Chapter 5: Imperial Japan’s Conceptual Foundations for Emancipation of Asia

The conceptual foundation for the three nation-Japan, Korea and China-defense alliance versus the West was expressed in “Dai Toa Gou Hou Ron” (Theory of Greater East Asia Federation) by Fujikichi Tarui, a proponent of “Dai Asia Shugi” (Great Pan-Asiaism)  in 1890. The book theorized two countries, Japan and Korea , merge under equal terms as one independent nation named “Dai Tou” (Greater Asia) and start the development of all Asian nations. Expectation was to include China into the alliance.  The book sold well in Japan, Korea and in China, where it sold more than 100,000 copies. His theories were well supported by Asians.  (p.123)

With the conceptual foundation of Japan Korea alliance established by Tarui and Ryouhei Uchida Japan prepared for the inevitable conflict of expansionary Russia (p.125)

Takamori Saigo, early Meiji Era statesman, is also credited with advocating ties with Korea to form an united defense against Russia.  On the Korea side  the Isshin Party with more than 1 million members led by Ri You Kyuu  who sympathized with ideals of united defense federation with Japan against Russia after reading  “Dai Toa Gou Hou Ron” (Theory of Greater East Asia Federation) by Tarui.  After the start of the Russo Japanese War he provided support and transportations to the Japanese military in Korean peninsula and into Manchuria (p.125)

Reason why Ri You Kyuu and Son Byon Jyun both pursued Japan Korea Federation was that of the three nations that influenced the destiny of Korea-China, Russia and Japan- Japan was most morally principled; there were 20 million people who enslaving under the Korean Li Dynasty, whom they wanted to bring under the benevolent governance of the Japanese Emperor.  Rather than to be a tributary subject state of Japan, entering Federation with Japan under equal terms deemed to be the better alternative. (p. 126)

On the Japan side, Uchida, Takeda, worked to actualize this federation of the two nations in the region.  Hirobumi Ito and Taro Katsura also advocated immigration plan into Manchuria, which is a federation of Japan, Korea and Manchuria.  Addition of China into this federation would have completed the Asian federation.  Tragically Hirobumi Itoh was assassinated by Ahn Jyu Kon in Harbin in October, 1909, which sparked an anti-federation movement in Japan which ultimately led to the annexation of Korea by Japan in August, l910 ending amicable federation efforts by the Ri, Kyuu, Ito, Tarui, Uchida et al. (p.126)

It was the Sino Japanese War (1895) that shocked the world about a small emerging power in Asia, Japan, who was expected to be defeated by China, soundly defeating China counter to the world expectations. That amazement was repeated again during the Boxer Rebellion (l900), and it was after the defeat of the Russia in Russo Japanese War (1905) that began to alarm the world about Japan’s superior military might.  China,  then regarded as a ‘Sleeping Giant’ compiling one defacing loss after another-1st and 2nd Opium War, Sino-French War-, but with guarded contempt as it had a population of 300 to 400 million people .  But, when its total defeat in the Sino-Japanese War (1895) it became regarded as nothing but a ‘Sleeping Pig’ and Western powers began to split China in a  ‘land grab’,  into their colonization schemes. For the Japanese the Sino Japanese War was not a war of aggression, but a defensive war against China who was trying to strengthen its suzerainty of Korea. (p.127)

The territorial split, the ‘land grab’ by the West of the so-called ‘Sleeping Pig’ soon ensued; Russia assumed the control of the East China Railroard, Liangdong Peninsula and Dalian; Germany Shangdong province; British annexed Kowloon, Yangtze River basin; French Hainan Island and Guangzhou; the US, which lagged behind, started to step up its expansionary plans in China basing its action on ‘Open Door Doctrine’ which it propagated.   All of these annexations and expansions into China clearly alarmed Japan which regarded China as its buffer zone. Particularly the Russian expansion into Manchuria and towards the Korean Peninsula was profoundly alarming (p.128)

