The Nanjing Decade
The Guomindang in Power
National Reunification
The plans designed by Chiang and [the warlord] Feng Yuxiang called for an immediate joint attack on Tianjin to cut the railway that offered an escape route to the Shanhaiguan pass for Zhang Zuolin’s Manchurian troops, stationed in Peking. But Tianjin was the site of five key foreign concessions with their accompanying investments, and the foreigners wanted no trouble there. Accordingly the Japanese took the lead in assuring Zhang Zuolin that if he abandoned Peking and retreated peacefully back to Manchuria, they would prevent the southern Guomindang armies from passing beyond the Great Wall or through the Shanhaiguan pass. After frantic attempts to think up other options, Zhang Zuolin gave in and on June 2 left Peking with his staff in a luxury railcar.
As he approached Mukden on the morning of June 4 [1928], a bomb exploded, wrecking the train and killing Zhang. The assassination was carried out by Japanese officers and engineers garrisoned in southern Manchuria who disagreed with the more measured policy of the government in Tokyo. Their goal was to provoke a general crisis that would lead to widespread mobilization and an extension of Japan’s northeast China power base.
Instead the Shanxi general Yan Xishan occupied Peking, as planned by the Guomindang, while one of his subordinates peacefully occupied Tianjin. The Guomindang then pressed for an agreement with Zhang Xueliang, who succeeded to his murdered father’s rule in Manchuria. While yielding to Japanese demands that he maintain the “autonomy” of Manchuria, Zhang also accepted an appointment to the State Council of the new National government formally proclaimed at Nanjing on October 10. At the end of 1928 he pledged allegiance to the National government and raised the Nationalist flag. Sun Yat-sen’s dream seemed to have been realized after all, and the Guomindang flag, with its white sun on a blue and red ground, flew from Canton to Mukden. [SMC, 330-1]

Those Japanese army officers who had hoped that the 1928 assassination of Zhang Zuolin would spark a wider war in north China were disappointed. The Tokyo government took a watchful attitude and did not order general mobilization. Instead, Zhang Zuolin’s son, Zhang Xueliang, succeeded to the leadership of his father’s troops. ... Despite Japanese warnings that they opposed the reunification of Manchuria with the rest of China, Zhang ... pledged loyalty to the Nanjing government in December 1928. ... The Japanese had hoped to influence or even dominate Zhang through two of his father’s close confidants who had been important military and civil leaders in the northeast. Zhang, aware of this plan, invited the two men to dinner in January 1929 and had them shot during the meal. ...
[Chiang Kai-shek and Zhang Xueliang] kept up steady pressure on the Japanese, refusing to negotiate new railway deals, actively working for the recovery of existing Japanese rights, and resuming development of a new port facility in south Manchuria to undercut the prosperity of the Japanese-controlled Lüshun. The Guomindang also waged a comprehensive economic boycott of Japanese imports, following serious anti-Chinese outbreaks in Korea.
Faced with intensifying domestic violence against Japanese politicians and industrialists, and an economy in decline, members of the War Ministry and the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo began moves to curb the actions of their army in Manchuria. In early September 1931 the Japanese government sent a senior general to Lüshun with orders that the commanding Japanese officer in Manchuria use “prudence and patience” in handling problems there. Once such orders had been formally issued, it would have been impossible for the Manchurian army to proceed as it chose. Alerted to the purpose of the general’s visit by a secret cable from a junior staff officer in Tokyo, Japanese army officers in Mukden decided to act before they received the restraining orders.
