“The White Peril”
The Japan Magazine, May, 1913
|Nagai Ryutaro (1881-1944) was born into a
samurai family in Kanazawa. As a young man he converted to Christianity, and
studied at Manchester College, Oxford. Upon his return he taught at Waseda
University, and edited a monthly magazine (Shin Nippon). A political
liberal, Nagai championed universal suffrage, social welfare, labor unions, and
even rights for women. At the same time, he was deeply resentful of the racist,
anti-Asian attitudes he encountered among westerners, which led him to become
one of the earliest advocates of pan-Asianism (although he never used the term).
Many Europeans and Americans of the age spoke of a “Yellow Peril,” claiming
that the West was in mortal danger from the peoples of East Asia. This was
sheer fiction, Nagai countered; the real threat was the “White Peril,” and its
victims were the non-white peoples of the world. The nations of East Asia,
therefore, needed to unite in resistance to “white imperialism.”
been treated by the white races in recent years to tracts, treaties and
newspaper articles galore on what they are pleased to call, “The Yellow
Peril.” Surely, in comparison with the white races, there is no indication
of any peril of yellow aggression, at least. ... Mr. Leroy Beaulieu [1843-1916] says that
the human race may be classified as 1. Civilized Christian peoples; 2.
Civilized Non-Christian races; 3. Half-civilized people; 4. Savage tribes. The
former, he holds, have the right and obligation to lead the latter two classes
to civilization, just as parents have the right and the duty to educate their children. According to this theory it would be
unjust to reproach any nation for intruding upon a barbarous race to impose
upon it civilized conditions. But the difficulty is that most of such interferences do not appear to be for any
benevolent purpose, the motive being, for the most part, simply aggressive. ...
the yellow races to say to all this, especially in the face of complaints
against the yellow peril? Can we be regarded as either unreasonable or
unnecessarily offensive if we incline to the conviction that the peril is
rather a white one? ... Viewing the matter seriously, for it is a very
serious matter indeed, it ought to be said that every defiance of justice must in
the long run provoke revolt. Just as in the labour world, if the capitalist is
unfair in his division of profits and the labourers are ground down, they will
not forever submit, so the international world, unless justice obtains between
race and race, there will be trouble. In the case under review, then, who will
be responsible for the trouble? If one race assumes the right to appropriate
all the wealth, why should not all the other races feel ill-used and protest?
If the yellow races are oppressed by the white races, and have to revolt to
avoid congestion and maintain existence, whose fault is it but that of the
aggressors? [Nagai Ryutaro, “The White Peril,” The Japan Magazine, 1913, pp. 39-42.] (Game Book, 85-7)
Why were East Asians referred to as the "Yellow Peril"?
Was Nagai's "White Peril" response reasonable?
The Black Dragon (Amur) Society
30th Anniversary Statement, 1931
|Japan’s first ultranationalist
society, the Genyosha, was formed by a group of former samurai in 1881.
Horrified by the wholesale adoption of western ideas by the Japanese
government, and particularly by the decline of the country’s traditional
warrior class, the group became a dedicated enemy of liberalism. However, it
promoted the cause of pan-Asianism by offering support to pro-Japanese
revolutionary movements elsewhere in East Asia. In 1901 the group reformed
itself as the Kokuryukai (Amur Society, or, more literally, Black Dragon
Society), named for the river that separates Russia from northeastern China,
and dedicated itself primarily to promoting war with Russia. After World War I
the group increasingly connected pan-Asianism to domestic reform, bemoaning the
plight of Japanese farmers and denouncing the zaibatsu as selfish and
unpatriotic. The group published the following statement in recognition of its
stand for imperial rulership (tenno shugi).
Basing ourselves on the fundamental teachings of the foundation of the empire,
we seek the extension of the imperial influence to all peoples and places and
the fulfillment of the glory of our national polity.
1. Developing the great plan of the founders of the
country, we will widen the great Way (tao)
of Eastern culture, work out a harmony of Eastern and Western cultures, and
take the lead among Asian peoples.
will bring to an end many evils, such as formalistic legalism, which restricts
the freedom of the people, hampers commonsense solutions, prevents efficiency
in public and private affairs, and destroys the true meaning of constitutional
government. Thereby we will show forth again the essence of the imperial
shall rebuild the present administrative system. We will develop overseas
expansion through the activation of our diplomacy, further the prosperity of
the people by reforms in internal government, and solve problems of labor and
management by the establishment of new social policies. Thereby we will
strengthen the foundations of the empire.
shall carry out the spirit of the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors and
stimulate a martial spirit by working toward the goal of a nation in arms.
