers concentrated in Manchuria.
In Manchuria, development began with the most feasible sites: Fengman Dam on the Second Songhua River, the Jingbohu Dam on the Mudan River, and the Huanren Dam on the Hun River, followed by the construction of the Shuifeng Dam for hydroelectric generation on the Yalu River.
Dam construction went smoothly. Power was first transmitted from Shuifeng Dam on the Yalu River in August 1941, from Jinbohu Hydroelectric Station in June 1942 and from Fengman Dam in March 1943. These three dams alone were capable of generating a total of 800,000 kilowatts. In March 1944, the Economic Department Waterpower Construction Agency and Manchuria Electric Enterprise Co., Ltd. jointly established Manchuria Electric Co., Ltd., with capital of \640 million, of which each company providing half. It was another national company like Manchuria Railway and Manchuria Heavy Industrial Development (to be discussed later).
Construction of the world’s leading dams
Fengman Dam was a huge project that symbolized the fervor and enthusiasm for building Manzhouguo. It was a multi-purpose dam designed for controlling the volume of water (to prevent floods) in the Second Songhua River. It also provided water for irrigation and industry, drinking water, river transport and electric power generation. It was also the largest dam in Asia, and one of the finest in the world. The estimated construction cost was \100 million at first; it then rose to \200 million. The dam was constructed over five years, with total electricity output of 700,000 kilowatts and annual electric power generation of 3 billion kilowatts per hour. When the irrigation aspect was completed, it was anticipated that rice production would increase by 220,000 tons per year.
Fengman Dam is located 20 kilometers upstream of Jilin City. The gravitation-type concrete dam (90 meters high and 1,100 meters long) was constructed with a reservoir area of 620 square kilometers. Lake Songhua, a man-made lake as large as Lake Biwa in Japan, suddenly appeared in the center of Manchuria. The power generators and water turbines were the largest ever made. Three were manufactured in the U.S., three in Germany, and two in Japan. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland and World War II broke out. A converted cruiser carrying the power generators from Germany sailed around the southern tip of Africa. It was bombarded by the British Air Force and barely made it to Port Dalian, having been severely damaged. The power generators shipped in the hold of the vessel were intact. Out of eight generators five were transported to the Soviet Union by the Soviet Army stationed in Manchuria after the war. But later, they were returned to China in response to demands from the Chinese government.
When the Philippine Foreign Minister inspected Fengman Dam after its completion, he was totally amazed at the grand scale of the dam and its effectiveness. According to the recollections of Hirashima Toshio, then managing director of Manchuria Electric Enterprise Co., Ltd., and the minister’s guide during the inspection tour, the former was amazed. “The Philippines were a colony of Spain for 350 years, and then under American control for 40 more. Yet nothing has been done to improve our people’s living conditions. How did Manzhouguo accomplish such a miracle a mere 10 years after its establishment!”xxxv
Lake Jingbo is a huge, man-made lake, lying upriver of the Mudan, a branch of the Songhua River, near Dongjing (the capital of the ancient kingdom of Bohai). On the lake is a dam that controls the volume of water, which is kept on the average at the height of one meter and the length of about 500 meters. Twenty-thousand-kilowatt generators were installed there that generate 550 million kilowatts per hour; electricity has been transmitted from there since June 1942.
The Yalu River is a huge river covering 500 kilometers along the Manchu-Korean border. The total area of the river is 50,000 square kilometers. Ships can go as far as 300 kilometers upriver. Huanren Dam is on the upstream of the Hun River, a tributary of the Yalu River. The dam embankment is 91 meters high and 1,018 meters long. The reservoir has an area of 209 square kilometers; the ultimate goal for power generation was set at 280,000 kilowatts.
Shuifeng Dam, 106 meters high and 898 meters long, was constructed on the upper reaches of the Yalu River. In August 1941, 200,000-kilowatts of electricity were transmitted to Manchuria for the first time.
On September 7, 1939, a 200,000-kilowatt hydroelectric dam was constructed by a company established jointly with capitalization of \50 million provided by Korean Yalu River Hydroelectric on the Korean side and \50 million provided by Manchuria Yalu River Hydroelectric on the Manchurian side. The work was supervised by Noguchi Shitagau, managing director.
4. Aspiring to become the hub of Greater East Asian heavy industry
Manchuria developed through Japanese investment
Prior to the establishment of Manzhouguo, there was little modern heavy industry in the region, except for Japanese companies related to the Manchuria Railway.
The leasehold in Guandong province, which Japan acquired following the Portsmouth and Sino-Japanese treaties after the Russo-Japanese War, covered only 1,300 square miles and the Manchuria Railway property only 120 square miles. But from the end of the Russo-Japanese War to the outbreak of the Mukden Incident in 1931, this small area became the leading modern industrial region, through the efforts of the Japanese government and private sectors for 25 years. The difference between it and Manchurian land controlled by local bandits and warlords was as distinct as that between heaven and hell. For that reason, Guandong province and Manchuria Railway property under the control of the Guandong Army became a haven for Manchurian refugees. The population jumped to 1.32 million (there were only 220,000 Japanese residents there).
The mining and manufacturing industries in Manzhouguo depended almost completely on Japanese investments. For instance, statistics on investments in manufacturing, mining and transport in 1943 indicate that Japanese private investments accounted for 97% of investments there.xxxvi
Prior to the Russo-Japanese War, besides agriculture, Manchuria had only family-run manufacturing industries. Some of them involved making cooking pots and polishing them; others involved raising silkworms and spinning silk thread. Industry at that time was comparable with industry during the Edo period in Japan (1600-1868).
Most of the mining and manufacturing industrial development in Manchuria was begun by the Manchuria Railway, beginning with the management of the railroad and related businesses. As I mentioned in Chapter Six, without the Manchuria Railway, the modernization of Manchuria would have never taken place. The company was, without question, the sole engine of progress.
After Manchuria Railway took over Russian interests in Fushun Coal, iron ore was discovered in Anshan in 1909. Discoveries of other mines, e.g., Gongchangling followed, forming the foundation for iron manufacturing.
Okura-Gumi set up a Sino-Japanese joint venture, Benxihu Coal and Iron Company, and began mining coal and iron. The exploitation of Manchuria’s abundant natural resources drew world-wide attention.
Advent of conglomerate Mangyo
After the Russo-Japanese War, the Manchuria Railway began research on soybean processing, chemicals, electricity and gas, which were followed by production. But owing to the global recession in the 1920s and oppression from the warlords, those development efforts were restricted to Guandong province and Manchuria Railway property. It was not until after Manzhouguo was established that Manchurian mining and manufacturing industries were developed on a national scale.
In April 1936, the first five-year industrial development plan was finalized and slated to commence the following year. Items earmarked for production increases in the mining and manufacturing categories were electric power, iron and steel, coal, liquid fuel, aluminum, lead, zinc, gold, asbestos, salt, soda ash, pulp, livestock processing, weapons, aircraft, automobiles and rolling stock. Total investments were \2.5 billion, an amount equivalent to the total Japanese national budget. Expenditures totaled \2.4 billion, of which \1.4 billion was allocated to mining and manufacturing. Manzhouguo’s first five-year industrial development plan made remarkable progress, due to Japanese investment and technical assistance, and Japanese companies established to complete special assignments.
In July 1937, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident broke out. Public opinion was strongly in favor of a union between Japan and Manchuria. After several revisions, investments totaling \4.96 billion were planned. Investment in mining and manufacturing industries amounted to \3.8 billion, or 78% of total investments.
