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Former Japan puppet state in China

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State of Manchuria

Empire of (Great) Manchuria

Anthem: National Anthem of Manchukuo (1933–1942 version)
National Anthem of Manchukuo (1942–1945 version)
Manchukuo (burgundy) within the Empire of Japan (pink) at its furthest extent
StatusClient state/Puppet state/Buffer state of the Empire of Japan
CapitalHsinking (Changchun)
(until 9 August 1945)
(from 9 August 1945)
Largest cityHarbin
Common languagesJapanese
State Shinto
Manchu folk religion
GovernmentPersonalist one-party constitutional monarchy under a totalitarian military dictatorship
Chief Executive 
• 1932–1934
• 1934–1945
Prime Minister 
• 1932–1935
Zheng Xiaoxu
• 1935–1945
Zhang Jinghui
LegislatureLegislative Council
Historical eraInterbellum · World War II
18 September 1931
• Established
1 March 1932
4 March 1933
• Empire proclaimed
1 March 1934
• Member of GEACPS
30 November 1940
9 August 1945
18 August 1945
19401,192,081 km2 (460,265 sq mi)
• 1940
CurrencyManchukuo yuan
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Republic of China
Soviet occupation of Manchuria
Today part ofChina
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese滿洲國
Simplified Chinese满洲国
Literal meaningState of Manchuria
Japanese name
Other names
Traditional Chinese滿洲帝國
Simplified Chinese满洲帝国
Literal meaningEmpire of Manchuria
Manchurian Empire
Great Manchurian Empire
Traditional Chinese滿洲帝國
Simplified Chinese满洲帝国
Literal meaningGreat Manchurian Empire
Location of Manchukuo (red) within Imperial Japan's sphere of influence (1939)

Manchukuo, officially the State of Manchuria prior to 1934 and the Empire of Manchuria after 1934, was a puppet state of the Empire of Japan in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia from 1932 until 1945. It was founded in 1932 after the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, and in 1934 it became a constitutional monarchy. Under the de facto control of Japan, it had limited international recognition.

The area was the homeland of the Manchus, including the emperors of the Qing dynasty. In 1931, the region was seized by Japan following the Mukden Incident. A pro-Japanese government was installed one year later with Puyi, the last Qing emperor, as the nominal regent and later emperor.[1] Manchukuo's government was dissolved in 1945 after the surrender of Imperial Japan at the end of World War II. The territories claimed by Manchukuo were first seized in the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945,[2] and then formally transferred to Chinese administration in the following year.[note 1]

Manchus formed a minority in Manchukuo, whose largest ethnic group was Han Chinese. The population of Koreans increased during the Manchukuo period, and there were also Japanese, Mongols, White Russians, and other minorities. The Mongol regions of western Manchukuo were ruled under a slightly different system in acknowledgment of the Mongolian traditions there. The southern tip of the Liaodong Peninsula (present-day Dalian) continued to be directly ruled by Japan as the Kwantung Leased Territory until the end of World War II.

Manchukuo Intro articles: 17


"Manchukuo" is a variant of the Wade-Giles romanization Man-chou-kuo of the Mandarin pronunciation Mǎnzhōuguó of the original Japanese name of the state, Manshūkoku (満州国). In Japanese, the name refers to the state of Manchuria, the region of the Manchus. The English name, adapted to incorporate the word Manchu, would mean the state of the Manchu people. Indeed, Manchukuo was often referred to in English as simply "Manchuria", a name for Northeast China which had been particularly employed by the Imperial Japanese to promote its separation from the rest of the country.[3][4] Other European languages used equivalent terms: Manchukuo was known to its allies as Manciukuò in Italian and Mandschukuo or Mandschureich in German. In present-day Chinese, Manchukuo's name is still often prefaced by the word wěi (, "so-called", "false", "pseudo-", &c.) to stress its perceived illegitimacy.[5]

The formal name of the country was changed to the "Empire of Manchuria" (sometimes referred to as "Manchutikuo"), after the establishment of Puyi as the Kangde Emperor in 1934. In Chinese and Japanese, the names were Dà Mǎnzhōu dìguó and Dai Manshū teikoku. The Dà/Dai ("big", "great") were added after the model of the formal names of the Great Ming and Qing dynasties, but this was unused in English.

The Japanese had their own motive for deliberately spreading the usage of the term Manchuria.[4] The historian Norman Smith wrote that "The term "Manchuria" is controversial".[6] Professor Mariko Asano Tamanoi said that she should "use the term in quotation marks" when referring to Manchuria.[7] Herbert Giles wrote that "Manchuria" was unknown to the Manchus themselves as a geographical expression.[8] In his doctoral thesis of 2012, Professor Chad D. Garcia noted that usage of the term "Manchuria" was out of favor in "current scholarly practice" and preferred the term "the northeast".[9]

Manchukuo Names articles: 14



Members of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere; territory controlled at maximum height. Japan and its allies in dark red; occupied territories/client states in lighter red. Korea and Taiwan were at that time considered integral parts of Japan and governed directly by the Japanese government, unlike client states such as Manchukuo that functioned under puppet governments.