It was Atsumaro Konoe who raised the voice of “Dai Asia Shugi” (Great Pan-Asiaism) in the 1890s as a nobility/statesman.  He personally observed Taiwan being annexed by French during Sino French War (1883-5). He concluded Japan would be next and began to advocate ‘Dai Asia Shugi’; His beliefs were that “Asia belongs to Asians, and problems in Asia should be resolved by the Asians.   China is currently in a decline; but the reason is not the race but the governance by the Qing regime.  If the governance in China can be changed then we can save Asia”.  Such an Asia centric philosophy amongst the nobility in Japan who usually embraced pro-West posture was a rarity.  Proclaiming “the execution of Monroe Doctrine in Asia is the responsibility of Japan and China “ Konoe advocated the cooperation between Japan and China. Such discussions about “Dai Asia Shugi” became lively after the Sino Japanese War (1895)  as many study groups and think tanks developed in Japan about the subject.  Some advocated creating a revolution to overthrow the Qing dynastic regime to modernize the governance of China while others advocated supporting the Qing dynastic regime against Western encroachers, but both agreed about the importance of keeping China intact from Western encroachment.  The overall  strategy aimed to 1)Keep China intact, 2)Reform and help the governance of China and Korea, 3)Study the status quo of China and Korea to come with actual implementation of strategy, and 4)Unify the national public opinion.  This constructive spirit of unified front against Western encroachment was shared by many leaders of China at the time to the end of WWII despite many anti-Japanese sentiments prevailed in Shanghai. (p. 129)

In 1900 the Boxer Rebellion occurred and quashed,  with Russia expanding into Manchuria as a result.  In 1901 when the secret treaty between Russia and Qing dynasty to annex Manchuria was exposed Atsumaro Konoe secretly appealed to the leaders of Qing dynastic regime to renounce this secret agreement.  Japan, Britain both strongly objected to Russia , and subsequently Qing regime did renounce the treaty and sent Konoe a letter of appreciation for saving China from national decline.  In 1902 with the renunciation of the Manchuria treaty Russia agreed to withdraw its military from Manchuria in a treaty.   However, in 1903 Russia not only cancel the withdraw of its occupation forces in Manchuria, but increased it and began to pressure Korea as well.   This forced Konoe to act once again stating “defense to maintain stability and peace of the Far East is the God ordained obligation of Imperial Japan” and debates within Japan started evolve towards major conflict with Russia. (p.129)

There is no doubt that Russo Japanese War which inevitably started was a war about maintenance of singular, independent,   peaceful and stable China; with the defeat of Russia in l905 the dreams of Russian annexation of Manchuria disappeared , also ended the Western nations activities to split of China.   Thoughts of recognition and acknowledgement that Japan fought for the peace and stability of East Asia prevailed amongst the Qing regime leaders, and voices to fight along with the Japanese against Russians proliferated amongst Qing regime leaders. (p.130)

In 1897, before the Russo Japanese War, Ryouhei Uchida, an influential Japanese political theorist who advocated nationalism and pan-Asiaism, was visited by  Sun Yat-sen who was seeking support for the revolution in China.  His response was “ we need to defeat the Russia in Russo Japanese War” to which Sun Yat-sen responded “ if the revolution is successful Manchuria will be promised to Japan.  We should confront Russia together in an alliance with Japan and China”.  Subsequently, Uchida changed his posture to support Sun’s revolution, as he thought if Manchuria could become under the control of Japan, thus the Russia’s southward encroachment could be stopped.  This promise to give Manchuria to Japan became known as “Sun Yet-sen Promise” and with belief in the integrity of this promise it became the premise with which Japan undertook risky support for the revolution in China. (p.130)

Following this a formation of a revolutionary group of renegade Chinese leaders and students took place in Tokyo, nominating Sun Yat-sen from Guangzhou as the Prime Minister of the provisional Chinese Republic and Wang Kou from Hunan as the Vice Prime Minister.  With these two leaders from different regions forming a revolutionary alliance, the revolutionary movement began evolve into a nation-wide movement.  The agreed platform of the revolutionary party included the following: “to eradicate the current corrupt regime”; “ create Republic of China”; “to develop alliance with the China and Japan” .  They heavily relied upon secret Japanese support for their militarily equipment and financial backing. (p.131)

Uchida wrote in “Shina Kaizou Ron” (“Theory of Restructured China”) the basic premise of Japan’s aid to the republican revolution in China; Japan will advise the Western nations to cooperate with the development of Republic of China and prevent division of China; transfer the governance of China from the Qing dynastic regime to Republic of China; Japan should become the mediator between the revolutionary forces and the Qing dynastic regime and quickly work to end the fighting, followed by transfer the Qing dynastic regime household to Mukden in Manchuria and treat them with due respect.  In essence, Uchida was seeking a formation of a new nation- a federation of Manchuria, Korea, and Mongolia-outside of purview of China with Qing governance intact with guidance from Japan.  Ulterior motive was clearly to stop Russian expansion into Asia. However, after the Chinese Republican Revolution ended in 1912 the revolutionaries opposed the transfer of Manchuria to Japan, contrary to the “Sun Yet-sen Promise”. Uchida was appalled but acknowledged this Chinese betrayal of the ‘Promise’, and shifted his allegiance toward Mongols and began the creation of a separate and independent federation of Manchuria and Mongolia. (p. 132)