The second five-year industrial plan was forged in September 1941. By then, war had already broken out in Europe (World War II). In December of the same year, Japan entered the Greater East Asian War and a wartime regime. The industrial development of Manzhouguo was incorporated into the general category embracing development in Japan, Manchuria and China, and subsequently further consolidated into the Japan-Manchuria economic bloc.
Under a wartime economic structure, it made sense to adopt the principle of “one company for each industry.” Important industries, such as national defense industries were mainly companies with special or quasi-special status under state control.
The first special company was the Manchuria Central Bank, established in accordance with the Manchuria Central Bank Law in 1932. Quasi-special corporate entities like the Manchuria Airway Company and Fengtian Munitions Factory were founded. Other companies representing one industry were Manchuria Telegraph and Telephone Company, Manchuria Petroleum, Dowa Automobile Industry and Manchuria Coal Mines.
In 1937, after implementation of the first five-year industrial development plan, development methods were adopted and a national company focusing on heavy industry was established.
In December 1938, Nippon Industry Co., Ltd. (Nissan) Chairman Ayukawa Yoshisuke and others established a special corporation called Manchu Heavy Industrial Development Co., Ltd., commonly referred to as “Mangyo,” with capital of \450 million. Nissan moved its operations to Manchuria, where it operated as Mangyo, serving as an umbrella corporation for large companies like Manchuria Railway’s Showa Steel Factory, Manchuria Coal Mines, Manchuria Light Metal Manufacturing, Manchuria Automobile Manufacturing and Manchuria Aircraft Manufacturing. Afterwards, Mangyo took control of other major companies in Manchuria (Dongbiandao Development and Benxihu Coal and Iron). In March 1943, Mangyo had 38 affiliates and capital amounting to the mammoth sum of \327 million, thus becoming the center figure in the development of heavy industry.
At that time, there were only two major automobile manufacturers in Japan, Nissan and Toyota. The transfer of Nissan Konzern to Manchuria was an epoch-making event for Manzhouguo. It was welcomed with loud cheers and great expectation from all sectors but the Manchuria Railway, its main rival.
In Japan, Mangyo remained the leading and most influential shareholder of major firms like Nippon Mining, Hitachi, Ltd., Nippon Fisheries, Nissan Chemicals and Nissan Shipping.
Unfortunately, Mangyo ceased to exist when the war ended, only two years after its foundation. A flourishing center of heavy industry in Asia had disappeared forever with Japan’s defeat.
5. Basis for public stability: unification of currency and establishment of a financial system
100 currencies in circulation
When East Asian countries other than Japan attempt to modernize their economies, they inevitably face a problem that is as intransigent as a chronic, incurable disease: unification of the currency system. There was no unified currency system in China, the Korean peninsula or Taiwan, even in the modern age.
Before Taiwan became Japanese territory, about a hundred types of silver and copper coins from all over the world were in use. These coins were mainly used to pay taxes, not for business transactions, and their value varied from region to region. Since the currencies in use ranged from that of neighboring Japan to that of remote Mexico, their face values had no meaning. Silver coins were weighed before use.
Under such circumstances, a currency economy never materializes, nor does a commodity economy. The best one could hope for would be primitive bartering or a similar premodern economy. It was only after Taiwan adopted the gold standard and began to use the Japanese yen as its currency that the nation was able to modernize.
Both China and the Korean peninsula were much like Taiwan, and in Manchuria, each province had its own currency. It was not until after Manzhouguo was established that the currency in Manchuria was unified.
The Han Chinese generally distrust governments and bank notes. Traditionally, they stored their money not in a bank account, but in some secret place like a chest of drawers. For example, in 1944, toward the end of Manzhouguo’s existence, though the Han were in the majority, they made only 37% of all bank deposits. Deposits made by Japanese residents, who were clearly in the minority, accounted for 63% of all deposits .xxxvii
Unified currency system still viable after fall of Manzhouguo
In Manchuria, about 100 currencies were in use, and the financial and monetary systems were in utter chaos. Both the currency and commodity economies were immature. Therefore, it was of urgent importance to unify the currency, issue new bank notes and control financial activities after Manzhouguo was established.
Up until then in Manchuria, credit drafts, various silver coins, military notes, bank notes with yen-silver parity called shaopiao issued by Yokohama Shokin Bank, old Russian bank notes, notes issued by the various provinces, and many other currencies were all in circulation at the same time. The most troublesome notes were those issued by provinces at the whims of warlords. The use of military notes by warlords to wrest crops away from farmers made society all the more chaotic.
Banks under the control of warlords did not even begin to focus on the banking business. They were involved in everything under the sun, from the manufacture of oil, flour and sugar, through the fermenting of liquor and weaving, to electric power generation and mining. Rumor has it that the only business they did not engage in was the operation of public baths.
Currencies used prior to the establishment of Manzhouguo fall mainly into the following categories:
1) Notes issued by each Manchurian province
2) Notes (non-convertible) for defrayment of military expenses issued by anti-Japanese forces
3) Other currencies (e.g., silver yuan)
4) Foreign currencies (the Japanese silver yen, Mexican silver, Bank of Japan notes, Bank of Korea notes and Japanese military notes)
Old notes transferred to the Central Bank of Manchuria by former official and private financial organizations included 15 types of currency and 136 types of bank notes.
In the “Afterword” of Manshu dasshutsu: Manshu Chuo Ginko kanbu no taiken (Escape from Manchuria: the former manager of the Issuance Department, Central Bank of Manchuria tells his story), author Takeda Hidekatsu writes: “We former staff members take pride in the fact that for more than two years after the Central Bank was dissolved, its notes remained in circulation. In any nation, bank notes usually stop circulating the moment the issuing bank ceases to exist. In Manchuria, that was the fate of Russian military notes and old Chinese bank notes.”xxxviii
The currency of Manzhouguo continued to circulate in Manchuria after the war at the same value. In the spring of 1947, Manchurians were allowed to exchange it for Dongbei (northeast) notes of equal value issued by the Central Bank upon request, within a fixed period of time.
Though Manzhouguo currency lasted only 15 years after it was first issued in 1932, it enjoyed unprecedented credibility. This achievement should never be forgotten, and should be a source of pride to the former employees of the Manchuria Central Bank, as well as the entire nation of Japan.
Japanese currency system functions well in occupied territory
In Chinese society, no one trusts anyone else, much less a government. The stability and reliability of the Manzhouguo currency can attributed to the Japanese capability used to full advantage. The power of their currency and financial policies was far more effective than anyone could have imagined.
It was astute financial policy-making that enabled Japan to develop modern industry for the first time in East Asia. The Japanese proved this again and again, not only in areas where they were in control (Taiwan, the Korean peninsula and Manchuria), but also in “enemy territory” during the Sino-Japanese War. In regions occupied by the Japanese Army, the financial system set up by the Japanese worked so well that commodity prices were extremely stable, and local residents benefited from the system. These facts are rarely mentioned, but they must be emphasized.
For instance, in the regions that were taken over by Chiang Kaishek’s Guomindang government after the war, there was astronomical inflation, and currency values plummeted.
According to the recollections of someone who experienced that inflation, the price of a bowl of Chinese noodles in a restaurant in Shanghai at the time he finished eating it was higher than the price at the time he entered the restaurant and ordered the dish. Consumer prices were rising by the hour.
