The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, Resistance and Collaboration in Modern China

The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, Resistance and Collaboration in Modern China

The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, Resistance and Collaboration in Modern China

The Manchurian Myth: Nationalism, Resistance and Collaboration in Modern China

Synopsis

A powerful element in twentieth-century Chinese politics has been the myth of Chinese resistance to Japan's seizure of Manchuria in 1931. Investigating the shifting alliances of key players in that event, Rana Mitter traces the development of the narrative of resistance to the occupation and shows how it became part of China's political consciousness, enduring even today.

After Japan's September 1931 military strike leading to a takeover of the Northeast, the Chinese responded in three major ways: collaboration, resistance in exile, and resistance on the ground. What motives prompted some Chinese to collaborate, others to resist? What were conditions like under the Japanese? Through careful reading of Chinese and Japanese sources, particularly local government records, newspapers, and journals published both inside and outside occupied Manchuria, Mitter sheds important new light on these questions.

Excerpt

In May 1932, A. T. Steele, an American journalist commissioned by the New York Times, came to the end of a wet, muddy, and often dangerous journey. He had spent over a week trekking across the illmaintained back roads of Manchukuo, the puppet state established by the Japanese army in Northeast China in 1932. Steele had entered the Japanese-occupied region illegally, but he considered the risk to be worthwhile in his enthusiasm to chase down a big story: a face-to-face meeting with the renowned Manchurian Chinese resistance leader Ma Zhanshan. In the months after the first Japanese attack, Ma had come to public attention through a series of heroic telegrams he had sent describing his campaign of resistance to the Japanese in northern Heilongjiang province. These telegrams were published in the national Chinese press but reached as far as the League of Nations Assembly in Geneva. When the League sent a Commission of Enquiry in 1932 to explore the truth of the situation in Manchuria, they made a meeting with Ma Zhanshan one of their chief requests (although the meeting never actually took place). So Steele’s nose for a scoop told him that finding Ma Zhanshan would allow him to write a story that could have an impact on the world’s understanding of the rapidly unfolding clash between China and Japan.

The outline of that clash is well-known even today: on 18 September 1931, the Japanese Kwantung Army launched an invasion of Manchuria, the northeastern provinces of China. These events soon became known to the world as the “Manchurian Incident.” Soon afterward, they set up a state there that they called “Manchukuo,” independent in name but in . . .

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