The Qing dynasty, which replaced the Shun and Ming dynasties in China, was founded by Manchus from Manchuria (modern Northeast China). The Manchu emperors separated their homeland in Jilin and Heilongjiang from the Han Liaoning province with the Willow Palisade. This ethnic division continued until the Qing dynasty encouraged the massive immigration of Han in the 19th century during Chuang Guandong to prevent the Russians from seizing the area from the Qing. After conquering the Ming, the Qing identified their state as "China" (中國, Zhongguo; "Central Realm") and referred to it as "Dulimbai Gurun" in Manchu.[10][11][12] The Qing equated the lands of the Qing state (including present day Manchuria, Xinjiang, Mongolia, Tibet and other areas) as "China" in both the Chinese and Manchu languages, defining China as a multi-ethnic state, rejecting the idea that China only meant Han areas, and proclaiming that both Han and non-Han peoples were part of "China". The Qing state used "China" to refer to the Qing in official documents, international treaties, and foreign affairs; the "Chinese language" (Dulimbai gurun i bithe) referred to Chinese, Manchu, and Mongol languages; and the term "Chinese people" (中國人 Zhongguo ren; Manchu: Dulimbai gurun i niyalma) referred to all Han, Manchu and Mongol subjects of the Qing. The lands in Manchuria were explicitly stated by the Qing to belong to "China" (Zhongguo, Dulimbai gurun) in Qing edicts and in the Treaty of Nerchinsk. [13]

During the Qing dynasty, the area of Manchuria was known as the "three eastern provinces" (三東省; Sān dōng shěng): in 1683 Jilin and Heilongjiang were separated even though it was not until 1907 that they were turned into actual provinces.[14] The area of Manchuria was then converted into three provinces by the late Qing government in 1907. From that time the "Three Northeast Provinces" (traditional Chinese: 東北三省; simplified Chinese: 东北三省; pinyin: Dōngběi Sānshěng) was officially used by the Qing government in China to refer to this region, and the post of Viceroy of Three Northeast Provinces was established to take charge of these provinces.

As the power of the court in Beijing weakened, many outlying areas either broke free (such as Kashgar) or fell under the control of Imperialist powers. In the 19th century, Imperial Russia was most interested in the northern lands of the Qing Empire. In 1858, Russia gained control over a huge tract of land called Outer Manchuria thanks to the Supplementary Treaty of Beijing that ended the Second Opium War.[15] But Russia was not satisfied and, as the Qing Dynasty continued to weaken, it made further efforts to take control of the rest of Manchuria. Inner Manchuria came under strong Russian influence in the 1890s with the building of the Chinese Eastern Railway through Harbin to Vladivostok.[16]

The far right-wing Japanese ultra-nationalist Black Dragon Society supported Sun Yat-sen's activities against the Manchus, believing that overthrowing the Qing would help the Japanese take over the Manchu homeland and that Han Chinese would not oppose the takeover. The Society's Gen'yōsha leader Tōyama Mitsuru believed that the Japanese could easily take over Manchuria and Sun Yat-sen and other anti-Qing revolutionaries would not resist and help the Japanese take over and enlargen the opium trade in China while the Qing was trying to destroy the opium trade. The Japanese Black Dragons supported Sun Yat-sen and anti-Manchu revolutionaries until the Qing collapsed.[17] Toyama supported anti-Manchu, anti-Qing revolutionary activities including by Sun Yat-sen and supported Japan taking over Manchuria. The anti-Qing Tongmenghui was founded and based in exile in Japan where many anti-Qing revolutionaries gathered.

The Japanese had been trying to unite anti-Manchu groups made out of Han people to take down the Qing. Japanese were the ones who helped Sun Yat-sen unite all anti-Qing, anti-Manchu revolutionary groups together and there were Japanese like Tōten Miyazaki inside of the anti-Manchu Tongmenghui revolutionary alliance. The Black Dragon Society hosted the Tongmenghui in its first meeting.[18] The Black Dragon Society had very intimate relations with Sun Yat-sen and promoted pan-Asianism and Sun sometimes passed himself off as Japanese.[19] That had connections with Sun for a long time.[20] Japanese groups like the Black Dragon Society had a large impact on Sun Yat-sen.[21] According to an American military historian, Japanese military officers were part of the Black Dragon Society. The Yakuza and Black Dragon Society helped arrange in Tokyo for Sun Yat-sen to hold the first Kuomintang meetings, and were hoping to flood China with opium and overthrow the Qing and deceive Chinese into overthrowing the Qing to Japan's benefit. After the revolution was successful, the Japanese Black Dragons started infiltrating China and spreading opium and anti-Communist sentiment. The Black Dragons pushed for the takeover of Manchuria by Japan in 1932.[22]


As a direct result of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–05), Japanese influence replaced that of Russia in Inner Manchuria. During the war with Russia, Japan had mobilized one million soldiers to fight in Manchuria, meaning that one in eight families in Japan had a member fighting the war.[23] During the Russo-Japanese War, the losses were heavy, with Japan losing a half-million dead or wounded.[23] From the time of the Russian-Japanese war onward, many Japanese people came to have a proprietary attitude to Manchuria, taking the viewpoint that a land where so much Japanese blood had been lost in some way now belonged to them.[23] In 1906, Japan established the South Manchurian Railway on the former Chinese Eastern Railway built by Russia from Manzhouli to Vladivostok via Harbin with a branch line from Harbin to Port Arthur (Japanese: Ryojun), today's Dalian. Under the terms of the Treaty of Portsmouth, the Kwantung Army had the right to occupy southern Manchuria while the region fell into the Japanese economic sphere of influence.[24] The Japanese-owned South Manchurian Railroad company had a market capitalization of 200 million yen, making it Asia's largest corporation, which went beyond just running the former Russian railroad network in southern Manchuria to owning the ports, mines, hotels, telephone lines, and sundry other businesses, dominating the economy of Manchuria.[24] With the growth of the South Manchuria Railroad (Mantetsu) company went growth in number of Japanese living in Manchuria from 16,612 Japanese civilians in 1906 to 233,749 in 1930.[23] The majority of blue-collar employees for the Mantetsu were Chinese, and the Japanese employees were mostly white-collar, meaning most of the Japanese living in Manchuria were middle-class people who saw themselves as an elite.[25] Between World War I and World War II Manchuria became a political and military battleground between Russia, Japan, and China. Japan moved into Outer Manchuria (that is, Russia's Far East) as a result of the chaos following the Russian Revolution of 1917. A combination of Soviet military successes and American economic pressure forced the Japanese to withdraw from the area, however, and Outer Manchuria returned to Soviet control by 1925.