In Manchuria at that time, it was virtually impossible for banks to function normally. The Central Bank of Manchuria was founded in June 1932, three months after the establishment of Manzhouguo. The Currency Law and the Central Bank of Manchuria Law were enacted, and the Central Bank was established with capital of \30 million. One hundred percent of that capital was provided by the government of Manzhouguo, which had acquired the assets and liabilities of four local issuing banks.
Since the 19th century, the world’s financial systems were shifting from the silver standard to the gold standard, due to the instability of the former. Japan adopted the gold standard sometime after 1897. China was the only country in the world that insisted on adhering to the silver standard.
There was disagreement over whether the Manchurian currency should be based on the gold standard or the silver standard. In favor of the silver standard was Finance Minister Takahashi Korekiyo, while Kato Keizaburo, President of the Bank of Korea, supported the gold standard. Eventually, the silver standard was adopted, in accordance with Manchurian tradition.
Banking experts studied ways of preventing the forgery and alteration of paper currency. To guard against the Chinese government plots to destroy Manzhouguo’s financial system, Shikata Masuzo, vice president of the Asian Academy of Science and an expert on fibers, formulated a plan. He invented a method that involved dyeing a special type of algae, a species that lives only on the bottom of a salt lake in Inner Mongolia, and then mixing it with fibers to make paper for notes issued by the central bank.
Capitalizing on confusion caused by runs on banks to unify currency in only two years
The unification of the Manzhouguo currency was accomplished within two years after withdrawing the old currency and stabilizing the new currency. This feat was accomplished through the strenuous efforts of the founding fathers of the Central Bank of Manchuria.
Business hours were extended at main and branch offices to include Sundays and holidays. Bank clerks visited even the remotest villages to give villagers the opportunity to exchange the old currency for the new. The new currency was advertised in every medium (films, newspapers, radio and even matchboxes) in the Japanese, Chinese and Russian languages. At local fairs and rallies, airplanes and musical ensembles helped spread the word. All possible steps were taken to inform people of the currency exchange plan.
Two years later, in June 1934, the withdrawal rate reached 93.1%. The withdrawal deadline was extended by 14 months to ensure the disposition of the remaining old notes. Finally the withdrawal rate for old bank notes was 97.2%, an unprecedented achievement in world history.
The Manchurian people were originally very skeptical about their government and currency. There were often runs on banks. Once a rumor spread that banks would exchange currency for silver, which prompted depositors to rush to the Central Bank, where they demanded silver. They kept the silver thus acquired at home or, more often, sold it to private money-changers.
The Central Bank of Manchuria regarded the confusion caused by runs on the bank as a wonderful business opportunity, and made the most of it. The bank allowed people to exchange currency for silver whenever they liked. Soon the market rate for silver coins declined, and an increasing number of people used silver coins at train stations, tax offices and customs. As a result, the exchanged silver was returned to the Central Bank, where it gained credibility.
Before Manzhouguo was established, the value of paper money issued by local governments on practically an annual basis dropped drastically until it became as useless as waste paper. Laboriously accumulated fortunes were absorbed by the government. Society was devastated, and the people refused to trust their governments. Therefore, maintaining an adequate currency value became a priority for the new country.
The Central Bank acquired not only the assets of provincial banks, but also their liabilities. The shortfall of capital, resulting from the difference between total assets and total liabilities, was corrected by government bonds.
In the early days of Manzhouguo, anti-Manchu and anti-Japanese forces in various regions randomly issued their own currency, with which they purchased goods or hired people. These rebel armies forced the local people to use their currency or to provide goods or manpower. Every time a rebel army lost power and retreated, its currency became valueless rubbish.
The Central Bank had to deal with not only paper money issued by warlords large and small, but also notes issued by the leaders of rebel armies like Mazhanshan and Tang Yulin. The bank exchanged notes issued by former warlords and rebel armies for the currency of Manzhouguo, taking into account their circulation and their value at the time. This method of withdrawing old notes helped bring security to Manzhouguo at a very early stage, and enabled its people to live in peace.
Chapter Eight: A United Asian State Ceases To Exist After
only 13 ? Years
1. Lytton Report corners Manzhouguo
The Lytton Commission: experts on colonial administration
Manzhouguo had overcome many obstacles, and was beginning to take shape as a nation. However, its domestic success notwithstanding, the new nation was internationally isolated and, together with its only ally, Japan, was becoming an orphan state.
In this last chapter, we will examine why Manzhouguo perished and what became of East Asia after its demise. Let us begin with the international situation when Manzhouguo was established.
The well-known Lytton Commission, an investigative team, was formed in accordance with a resolution of the League of Nations after the Mukden Incident (September 1931).
Members of the commission were Sir Victor Bulwer-Lytton of Great Britain, Gen. Henri Claudel of France, Count Ulisse Aldrovandi of Italy, Dr. Heinrich Schnee of Germany, Gen. Frank McCoy of the United States; Yoshida Isaburo, Japanese ambassador to Turkey; and former Foreign Minister Gu Weijun of the ROC. Lytton was elected chairman.
Bulwer-Lytton was born in 1876. His father was viceroy of colonial India, and Lytton himself served as governor of Bengal, and later as deputy viceroy. He was a senior representative of India at the League of Nations from 1927 to 1928; in 1931, he became a representative of Great Britain.
Gen. Claudel was an Army lieutenant-general, a commander of troops stationed in West Africa; he also served in China and Indochina. He headed the French colonial defense committee. Aldrovandi was a diplomat who eventually became ambassador to Germany. Schnee was a Prussian diplomat who once served as viceroy of Germany’s East African domain; he wrote many books about colonial affairs. McCoy was an Army major-general from Pennsylvania, who was sent to Cuba, served in the Philippines and became an advisor to President Theodore Roosevelt. He visited Japan after the Great Kanto Earthquake on a mercy mission, and had many Japanese friends.
The five members, all in their fifties and sixties, were professionals with much practical experience, and experts on colonial administration.
The investigative team arrived in Tokyo on February 29, 1932. After received an audience with the Emperor, they met Prime Minister Inukai, Foreign Minister Shibusawa, Army Minister Araki, Navy Minister Osumi and dignitaries from the business world. They listened to what the Japanese had to say and exchanged opinions. As soon as the team entered Manchuria, they heard that Manzhouguo had been established.
Upon arrival in Tokyo, Lytton made a statement to the effect that team was to investigate the recent situation in Manchuria and Shanghai, and that its main purpose was to provide the League’s assistance to both Japan and China so that the two nations might find common ground that would lead to a permanent agreement.
The Lytton Commission, Manchuria Railway president Uchida Yasuya and Guandong Army Commander Honjo Shigeru met to discuss the resolution of the Manchurian problem. After the meeting, Uchida said, with emphasis, “The only solution is to recognize Manzhouguo. Manzhouguo is not a puppet state of Japan and has never been Chinese territory.” Commander Honjo Shigeru added: “Manchuria is a lifeline for Japan. To defend Manchuria is to protect not only Japan but also the entire civilized world from the Red revolution of the Comintern.”
Lytton Report recommends international control of Manchuria
The Lytton Report covers 10 chapters (148 pages in English and 289 pages in the Japanese translation done by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
The Report lists the points about which Japan and China are in disagreement, as follows:
1) China’s present and future
The Japanese position: China does not have a viable government. Therefore, China is not eligible for membership in the League of Nations. China is not heading toward unification, but toward disintegration and decline.
The Lytton Report: The Commission concluded that despite of various hardships and failures in China, China should gradually achieve statehood, and therefore is presumably on its way to unification.