On the night of September 18, 1931, they set off explosives on a stretch of railway line outside Mukden, selected because it was near the largest barracks of Chinese troops in the region. In the noise and confusion, skirmishes broke out between the Japanese and Chinese. The Mukden region’s senior Japanese staff officer followed up by ordering a full-scale attack on the Chinese barracks, and the capture of the walled city of Mukden itself. The Japanese consul tried to remonstrate, but was silenced when one of the officers drew his sword. ... [Chiang Kai-shek] could not afford another large-scale conflict. Instead he ordered Zhang Xueliang not to risk his troops in pitched battles and to withdraw them south of the Great Wall. By year’s end, Manchuria was under complete Japanese control. [SMC, 350-2]
Japan on the Mukden Incident
A few minutes past 10 o’clock on the evening of September 18, a lieutenant and six privates of the railway guards stationed at Hushitai were proceeding southward on patrol practice along the railway track. When they reached a point about six or seven hundred meters south of the North Barracks of the Fengtien army, they suddenly heard the sound of an explosion in the rear. They hurriedly retraced their steps to the spot where the explosion had occurred, and found a number of Chinese soldiers running in the direction of the North Barracks after destroying a section of the track. They gave chase to them, when they were suddenly fired upon by Chinese troops, four or five hundred strong .... They hurried 120 men to the scene and engaged and defeated the enemy, who fled into the North Barracks pursued by the Japanese troops. Upon attempting to enter the barracks, they were greeted with a hail of bullets and shells from rifles, machine-guns and infantry guns, but succeeded [in] occupying part of the barracks. They had, however, to fight hard for a time as they were pitted against overwhelming numbers, until they were reinforced by the main strength of the battalion then stationed at Mukden. Subsequently with the help of reinforcements hurried from Tieling the Japanese succeeded in clearing the North Barracks of their assailants by daybreak of the following day. ...
The total strength of the Japanese army in service in Manchuria at that time was only 10,400, while that of the Chinese was as high as 220,000 .... If, therefore, the Chinese army attacked ours, not only would our men find it difficult to discharge their duty of defending the Guandong Leased Territory and protecting 1,100 kilometres of the South Manchuria Railway, but the lives of one million Japanese subjects residing in Manchuria would be exposed to great danger. For this reason it was imperative for the Japanese army to act promptly, to concentrate the troops scattered about in small numbers at various points of strategic importance and to forestall the hostile forces by taking advantage of the efficient training of the men and the railway facilities that could be commanded. In other words, it was the only course left open to our army, in confronting the numerically far superior hostile forces, to attack them first and eliminate the troops immediately opposed to it as quickly as possible, and to find a means of discharging its duties by securing scope for active operations. Accordingly as soon as a report of the incident reached them, the higher command of our army promptly commenced operations for removing all causes of danger by disarming the Chinese troops in its vicinity. [DC, 266-7]
Japan Defended
Matsuoka Yosuke: Chamber of Commerce, 1934
It seems strange to Japanese that though the United States and the League of Nations took no notice of Soviet Russia’s annexation of Outer Mongolia and made no protest against her bloody attempt to Sovietize all of China only seven years ago, they vigorously protested against Japan’s action in Manchuria, ignoring the bandit character of the government there and the vital interests of Japan, both economically and strategically. ...
The methods of Western countries in dealing with Japan for some years have been partisan. Without protest, Germany could take territory in China, establish a naval base at Tsingtao and create a “sphere of influence” in Shantung (as she did in 1898); but when Japan drove the Germans out of that province, during the World War, the American Government objected to Japan’s assumption of the German rights.
France could seize the extensive territory of Indo-China and extend her “sphere of influence” up into the Province of Yunnan, in China proper, and no criticism comes for Europe of America. But when Japan objects to French extension of possession to two small sparsely populated islands off the Indo-China Coast, from which our people have long obtained guano [bird dung], American and European newspapers charge that we plan to create an airplane base on these islands and state that this is further evidence of our aggressive intentions.
Britain may hold Hongkong and lay claim to a “sphere of influence” throughout the Yangtse Valley, but when Japan seeks railway and other concessions of less importance we are charged with dangerous designs. ...
America may acquire the Philippine Islands, an Asiatic territory 6,000 miles away from her shores, but when Japan takes control of Korea, a country smaller in territory than the Philippines and only 100 miles away from her island borders, the action is denounced.
To the Western mind it would seem what Europe or America does in Asia is in the nature of duty and in the line of human progress, while what we do is in the nature of selfish interest. But, in fact, we, being Asiatics, are far more capable of dealing with other Asiatics in their best interests than are Americans or Europeans.
For example, in bringing order out of chaos in Korea we killed far fewer people than the Americans killed in suppressing the independence movement in the Phillippines [sic]. Yet independence was the key-word in the making of America.
In Manchuria now there is better government than exists in any part of China proper. None of the score or more military dictatorships in China is as considerate of the people as the government of Manchukuo under that country’s legitimate ruler, the Emperor Kang The [i.e. Puyi, the Last Emperor of China]. No comparison can be made between the orderly condition prevailing in Manchukuo and the terror that holds sway in even the provinces of China controlled by the so-called National Government.