Thereby we look toward the perfection of national defense.
plan a fundamental reform of the present educational system, which is copied
from those of Europe and the Americas; we shall set up a basic study of a
national education originating in our national polity. Thereby we anticipate
the further development and heightening of the wisdom and virtue of the Yamato
[i.e. Japanese] race.
[Source: Wm. Theodore de Bary, et
al (eds.), Sources of Japanese Tradition,
Volume Two: 1600-2000, Part Two: 1868-2000 (New York: Columbia University
Press), pp. 263-265.] (Game Book, 93-5)
What was the ultimate goal of the Amur Society?
How did their mission abroad influence their Japan's domestic platform?
“Eastern Culture and Its Particular Features”
Matsumoto Gaku, Cultural Nippon, 1933
|Matsumoto Gaku (1886-1974) graduated from
Tokyo Imperial University in 1911 and began a long career in the Home Ministry.
At various points he served as head of the Shrines Bureau, the Social Bureau,
and the Police Bureau, and as governor of Shizuoka, Kagoshima, and Fukuoka
prefectures. As one of the “new bureaucrats” who came to dominate policy in the
early 1930s, Matsumoto despised party government, which he regarded as venal
and corrupt, and embraced a vision of enlightened rule by elites.
In 1933 Matsumoto formed the Japan Culture
League to promote pan-Asianism and to resist the influence of Communism in East
Asia. It served as an umbrella group for a variety of cultural organizations — nearly
three hundred by 1938 — encompassing the visual arts, literature, theater, and
martial arts. Among the League’s publications was a monthly English-language
magazine titled Cultural Nippon, in which the following appeared.
characteristic of the Eastern conception of god is that it is not
in the West, as an existence in contrast to man. European myths
as creator and man as his creation. ... On the other hand, god and man
conceived as at conflict in any of the Eastern schools of thought
or philosophy. ... The confronting positions taken by God and man
in the thought of the West, to which I have already referred, are
in the conception of nature as against man. ... Far different is the
conception of nature and man; there is no thought of confrontation or
no materialism as against spiritualism. Here nature and man are
conceived as of
one origin, born of gods and not created by them. ... Instead of
nature or arranging it in terms of abstraction, or dealing with nature
something inanimate, the Eastern effort was to become one with the life
nature itself. ... Lastly, with regard to man, it is the rule of
the modern school of the West to consider all things of creation from
standpoint of mankind. Men are emancipated even from men. Their
signifies a complete negation of authority and status. Men are regarded
equal, as individual units placed in reciprocal relationships and
confronting in outlooks and interests. As God stands confronting man,
as nature exists in opposition to him so men stand against men. ...
the Eastern school of thought conceives men
only as forming a whole even as gods and men, nature and man, are
make a whole. Men are conceived either in moral relations as between
and the ruled, parent and child, man and wife, brothers and sisters, or
social relationships of friends, of elder and younger, master and
There is no conception of men as individual units. They are always
as units forming the whole. They are regarded as important only for the
they play within the whole and the orders which are assigned to them
same entirety of associate life. ... This idea in Japan is expressed in
undivided allegiance that every subject owes to the Emperor. ...
of the western civilization is now spoken of as it never has been. Its
possibility is seen as never before. If the fabric of European civilization
collapses, as it is threatening to do, it would mean the defeat of the
intellectual achievement of the West, the collapse of the structure built by
processes of analysis, formulation of abstract rules, subjugation of
contradictory interests; the defeat of the minds that moved by tenets of
individualism and liberalism. The fate that faces the West could only be
averted by adoption of the cultural principle of Eastern life which is total in
attitude, life-giving in purpose and harmonizing and peaceful in the working of
intellectual forces. The scientific achievement of the West should be elevated
by the principle of the East. Into the technical accomplishments of the West in
the modern ages a new blood should be infused in the form of Eastern wisdom.