The spirit of “Dai Asia Shugi” (Great Pan-Asiaism) can be explained in one episode described in the 1964 book “Meiji Restoration and Emancipation of the East”  by Uzuhiko Ashizu; In 1872 Peruvian slave transport ship ‘Maria Luz’ was docked in Yokohama carrying 230 Chinese slaves aboard in utterly  inhumane conditions.  The vice-governor of Kanagawa district which governs Yokohama allowed the ship to leave Yokohama only under the condition that all of the enslaved Chinese are freed and returned to China.  The Qing dynastic regime sent a letter of gratitude for these actions.   On the following year the Government of Peru sued Japan for violation of ‘immigration laws’ between Peru and China and international adjudication took place in St. Petersburg Russia by an international tribunal.  Japan won the adjudication as ‘Actions undertaken by Japan did not violate any international laws or treaty and was appropriate’.   This humanitarian act of kindness reflects the quintessential spirit of Meiji Restoration period foreign policy; it is a spirit to rise up and emancipate the enslaved Asian nations from the colonizing western nations. This will require strong nation building in Japan, as if it does not it will also be enslaved by the western nations.  Japan was the only nation in Asia that remained and was able to maintain its independent sovereignty at the time.  (p.135)

After the Russo Japanese War (1905) even the Qing dynasty regime turned favorable towards Japan, and advanced programs to strengthen its military and industrial foundation with advice and assistance from Japan.  But, on November of 1911 the Republican Revolution of China occurred and on the following year in January the new provisional government of Republic of China started in Nanking.  In spite of physical and soft support for the revolution Japan gave, after the start of the new republic China ignored and abandoned the ideals of procurement of peace and stability of the Far East and began movement to regain Manchuria, thus turning more and more hostile towards Japan.  This was viewed as breach of trust by the Japanese as well, and previously held optimism about forming a pan-Asian federation with Japan and China at the center, ideals of “Dai Asia Shugi”, began to erod.  (p.137)

In 1912 Uchida presented a statement to the Japanese Government to abandon the effort to seek to unify China and take measures by Japan singulary to secure the independence of Manchuria and Mongolia. (p.138)

The hopes further dissipated when ‘North South Treaty ‘ was made between Sun Yat-sen and Yuan Shikai, the leader of Qing dynasty regime, the arch-enemy of the republican revolutionary movement, where Yuan Shikai would become the first President of the Republic of China with Sun Yat-sen Vice President. Needless to say, the Japanese support for Chinese revolution vanished as anarchical civil war within China ensued. Yuan Shikai and Chinese never showed any understanding nor appreciation for the Japanese sacrifices and assistance Japan made for the Republican Revolution, modernization of China, and effort to bring peace, stability, and prosperity to Asia, and  China once again taking a hubristic condescending  view of Japan, began to take anti-Japan postures along with the British and the Americans, that became the fabric of the Japan China relationship hence forward . (p.140)

Manchuria was north of the Great Wall of China so was never regarded as part of China, thus for Sun Yat-sen to promise Japan the control of Manchuria after the revolution was a logical and believable promise.  Furthermore, if Japan occupied Manchuria then it would become a buffer zone against the Russian encroachment.   On the other hand, Yuan Shikai propagated the ‘Japanese expansionism’ to the British and Americans to create distance between pro-Japan elements of Republican revolutionaries and Japan. In 1923  “ Port Arthur (Liadong  Peninsula) and Dalian Retrieval Bill “ passed in the Chinese Diet.  For the Japanese the rights to Dalian and Port Arthur  were hard fought and sacrificed for as rights from the  Russo Japanese War, so such bill to take back these rights were simply unacceptable to the Japanese. For Uchida it only meat to create an independent Manchuria/Mongol federation under the purview of Japan(p.141)

In 1920 one of the warlords, Chou Saku Rin ( Zhang Zuolin),  with aid of Japanese military gained the control of Manchuria, declares independence of Manchuria in l922 and also gained control of Peking. The reason Chou was supported by the Japanese was a belief that he could serve as the peace keeping force to bring stability to Manchuria.  Thus, they were cautious about his ambitions to extend his dominance into China.  In 1927 when the anti-Japanese sentiment spread into Manchuria Chou attempted to sever his ties with Japan, but failed and seeing Chiang Kai Shek gaining strength as he marched northward toward Peking decided to retreat to Manchuria.   The Japanese army feared Chiang Kai Shek to extend his  pursuit of Chous into Manchuria.   In l928 Chou was assassinated by the Japanese military.   Then his son, Chou Gaku Ryou developed an alliance with Chiang Kai Shek’s Kuo Min Tang (Nationalist) promised return of Manchuria back to China and orchestrated anti-Japanese campaign including total boycott of Japanese goods and business, travel restrictions, tariffs, etc.  For the Japanese living and working in Manchuria, it was a total loss of their investments.  Step by step Japan and China began to move toward a total war. In 1931 the Japanese military planted a bomb on the Manchurian Railroad tracks and blamed the incident on Chou Gaku Ryou.  It was never conclusive as to who actually planted the bomb, but this incident became a pretext incident and gained the control of Mukden and Manchuria.  (p.144)

