RTTP: Setup Session 3
The Evolution of Pan-Asianism
Image of kids from Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
Icon of the Japanese Empire highlighted on the globe
Cover of "The Japan Magazine" edition in which "The White Peril" article appeared
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.”
[W]e have 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. ...
Racist ad for washing detergent (with Uncle Sam kicking Chinese imigrants into the Pacific Ocean
What are 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"?
Yellow Peril Icon
Was Nagai's "White Peril" response reasonable?
Icon of the Japanese Empire highlighted on the globe
Black Dragon Society Comic
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 thirtieth anniversary.
Today our empire has entered a critical period in which great zeal is required on the part of the entire nation. From the first, we members of the Amur Society have worked in accordance with the imperial mission for overseas expansion to solve our overpopulation; at the same time, we have sought to give support and encouragement to the peoples of East Asia. Thus we have tried to spread humanity and righteousness throughout the world by having the imperial purpose extended to neighboring nations.
Earlier [as the Genyosha], in order to achieve these principles, we organized the Heavenly Blessing Heroes in Korea in 1894 and helped the Tong Hak rebellion there in order to speed the settlement of the dispute between Japan and China. In 1899 we helped [Emilio] Aguinaldo in his struggle for independence for the Philippines. In 1900 we worked with other comrades in helping Sun Yat-sen start the fires of revolution in South China. In 1901 we organized this society and became exponents of the punishment of Russia, and thereafter we devoted ourselves to the annexation of Korea while continuing to support the revolutionary movement in China. At all times, we have consistently centered our efforts on solving problems of foreign relations, and we have not spared ourselves in this cause. ...
When we turn our attention to domestic affairs, we feel more than deep concern. There is a great slackening of discipline and order. Men’s hearts are become corrupt. Look around you! Are not the various government measures and establishments a conglomeration of all sorts of evils and abuses? The laws are confusing, and evil grows apace. The people are overwhelmed by heavy taxes; the confusion in the business world has complicated the livelihood of the people; the growth of dangerous thought threatens social order; and our national polity, which has endured for three thousand years, is in danger. This is a critical time for our national destiny; was there ever a more crucial day? What else can we call this time if it is not to be termed decisive? ...
We 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.
Flag of Imperial with a globe in the center
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.
2. We 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 principles.
3. We 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.
4. We 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.
5. We 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?
Black Dragon/Amur Society Logo
How did their mission abroad influence Japan's domestic platform?
Icon of the Japanese Empire highlighted on the globe
Cover of the Cultural Nippon magazine
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.
The characteristic of the Eastern conception of god is that it is not regarded, as in the West, as an existence in contrast to man. European myths represent god as creator and man as his creation. ... On the other hand, god and man are not 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 likewise seen in the conception of nature as against man. ... Far different is the Eastern conception of nature and man; there is no thought of confrontation or conquest; 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 analyzing nature or arranging it in terms of abstraction, or dealing with nature as something inanimate, the Eastern effort was to become one with the life of 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 the standpoint of mankind. Men are emancipated even from men. Their emancipation signifies a complete negation of authority and status. Men are regarded as equal, as individual units placed in reciprocal relationships and generally confronting in outlooks and interests. As God stands confronting man, and also as nature exists in opposition to him so men stand against men. ...
Road signs pointing toward "Harmony" (in the East) and "Conflict" (in the West)
But the Eastern school of thought conceives men only as forming a whole even as gods and men, nature and man, are considered to make a whole. Men are conceived either in moral relations as between the ruler and the ruled, parent and child, man and wife, brothers and sisters, or in social relationships of friends, of elder and younger, master and follower. There is no conception of men as individual units. They are always considered as units forming the whole. They are regarded as important only for the roles they play within the whole and the orders which are assigned to them within the same entirety of associate life. ... This idea in Japan is expressed in the undivided allegiance that every subject owes to the Emperor. ...
Kokutai: image of Emperor Hirohito at the center of the Womb World Mandala
The ruin 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. [Matsumoto 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"?
Icon of Imperial Japan
What is his solution to the "conflict" associated with Western civilization?
Icon of the Japanese Empire highlighted on the globe
East Asia  League
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.
The 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.
Map of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere showing member and observer nations
With the 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 [corner] 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?
East Asians in solidarity
How might history have changed had Miyazaki's vision of an East Asian League succeeded?
Icon of the Japanese Empire highlighted on the globe
Portrait of Baron Hiranuma Kiichiro
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 months.
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. ...
The 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?
Imperial Japan vs. the Soviet Union?
Why did Chiang Kai-shek accept substantial Soviet support (despite his abhorrence for communism)?
Emperor Hirohito
Japanese Bowing Illustration

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