井の中の蛙

1/12/2013

Japanese Counter-Insurgency: Strategy or Tactic?

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:44 pm

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 @ 2:16 am

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.

9/20/2012

Senkaku Islands: New Sources, New Clarity?

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 @ 10:15 am

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.

12/30/2009

Japanese Soldiers Use an Accountant’s Trick

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 2:20 pm

I haven’t been making any substantial posts to Frog in a Well of late even though I have been buried in fascinating historical materials as I write my dissertation. I have decided, however, to share the occasional short anecdote that pops up in some of the secondary and primary sources I come across.

In his book on wartime Communist efforts in village China, Dagfinn Gatu brings up an interesting technique used by Japanese soldiers. Chinese Communist regular and guerrilla forces were severely short of weapons throughout the war. Since Communist insurgents far outnumbered the weapons available, the capture of one functioning Japanese weapon from the battlefield essentially put one more armed opponent into the field. As in most similar asymmetrical wars, this loss of equipment was taken very seriously by the Japanese occupation forces. However, a Japanese platoon commander who later became a historian, Fujiwara Akira shows how one trick was employed of shifting around one’s losses in reports to superiors:

“In recording combat results greater attention was paid to the amount of captured weapons than to the number of abandoned corpses. For that reason, army units put aside seized weapons to prepare for the eventuality of heavy combat losses by diluting these in reports on battle achievements.”1

  1. Quoted in Dagfinn Gatu, Village China at War, p. 207. Original in Fujiwara Akira Chûgoku sensen jûgunki (Tokyo: Otsuki shoten, 2002) pp. 51-52, 63-65 – not sure which of these page ranges. []

12/10/2009

TR’s legacy for FDR: Japanese Aggression?

I really didn’t want to get into the discussion about James Bradley’s op-ed and interview because it’s finals season, and because the argument was so obviously wrong. Other historians have weighed in with a fairly negative review of the argument,1 but there’s a book behind it, so I suppose the discussion has to happen. Eric Rauchway did a reasonably good job of taking the Americanist side against Bradley; I’ve been in the comments over there, arguing, effectively, that there’s a bizarre amount of reality you have to ignore to make the connection between the Portsmouth Treat and Taft-Katsura on the one hand and the Manchurian Incident and Pearl Harbor on the other.

The presumption that Roosevelt doing something more aggressive with regard to Japan’s claims in Korea and elsewhere wouldn’t have produced the Pacific War sooner seems unlikely to me. The combination of US expansion in the Pacific (Hawaii as well as the Philippines) and anti-Japanese/anti-immigrant racism was already leading some Japanese to consider the US a likely competitor and enemy in the near future: an intransigent or pro-Russian Roosevelt would have failed to negotiate the Portsmouth treaty (against which the Japanese people rioted anyway, because there was no indemnity payment) and the US would likely have been unable to integrate Japan into the Wilsonian treaties of the ’20s, and the military would have been even more likely to move aggressively in China and the Pacific sooner than 1931.

From both sides, the US and Japanese, it’s hard to see what Roosevelt could have done differently, even assuming that he had the ahistorical inclination to do so that would have produced a better result.

There’s a satirical theme in Edge of the American West comments which routinely blames people for things that happened many, many years after or before their time. As absurd as it is, I had to point out that some people take it way too seriously. I also noted something which I’m going to have to be sure to emphasize next time I teach this, because I think it’ll clarify things for students:

Nobody intervened on the side of the Chinese, ever. Even the “Open Door policy” was pretty much a dead letter from the beginning. That’s why the Japanese thought they could get away with so much: the 21 Demands make it very clear the direction things are going to go, unless the Chinese can get their acts together quickly (which they didn’t). This is part of what made FDR’s intervention on their behalf so infuriating: it was out of character with the 19th century paradigm, and nobody had ever made a League of Nations decision the foundation of a diplomatic relationship (there was an attempt with the Italy/Ethiopia thing, but it didn’t stick).

I don’t know why people never get tired of “original sin” counterfactual arguments, but they sure don’t.

  1. There’s even a comment from D. Giangreco that I agree with, a rare event. []

10/13/2009

Japan’s Embassies to the Tang and Ming

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 6:20 pm

The newly relaunched Sino-Japanese Studies open access journal is coming along nicely with a selection of articles and translations, including many translated chapters of Liu Jianhui’s Demon Capital Shanghai: The “Modern” Experience of Japanese Intellectuals.

The editor, Joshua Fogel, and I have decided to add a new Resources page to the SJS website where we will host various reference materials of use to students and scholars of the interaction between China and Japan.

First up for inclusion on our resource page are two handy English language charts published in Fogel’s Articulating the Sinosphere: Sino-Japanese Relations in Space and Time which list Japan’s embassies to the Ming and Tang courts.

1. Chart of the Japanese Embassies to the Tang Court

2. Chart of Japanese Embassies to the Ming Court

While we had to secure permission from Harvard University Press to post these charts in their unedited published form, there is no reason why the content of these charts and the sources referred to in them can’t be used to improve, for example, the relevant wikipedia entry, etc. See also the Chinese entries and much more detailed Japanese wikipedia entries for the missions.

If there are suggestions for other useful reference information or interactive materials to host at the Sino-Japanese Studies website, let us know and those interested in submitting articles to the open access journal may do so here.

7/16/2009

ASPAC Blogging: Japan’s Political Present and Future

Fauna of Soka - Squirrel standingMy copanelists on Saturday were political scientists, and it was a good update for me on what what’s going on with Japan in the last ten years or so. “Normalization” is the name of the game: Japan’s political spectrum and international relations are starting to look a lot less like Yoshida’s vision and a lot more like a pretty normal regional power.
(more…)

3/21/2009

George O. Totten III (1922-2009)

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:07 am

George O Totten III as Deity George O. Totten III passed away at the beginning of this month; I just saw the obituary on H-Japan. Though I knew Totten mostly through his scholarship on the pre-WWII Japanese left, he published widely on Korea, Korean Americans, and China as well. I did meet him two years ago in Honolulu at ASPAC: He was quite talkative, sharing stories from his career and childhood, catching up with old friends but more than happy to involve younger scholars in the conversation as well. I didn’t realize at the time the extent of his work outside of Japanese political science — that he nominated former Korean president Kim Dae Jung for his Nobel Peace Prize gives you some idea of the extent of his interests and his judgement. He was really one of the few scholars I’ve ever heard of who covered all of East Asia as well as diaspora communities. Quite a record, and an extraordinary life.

1/12/2009

The Relaunching of Sino-Japanese Studies

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 8:05 am

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.

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