In l931 Sakdalista Party in Philippines , a political party seeking independence from the US was formed by Benigno Ramos with party philosophy developed by Pio Duran, a university professor who developed his independence movement political theories and strategies based on Pan Asiaism idea model after “Dai Asia Shugi” (Great Pan-Asiaism) propagated by  Sun Yat-sen and supported the idea of political federation of Japan and Philippines.  He supported the application of “Monroe Doctrine” in the Far East  with Japan at the nucleus, as advocated by Theodore Roosevelt who said “ As America took the leadership responsibilities to develop Latin America towards its independence by acting as a protectorate  from further European colonization, Japan should become the leader and a protectorate in a similar way”. (p. 145)

Duran applauded Mukden Incident and Japan’s exit from the League of Nations as a necessary means to establish peace and stability in the East, a responsible act undertaken by Japan.  In Manchuria what Japan did was to bestow independence to 30 million Manchurians, not an expansionary aggression as exhibited by the Western expansionists historically all over Asia; Germans who took over the Jiaozhou Bay in Shandong using the murder of 2 missionaries as a pretext; America annexing Philippines because of sinking of a junk boat; British taking of Hong Kong it refused to buy opium; Russia occupying Liandong Peninsula and Port Author with a forced treaty.   Duran saw a path to independence by the actions of Japan in Manchuria, but such academic was not welcomed by the Western powers, and after World War II Duran was imprisoned for being Japanese sympathizer. (p.146)

Sun Yat-sen was the founder of Chinese nationalism movement.  The aim was to model the Chinese Republican Revolution to the Meiji Restoration to instill modern sense of nationalism, strong national industrial base and military like Japan, and develop a strong Greater Asian Alliance with Japan and China at its nucleus .  Despite Kuo Min Tang (Nationalist) regard of Sun Yat-sen as the “Father of the Nation” and the Communist Chinese Party as the “Father of Chinese Revolution”, both never dare to mention about the respect Sun Yat-sen had embraced about Japan.  But, there is no denial that his learnings and experience in during his years while in exile in Japan as a political refugee had an enormous influence on the political philosophy and strategies of the Chinese Revolution. (p.147)

However, tragically,  China evolved increasingly hostile towards Japan afterwards, led by Chian Kai Shek who criticized Japan as a nation who desires to “dominate  China, entire Asia, entire world”.  Yet, in reality within the Japanese Government or the military there has never been any strategy or plan to expunge China, but to the contrary always sought peace with Chiang Kai Shek.   However, for someone who had held in-depth knowledge about Japan to make this kind of statement is an indication that it was virtually impossible for a Chinese to accept a new world order with Japan at its center, nor were the Chinese able to accept bi-lateral relationships with other countries on equal terms as themselves.  Whether it is Japan or Western nation, the foreigners  are regarded as ‘iteki’ (foreign barbarians)  historically in China, and it was the design of Chiang Kai Shek to let there be wars between Japan and other nations of ‘iteki’ prevail.  The ideals of emancipation of Asia or independence of Asian colonial states was not of interest to the Chiang or KMT nationalists, until end of World War II.  The Chinese, as a member of victors, began to propagate the idea of Asia centric co-prosperity sphere that originated in Japan,  with China at its center.(p.147)

Shuumei Ookawa and Kazuteru Kita were two figures who were regarded as the intellectual leaders with “Dai Asia Shugi” (Great Pan-Asiaism) foundations who influenced pre-World War II Japanese policies.  Ookawa was born in 1886 and studied religion at Tokyo University, and Indian religion was his interest.   In 1913 learned of the abhorring conditions for the colonized Asians under the colonial British rule by reading the book “New India” by Sir Henry Cotton and led him to study more about the similar subjugation of Asian people to slavery under various Western colonial rulers. He believed it was important for Japan to form a federation with China to control the Pacific to counter the Western encroachment. He met various Indian independence movement leaders living in exile in Japan and worked to form a support group in Japan to support the Indian independence leaders and movements. Ookawa wanted Asia to rise, but to do so Japan needed to rise first.  To Ookawa it was shocking to see the “Racial Equality Proposal” at the Paris Peace Conference defeated. (p.148)