2) The Liutiaohu Incident and ensuing military actions by the Japanese Army
The Lytton Report: If any damage was done to the railroad, it was minor. The military actions taken by the Japanese Army, starting with the attack on Beidaying, continuing with the occupation of Fengtian, and finally, developing into the occupation of all of Manchuria were not in self-defense; they were acts of aggression.
The Japanese position: The Japanese protested the Report’s conclusions on four grounds. First, the Japanese Army, with its 10,400 men, was far smaller than the Chinese Army, which had 220,000 men. Second, the Japanese Army was responsible for the protection of more than a million Japanese nationals in Manchuria. Third, the order of non-resistance issued by China was spurious. Lastly, the Kellogg-Briand Pact recognizes the right of self-defense.
3) The Lytton Report: Manzhouguo was not born out of a true grassroots independence movement; it is a puppet state of Japan. The investigative team received many letters during their stay in Manchuria, and reported that all but two out of 1,550 opposed Manzhouguo.
The Japanese position: The letters were Chinese propaganda, and the writers represented only one in 20,000 of the 30 million Manchurian citizens.
The Lytton Report: The Manchurian problem is hardly moving toward solution. The Lytton Commission fears that mere restoration to conditions prevailing prior to the September 18 Incident (Mukden Incident) may cause more friction between the two. As a permanent solution, Chapter IX: “Principle and Conditions of Settlement” and Chapter X: “Consideration and suggestions to the Council” were proposed. The two chapters stated that in Manchuria, an autonomous government under Chinese sovereignty with far-reaching powers would be established. Foreign advisers led by the League of Nations would provide guidance and advice to the government. A special police force would be organized, and entrusted with maintaining security in the region. All armed forces were to be withdrawn, and the region gradually demilitarized. Japan, China and the Soviet Union would conclude a treaty that prevented any of the three nations from invading Manchuria. A national security plan for Manchuria was also proposed.
However, Japan opposed the investigation team’s proposal, on the grounds that it put Manchuria under international control, a notion that was utterly unrealistic.
An American supports the Japanese position
George Bronson Rea was extremely critical of the Lytton Report:
I had my own views about Japan’s rights in Manchuria based on the facts of history, which I still hold and which no arguments can shake. I firmly believe what I have already made clear that, by all just law and the rules of war, Japan is entitled to receive from China a full cash compensation for her part in the Russo-Japanese War or, in lieu of this, the territory that was lawfully ceded to her in 1895 and which she was coerced by overwhelming force to return.39
In other words, Rea argues that Qing China was practically fighting in the Russo-Japanese War. Japan had the right to receive reparations, but China paid nothing. At one time, part of Manchuria had been officially conceded to Japan, and therefore Japan still possessed the right to the region.
When, however, Japan announced that she waved [sic] her legal and just claims and would recognize the absolute independence and sovereignty of Manchoukuo and support the new state to defend its independence, it seemed to me that far from being an act of aggression or territorial conquest, it constituted one of the most striking gestures of self-denial and altruistic statesmanship recorded in modern history.40
Japan had the right to possess Manchuria, but it abandoned that right and instead advocated independence for peoples like the Manchus. This was not an act of invasion or conquest; it was a restrained, altruistic act that Rea appreciated.
Japan has announced that her basic policy in Manchoukuo is a most scrupulous regard and respect for its independence and sovereignty, and there is no more reason to doubt her pledged word, question her intentions or impugn her motives than other nations have to be skeptical of our own promises to grant ultimate independence to the Philippines.41
The United States promised the Philippines autonomy in 1934, and independence 10 years later. The independence and sovereignty of Manzhouguo were what Japan promised the world. Why was Japan’s promise regarded as dubious, while the world believed the promise made by the United States to the Philippines? Here, Rea points out the contradiction.
2. Japan withdraws from League of Nations
Matsuoka says “Japan is the victim of a confused China”
The League of Nations was established on the basis of the tragic, bitter experiences of World War I as a system to resolve international disputes through cooperation among the Great Powers. The postwar world that Great Britain and France had been researching and blueprinting during the War began to take shape following the Peace Treaty of Versailles in June 1919.
On the basis of the 14 Points proposed by United States President Woodrow Wilson, the League of Nations was established in January 1920. The organization was effective in resolving disputes among weak and small nations, but it could not control the Great Powers. This is the same problem the United Nations, established after World War II, faces today.
The League continued to exist until after World War II, but the United States, its key advocator, did not become a member on account of isolationism. Though the Soviet Union and Germany later joined, Japan and Germany withdrew from the League in 1933. In 1937, Italy followed suit and left the League. In 1939, the Soviet Union was ousted after it attacked Finland. Consequently, the organization was a league of nations in name only.
On November 21, 1932, the fifth meeting of the Board of Directors of the League was held to discuss the Lytton Report. Well before the meeting began, it was predicted that Japan would be in a very awkward position. The Japanese representative in Geneva; Nagaoka Kansuke, ambassador to France; and Sato Naotake, ambassador to Belgium, sent a telegram saying “League likely to press Japan to accept Manchurian autonomy” (the essence of the Lytton Report).
The senior delegate from Japan at the General Assembly of the League of Nations was Matsuoka Yosuke. Also present were delegates to the Geneva Disarmament Conference: Army Lt.-Gen. Matsui Iwane, Navy Vice-Admiral Nagano Osami; Maj.-Gen. Tatekawa Yoshitsugu, senior attendant from the Army; and Col. Ishihara Kanji, senior delegate to the League. Additionally, over 100 members of Japan’s Diet and reporters from newspapers and news agencies crowded into the venue.
Matsuoka reiterated previous assertions, i.e., that Japan was not to be blamed for what had happened in Manchuria, that Japanese action was taken in self-defense, and that the Manchurian people wanted independence. Chinese delegate Gu Weijun countered with an accusation of Japanese aggression.
The Board of Directors submitted the considerations in the Lytton Report to the General Assembly on December 6. On December 15, the 19-member committee formed to analyze the report unofficially presented a recommendation that expressed disapproval of Manzhouguo, based on Article 15, Section 4 of the Covenant to both Japan and China.
Delegate Matsuoka gave a speech before the General Assembly on February 24. He said that the ROC was not a state in the European sense, that the chaos in the Far East derived from disorder in the ROC, and that Japan, its nearest neighbor, was the primary victim of that situation.
League fails to understand Japan’s position
I have stated repeatedly that the rare references to the relationship between the ROC and Manchuria when Manzhouguo was established have been extremely distorted. The true relationship can be summarized as follows.
Although the ROC was established after the Xinhai Revolution, the Beijing government and other opposing each claimed to be the sole government of China. Moreover, there was neither constitution nor law regulating relations among provinces.
It was not clear which government was the legitimate one. Consequently, any government that could defeat an opposing government and unite the nation by force ultimately became the legitimate government. There were five million troops in China, a number that climbed exponentially once the forces of armed bandits were included. Each force was engaged in a power game orchestrated by the Great Powers, which threw China into utter chaos.
According to scholar Lin Yutang, Chinese civil wars fought up until the Mukden Incident claimed 30 million victims. By another account, 30 million people died in the Guomindang civil wars that pitted Chiang Kaishek against Yan Xishan, Feng Yuxiang and others.
In any case, “civil-war republic” seems to be the only accurate description of the ROC. The people had no idea what a republic is. Furthermore, 96% of the population was uneducated, and hadn’t the slightest idea what their rights were.
