井底之蛙

1/12/2013

Japanese Counter-Insurgency: Strategy or Tactic?

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:45 pm Print

Robert Farley’s article on Japan’s WWII Counter-Insurgency planning and implementation begs the question of whether COIN, as it’s called now, was a strategy or a tactic. (Though it also illustrates something I’d like to see more of: blogging on journal articles and book chapters. Yes, I should do more of that, too.) Farley says

[retired Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) Lieutenant General Noboru] Yamaguchi suggests that elements of the Japanese Army and a variety of hybrid civil-military organizations took the problem of COIN quite seriously from a strategic point of view, appreciating that the only way to victory in China was the establishment of a self-sustaining, pro-Japanese Chinese government.

Farley goes on to cite some examples, but he also notes some of the atrocities associated with the Japanese military in China (and elsewhere), and also that resources for “hearts and minds” operations were decidedly lacking. Comfort Women are notably missing, which is too bad: it’s a fantastic example of an attempt to solve the “hearts and minds” problem that goes horribly wrong.

But what struck me about the discussion is the use of the term “strategy”, which suggests a substantial goal, guiding tactics and training. I don’t doubt that there were Japanese who saw the necessity of developing real ties with China, building relationships, any more than I doubt that some Japanese authentically believed the pan-Asianism which underlay the rhetoric of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. What I don’t believe is that Japanese military, political or economic leaders were at all serious about the GEACPS, or that pan-Asianism was more than a theoretical and rhetorical fig leaf for aggressive imperialism. And I don’t believe that “hearts and minds” COIN really rose to the level of “strategy”: military training and tactics routinely ignored priorities beyond raw domination and control. Farley’s right that resource issues and circumstances mitigated against long-term relationship-building, and our colleague Konrad Lawson has been doing fascinating work on Chinese who did develop strategic alliances with Japanese occupiers. But just as Manchukuo illustrates the hollowness of Japanese claims to support Chinese autonomy, the realities of the battlefield and occupation make it clear that winning over Chinese support was far from a serious strategic consideration.

That said, I was also struck by a comment on the article from one “John Chan”

Japan is an unapologetic war criminal; Yamaguchi’s quote is the tip of iceberg of how Japanese systematically white wash their war crimes and gloss over their atrocities.

Thru history Japanese are pirates; barbarism, deceitfulness, and brutality are their way of life. Using atrocity to overcome any resistance is their default choice of action; the conformity nature of the Japanese makes them particular wicked, they will compete in cruelty as an honour, it makes Yamaguchi’s quote about Japanese COIN theory an outright shameless lie and evidence of Japanese has no remorse about its war crimes.

This is not, as I understand it, an uncommon view of Japan from a Chinese mainland perspective. The historiographical accusation is a familiar one — Japan has a long history of denying, downplaying, ignoring, and justifying modern atrocities which is rivaled only by a few other countries1 — but the idea of wartime Japan as an authentic representation of Japan’s essential historical character is something I hadn’t seen before.2 Connecting the wako pirates (I assume that’s what he means) to WWII is an historical and cultural stretch that boggles the historical imagination. But if you’re looking at Japan solely through the lens of Chinese victimization, perhaps it’s not as much of a leap as all that.

  1. China’s official amnesia regarding the Great Leap Forward Famine and Cultural Revolution purges; America’s denial that westward expansion was imperialist and effectively genocidal; the rehabilitation of Stalin in Russian historical memory; etc. []
  2. and obviously, not something I think is historically or culturally supportable as a thesis []

12/24/2012

A memory stirs..

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 2:17 am Print

Reading Emily Whewell’s review of this new book on the Chinese and Japanese treaty port systems and extraterritoriality brought back a long-ago scholarly memory.

My first seminar paper in graduate school — that small snippet of scholarship which is supposed to prepare callow youth (intellectually speaking) for greater things, and scout a path through the existing forests of scholarship — was a comparison of the Chinese and Japanese treaty port systems. I remember very little about the paper, except embarassment.

