An Inquiry into the Truth of the Sino-Japanese Incident
By Nagae Tarô,
I. The Background of the Sino-Japanese Incident
A. The Manchurian Incident and Sino-Japanese Relations
There are those who say that the Sino-Japanese conflict was fifteen years of warfare. The claim is that the Sino-Japanese Incident began with the Manchurian Incident. This is the assertion of the Chinese Communist Party ? but there are also those in Japan who claim that the Manchurian Incident was a Japanese plot calculated to start the invasion of China. But this is a complete mistake in total disregard of the historical truth.
It is a fact, of course, that the Manchurian Incident occurred on Sept. 18, 1931, that on March 1 of the next year the state of Manchukuo was established, and that the relationship between Japan and China went into decline. In October of that year, the report of the Lytton Commission was issued to the League of Nations. On February 21, 1933, at the General Assembly of the League of Nations, when a resolution was passed against Japan, the Japanese delegation led by Matsuoka Yosuke walked out. On March 27, a formal notice of withdrawl from the League was issued by the Emperor.
One may reckon that Sino-Japanese relations were at their lowest ebb; however, the actual relationship between China and Japan was the complete opposite. In only two short months ? on May 31 ? Tanggu Truce was signed and the relationship quickly grew even better.
In China’s official history of the war, it says “In humiliation, the Nationalist government sought peace.” They had no choice but to accept that the Nationalists were pursuing peace with Japan. Even though they were criticised for the “humiliation,” China’s Nationalist government desired the restoration of peaceful relations between China and Japan, and this authoritative truth cannot be expunged. Even though the Chinese may try to twist the truth somehow to justify their historical view when confronted with inconvenient historical facts, the truth always comes out and the lie is exposed.
In 1933, Chiang Kai-shek’s highest priority was the annihilation of the Communist Party, which he appraised as “like a gnat on a lion.” In August of that year, he confirmed this by proclaiming the policy “internal security, expel outsiders.” (That is to say, “destroy the Communist Party and establish domestic security, and having done that, expel the foreigners.”)
In January, 1934, Chiang Kai-shek met with Ariyoshi Akira, minister of legation (former ambassador to Brazil), and Suzuki Yoshimichi, military attache (lieutenant general), at his official residence. He said then that he wanted to build better relations and move forward with the spirit of compromise between the two nations. Japan, too, wanted to have good relations with China; in May, 1935, both countries’ diplomatic legations were elevated to ambassadorial status. Japan’s chief-of-legation Ariyoshi was made Japan’s ambassador to China, and China’s resident chief-of-legation in Japan, Jiang Zuobin, was made ambassador to Japan.
Economic intercourse moved even faster. On July 1, 1933, shortly after the signing of the Tanggu Truce, the direct train line plying between Beiping (present-day Beijing) and Mukden (present-day Shenyang) was reopened. In November, 1934, a postal accord was reached, and in January, 1935, normal postal operations between Manchuria and China proper was re-established. On February 5, telegraph service began; and on June 1, telephone lines were connected. In September of that same year, customs offices were set up at places on the borders between Manchuria and China such as Shanhaiguan. Regular international commerce had begun.
It was said that Japan had withdrawn from the League of Nations and set out on her own isolationist path, but relations with outsiders did not actually worsen. Relations between Japan and China ? both political and economic ? were progressing, and the reality was that the improvement was phenomenal. It must be noted that the Sino-Japanese relations worsened after 1935 when the Chinese Communist Party fell on hard times.
B. The Chinese Civil War (Chiang Kai-shek’s Suppression of the Communist Army) and the August 1 Announcement
Chiang Kai-shek, who had no concerns about any Japanese conflict behind him, increasingly began laying plans for the complete suppression of the Chinese Communists. Chiang’s Nationalist Army, which launched a major attack, continued with battle upon battle and success upon success through November of 1934, when they captured the Communist Party’s base in Ruijin (in Jiangxi Province). The defeated 300,000-man Communist force fled from the province of Guangxi through the provinces of Guizhou, Sichuan, and Shanxi. The Chinese Communist Party called this retreat the “Great Western Shift” or the “Long March,” but it was a total retreat and at the same time it was very difficult going. By the time they reached Yan’an in Shaanxi province in February of 1936, their force had dwindled to a mere 20,000.
At this point, a series of terrorist activities in opposition to Chiang Kai-shek’s declaration for the improvement in Sino-Japanese relations took place in rapid succession. There were a total of fifty incidents in the four-month period from January to May of 1935. As examples, on May 2, Hu Enpu, the president of the Guoquanbao Newspaper, was assassinated in the Japanese settlement in Tianjin; and on May 3, Bai Yuhuan, the president of the Zhenbao Newspaper, was also assassinated there. Forces had arisen who were opposed to peace and the improvement of Sino-Japanese relations. The Japanese people, however, felt that these were signs of Chiang Kai-shek’s insincerity, and mistrust grew.
At this time, the Soviet Communist Party’s international arm, the Comintern, ordered representatives from all the world’s Communist Parties to assemble in Moscow. In July, 1935, the Seventh Comintern Congress took place in Moscow. At this Congress, the world’s Communist Parties pointed to Germany and Japan as present enemies, and they adopted a resolution to devote themselves to defeating them.