Warlord Zhang Zuolin, who held sway over Manchuria, and Zhang Xueliang, who succeeded him, became rulers of Manchuria after the Xinhai Revolution. But their lives ended in little more than 20 years. However, the Zhangs were certainly not sovereigns of Manchuria. Moreover, the Beijing government never laid a finger on Manchuria. Even when the Fengtian Army was defeated in the twice-fought Zhili-Fengtian conflict, Beijing did not get involved. This is historical fact.
Just as the United States freed Cuba from Spanish control, the Guandong Army expelled the Zhang family from Manchuria, and liberated its 30 million people from the warlords.
However, when the United States took the Philippines from Spain, it also took away Filipinos’ independence. In contrast, the Guandong Army expelled the Zhangs from Manchuria and restored the nation to the Manchus. The League of Nations did not appreciate the Japanese position; the Lytton Report was adopted. Before long, Japan would withdraw from the League.
3. Manzhouguo affected by the fortunes of the Greater East Asian War
Chinese military expansion
In 1937, five years after Manzhouguo was established, the Sino-Japanese Incident (or the Sino-Japanese War) broke out. Five years later, in 1941, the Greater East Asian War commenced. These two wars drastically changed Manzhouguo.
It is not a coincidence that the all-out conflict between Japan and China caused Japanese-American relations to worsen. During any discussion of the path to the Greater East Asian War, countless “if” arguments are broached: war might have been averted or, conversely, war was inevitable.
For example, what if Japan had agreed to American railroad magnate Harriman’s proposal for joint investment in the Manchuria Railway? What if the Anglo-Japanese Alliance had remained in force? What if the Triple Alliance among Japan, Germany and Italy had never been concluded? What if Japan had acquiesced to the Hull Note? The response to all these questions is, some argue, that there would have been no war between Japan and the United States.
After World War I, arms reduction and war prevention became mainstream topics as a result of the Nine-Power Treaty and the Washington Conference. Accordingly, sincere efforts toward arms reduction were being made by the Great Powers. The ROC, hell-bent on military expansion, was the sole exception to that global trend.
Even today, China is the one nation in the world heading for military expansion. Since the Cold War ended, Europe, the United States and Russia are working to achieve arms reduction. China alone is busy increasing its defense budget, developing means to transport nuclear missiles, and augmenting its marine defense.
The civil wars in China during the republican period began with conflicts among the Beiyang warlords, then erupted within the Guomindang, finally expanding into a conflict between the Guomindang and the communists. As mentioned previously, after the Mukden Incident, Chinese warlords had more than five million troops under their control. Although the Great Powers had concluded an agreement whereby no weapons would be provided to Chinese warlords, they seldom honored it.
The post-revolutionary Soviet government, then Great Britain and the United States all found ways to give China economic assistance and weapons. They feared Japanese influence, on the rise after the Russo-Japanese War, and probably believed it necessary to help China become a powerful ally against Japan. This notion developed into the view that a final war between Japan and the United States of America, a clash between the Western and Eastern civilizations, was inevitable, just as Ishihara Kanji had predicted.
Manchuria at peace during Sino-Japanese War
Progressive Japanese intellectuals refer to the Sino-Japanese War as the “eight-year war” or the “15-year war” (when they include the Mukden Incident). However, these labels do not even begin to reflect an accurate comprehension of historical fact.
Full-scale war between Japan and China began with the Marco Polo Bridge Incident (July 7, 1937) and lasted for 18 months, ending with the surrender of Wuhan (October 27, 1938). Afterwards, only three-way civil wars were waged among the various local governments, such as those led by Chiang Kaishek in Chongqing, Wang Jingwei in Nanking and Mao Zedong in Yanan.
The regions controlled by Wang Jingwei’s government were called “enemy territory” by Chiang Kaishek and Mao Zedong. But they were more stable economically and financially than they had been during the years of civil war between warlords and the Guomindang government. There were also fleeting halcyon days shared by the Nanking government and the Manchurian government through trade.
The Sino-Japanese Incident further consolidated the political relationship between Japan and Manchuria. In Manzhouguo, five years after its establishment, the basis for economic cooperation between Japan and Manchuria was confirmed. In September 1936, a five-year plan for industrial development in Manchuria was devised. In the following year, the Sino-Japanese Incident broke out. Although there were some modifications to the plan, it was an era of great progress and prosperity for Manzhouguo.
In December 1941, Japan declared war against the United States and Great Britain, entering into the Greater East Asian War. Although Manzhouguo did not declare war on America and Great Britain, it joined forces with Japan and China, further strengthening the relationship with Japan under the policy of a controlled wartime economy to support the war. In 1942, at a high point, Manzhouguo celebrated its tenth anniversary.
In the early stages of the Greater East Asian War, Japan won victory after overwhelming victory. Southeast Asian regions that had been European and American colonies for centuries were liberated. However, in 1943 and thereafter, the Japanese Army suffered setbacks and defeats at the hands of the American and British. The Soviet Union was waiting for an opportunity to strike the archipelago of Japan, which was about to lose the war.
In accordance with the Greater East Asian Coprosperity Zone proposed by Japan, Manzhouguo entered into wartime economic order. Under the slogan of “Japan, Manchuria and China united”, Manzhouguo became a base for heavy industry in that order.
Iron-manufacturing in Anshan and Benxihu, artificial petroleum manufacturing using coal and shale oil from Fushun, magnesium extraction at Yingkou; lead, zinc, tungsten and molybdenum refiners at Bohai Bay; and aluminum development in South Manchuria are all well-known. Automobiles, weapons, ammunitions and even aircraft were produced. Manzhouguo has 18 million hectares of arable land, nearly three times more than Japan. A plan was made to produce 10.8 million tons of food in this vast land, more than twice as much the Japanese yield.
From July through December 1944, a huge formation of American B-29 bombers took off from Kunming Base, located deep in the Chinese hinterlands, and began bombarding Manchurian heavy industry bases like Anshan and Fengtian.
However, Manchuria was peaceful throughout most of the Greater East Asian War. It became a battlefield only when the Soviet Army invaded Manchuria six days before the end of the war, and during the ensuing civil war between the Guomindang and the communists.
4. Guomindang and communists struggle over Manchuria
Massive looting by Soviet Army; 600,000 Siberian detainees
On August 6, 1945, an American bomber dubbed the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Three days later, at midnight on August 9, the Soviet Army invaded Manzhouguo via the eastern border, and other locations.
The Japanese government had asked the Soviet government to mediate peace negotiations with the United States and Great Britain. However, what Ambassador Sato received in Moscow on August 8 was not the response to his request, but a declaration of war against Japan reading, “As of midnight on August 9, the Soviet Union shall enter the war against Japan.”
Soviet troops invaded Manchuria, approaching from four directions. In their forces were 1.75 million soldiers, including 80 land divisions, 40 tank units, a mechanized brigade and 32 air divisions, together with 5,250 tanks equipped with armored artillery weapons, and 5,071 aircraft.
In June 1941, the Guandong Army mobilized more than 300,000 troops from Japan to conduct special military maneuvers, augmenting the Guandong forces to 700,000 soldiers. The purpose was to defend against the Soviet aggression. However, as the southern front deteriorated, most of the powerful Guandong Army units were sent south. As many soldiers as possible were recruited to meet quotas, but in actuality, there were fewer than eight divisions. Some units had to fight without even small arms. The Guandong Army did not possess enough military power to defend itself or counterattack the Soviet Army, though its soldiers fought desperately and honorably.