I titled the paper something like “The Treaty Port Systems of Japan and China: A Fruitful Comparison” — and Cassell’s work, cited above, confirms my sense of topic, if not my other judgements — and in the end I came to the conclusion that the systems were, in fact, too different to be considered quite the same thing. In fact, I concluded, it was like “apples and oranges”….

It’s a wonder that I survived graduate school. I try to remember that when I’m evaluating my own students.

12/13/2012

Japanese views of China

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 12:02 am Print

December 13 seems as good a day as any to talk about Japanese imperialism. One of the books I taught this semester was Ishikawa Tatsuzo Soldiers Alive.1 It’s a rather odd book, since Ishikawa wrote it after having been embedded with the Japanese Army in China. It was intended to be a propaganda piece, and he saw it as such. Unfortunately for him his descriptions of the suffering and sacrifices of the Japanese soldiers and how they dealt with them was not pleasing to the censors and the book was never released and he got a four month prison term for writing it. This was no doubt due to the rapes, murders and looting casually committed by his characters. For a good picture of the casual brutality of war this is a fine source.

The Chinese are presented as dirty, pathetic and passive. Below is a very good segment on Japanese attitudes towards China and Chinese culture. Our heroes are in newly-captured Nanjing.  They had participated in the battles at Zijinshan, but the book skips over the Rape of Nanjing.

FIRST CLASS Privates Kondo and Hirao were quartered in a residential street next to a large, quiet mansion surrounded by trees. “What a pompous house. It’s impudent. Let’s pay it a little visit. Kondo, come on.”

Kondo, who had been about to doze off, stood up, yawning.

“If there’s a ku-niang2 in there, she’s mine.”

“You ass, we’ll toss for her.”

Not bothering to take his rifle, Hirao set off first, a piece of bamboo for a cane. The old-fashioned gate had been broken in, giving way to a garden beginning to bloom with allspice flowers. A flagstone path curving among a thick growth of plants led to a western-style entrance. Its door, too, was open. Swinging his bamboo stick, Hirao strode into the parqueted vestibule.

“Hello. Anybody home?”

Naturally, no one answered. The retreating Chinese troops semed to have plundered the house. Curtains and dishes lay strewn along the corridors. The rooms had been mercilessly ransacked; drawers of the large rosewood wardrobes fitted with mirrors lay scattered across the floor. The tub in the western-style bathroom was filled with dirty water, and the tile floor was littered with excrement.

They walked everywhere but found no traces of ku-niang nor anything else likely to excite their interest. Finally, Hirao entered a spacious room on the second floor, apparently used for receiving guests. He turned toward Kondo, who was lagging behind, and folded both arms in front to greet him in the Chinese manner.

“Welcome, noble sir. So happy to see you, my dear Kondo of Kondo and Company. It has been a while since I’ve had the pleasure.”

The tranquil sumptuousness of the room inspired him to sudden levity. Kondo promptly responded.

“Ah, Hirao of Hirao and Company! Forgive me for interrupting you at such a busy time.”

“Well, do have a seat. Indulge in a moment of repose, please.”

As befitted men of stature, the two ensconced themselves in the large, comfortable armchairs and looked about. Made of delicately carved rosewood, the chairs resembled those of the priests in the main hall of a temple. A broad vermilion-lacquered table, a fireplace overlaid with marble, mirrors mounted atop shelves, an antique chandelier-signs of an opulent lifestyle abounded. A number of lightly colored landscape scrolls hung from the walls; two more lay spread out on the floor. Just outside the window a profusion of bamboo rustled in the wind, casting ceaselessly swaying shadows over the room.

“Now then, my dear Kondo, the world seems to be in quite an uproar these days. What do you think will come of it?”

“Indeed, even our old boy Chiang Kai-shek has been making a nuisance of himself. I finally went to see him again the other day and urged him to put a stop to his rowdyism, but I can’t be sure he will listen to me.”

“Oh, it is high time that fellow quit politics.”

Great man Hirao suddenly rose and walked over to the fireplace to discover a curious object on top of the stone mantelpiece. He took it in his hands. Two inches by five, made from wood, it had a round, flat surface inscribed with the twelve horary signs, and the four cardinal directions of the compass.