During the Warlord Era in China, the warlord Marshal Zhang Zuolin established himself in Inner Manchuria with Japanese backing.[26] Later, the Japanese Kwantung Army found him too independent, so he was assassinated in 1928. In assassinating Marshal Zhang, the "Old Marshal" the Kwantung Army generals expected Manchuria to descend into anarchy, providing the pretext for seizing the region.[24] Marshal Zhang was killed when the bridge his train was riding across was blown up while three Chinese men were murdered and explosive equipment placed on their corpses to make it appear that they were the killers, but the plot was foiled when Zhang's son Zhang Xueliang, the "Young Marshal" succeeded him without incident while the cabinet in Tokyo refused to send additional troops to Manchuria.[24] Given that the Kwantung Army had assassinated his father, the "Young Marshal"—who unlike his father was a Chinese nationalist—had strong reasons to dislike Japan's privileged position in Manchuria.[27] Marshal Zhang knew his forces were too weak to expel the Kwantung Army, but his relations with the Japanese were unfriendly right from the start.[27]

The Japan–Manchukuo Protocol, 15 September 1932
The throne of the emperor of Manchukuo, c. 1937

After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Japanese militarists moved forward to separate the region from Chinese control and to create a Japanese-aligned puppet state. To create an air of legitimacy, the last Emperor of China, Puyi, was invited to come with his followers and act as the head of state for Manchuria. One of his faithful companions was Zheng Xiaoxu, a Qing reformist and loyalist.[28]

On 18 February 1932[29] Manchukuo ("The Manchurian State") was proclaimed, officially founded on 1 March. It was recognized by Japan on 15 September 1932 through the Japan–Manchukuo Protocol,[30] after the assassination of Japanese Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi. The city of Changchun, renamed Hsinking (Chinese: 新京; pinyin: Xinjing; lit. 'New Capital'), became the capital of the new entity. Chinese in Manchuria organized volunteer armies to oppose the Japanese and the new state required a war lasting several years to pacify the country.

The Japanese initially installed Puyi as Head of State in 1932, and two years later he was declared Emperor of Manchukuo with the era name of Kangde (, w Kang-te, "Tranquility and Virtue"). Manchukuo thus became Manchutikuo ("The Manchurian Empire"). Zheng Xiaoxu served as Manchukuo's first prime minister until 1935, when Zhang Jinghui succeeded him. Puyi was nothing more than a figurehead and real authority rested in the hands of the Japanese military officials. An imperial palace was specially built for the emperor. The Manchu ministers all served as front-men for their Japanese vice-ministers, who made all decisions.[31]

In this manner, Japan formally detached Manchukuo from China over the course of the 1930s. With Japanese investment and rich natural resources, the area became an industrial powerhouse. Manchukuo had its own issued banknotes and postage stamps.[32][33][34] Several independent banks were founded as well.

The conquest of Manchuria proved to be extremely popular with the Japanese people who saw the conquest as providing a much-needed economic "lifeline" to their economy which had been badly hurt by the Great Depression.[35] The very image of a "lifeline" suggested that Manchuria—which was rich in natural resources—was essential for Japan to recover from the Great Depression, which explains why the conquest was so popular at the time and later why the Japanese people were so completely hostile towards any suggestion of letting Manchuria go.[36] At the time, censorship in Japan was nowhere near as stringent as it would later become, and the American historian Louise Young noted: "Had they wished, it would have been possible in 1931 and 1932 for journalists and editors to express anti-war sentiments".[37] The popularity of the conquest meant that newspapers such as the Asahi Shimbun which initially opposed the war swiftly changed to supporting the war as the best way of improving sales.[37]

In 1935, Manchukuo bought the Chinese Eastern Railway from the Soviet Union.[38]

Diplomatic recognition

Foreign recognition of Manchukuo represented by states in colors other than gray

China did not recognize Manchukuo but the two sides established official ties for trade, communications, and transportation. In 1933, the League of Nations adopted the Lytton Report, declaring that Manchuria remained rightfully part of China, leading Japan to resign its membership. The Manchukuo case persuaded the United States to articulate the so-called Stimson Doctrine, under which international recognition was withheld from changes in the international system created by the force of arms.[39]

In spite of the League's approach, the new state was diplomatically recognized by El Salvador (3 March 1934) and the Dominican Republic (1934), Costa Rica (23 September 1934), Italy (29 November 1937), Spain (2 December 1937), Germany (12 May 1938) and Hungary (9 January 1939). The Soviet Union extended de facto recognition on 23 March 1935, but explicitly noted that this did not mean de jure recognition.[40][41] However, upon signing the Soviet–Japanese Neutrality Pact on 13 April 1941, the Soviet Union recognized Manchukuo de jure in exchange for Japan recognizing the integrity of the neighboring Mongolian People's Republic.[42] The USSR did maintain five consulates-general in Manchukuo initially, although in 1936–37 these were reduced to just two: one in Harbin and another in Manzhouli.[43][44][45] Manchukuo opened consulates in Blagoveshchensk (September 1932) and in Chita (February 1933).[46]