The duty now imposed on the East is to negate the modern civilization of the
West in its fundamental points, to give it flesh and blood anew from the deep
wisdom of the East, and develop a new order of world civilization, higher in
motive and greater in scope. This is the world mission with which the East is
now charged. The oft-repeated dictum, “Light comes from the East,”
rings never truer than at present.
Gaku, “Eastern Culture and Its Particular Features,” Cultural Nippon, 1933, pp. 1-15. (Game Book, 100-1)]
Do you agree with Matsumoto's perspective on the differences between "East" and "West"?
What is his solution to the "conflict" associated with Western civilization?
“On the East Asian League”
Miyazaki Masayoshi, Cultural Nippon, 1938
|Born to a former samurai family from Kanazawa,
Miyazaki Masayoshi (1897-1954) was studying Russian in St. Petersburg when the
tsarist regime was overthrown in March 1917. He left before the Bolshevik
seizure of power that October, but his subsequent career would be shaped by
these developments. Taking a job with research section of the South Manchurian
Railway, he became the company’s resident expert on Soviet affairs. Although he
had no fondness for Marxism, Miyazaki — like many of Japan’s “reform bureaucrats”
admired the Soviet model of a centrally-planned economy. After the Japanese
occupation of Manchuria in 1931 he submitted a proposal calling for the
development of heavy industry in the region largely on Soviet lines.
In 1937 Miyazaki, now in Tokyo on the staff of
an Army-based think tank called the Japan-Manchukuo Finance and Economics
Research Association, proposed a plan for state-controlled development of Japan
itself. The goal was to give Japan, within five years, the industrial power to
face any of the more-developed powers of the West. His vision called for
substantial government control of the economy, and rigid controls on banks and
other privately-owned institutions. To his frustration, however, the immediate
needs of the China Incident got in the way of his long-term projects. He also
worried that to the Chinese and other peoples of East Asia the actions of the
Japanese Army too closely resembled the methods of western imperialism, and
might therefore undermine the appeal of pan-Asianism. While the army naturally
rejected this view, it became popular — along with Miyazaki’s views on economic
planning — among Japan’s bureaucracy.
policy of an East Asian League means turning away from our emulation of
European imperialist and colonial polices and eventually repudiating them. ... I cannot
emphasize enough that, in abandoning our imperialist policies, our nation must
not vacillate. Today, the ambition to justify all of Japan’s deeds has a strong
grip over the nation. A posture of ruthlessly defending every one of our
policies in the past, however, does not demonstrate the magnanimity of a great
nation. Although our continental policy brought peace and prosperity to Korea
and achieved a perfect merger of the Japanese and Korean peoples, we should not
lose sight of the fact that we have lost supporters for our policies in East
Asia. Japan must revert to its own course. It must reestablish a position of leadership in East
Asia. For this reason, it is essential that we drive out any vestiges of
imperialist thought remaining in our public discourse. As long as these
attitudes persist in Japan, it will be difficult for East Asians to grasp the
East Asian League framework, but moreover its policies will lose their moral
force. In this sense, Japan, as the advocate for the League, must investigate
the psyche of oppressed peoples thoroughly at every stage of the League’s
formulation. We must be ever mindful that the structure of the League not
replace the system of Western exploitation with a system of Japanese oppression
and must further be resolved not to give the impression that it will.
League taking as its goal the liberation of East Asian peoples, the right of
political independence of liberated peoples must be guaranteed unconditionally.
As Japan and its allies cooperate with the liberation movements of other East
Asian peoples, it must be left to voluntary decision whether they join the
League or whether they remain completely independent nations. Further, we must
recognize a right of withdrawal after joining. The East Asian League is a union
of autonomous East Asian nations, which should be bound closely by the sinews
of mutual political and economic
interdependence between Japan and its allies. It is not a system of coercion.
The ultimate will to independent statehood cannot be suppressed. I believe
that, with Japan and its allies assuming this stance, centrifugal forces will
be very weak and the chances of a people distancing themselves from the League
would be extremely small. From the perspective of the development of national
economies generally or from the perspective of the benefits for ordinary
individuals, the fact is that advantage is gained by being part of a big nation
or a big bloc. During this recent period of quasi-warfare among competing
blocs, this holds especially true for a small, weak country in the comer of
East Asia. The historical significance of an East Asian League to East Asians
could be most easily understood were Japan to adopt such a stance. [Sven Saaler and Christopher W.A.
Szpilman, eds., Pan-Asianism: A
Documentary History, Volume 2: 1920-Present (Lanham, MD: Rowman &
Littlefield, 2011), pp. 182-183.] (Game Book, 106-7)
In what ways did Japan emulate imperialist and colonial polices of the West?
How might history have changed had Miyazaki's vision of an East Asian League succeeded?
“The New Asiatic Order”
Radio Address by Baron Hiranuma Kiichiro,1939
|Born in 1867 to a middling samurai family in
Okayama province, Hiranuma Kiichiro graduated with a law degree from Tokyo
Imperial University in 1888. As a prosecutor for the Justice Ministry he
distinguished himself in a 1910 trial against a group of anarchists accused of
conspiring to assassinate the Meiji Emperor. Two years later he was given the
post of prosecutor general, which he held until 1921. In that year he founded
an organization called the Kokuhonsha (National Foundation Society), which came
to exercise enormous influence within the government. Indeed, many of Japan’s
leading bureaucrats, generals and admirals sought membership in the group,
seeing it as a means of advancing their careers. After serving as Justice
Minister from 1923 to 1924 Hiranuma was invited to join the Privy Council, and in
1926 was elevated to the peerage with the title “Baron.” Ten years later he
became President of the Privy Council, but retired from that body after a few
In 1939 the Emperor named Hiranuma prime minister,
and in that capacity he gave the following speech to the Imperial Diet. While
he professed great admiration for Chinese culture — in fact, he owned a large
library of the Chinese classics — he explained that the degeneracy of Jiang
Jieshi’s government, and the threat of Soviet Communism, made it necessary for
Japan to continue the fight on the continent.
|The forces for construction of the new East Asia
are rearing their heads with a strength that nothing can resist. I am glad to
be given an opportunity of saying a word or two at this most important period
of renovation. Everlasting peace is the common ideal of the world. The
endeavors of Japan to make East Asia a Utopia of everlasting peace with the
China incident as the turning point are aimed at completion of the
Heaven-ordained task to fulfill the aspirations of the entire people of East
Asia. Japan, Manchoukuo and China, joined common letters and racial ties, are
geographically and historically situated together in such a way that the
relationship of coexistence and coprosperity among them is inevitable. They
have a common destiny to rely on one another, to help one another and to work
together for the common prosperity of East Asia. It is of the first importance
for the three nations clearly to take cognizance of this inseparable
friendship. The policy of the Empire [of Japan] for the construction of a new
order in East Asia remains precisely as stated by the former Premier, Prince
Konoye, and is aimed ultimately at assuring eternal stability of East Asia by
the three nations working hand in hand. For this purpose, the three nations
must establish relations of mutual linkage in politics, economics and culture
and must collaborate for the establishment of international justice,
achievement of joint anti-Comintern defense, creation of a new civilization and
realization of economic combination. ...
great evil and harm being wrought by the doctrine which the Comintern [the
Third Communist International founded in Moscow in March 1919] is spreading
throughout the world and its incompatibility with this Oriental morality need
not be expatiated upon. The National Government [under Jiang Jieshi, based in
Chongqing], which has forgotten the Chinese people under the pressure of the
Communist Party, has adopted a policy of admitting Communism into China and is
being more and more submerged under the pressure of the Communist Party. If
nothing is done to check the tendency, China will be brought under the control
of the Comintern, and the entire Chinese territory will be Bolshevized.
Intelligent Chinese are aware of this and keenly feel the need for rescuing
their country and innocent people from the talons of Communism. ... [I]f the National Government, failing to
appreciate the real value of the movement of reconstruction of a New East Asia
which is spreading over the Continent, is relying on the assistance of third
Powers to continue its anti-Japanese operations merely
for the sake of preserving its own position, its shortsightedness must be
called pitiable and likened to a drowning man clutching at a straw. [Japan’s Diplomacy: Its Aims and Principles, As Outlined in the Speeches
and Remarks By Hachiro Arita, Foreign Minister, At the 74th Session
of the Imperial Diet, 1938-39 (Tokyo: Japan Times
and Mail, 1939), pp. 24-27.] (Game Book, 108-10)
Is Hiranuma's assessment of the communist threat in China accurate?
Why was Chiang Kai-shek accepting
substantial Soviet support (despite his abhorrence for communism)?