“It’s a sundial!” he exclaimed with a grave face. “Look, Kondo, a sundial.”

Although the sundial did not seem very old, the compass needle was coated with rust. Nevertheless it still tremblingly pointed north. Slanting rays of the evening sun bathed the room with a pale red glow. Hirao pulled up the vermilion-lacquered table and leaned over it. Using the compass to align the sundial properly, he flipped up the rusty vertical pin. Its shadow formed a slender, distinct line between the signs of Monkey and Bird. Hirao folded his arms and gazed at the sundial.

“This is a great find,” said Kondo, but Hirao remained speechless until asked about his silence. Then he broke into a histrionic murmur.

“Ah, the eternal China, in the present but not of the present. China is dreaming of its ancient culture; breathing the air of its ancient culture. Just think: Though surrounded by this much luxury, what the master of this house delighted in was sipping tea, folding his arms, and gazing at this sundial.”

Hirao’s romanticism was awake once more. At moments like this his grandiloquence burst forth without warning. He threw himself back in the chair, spread out his legs, and gesticulated with his arms.

“The four hundred million people of China are as serene and ancient as the Yangtze River. China hasn’t changed a bit since Huang-ti, Wen, Wu, T’ai-tsung, and Yang Kuei-fei lived and died. China will never perish. Chiang Kai-shek and his friends have had their try with the New Life Movement and the rest, but changing people like these is absolutely impossible. We, too, can do our damnedest to occupy China’s entire territory, but any notion of converting the Chinese to Japanese ways is a dream within a dream within a dream. China is what she is and will everlastingly be. It boggles the mind. Ah, it boggles the mind!”

Kondo grew bored and stood up. “What are you moaning about? Let’s go back.”

Reverently holding the sundial, Hirao rose and placed it gingerly into the inner pocket of his tunic. He felt as though he had managed for the first time to fathom this country named China. Century after century the masses of China had continued to lead lives free of any ties to politics. It did not interest them in the least whether they were governed by the Ch’ing dynasty or Sun Yat-sen. He began to feel a boundless love for these Chinese people and their millennia-old spirit. Japan was fighting Chiang Kai-shek, but the masses, remote from the Chiang regime, were neither anti-Japanese nor pro-Soviet nor anti-British nor pro-Communist. Hirao’s voice was like a wistful sigh as he followed Kondo down the staircase.

“It is genuine anarchism the Chinese are living, each practicing it in his very own way.”

Such simple-minded admiration was distasteful to Kondo.

“There are many kinds of anarchism, you know. If that’s anarchism, then beasts are all anarchists. Consider the pig, for instance: There’s a consummate anarchist for you.”

“Idiot, you’ve got no sensibility.”

“And you’re theorizing like a blind Indian groping to describe an elephant.”

“Say whatever you like.”

In theoretical dispute, Hirao was no match for Kondo. Gripping his bamboo stick, he leapt out the front door, shouting,

“Farewell! Many thanks for the gift!” (pp.139-143)

Not much to say about this, really, but it is a nice evocation of Japanese attitudes towards China.

  1. Ishikawa, Tatsuzo. Soldiers Alive. Translated by Zeljko Cipris. University of Hawaii Press, 2003. []
  2. a young Chinese woman to be raped and murdered. []

9/20/2012

Daiyou Islands: New Sources, New Clarity?

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:08 am Print

NYT reporter Nick Kristof brought in a guest blogger, Han-Yi Shaw of Taiwan, to examine some new mid-Meiji documentation about Japan’s relationship with the contested Senkaku/Daiyou islands. The core of Shaw’s findings is

the Meiji government acknowledged Chinese ownership of the islands back in 1885.

After several abortive attempts to survey the islands, the Japanese government declared them incorporated Japanese territory during the Sino-Japanese war, despite recognizing that it should have been negotiated with China. As territory seized in 1895, it should have been reverted to China in 1945, but for a variety of reasons, including an administrative shift of the islands from Taiwan to Okinawa prefecture, it remained outside of negotiations until a few years later.