It is commonly believed that the Holy See established diplomatic relations with Manchukuo in 1934, but the Holy See never did so. This belief is partly due to the erroneous reference in Bernardo Bertolucci's 1987 film The Last Emperor that the Holy See diplomatically recognized Manchukuo. Bishop Auguste Ernest Pierre Gaspais was appointed as "representative ad tempus of the Holy See and of the Catholic missions of Manchukuo to the government of Manchukuo" by the Congregation De Propaganda Fide (a purely religious body responsible for missions) and not by the Secretariat of State responsible for diplomatic relations with states.[47] In the 1940s the Vatican established full diplomatic relations with Japan, but it resisted Japanese and Italian pressure to recognize Manchukuo and the Nanjing regime.[48]

After the outbreak of World War II, the state was recognized by Slovakia (1 June 1940), Vichy France (12 July 1940), Romania (1 December 1940), Bulgaria (10 May 1941), Finland (17 July 1941),[49] Denmark (August 1941), Croatia (2 August 1941)—all controlled or influenced by Japan's ally Germany—as well as by Wang Jingwei's Reorganized National Government of the Republic of China (30 November 1940), Thailand (5 August 1941) and the Philippines (1943)—all under the control or influence of Japan.

Puyi as Emperor Kangde of Manchukuo

World War II and aftermath

A map of the Japanese advance from 1937 to 1942

Before World War II, the Japanese colonized Manchukuo and used it as a base from which to invade China. The Manchu General Tong Linge was killed in action by the Japanese in the Battle of Beiping–Tianjin, which marked the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War.[50][51][52] In the summer of 1939 a border dispute between Manchukuo and the Mongolian People's Republic resulted in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. During this battle, a combined Soviet-Mongolian force defeated the Japanese Kwantung Army (Kantōgun) supported by limited Manchukuoan forces.[53]

On 8 August 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan, in accordance with the agreement at the Yalta Conference, and invaded Manchukuo from outer Manchuria and Outer Mongolia. During the Soviet offensive, the Manchukuo Imperial Army, on paper a 200,000-man force, performed poorly and whole units surrendered to the Soviets without firing a single shot; there were even cases of armed riots and mutinies against the Japanese forces.[54] Emperor Kangde had hoped to escape to Japan to surrender to the Americans, but the Soviets captured him and eventually extradited him to the government of China, when the Chinese Communist Party came to power in 1949, where the authorities had him imprisoned as a war criminal along with all other captured Manchukuo officials.[55]

From 1945 to 1948, Manchuria (Inner Manchuria) served as a base area for the People's Liberation Army in the Chinese Civil War against the National Revolutionary Army.[56] The Chinese Communists used Manchuria as a staging ground until the final Nationalist retreat to Taiwan in 1949. Many Manchukuo army and Japanese Kantōgun personnel served with the communist troops during the Chinese Civil War against the Nationalist forces. Most of the 1.5 million Japanese who had been left in Manchukuo at the end of World War II were sent back to their homeland in 1946–1948 by U.S. Navy ships in the operation now known as the Japanese repatriation from Huludao.[57]

Manchukuo History articles: 106

Administrative divisions

During its short-lived existence, Manchukuo was divided into between five (in 1932) and 19 (in 1941) provinces, one special ward of Beiman (Chinese: 北滿特別區) and two Special cities which were Xinjing (Chinese: 新京特別市) and Harbin (Chinese: 哈爾濱特別市). Each province was divided into four (Xing'an dong) and 24 (Fengtian) prefectures. Beiman lasted less than 3 years (1 July 1933 – 1 January 1936) and Harbin was later incorporated into Binjiang province. Longjiang also existed as a province in 1932 before being divided into Heihe, Longjiang, and Sanjiang in 1934. Andong and Jinzhou provinces separated themselves from Fengtian while Binjiang and Jiandao from Jilin separated themselves in the same year.

Manchukuo Administrative divisions articles: 5


Propaganda poster promoting harmony between Japanese, Chinese, and Manchu. The caption says (Right to left): "With the cooperation of Japan, China, and Manchukuo, the world can be in peace."
Hideki Tōjō (right) and Nobusuke Kishi, the key architect of Manchukuo (1935–39), also known as the "Shōwa (Emperor) era monster/devil"

Historians generally consider Manchukuo a puppet state of Imperial Japan[58] because of the Japanese military's strong presence and strict control of the government administration. Chinese historians generally refer to the state as Wei Manzhouguo ("false state of Manchuria"). Some historians see Manchukuo as an effort at building a glorified Japanese state in mainland Asia that deteriorated due to the pressures of war.[59]

The independence of Manchuria was proclaimed on 18 February 1932 and officially founded on 1 March. The Japanese commander-in-chief appointed Puyi as regent (reign name Datong) for the time being, stating that he would become Emperor of Manchukuo but could not reign using the title of Emperor of the Great Qing Empire as he once held. Manchukuo was proclaimed a monarchy on 1 March 1934, with Puyi assuming the throne under the reign name of Emperor Kang-de. Puyi was assisted in his executive duties by a Privy Council (Chinese: 參議府), and a General Affairs State Council (Chinese: 國務院). This State Council was the center of political power, and consisted of several cabinet ministers, each assisted by a Japanese vice-minister. The commander-in-chief of the Kwantung Army (the army of Manchukuo) also served as the official Japanese ambassador to the state. He functioned in a manner similar to resident officers in European colonial empires, with the added ability to veto decisions by the emperor. The Kwangtung Army leadership placed Japanese vice ministers in his cabinet, while all Chinese advisors gradually resigned or were dismissed.