After having occupied Manchuria, Soviet troops went on a looting spree and committed plunder, and then turned to abductions. It is estimated that 600,000-700,000 Japanese were forcibly transported to Siberia. According to the Ministry of Welfare’s War Relief Bureau, 575,000 Japanese were abducted.
The Japanese population in Manchuria was estimated at about 1.55 million when the war ended. The sixth volume of Showa shi no tenno (The Emperor in Showa era history) states that by the end of October 1946, 1,010,000 Japanese (65% of Manchuria’s Japanese population) boarded ships bound for Japan. They arrived home within the space of a year, a journey made possible mainly by assistance from civilians.42
When it occupied Manchuria, Soviet troops plundered the vital industrial facilities throughout Manchuria, and sent their trophies home to the USSR. According to a report issued by an American investigative team (the Bawley team), they were worth the mammoth sum of $895 million.
It was Soviet custom to forcibly transport the soldiers of defeated nations to the USSR, and intern them in labor camps. At that time, 3,150,000 German, 220,000 Italian, and 20,000 French soldiers had been taken to the USSR and detained there.
Mao Zedong : northeastern region key to a successful revolution
When the Emperor delivered his address on August 15, the Guandong Army lost power in Manchuria. Soon, on entering Changchun, occupying Soviet Army commander Gen. Kowaryov ordered Manchuria Railway President Yamazaki Genkan to have his employees keep working as before. But owing to looting by Soviet troops, and by rioters everywhere, the trains stopped running between August 19 and 23. When the war ended, approximately 80,000 Japanese railwaymen remained.
On August 27, an agreement concerning the Changchun Railroad and Port Dalian was concluded between China and the Soviet Union.
Soviet forces occupying the cities of Changchun, Shenyang and Anshan began transferring important mining, manufacturing and transportation facilities to the USSR. The Manchuria Railway was ordered to transport those facilities, along with Japanese prisoners of war. In 1946, repatriation for former Manchuria Railway employees and Japanese residents of Manchuria began. In 1947, when repatriation was nearly completed, President Yamazaki and his staff returned to Japan.
When Manzhouguo collapsed, heavy industry in Manchuria accounted for nearly 90% of heavy industry in all of China; it was, for all intents and purposes, China’s lifeline. In April 1945, at the seventh National Assembly of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), Mao Zedong said, “We can accomplish a socialist revolution as long as we retain the northeastern region, even if we were to lose all our other bases.” The CCP issued the order to occupy the northeastern region a day after the Soviet Army invaded Manzhouguo.
CCP forces rushed into the northeastern region from all over China. By the time the Guomindang Army took Shanhaiguan in December 1945, the Communist Army had already occupied 154 prefectures and some 70 cities.
Replacing the Soviet Army, the Chinese Communist Army stayed temporarily in Manchuria. But in October 1945, the Guomindang Army entered Manchuria. As the Guomindang Army occupied the region, the Chinese Communist Army retreated from cities to farming villages, and then to the forests and mountains. In due time, the communists returned to strike back. Thus began a full-scale civil war between the Guomindang and the communists.
In mid-October 1945, the 13th Guomindang Army was transported to Dalian and Yingkou on American warships, and attempted to land in the northeastern region. However, they were prevented from doing so by the Soviet Army and landed in Qinhuangdao and other locations, where they fought with the Communist Party Army for occupation of the northeastern region.
Subsequently, the Guomindang and the Communist armies clashed all across Manchuria. On November 19, 1945, the Soviet Army informed Peng Zhen and Lin Biao of their retreat plan and turned over the Changchun railroad line and the city of Changchun to the Guomindang Army. The communists temporarily retreated from the railroad area to the countryside. On November 26, the Communist Army retreated from Jinzhou, which was then occupied by the Guomindang Army.
Unprecedented blood bath determines Manchuria’s fate
On January 10, 1946, the Guomindang and the communists agreed to a ceasefire, but the fighting resumed in early February. In March, Soviet troops retreated from Manchuria. Some of the weapons they had confiscated from the Guandong Army were given to the Chinese Communist Army. In the early battles, the Guomindang Army prevailed (it was well equipped with American-style weapons), driving the communists away from the railroad area and the big cities.
In June 1946, the nation-wide civil war between the Guomindang and the communists resumed. Between July 1946 and June 1947, 1,120,000 Guomindang soldiers were annihilated by the communists in battles fought in various parts of China. At that time, the Guomindang Army had nearly 480,000 troops in Manchuria, while the Communist Army had 460,000. Their forces were well-matched. After the summer offensive in 1947, the Communist Army gained the upper hand, occupying 36 cities, while the Guomindang held on to only nine large cities.
In August 1947, Chiang Kaishek appointed Chen Cheng general commander of the northeastern military government in place of Xiong Shihui. On January 1, 1948, Chiang Kaishek addressed the military men and citizens of the entire nation: “We will annihilate the main force of the Communist Army within one year.” However, the Guomindang could not prevail in the civil war with the communists in Manchuria. The general commander of military operations was replaced by Wei Lihuang.
After March 1948, both the Guomindang and communist armies changed greatly. The Guomindang Army commanded 550,000 troops, while the Communist Army steadily increased its forces to 700,000 men, plus an additional 330,000 local guerrillas. On August 14, 1948, the Northeastern Field Operation Army was formed. After October of the same year, the Communist Army won consecutive victories in the battles of Jinzhou, Changchun and Shenyang; most of Manchuria fell into communist hands. According to the Liao-Shen War Report presented by Lin Piao, Luo Ronghuan and others to the CCP’s Central Military Committee on February 8,1949, more than 400,000 Guomindang soldiers had been killed, while there were 60,000 communist casualties.
However, no statistics can adequately express the suffering of the people. The civil war fought in Manchuria between the Guomindang and the communists pitted Chinese against Chinese under the most horrible circumstances. It was a tragic prelude to the reincorporation of Manchuria into the Chinese world.
5. Achievements in Manzhouguo a modern Asian miracle
A grand experiment: a multi-ethnic modern state
I do not deny that the Japanese performed the leading role behind the scenes in Manzhouguo. But it should be also understood that Japanese management of Manzhouguo was a far cry from any colonial management by the Great Powers, for it reflected the Japanese experience of managing Taiwan and the Korean peninsula. To Asia, Manzhouguo was a great experiment in the building of a modern, multi-ethnic nation-state.
The dream of ethnic cooperation has not yet been successfully realized by any state. Even the United States, though regarded as a melting pot, has been having difficulty overcoming various ethnic problems involving the black, Hispanic and Oriental (East Asian) peoples.
The Soviet Union, its socialist ideology notwithstanding, failed to solve its religious and ethnic problems. The socialist nations secretly dubbed “the prisons of ethnic peoples” have disintegrated because of their corrupt bureaucracies. Ethnic issues today are smoldering everywhere like live coals about to flare up, not just in East Europe but in every nation throughout the world.
It has been indicated that though Manzhouguo advocated ethnic cooperation, it was marked by an obvious racial hierarchy, with the Japanese at the top, the Koreans second, and the Han and Manchu third.
However, when it comes to ethnic segregation, there is nothing as totally exclusive as the Sino-centric perception. According to the traditional Chinese way of thinking, the Chinese are superior to all other peoples, whom they regard as pitiable beings akin to animals or half-humans.
Modern inhabitants of the Manchurian region are mostly foreign immigrants like the Japanese, the Koreans and the Han, except that there are Manchus, Mongols and Mongolian or Tungus minorities. The situation is more like that in the United States or in Central and South American countries.