It’s a reasonably persuasive presentation, historically, though I don’t think that these details are going to shift Japanese nationalists, even mild or moderate ones, to support politicians who would abandon Japan’s claim to these useless rocks which sit in such valuable territory. And as long as there’s no particular cost to maintaining the claim — Chinese hostility to Japan is not predicated on this issue sufficiently that abandoning the claim would eliminate anti-Japanese sentiment as a nationalist motivational tool of the mainland regime — it seems unlikely that anything will change, except a few American lectures.

6/23/2011

From Hirohito to Chiang Kai-shek

Filed under: — sayaka @ 10:26 am Print

I posted this on Frog in a Well Japan.

Earlier this month, I met a descendent of the Taiwanese aboriginal group, Sysiyat tribe (賽夏族), and his wife. The Sysiyat is a relatively small tribe living in Wufengxiang (五峰鄉) and Nanzhuang (南庄) in the mountainous inner-land of Hsinchu (Xinzhu, 新竹) Province. I called him because I am studying the local history of Beipu (北埔) right now, and stories about the Sysiyat people in neighboring Wufengxiang seemed important to me.

His name is Zhao Zhenggui (趙正貴). His grandfather, Taro Yomaw, was the chief-general of the tribe in the area during the first half of the Japanese colonial rule, and he cooperated with the Japanese in many policing operations to suppress other rebellious aboriginal populations. Taro Yomaw’s third son and Mr. Zhao Zhenggui’s father, Ybai-taro, attended the Japanese elementary school in the Zhudong (竹東)city, went to the elite Teacher’s College (師範大学), and became a police officer and teacher for the aboriginal villages. Ybai-taro continued his career as a teacher after the KMT took over the island, and after he retired in the 1970s, he started writing memoirs, histories, and fictional stories in Japanese. (Mr. Zhao’s interview about these writings in Chinese)

Taro Yomaw in his youth:

Taro Yomaw and Ybai-taro

(both photos provided by Mr. Zhao Zhenggui)

From what I can tell, his memoirs and histories are based on what he heard from his own father and older generations, Japanese publications he later read by himself, and his own experiences as a police officer. Sometimes they are mixed together, but one eye-catching feature is that his writings show a perfectly smooth transfer of legitimacy from Japanese colonizers, especially Emperor Hirohito, to the KMT and Chiang Kai-shek.

Instead of giving my lousy interpretations, I will just show some quotes from his “高砂族の古今” (Old and New of Takasago Zoku)

日本時代になってサイセット族が一番先に新竹の高い砂浜に渡台した歴史にちなみ全島の蕃人を高砂族と昭和天皇が命名あそばされた。
(Showa Emperor named all the aborigines in Taiwan “Takasago zoku” after the Sysiyat who had arrived in the high beach in Hsinchu)

This is historically not accurate because the Japanese were already calling them 高砂族 in the 16th century.

私が小学校に共学した時に日本人の子供は山の人と言って蕃人と言はれた事がない。平地人の子供は蕃人と言はれたので自然に日本人の子供に親しみを持ったのであった。
(When I went to the Japanese elementary school, Japanese children called me “mountain people” but never called me “banjin (barbarians)”. [Chinese] settler children called us “banjin” so I naturally felt closer to Japanese children.)

In the statistics of elementary school attendance, there were no Chinese-Taiwanese children who attended 小学校 before the 1920s, but there were always a couple of aboriginal kids studying with the Japanese children in the cities of Hsinchu.