On August 1, the Chinese party representatives, Wang Ming and Kang Sheng, proclaimed, “We will form a united anti?Japanese front and wage war against Japan.” This “August 1 Announcement” was made public in Paris on October 1.
The gist of this was that the civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists would come to an end and that a single, unified anti-Japanese front would be formed. They would set up a national defense government uniting all of China, but excluding Chiang Kai-shek. They would organize an anti-Japanese coalition army and an anti-Japanese coalition general headquarters to prosecute a war against Japan. This was as good as a declaration of war on Japan. At this stage, in 1935, the ones who wanted a war between Japan and China were not the Japanese, nor Chiang Kai-shek ? it was the Chinese Communist Party. A detailed account of the August 1 Announcement appears on pages 54 and 55 of the first volume of Zhongguo Kang Ri Zhanzheng Shi (the official Chinese history of the war). It is first-rate evidence for those who are looking into where the responsibility lies for the war between China and Japan.
The one who desired and planned for war ? in every respect, schemed for it ? and in the end achieved his goal of eight years of war between China and Japan (from the Sino-Japanese Incident in July, 1937, to August, 1945) was Mao Zedong of the Chinese Communist Party. This is clear from the words of Mao Zedong himself.
For example, on June 10, 1960, when a delegation of Japan’s Socialist Party members visited China and committee chairman Sasaki Kozo apologized for the war between China and Japan during an audience with Mao Zedong, Mao replied, “There is nothing to apologize for. [The Sino-Japanese War] has brought great benefits to China. Thanks to the Japanese Army, we were able to take control of the government.” This is testimony of very weighty importance, for who but Mao Zedong would have such thorough knowledge of the cause of the war? (From Shakaishugi Riron to Jitsu [Socialist Theory and Practice], 1964, September issue.)
These historical documents prove that the ones who wanted a war between China and Japan were the Chinese Communist Party. In addition, the ones who are most afraid of the truth of this being made clear are also the Chinese Communist Party. The reason is simple: they will lose their position of “being in the right.” It is for that reason that they so brazenly foist off onto the Japanese their own responsibility for the war.
C. The Xi’an Incident (December 12, 1936)
We have made clear the Chinese Communist Party’s responsibility for the war, but why did Chiang Kai-shek cooperate and even participate? What was it that made Chiang Kai-shek do an about-face in his strategy, to set out to fight against Japan, and to bring about the destruction of the Chinese Nationalist Party which had brought back peaceful relations with Japan? What did it was the Xi’an Incident.
In the spring of 1936, Chiang Kai-shek knew that the Communist army was holed up in Yan’an and gasping for breath. Thinking that a good opportunity to annihilate them was at hand, he began to make plans for an all-out attack to finish off the Communist Army. Key elements for the punitive force would be the Northeastern Army under Chang Xueliang and the Northwestern Army under Yang Hucheng, but these units were ambivalent about the suppression of the Communist Party, and in fact, thought that they should fight with the Communists against the Japanese. Unlike Chiang Kai-shek, they didn’t understand the true nature of the Communists.
Chaing, growing impatient, went to Xi’an on November 12 to encourage Chang Xueliang and Yang Hucheng. When he arrived on the night of the twelfth, Chang and others seized him and forced upon him an eight-point, anti?Japanese demand, with contents identical to the Communist Party’s goals ? to stop the civil war, amnesty for all political offenses, etc. Chiang Kai-shek rejected their demands. The Nationalist Army, overseeing Nanjing during Chiang’s absence, began making preparations for a punitive attack on Chang Xueliang and his compatriots.
Chang, flustered, opened discussions with the Communist Party in Yan’an to settle the problem. Zhou Enlai, accepting the Soviet Union’s position, went to Xi’an. Zhou patiently worked to persuade Chiang Kai-shek to agree, and Madame Chiang Kai-shek (Soong May-Ling) also came to Xi’an to persuade him. As a result, Chiang finally agreed to accept the demands of Zhou Enlai and the others, and he was released.
The problem is, did he or did he not promise to stop the civil war, unite the Nationalists with the Communists, and wage war against Japan?
Chiang Kai-shek denied the existence of these secret agreements, but at the end of February, 1937, peace talks between the Nationalist Party and the Communist Party took place in Xi’an where the civil war between the two was ended and an anti?Japanese direction was decided upon. Why had Chiang Kai-shek, who had called for the destruction of the Communist Army and gone to Xi’an to urge his army to victory, gone along with the peace talks, stopped the civil war and agreed to go to war against Japan two months after the Xi’an Incident? We can only see that the acceptance of this joint Communist?Nationalist peace conference was the result of a secret agreement with Chiang Kai-shek.
Chiang Kai-shek, who decided to war with Japan only to bring about the revival of the Communist Party, did not readily enact the agreement for cessation of hostilities. The Chinese Communist Party tried everything to get Chiang Kai-Shek to go to war with Japan, but they were not having much success. At this point, provocations against the Japanese forces stationed in Beiping (present-day Beijing) began, culminating in the occurrence of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident.