China Only Yesterday, 1850-1950: A Century of Change

By Emily Hahn | Go to book overview

Chapter Twenty-one

The leaders of the militarist party that dominated the island empire were committed to expansion. Their lack of control over Manchuria had long exasperated them, particularly after Chang Hsueh- liang's new railways began to take revenue away from the main South Manchurian line, and the Young Marshal evaded their attempts to discuss the matter. That summer a fight took place between a few Chinese and Korean farmers in Manchuria; exaggerated reports of the affair resulted in an anti-Chinese riot in Korea in which many Chinese were killed. In August a Japanese army captain, Nakamura, was traveling in Manchuria mysteriously disguised as a teacher, on a Chinese passport. He was carrying, if the Chinese were to be believed, heroin with which he intended to buy information. He was assassinated, and the two countries were still arguing about the incident on the decisive date of September 18, but the explosive spark was a row over a length of railway track near Mukden. The Japanese later claimed that Chinese soldiers were ripping it up and their men tried to prevent it. Whatever the truth might be, the fight gave them the chance they had long wanted; Japanese troops now moved in on the pretext that their nationals must be protected. They arrived with such efficiency that the Young Marshal, ill in bed at the time, was slow to round up his troops and resist. Though after they got started his men fought well, Japan had control of the country before the middle of February. Throughout the hostilities the Japanese maintained the fiction that Manchuria was seeking independence and they were helping her. Each time a region was occupied, they set up a so-called independence committee of puppets, and on March 1 they proclaimed the new state of "Manchukuo," which is Chinese for "Manchuland." As a finishing touch Japan presented to Manchuria as their chief executive none other

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