戦死した弟もおそらく靖国神社に祭られてゐると思ひ何時か日本東京に行ってみたまを拝んで行かうと思ってゐる。台湾の山猿として野蛮人としてゐたのがたった十年間の旧友方々の指導により南方て勇しく戦ひ世界の人たちをびっくりさせた。休戦後は日本人と別れたが少しも恨まず日本人を無事にかへらせて惜別の涙を流したのであった。此の首刈り好きな高砂族を真人間に教育された日本人に対し感謝してゐる。中国人になっても其の昔の教育の基礎があって皆新政府の命を受け此の三十年間に於て目ざましい進歩をして安定な生活してゐるのである。祖国にかへり孫文先生の三民主義精神に基つぎ蒋総統の遺訓を守りますます本当の人間になったのである。それは日本中国のおかげと感謝してゐる。
(Because my younger brother who died in the battle is also enshrined in the Yasukuni Shrine, I am thinking of visiting Tokyo some day and praying for his soul. [The aboriginal people] were regarded as Taiwan’s mountain monkeys and barbarians, but after only 10 years of guidance by our old friends, we surprised people around the world by fighting bravely in the South [Southeast Asia]. After the war, we were separated from Japanese people, but we did not hold grudge against them but sent them home safe with tears. I thank the Japanese, who educated the aborigine who used to like head-chopping and transformed us into true human beings. After becoming Chinese, we built upon the basis of old-day education and received orders of the new government. We have been making amazing progress the past 30 years, and enjoying a stable life. We returned to the mother nation, and based on Sun Yat-Sen’s Three Principles of the People and President Chiang’s will, we became even truer human-beings. I think it is thanks to Japan and China.)

This I found very interesting because of his heartfelt acceptance of both regimes. Praising the Japanese occupation wasn’t a popular thing to do in the 1970s under the KMT rule, but the issue was not either-or for him. If you are too upset or too happy reading his praise of the Japanese rule, don’t forget to read the next one.

終戦当時世界の聯合国のイギリス、アメリカ、ソレンの首相が「日本を三分にして天皇を廃止する」と蘇聯ががんばったが蒋公は日本国は昔のまヽにして占領国は返へさせても好い天皇は廃止してはならぬ」と三名の首領を押へた。日本国民は之を聞いて皆泣いて蒋公に感謝したと言ふ。日本国の再造の神として日本史上に残されると言ふのである。終戦後世界偉人を二十名増加して三十名となった。其の中に中華民国の蒋公が開びゃく以来始めての偉人になられた。蒋公は生き乍らの世界偉人でゐたので世界の人々はわざ<台湾におがみに来たのであった。
(Upon the end of WWII, the leaders of Britain, the US, and the USSR in particular, insisted that they would divide Japan into three and abolish the emperor system. But President Chiang suppressed their assertion by saying “Japan should remain the same but the occupied territories can be returned. We must not abolish the emperor.” I hear the Japanese people cried and thanked President Chiang. He will be remembered as the God of Re-Creation of the nation in the Japanese history. After the war, the number of the world’s greatest people increased by 20 and became 30. President Chiang became the “world’s greatest person” for the first time in the history of ROC. Many people in the world came to see him in Taiwan because he was a living great man.)

I don’t have to discuss the accuracy issue of this passage. I was stunned by his affirmation of the authority of Chiang Kai-shek by claiming that Japanese people worship him.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in his writings but it obviously requires a careful reading. I don’t know exactly how I am going to use this as a source but I hope at least someone enjoys this entry.

10/13/2009

Japan’s Embassies to the Tang and Ming

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 6:24 pm Print

Hop over to Frog in a Well Japan to read about the new resources page at the Sino-Japanese Studies journal.

7/29/2009

Imperial Visits and Attitudes

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:02 am Print

I just learned of the Japanese Emperor and Empress’ visit to Hawai’i [via]. It’s not the first time that a member of the Japanese Imperial family has visited the islands, though you would hardly know it from the gushing “historic” reports of the media. Though this is the first visit by Akihito as Emperor, Akihito has visited the islands before, as have other members of Japan’s now-symbolic dynasty. In addition to the Advertiser’s photo gallery, there are some excellent shots on Flickr by “731photo” and “onecardshort”, as well as one picture from the US Pacific Command.1