The Legislative Council (Chinese: 立法院) was largely a ceremonial body, existing to rubber-stamp decisions issued by the State Council. The only authorized political party was the government-sponsored Concordia Association, although various émigré groups were permitted their own political associations.

The American historian Louise Young noted that one of the most striking aspects of Manchukuo was that many of the young Japanese civil servants who went to work in Manchukuo were on the left, or at least had once been.[60] In the 1920s, much of the younger intelligentsia in Japan had rejected their parents' values and had become active in various left-wing movements. Starting with the Peace Preservation Law of 1925, which made the very act of thinking about "altering the kokutai a crime, the government had embarked on a sustained campaign to stomp out all left-wing thought in Japan. However, many of the bright young university graduates active in left-wing movements in Japan were needed to serve as civil servants in Manchukuo, which Young noted led the Japanese state to embark upon a contradictory policy of recruiting the same people active in the movements that it was seeking to crush."[60] To rule Manchukuo, which right from the start had a very statist economy, the Japanese state needed university graduates who were fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and the 1920s–30s, many of the university graduates in Japan who knew Mandarin were "progressives" involved in left-wing causes.[61] The fact that young Japanese civil servants in Manchukuo with their degrees in economics, sociology, etc., who had once been active in left-wing movements helps explain the decidedly leftist thrust of social and economic policies in Manchukuo with the state playing an increasingly large role in society.[61] Likewise, much of the debate between Japanese civil servants about the sort of social-economic policies Japan should follow in Manchukuo in the 1930s was framed in Marxist terms, with the civil servants arguing over whether Manchuria prior to September 1931 had a "feudal" or a "capitalist" economy.[62] The American historian Joshua Fogel wrote about the young servants of Manchukuo: "Tremendous debates transpired on such things as the nature of the Chinese economy, and the lingua franca of these debates was always Marxism".[63] To resolve this debate, various research teams of five or six young civil servants, guarded by detachments from the Kwantung Army of about 20 or 30 men, went out to do field research in Manchukuo, gathering material about the life of ordinary people, to determine Manchukuo was in the "feudal" or "capitalist" stage of development.[64] Starting in 1936, the Manchukuo state launched Five Year Plans for economic development, which were closely modeled after the Five Year Plans in the Soviet Union.[65]

In Manchukuo, the Japanese were creating a brand new state that was in theory independent, which meant that there were no limits upon the sort of policies that the new state could carry out, and many university graduates in Japan, who despite being opposed to the social system that existed in Japan itself, went to work in Manchukuo, believing that they could carry out reforms there that might inspire similar reforms in Japan.[66] This was especially the case since it was impossible to effect any reforms in Japan itself as the very act of thinking about "altering the kokutai" was a crime, which led many leftist Japanese university graduates to go work in Manchukuo, where they believed they could achieve the sort of social revolution that was impossible in Japan.[67] By 1933, the Japanese state had essentially destroyed both the Japanese Socialist Party and the Japanese Communist Party via mass arrests and Tenkō with both parties reduced down to mere rumps, which caused many Japanese student leftists to draw the conclusion that change was impossible in Japan, but still possible in Manchukuo, where paradoxically the Kwantung Army was sponsoring the sort of policies that were unacceptable in Japan.[68] Moreover, the Great Depression had made it very difficult for university graduates in Japan to find work, which made the prospect of a well-paying job in Manchukuo very attractive to otherwise underemployed Japanese university graduates.[69] In Manchukuo, the Japanese state was creating an entire state anew, which meant that Manchukuo had a desperate need for university graduates to work in its newly founded civil service.[70] In addition, the Pan-Asian rhetoric of Manchukuo and the prospect of Japan helping ordinary people in Manchuria greatly appealed to the idealistic youth of Japan.[69] Young wrote about the young Japanese people who went to work in Manchukuo: "The men, and in some cases, the women, who answered the call of this land of opportunity, brought with them tremendous drive and ambition. In their efforts to remake their own lives, they remade an empire. They invested it with their preoccupations of modernity and their dreams of a Utopian future. They pushed it to embrace idealist rhetoric of social reform and justified itself in terms of Chinese nationalist aspiration. They turned it to architectural ostentation and the heady luxury of colonial consumption. They made it into a project of radical change, experimentation and possibility".[69]

Map of Japanese Hokushin-ron plans for a potential attack on the Soviet Union. Dates indicate the year that Japan gained control of the territory.

The Kwantung Army for its part tolerated the talk of social revolution in Manchukuo as the best way of gaining support from the Han majority of Manchukuo, who did not want Manchuria to be severed from China.[71] Even more active in going to Manchukuo were the products of Tenkō ("Changing directions"), a process of brainwashing by the police of left-wing activists to make them accept that the Emperor was a god after all, whom they were best to serve.[72] Tenkō was a very successful process that turned young Japanese who once been ardent liberals or leftists who rejected the idea that the Emperor was a god into fanatical rightists, who made up for their previous doubts about the divinity of the Emperor with militant enthusiasm.[72] One tenkōsha was Tachibana Shiraki, who once been a Marxist Sinologist who after his arrest and undergoing Tenkō become a fanatical right-winger.[72] Tachibana went to Manchukuo in 1932, proclaiming that the theory of the "five races" working together was the best solution to Asia's problems and argued in his writings that only Japan could save China from itself, which was a complete change from his previous policies, where he criticized Japan for exploiting China.[72] Other left-wing activists like Ōgami Suehiro did not undergo Tenkō, but still went to work in Manchukuo, believing it was possible to effect social reforms that would end the "semi-feudal" condition of the Chinese peasants of Manchukuo, and that he could use the Kwantung Army to effect left-wing reforms in Manchukuo.[72] Ōgami went to work in the "agricultural economy" desk of the Social Research Unit of the South Manchurian Railroad company, writing up reports about the rural economy of Manchukuo that were used by the Kwantung Army and the Manchukuo state.[73] Ōgami believed that his studies helped ordinary people, citing one study he did about water use in rural Manchukuo, where he noted a correlation between villages that were deprived of water and "banditry" (the codeword for anti-Japanese guerrillas), believing that the policy of improving water supply in villages was due to his study.[63] The outbreak of the war with China in 1937 caused the state in Manchukuo to grow even bigger as a policy of "total war" came in, which meant there was a pressing demand for people with university degrees trained to think "scientifically".[70] Fogel wrote that almost all of the university graduates from Japan who arrived in Manchukuo in the late 1930s were "largely left-wing Socialists and Communists. This was precisely at the time when Marxism had been all but banned in Japan, when (as Yamada Gōichi put) if the expression shakai (social) appeared in the title of a book, it was usually confiscated".[70]

Young also noted—with reference to Lord Acton's dictum that "Absolute power corrupts absolutely"—that for many of the idealistic young Japanese civil servants, who believed that they could affect a "revolution from above" that would make the lives of ordinary people better, that the absolute power that they enjoyed over millions of people "went to their heads", causing them to behave with abusive arrogance towards the very people that they had gone to Manchukuo to help.[65] Young wrote that it was a "monumental conceit" of the part of the young idealists to believe that they could use the Kwantung Army to achieve a "revolution from above" when it was the Kwantung Army that was using them.[65] The ambitious plans for land reform in Manchukuo were vetoed by the Kwantung Army for precisely the reason that it might inspire similar reforms in Japan.[74] The landlords in Japan tended to come from families who once belonged to the samurai caste, and almost all of the officers in the Imperial Japanese Army came from samurai families, which made the Kwantung Army very hostile towards any sort of land reform which might serve as an example for Japanese peasants. In October 1941, the Soviet spy ring headed by Richard Sorge was uncovered in Tokyo, which caused the authorities to become paranoid about Soviet espionage, and led to new crackdown on the left. In November 1941, the Social Research Unit of the South Manchurian Railroad Company, which was well known as a hotbed of Marxism since the early 1930s, was raided by the Kenpeitai, who arrested 50 of those working in the Social Research Unit.[75] At least 44 of those working in the Social Research Unit were convicted of violating the Peace Preservation Law, which made thinking about "altering the kokutai" a crime in 1942–43 and were given long prison sentences, of whom four died due to the harsh conditions of prisons in Manchukuo.[76] As the men working in the Social Research Unit had played important roles in Manchukuo's economic policy and were university graduates from good families, the Japanese historian Hotta Eri wrote that the Kenpeitai was ordered to "handle them with care", meaning no torture of the sort that the Kenpeitai normally employed in its investigations. [76]

When the Japanese surrender was announced on 15 August 1945, Puyi agreed to abdicate.

Head of State

Emperor of Manchukuo
Imperial Standard
StyleHis Imperial Majesty
First monarchPuyi
Last monarchPuyi
Formation1 March 1934
Abolition15 August 1945
ResidenceManchukuo's Imperial Palace
Manchukuo 1932–1945
Personal Names Period of Reigns Era names (年號) and their corresponding range of years
All given names in bold.
Aisin-Gioro Puyi 愛新覺羅溥儀 Àixīnjuéluó Pǔyì 9 March 1932 – 15 August 1945 Datong (大同 Dàtóng) 1932–1934
Kangde (康德 Kāngdé) 1934–1945

Prime Minister

No. Portrait Name
Term of office Political Party
Took office Left office Time in office
1 Zheng Xiaoxu
9 March 1932 21 May 1935 3 years, 73 days Concordia Association
2 Zhang Jinghui
21 May 1935 15 August 1945 10 years, 86 days Concordia Association

Manchukuo Politics articles: 22


Map of Manchukuo

In 1908, the number of residents was 15,834,000, which rose to 30,000,000 in 1931 and 43,000,000 for the Manchukuo state. The population balance remained 123 men to 100 women and the total number in 1941 was 50,000,000. Other statistics indicate that in Manchukuo the population rose by 18,000,000.

In early 1934, the total population of Manchukuo was estimated as 30,880,000, with 6.1 persons the average family, and 122 men for each 100 women. These numbers included 29,510,000 Chinese (96%, which should have included the Manchurian population), 590,760 Japanese (2%), 680,000 Koreans (2%), and 98,431 (<1%) of other nationality: White Russians, Mongols, etc. Around 80% of the population was rural. During the existence of Manchukuo, the ethnic balance did not change significantly, except that Japan increased the Korean population in China. From Japanese sources come these numbers: in 1940 the total population in Manchukuo of Lungkiang, Jehol, Kirin, Liaoning (Fengtian) and Xing'an provinces at 43,233,954; or an Interior Ministry figure of 31,008,600. Another figure of the period estimated the total population as 36,933,000 residents. The majority of Han Chinese in Manchukuo believed that Manchuria was rightfully part of China, who both passively and violently resisted Japan's propaganda that Manchukuo was a "multinational state".[77]

After the Russian Civil War (1917–1922), thousands of Russians fled to Manchuria to join the Russian community already there. The Russians living in Manchuria were stateless and as whites had an ambiguous status in Manchukuo, which was meant to be a Pan-Asian state, whose official "five races" were the Chinese, Mongols, Manchus, Koreans, and Japanese.[78] At various times, the Japanese suggested that the Russians might be a "sixth race" of Manchukuo, but this was never officially declared.[79] In 1936, the Manchukuo Almanac reported that were 33,592 Russians living in the city of Harbin—the "Moscow of the Orient"—and of whom only 5,580 had been granted Manchukuo citizenship.[80] Japanese imperialism was to a certain extent based on racism with the Japanese as the "great Yamato race", but there was always a certain dichotomy in Japanese thinking between an ideology based on racial differences based on bloodlines versus the idea of Pan-Asianism with Japan as the natural leader of all the Asian peoples.[81] In 1940, ethnic Russians were included among the other nationalities of Manchukuo as candidates for conscription into the Manchukuo military.[82]

The British writer Peter Fleming visited Manchukuo in 1935, and while riding a train through the countryside of Manchukuo, a group of Japanese colonists mistook his Swiss traveling companion Kini for a Russian refugee, and began to beat her up.[83] It was only after Fleming was able to prove to the Japanese that she was Swiss, not Russian, that the Japanese stopped and apologized, saying that they would never had beaten her up if they had known she was Swiss, saying that they sincerely believed she was a Russian when they assaulted her.[83] Fleming observed that in Manchukuo: "you can beat White Russians up till you are blue in the face, because they are people without status in the world, citizens of nowhere".[84] Fleming further noted that the Japanese in Manchukuo had a strong dislike of all white people, and because the Russians in Manchukuo were stateless without an embassy to issue protests if they were victimized, the Japanese liked to victimize them.[85] Until World War II, the Japanese tended to leave alone those travelling to Manchukuo with a passport as they did not like to deal with protests from embassies in Tokyo about the mistreatment of their citizens.[83] The Kwantung Army operated a secret biological-chemical warfare unit based in Pinfang, Unit 731, that performed gruesome experiments on people involving much visceration of the subjects to see the effects of chemicals and germs on the human body. In the late 1930s, the doctors of Unit 731 demanded more white subjects to experiment upon in order to test the efficiency the strains of anthrax and plague that they were developing leading to a great many of the Russians living in Manchukuo becoming the unwilling human guinea pigs of Unit 731.[86] The Russian Fascist Party, which worked with the Japanese was used to kidnap various "unreliable" Russians living in Manchukuo for Unit 731 to experiment upon.[86]

The children of the Russian exiles often married Han Chinese, and the resulting children were always known in Manchukuo as "mixed water" people, who were shunned by both the Russian and Chinese communities.[87] Chinese accounts, both at the time and later, tended to portray the Russians living in Manchuria as all prostitutes and thieves, and almost always ignored the contributions made by middle-class Russians to community life.[88] Mindful of the way that Americans and most Europeans enjoyed extraterritorial rights in China at the time, accounts in Chinese literature about the Russians living in Manchukuo and their "mixed water" children often display a certain schadenfreude recounting how the Russians in Manchukuo usually lived in poverty on the margins of Manchukuo society with the local Chinese more economically successful.[89] The South Korean historian Bong Inyoung noted when it came to writing about the "mixed water" people, Chinese writers tended to treat them as not entirely Chinese, but on the other hand were willing to accept these people as Chinese provided that would totally embrace Chinese culture by renouncing their Russian heritage, thus making Chineseness as much a matter of culture as of race.[90]

Around the same time the Soviet Union was advocating the Siberian Jewish Autonomous Oblast across the Manchukuo-Soviet border, some Japanese officials investigated a plan (known as the Fugu Plan) to attract Jewish refugees to Manchukuo as part of their colonisation efforts which was never adopted as official policy. The Jewish community in Manchukuo was not subjected to the official persecution that Jews experienced under Japan's ally Nazi Germany, and Japanese authorities were involved in closing down local anti-Semitic publications such as the Russian periodical Nashput.[91] However, Jews in Manchukuo were victims of harassment by antisemitic elements among the White Russian population, one notable incident being the murder of Simon Kaspé. In 1937 the Far Eastern Jewish Council was created, chaired by the Harbin Jewish community leader Dr. Abraham Kaufman.[92] Between 1937 and 1939 the city of Harbin in Manchukuo was the location of the Conference of Jewish Communities in the Far East.[92] Following the Russian Red Army's invasion of Manchuria in 1945, Dr. Kaufman and several other Jewish community leaders were arrested by the Soviets and charged with anti-Soviet activities, resulting in Kaufman's imprisonment for ten years in a Soviet labor camp.[92]

The Japanese Ueda Kyōsuke labeled all 30 million people in Manchuria as "Manchus", including Han Chinese, despite the fact that most of them were not ethnic Manchu, and the Japanese written, "Great Manchukuo" built upon Ueda's argument to claim that all 30 million "Manchus" in Manchukuo had the right to independence to justify splitting Manchukuo from China.[93] In 1942 the Japanese wrote "Ten Year History of the Construction of Manchukuo" which attempted to emphasize the right of ethnic Japanese to the land of Manchukuo while attempting to delegitimize the Manchu's claim to Manchukuo as their native land, noting that most Manchus moved out during the Qing period and only returned later.[94]

Population of main cities

  • Niuzhuang (119,000 or 180,871 in 1940)
  • Mukden (339,000 or 1,135,801 in 1940)
  • Xinjing (126,000 or 544,202 in 1940)
  • Harbin (405,000 or 661,948 in 1940)
  • Andong (92,000 or 315,242 in 1940)
  • Kirin (119,000 or 173,624 in 1940)
  • Tsitsihar (75,000 in 1940)

Source: Beal, Edwin G (1945). "The 1940 Census of Manchuria". The Far Eastern Quarterly. 4 (3): 243–262. doi:10.2307/2049515. JSTOR 2049515.