The governing officials and organizations, as well as the engineers of Manzhouguo were mainly Japanese. There was no other way of doing things, even though the Han were in the absolute majority, demographically. If it is true that the Chinese are an agricultural and commercial people, then it follows that the Japanese are technical people. Moreover, unlike China, whose national literacy rate was under 20%, Japan prided itself on high education level of its people achieved in the Edo period and further improved after the Meiji Restoration. The Japanese had had a modern industrial society for more than 60 years. We are not talking about unfairness here.
Testimonies by those concerned with Manzhouguo should be heard
The leading players in Manzhouguo were Japanese. This is a fact. In terms of population ratio, the Japanese represented only 1/30 of the total, but without them, Manzhouguo would have never come into being, for several reasons. First, but for the strong Guandong Army, Manzhouguo would have never been able to maintain national security in the face of Russia and Chinese warlord governments. Additionally, among the various peoples who resided in Manzhouguo, human resources were found nowhere but among the Japanese, with their high educational standard. Industrial investments came mainly from Japan. Manzhouguo’s government bonds were purchased with Japanese capital.
In order to issue those bonds, the Japanese government enacted Law No. 87 in May 1938 (Law Concerning Foreign Bonds To Be Purchased in Japan). The Manzhouguo bonds were regarded as Japanese government bonds for taxation purposes.
Hoshino Naoki was Manzhouguo’s director of public management, and was appointed president of the Planning Bureau and minister of state after he returned to Japan. In the “Afterword” of Mihatenu yume: Manshukoku gaishi (A dream unrealized: an unofficial history of Manzhouguo), Hoshino writes:
During that time [1932-1940], conditions in Manchuria changed dramatically. Public order was maintained perfectly; not a single soldier-bandit was to be seen in the country. Manchuria had been transformed from an agricultural state to an industrial one; the gross national product doubled. The standard of living there had improved remarkably. People came from all over East Asia to settle here. The population, once 30 million, now surpassed 50 million. Extraterritoriality had been abolished, as had the exclusive status of Manchuria Railway property. The Japanese were ordered to pay taxes and obey the laws and regulations, just like other Manchurians.
Japanese young people voluntarily went to Manzhouguo to help the new state grow, not just for the sake of Japanese leaders, but in full cooperation with the peoples of East Asia. The idea was to share the benefits equally and widely, and to create a new paradise there. What drew those people to Manchuria was neither self-interest nor honor. It was pure passion: the passion that inspired them to discover a new land and to participate in building a new nation. Owen Lattimore called Manchuria the cradle of the East Asian struggle. He was describing pre-Manzhouguo Manchuria perfectly. Those who were motivated to help build Manzhouguo shared the goal of making the new nation a cradle of peace in East Asia.
In the history of Manzhouguo, there had been no scandals relating to overseas territories or colonies. That is probably why the bureaucracy remained clean. After too short a life, only 13 1/2 years, the building of Manzhouguo ended, the dream unrealized. The efforts made by Japanese young people during this period must be remembered for all time with pride by the Japanese people. Surely I am not the only one who is happy to have participated in the great work of building Manzhouguo.43
I have included this lengthy quote to illustrate my point. I think it important to know that there are Japanese like Hoshino who are proud to have been among those who took part in building Manzhouguo. They are perhaps the antidote to “progressive” pundits and scholars who do nothing but characterize Manzhouguo as a “puppet state” and a product of aggression, exploitation and massacre committed by Japanese imperialism, and claim that the history of Manzhouguo is a fabrication.
Miracle of Manzhouguo still shines
Here I would like to add some modern achievements of Manzhouguo that have been completely neglected up to now. One of them is the consolidation of the police system.
Traditionally, the land of Manchuria had been ruled not by appropriate government entities, but by warlords and bandits. What changed that was the Guandong Army, a modern military organization, and the newly implemented police system. Ultimately, public order in Manchuria was maintained by the Guandong Army and the police. Then modern industry advanced smoothly.
The building of Manzhouguo ended abruptly after 13 ? years, at which point it was annexed by China. As a nation, Manzhouguo had had too short a life. But its history should not be forgotten. Remember that this short-lived nation transformed the old society of warlords and bandits into a modern one almost overnight. It is not an exaggeration to call Manzhouguo a miracle in modern Asia (in the modern world, for that matter).
After the Meiji Restoration, exuberant Japanese energy created a new Taiwan, and then a modern Korean peninsula. Moreover, the final concentration of that power was the work devoted to building a modern society in Manzhouguo. In Asia, over the past century and a half, only the Japanese people have demonstrated the potential to create a new state.
What on earth was the source of that explosive energy? Regrettably, not one Japanese has come up with the answer to this question. On the contrary, most Japanese refuse to face it squarely.
The Japanese are quick to adapt and react; their efforts toward self-improvement are remarkably prompt. These qualities were evident in their management of Taiwan, the Korean peninsula and Manzhouguo. They continually refine their management methods, and make improvements. Their ability to respond to changes quickly and rationally helps them stay on top of any situation. The Japanese do not cling to tradition; they are always pursuing new concepts and creative innovations. I sincerely hope that the Japanese will maintain their energy at a high level, and invest it in another restoration ? the Heisei Restoration.
i Kokusai Zenrin Kyokai (International Goodwill Association), Manshu kenkoku no yume to genjitsu (The founding of Manzhouguo: the dream and the reality) (Tokyo: International Goodwill Association, 1975).
ii See pp. 126-7.
iii Manshukoku shi hensan kanko kyokai (Committee for the Compilation of the History of Manzhouguo), Manshukoku shi: soron (Overview of the history of Manzhouguo) (Tokyo: Kenkosha, 1972).
iv See Chapters Two and Three for details.
v Rea is referring to the Qing emperor’s abdication agreement with the ROC, to be discussed in the following section.
vi George Bronson Rea, The Case for Manchouguo (New York: Appleton-Century, 1935), p. 11.
vii Ibid., p. 69.
viii Miyazaki Ichisada, Toyo ni okeru sobokushugi no minzoku to bunmeishugi no shakai (Primitive and civilized societies in East Asia) (Tokyo: Toyo-Bunko, 1989).
ix Fu Sinian, et al., Dongbei Shigang (Outline of Northeastern History) (Beijing: Institute for History and Philology of the Academia Sinica, 1932).
x Wada Sei, Toa shi kenkyu (Manshu hen) (A study of East Asian history: Manchuria) (Tokyo: Toyo Bunko, 1955).
xi Yano Jin’ichi, Manshukoku rekishi (History of Manzhouguo) (Tokyo: Meguro Shoten, 1933).
xii Shiratori Kurakichi, “Rekishijo yori mitaru Manshukoku” (Manzhouguo seen from a historical viewpoint) in Toyo (East Asia), vol. 36, No. 3, 1934.
xiii Fu, op. cit..
xiv Wada Sei, “Rekishijo yori mitaru Shina minzoku no hatten” (Evolution of the Chinese from a historical viewpoint) in Toyo shi koza (Lectures on Asian history), 1941.
xv Matsui Kimio, Kataribe no Manshu (Eyewitness accounts of Manchurian history) (Tokyo: Ginga Shobo, 1980), p. ??.
xvi Rea, op. cit., p. 206
xvii Inaba Iwakichi, Manshu hattatsushi (Development of Manchuria) (Tokyo: Nippon Hyoronsha, 1935), p. ??.
xviii Takahashi Sutejiro, Gendaishi shiryo 32: Mantetsu 2 (Modern historical resources 32: the Manchuria Raiway 2) (Tokyo: Misuzu Shobo, 1966), pp. 795-805.
xix Committee for the Compilation of the History of Manzhouguo, Manshukoku shi: soron (Overview of the history of Manzhouguo) (Tokyo: Manmo Doho Koenkai, 1972).
xx Policy proposed by U.S. Secretary of State Henry. L. Stimson in 1932, and incorporated into the Treaty for the Renunciation of War signed by 15 nations in Paris in 1928, which advocates not recognizing Manzhouguo. Also known as the “doctrine of nonrecognition.”
xxi Rea, op. cit., p. 14
xxii C. F. Remer, Foreign Investments in China (Tokyo: East Asian Economic Research Bureau, 1934).
xxiii Ozaki Hokki, Yume imada narazu: hyoden Yamanaka Minetaro (Dream yet to be realized: A critical biography of Yamanaka Minetaro) (Tokyo: Chuo Koronsha, 1983), pp. 167-178).
xxiv Rea, op. cit., pp. 75-76.
xxv Ibid., p. 102.
xxvi Manshukoku shi hensan iinkai (Committee for the Compilation of the History of Manzhouguo), Manshukoku shi: soron (Overview of the history of Manzhouguo) (Tokyo: Manmo doho koenkai, 1970), p. 116.
xxvii Takemori Kazuo, Mantetsu kobo shi (The rise and fall of the Manchuria Railway) (Tokyo: Akita Shoten, 1970), p. 88.
xxviii Manshukoku shi hensan iinkai (Committee for the Compilation of the History of Manzhouguo), Manshukoku shi: kakuron (Details of the history of Manzhouguo) (Tokyo: Manmo doho koenkai, 1971), pp. 303-311.
xxix Yano Jin’ichi, Manshukoku rekishi (History of Manzhouguo) (Tokyo: Meguro Shoten, 1933), p. 308. This excerpt was broadcast on the last day of the National Convention Commemorating the Establishment of Manzhouguo.
xxx Wang Wuwei, Hunan zizhi yundong shi (History of the Hunan self government movement) (Shanghai: Taidong Tushuju, 1920), p. ?.
xxxi Term used to describe a nation that embraces pacifism in the hope that all the world’s nations will follow suit.
xxxii Imai, Seiichi, Taiheiyo senso shi 3: Nitchu senso II (History of the Pacific War, vol. 3: Sino-Japanese War II (Tokyo, Aoki Shoten, 1979), p. ?.
xxxiii Tsukase Susumu, Chugoku kindai keizai shi kenkyu (History of the modern Chinese economy) (Tokyo: Toho Shoten, 1993), p. 30.
xxxiv Manshu keizai sanko shiryo (Reference sources on the Manchurian economy) compiled by Statistics Division, Administrative Agency, State Affairs Authority in 1943.
xxxv Matsui Kimio, Kataribe no Manshu (Accounts of Manchuria) (Nagano: Ginga Shobo, 1980), p. 90.
xxxvi Kyu Manshu keizai tokei shiryo (Manchurian economic statistics from the past) (Tokyo: Kashiwa Shobo, 1991), p. 28.
xxxvii Manshu Chuo Ginko Kenkyukai (Central Bank of Manchuria research group), Manshu Chuo Ginko shi: tsuka, kin’yu seisaku no kiseki (History of the Central Bank of Manchuria: currency and financial policy) (Tokyo: Toyo Keizai, 1988), p. 152.
xxxviii Takeda Hidekatsu, Manshu dasshutsu: Manshu Chuo Ginko kanbu no taiken (Escape from Manchuria: the former manager of the Issuance Department, Central Bank of Manchuria tells his story) (Tokyo: Chuo Koronsha, 1985), p. ?.
39 Rea, op. cit., pp. 102-103.
40 Ibid., p. 103.
41 Ibid., p. 103.
42 Yomiuri Shinbunsha, Showa shi no tenno (The Emperor in Showa era history), vol. 6 (Tokyo: Yomiuri Shinbunsha, 1968-76).
43 Hoshino Naoki, Mihatenu yume: Manshukoku gaishi (A dream unrealized: an unofficial history of Manzhouguo) (Tokyo: Diamond-sha, 1963).
“Truth of Japan” for Taiwaneses.
Does “slave” who gets big salary exist in this world?
Refutation against Fabrications of Sex Slave
Maintain impartiality of textbook screening
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura’s latest call for rewriting revisions to some Japanese history textbooks can only be regarded as a form of extremely unreasonable intervention in the textbook screening system by the government.
The drafts of the high school textbooks to be used from next academic year stated that the Imperial Japanese Army forced local residents to commit mass suicide during the Battle of Okinawa toward the end of World War II. In the process of the latest textbook screening, the Education, Science and Technology Ministry suggested revisions to these textbooks’ publishers concerning such historical descriptions. The publishers duly rewrote the descriptions.
Machimura has instructed education minister Kisaburo Tokai to consider whether it would be possible to correct the rewritten references to the Battle of Okinawa in a manner consistent with the publishers’ initial descriptions.
Details of incident contested
On Saturday, about 110,000 people attended a rally held in Ginowan, Okinawa Prefecture, to protest the ministry’s initial move to have the textbooks revised. The massive rally adopted a resolution demanding the ministry rescind its action.
The resolution claims the mass suicide would have never taken place had it not been for the Imperial Japanese Army’s “involvement.” It also argues that the changes in the references to the Battle of Okinawa can only be seen as an attempt to negate and distort testimonies taken from a large number of local residents who experienced the fierce battle.
It should be noted, however, that the ministry’s suggested revisions were not intended to deny the army’s “involvement” in the mass suicide.
For example, the draft of one textbook stated that “the Japanese Army drove local residents out of trenches, murdered some on suspicion of spying and forced others to commit mass suicide and kill each other, using hand grenades that the army distributed to them.” In the screening process, the first half of the description was kept intact, while the latter part was rewritten to read that “mass suicide and mutual killing took place, using hand grenades distributed to local people by the Japanese Army.”
The ministry’s decision to suggest revisions to the descriptions in question reflected its belief that it was not necessarily evident whether the mass suicide had occurred as a result of coercion by the army.
For years, it had been believed that residents in Tokashikijima and Zamamijima committed mass suicide under orders issued by the Imperial Japanese Army during the Battle of Okinawa. Since the 1970s, however, a number of people have testified against that view.
In 2005, a former Imperial Japanese Army commissioned officer and a brother of a deceased former captain filed a defamation suit against writer Kenzaburo Oe, who had published a book describing those soldiers as responsible for issuing mass suicide orders.
The ministry’s suggested revisions reflected all these developments in recent years.
A ministerial ordinance stipulates that revisions to textbooks that have been approved under the screening system should be made possible only if objective facts that have surfaced clearly contradict descriptions given in these publications.
Machimura said, “I wonder if it’s possible to correct [the rewritten descriptions], respecting the sentiment of people in Okinawa Prefecture.”
Facts over feelings
The Democratic Party of Japan and other opposition parties are considering submitting to the Diet a motion concerning history textbooks in consideration of the wishes of Okinawan residents.
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda may want to prevent the dispute from becoming a contentious issue in the current Diet session. However, history textbooks must be written entirely based on historical facts. Their contents should not be rewritten just to avoid hurting people’s feelings and smooth out Diet proceedings.
The foundation of textbook screening–a system that must be neutral and fair–could be shaken if descriptions in textbooks are subject to any changes in the political situation.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 3, 2007)
(Oct. 3, 2007)
South Korean obligation to compensate own people