The continuing connection between the Hawai’i Japanese immigrant community and Japan was a matter of strategic concern from the beginning: The Kingdom of Hawai’i wanted to use Japan as a counterweight against US power; the Republic of Hawai’i used the threat of Japan — which was actively concerned about the treatment of Japanese in Hawai’i — to support the annexation of the islands by the US; in the Territorial era, disputes about immigration and about labor organization often involved the Japanese consulate.2 Chinese Old Man Statue 2 And it’s also true that the Japanese government considered Japanese emigrants to be an extension of the nation3 , and tried, in a fairly blunt fashion, to influence foreign opinion through the overseas communities. By the 1910s and 20s, discussion in the media and halls of power of the Hawaiian Japanese community as a potential “fifth column” was pretty common, and that view was also common on the mainland. It took an immigration ban, a war, Japan’s crushing defeat and entry into the US security system, and the “blood sacrifice” of Nikkei serving with distinction in the US military to overcome those fears, and transform the Japanese immigrant community and their descendants into simply “ethnic” Americans. So, a little over twenty years past the end of WWII, fifteen past the end of the US occupation, the centennial of Japanese immigration into Hawai’i could be celebrated with public monuments, publications and events.

This history is why I was so disturbed to read about PRC policy which sees overseas Chinese as intelligence and lobbying agents. There’s a reasonable argument to be made — as Ichioka does — that Japanese government policy towards emigrants gave support to anti-immigrant attitudes in the US and elsewhere. It’s true that other governments treat emigres as resources to some extent, and urge their citizens overseas to represent the nation well, but the level of coordination, and open encouragement distinguishes pre-war Japanese policy and current PRC policy from the rest of the pack. I don’t think we’re on the verge of a “Yellow Peril” panic in the US at this point, but there’s no question that this has lead to serious negative consequences for individuals, and could lead to wider problems in the future.

x-posted

  1. That it’s a better shot of the Admiral than of the Emperor is, I suppose, not surprising. []
  2. See Gary Okihiro, John Stephan, also Morris-Suzuki []
  3. see also []

1/12/2009

The Relaunching of Sino-Japanese Studies

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 8:08 am Print

I wanted to post a plug for a project that I have been involved with recently:

Announcing the relaunch of Sino-Japanese Studies online

For fifteen years Sino-Japanese Studies (1988-2003) was published in hard form and distributed throughout the world. It was the only journal of its kind in content, bringing together Chinese and Japanese studies—irrespective of discipline or time period. The relaunched journal will be available open access online and will continue to be the only journal of its kind. It will contain original, refereed articles, translations, reviews, and news from the field. Interested readers and contributors may find further details on making submissions to the journal as well as access the full online archive of back-issues at:

http://chinajapan.org/

They may also contact the editor directly.

Joshua Fogel (fogel at yorku.ca), editor (傅佛果, ジョシュア・フォーゲル)
Konrad M. Lawson (konrad at lawson.net), web technician (林蜀道, コンラッド・ローソン)

Note: I have announced the availability of the full archive of back-issues here before, but now we are restarting the journal and accepting new submissions.

12/13/2008

Conference in Japan on Media in the Foreign Concessions

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 1:55 pm Print

If you understand Japanese, are in Tokyo, and interested in the history of the foreign concessions of China, you may find a conference being held at Waseda of interest that has a panel of talks on media in the foreign concessions. See this posting over at Frog in a Well Japan for more.

8/22/2008

Beware of Female Spies

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 8:21 am Print

I decided to bring you a little Friday night clipping from the archives where, as always, I have my eye open for treason and treachery:

In the Chinese national government archival collection at Taiwan’s Academia Historica there is a small file from the military affairs committee1 dated April, 1938 and entitled:

Take Strict Precautions Against the Enemy’s Female Traitors
嚴防敵人女漢奸

The concise attached brief2 says that, “According to reports, [Japan's] special services last month began to dispatch [Chinese] trained female traitors to Hankou, Chongqing, Changsha and other cities” who are to conduct intelligence operations against nationalist forces. It recommends a close investigation and special vigilance against these traitors.3

  1. 軍事委員會, is there a better standard translation for this? []
  2. in the form of a 代電 report, then largely repeated in an directive 訓令 []
  3. This very short file can be found in 國史館 國民政府檔案 001000005615A (001-071040-0001) 敵情動態, 31-36 (1026-1031). []

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