The capital of Manchukuo, Hsinking, is an orderly, thriving city, while Nanking, the Chinese capital, is a wreck in which no Chinese banker or merchant of importance, unless affiliated with the government and personally protected by it, dares invest his money. The independent Chinese bankers, merchants and newspapers have crowded for existence into the foreign protected and French and International Settlements in Shanghai, where American, French, British and Japanese naval vessels lie constantly at anchor.
As a result of civil wars in China since the republic was proclaimed in 1911, the great majority of the people are in desperate condition. Tens of millions of men have the alternatives only of actual starvation or service under one of the military leaders. A rising of the people against these leaders is impossible. Unarmed men with empty stomachs cannot fight today against troops, as they did in the French Revolution; the machine gun protects the dictator, who is safe as long as his army is loyal.
That explains why today, as before the independence of Manchuria, the Chinese peasants are flocking to that country, often selling their daughters into slavery or prostitution to get the money to enable them to take their sons up into the cold northern territory beyond the Great Wall, where the presence of Japanese troops makes life and property safe and enables the Manchukuo Government to function. [DC (1st Edition), 284-6]
The Naughty Japanese
A Satirical Poem

I am bad
All others good;
O wherefore should this be?
Strong nations have their lovers
— Except the Japanese.
Look upon the cheery Indo-Chin,
For brunet Senegal spare but a glance;
Syria too considers with a grin
How deep her debt to kindly rule of France.
For I am bad
All others good;
O wherefore should this be?
There’s place for you in heaven
— But not the Japanese.
Children of the jewel Irish Isle
Johnny Bull their tender homage give;
Ghandi’s natives likewise fondly smile,
Grateful they have still a right to live.
Yes I am bad
All others good;
O wherefore should this be?
Make way for all the righteous
— This bars the Japanese.
Mongol Herder murmurs “Vive La Russe”!
Master’s voice is heard at every campfire.
Who would care to make the smallest fuss,
In Soviet Union’s gentle empire?
I am bad
All others good;
O wherefore should this be?
Hell is closed to everyone
— Except the Japanese.
Benevolent the pious hand of Sam:
Europe for his loans is full of praise;
Hawaii, Haiti, blacks in Alabam
Bless his rule that brings delirious days.
Ugh! I am bad
All others are good;
O wherefore should this be!
Faultless are the empires
— Except the Japanese.
Destiny has marked us on the stage,
Villain part as foil against the rest;
How else could sanctified and sage
Except by contrast rate themselves the best!
So I am bad
All others are good;
O wherefore should this be?
All mankind’s in union
— But the naughty Japanese.
[DC, 281-2]

Politics of Power
General von Falkenhausen’s Advice to Chiang Kai-shek, 1936

Between 1934 and 1937, the Nanjing regime developed a close relationship with the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler. ... Several Germans in sequence served as Chiang’s chief foreign military advisors ... [and] were the architects of the positional warfare tactics that led to the destruction of the Jiangxi Soviet in October 1934. Von Falkenhausen, as this top secret memorandum to Chiang indicates, also had strong ideas in the political realm and was anxious to see Chiang emerger as a president with powers similar to those enjoyed by Hitler.
The history of all times has taught us that leaders are needed by states and nations in times of distress, when only the concerted application of all state and national power can provide the necessary control over their destiny. Absolute power made possible the great deeds of such historical figures, from Julius Caesar to Genghis Khan, such as Cromwell, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon I. ... Limited power, however, or a division of power, but also the inadequacy of the leader, have almost invariably brought struggles for national existence to an unsuccessful end .... In applying the supreme power of command of the President care must be taken not to limit the instruments of power of the state to the traditional armed forces on land, sea, and air, but to note that modern warfare requires the combined strength of the whole state and its people, down to the smallest detail. We [in China] have also tried centralization through the person of the Generalissimo [i.e. Chiang Kai-shek] and the creation of the National Military Commission. But since the highest officers of the armed forces continue to exist unchanged, there is in practice a lack of clarity in the division of spheres of competence and responsibility. ... Thus to create a clear and unitary organization is important. It must assure in peace time the shaping and the coordination of all the direct and indirect elements that make up the state and the nation’s defensive capacity, so that they work automatically in time of war. [DC, 287-9]