Japanese population

In 1931–2, there were 100,000 Japanese farmers; other sources mention 590,760 Japanese inhabitants. Other figures for Manchukuo speak of a Japanese population 240,000 strong, later growing to 837,000. In Xinjing, they made up 25% of the population. Accordingly, to the census of 1936, of the Japanese population of Manchukuo, 22% were civil servants and their families; 18% were working for the South Manchurian Railroad company; 25% had come to Manchukuo to establish a business, and 21% had come to work in industry.[95] The Japanese working in the fields of transportation, the government, and in business tended to be middle class, white-collar people such as executives, engineers, and managers, and those Japanese who working in Manchukuo as blue collar employees tended to be skilled workers.[95] In 1934, it was reported that a Japanese carpenter working in Manchukuo with its growing economy could earn twice as much as he could in Japan.[96] With its gleaming modernist office buildings, state of the art transport networks like the famous Asia Express railroad line, and modern infrastructure that was going up all over Manchukuo, Japan's newest colony become a popular tourist destination for middle-class Japanese, who wanted to see the "Brave New Empire" that was going up in the mainland of Asia.[96] The Japanese government had official plans projecting the emigration of 5 million Japanese to Manchukuo between 1936 and 1956. Between 1938 and 1942 a batch of young farmers of 200,000 arrived in Manchukuo; joining this group after 1936 were 20,000 complete families. Of the Japanese settlers in Manchukuo, almost half came from the rural areas of Kyushu.[95] When Japan lost sea and air control of the Yellow Sea in 1943–44, this migration stopped.

When the Red Army invaded Manchukuo, they captured 850,000 Japanese settlers. With the exception of some civil servants and soldiers, these were repatriated to Japan in 1946–7. Many Japanese orphans in China were left behind in the confusion by the Japanese government and were adopted by Chinese families. Many, however, integrated well into Chinese society. In the 1980s Japan began to organize a repatriation program for them but not all chose to go back to Japan.

The majority of Japanese left behind in China were women, and these Japanese women mostly married Chinese men and became known as "stranded war wives" (zanryu fujin).[97][98] Because they had children fathered by Chinese men, the Japanese women were not allowed to bring their Chinese families back with them to Japan, so most of them stayed. Japanese law allowed children fathered only by Japanese to become Japanese citizens.

Abuse of ethnic minorities

The Oroqen suffered a significant population decline under Japanese rule. The Japanese distributed opium among them and subjected some members of the community to human experiments, and combined with incidents of epidemic diseases this caused their population to decline until only 1,000 remained.[99][100][101][102][103] The Japanese banned Oroqen from communicating with other ethnicities, and forced them to hunt animals for them in exchange for rations and clothing which were sometimes insufficient for survival, which lead to deaths from starvation and exposure. Opium was distributed to Oroqen adults older than 18 as a means of control. After 2 Japanese troops were killed in Alihe by an Oroqen hunter, the Japanese poisoned 40 Oroqen to death.[104] The Japanese forced Oroqen to fight for them in the war which led to a population decrease of Oroqen people.[105] Even those Oroqen who avoided direct control by the Japanese found themselves facing conflict from anti-Japanese forces of the Chinese Communists, which contributed to their population decline during this period.[104]

Between 1931 and 1945, the Hezhen population declined by 80% or 90%, due to heavy opium use and deaths from Japanese cruelty, such as slave labor and relocation by the Japanese.[106]

Manchukuo Demographics articles: 24

Legal system

Though Manchukuo itself was a product of illegality, as the League of Nations ruled that Japan had broken international law by seizing Manchuria, the Japanese invested much effort into giving Manchukuo a legal system, believing that this was the fastest way for international recognition of Manchukuo.[107] A particular problem for the Japanese was that Manchukuo was always presented as a new type of state: a multi-ethnic Pan-Asian state comprising Japanese, Koreans, Manchus, Mongols and Chinese to mark the birth of the "New Order in Asia".[108] Typical of the rhetoric surrounding Manchukuo was always portrayed as the birth of a glorious new civilization was the press release issued by the Japanese Information Service on 1 March 1932 announcing the "glorious advent" of Manchukuo with the "eyes of the world turned on it" proclaimed that the birth of Manchukuo was an "epochal event of far-reaching consequences in world history, marking the birth of a new era in government, racial relations, and other affairs of general interest. Never in the chronicles of the human race was any State born with such high ideals, and never has any State accomplished so much in such a brief space of its existence as Manchukuo".[109]

The Japanese went out of their way to try to ensure that Manchukuo was the embodiment of modernity in all of its aspects, as it was intended to prove to the world what the Asian peoples could accomplish if they worked together. Manchukuo's legal system was based upon the Organic Law of 1932, which featured a 12 article Human Rights Protection Law and a supposedly independent judiciary to enforce the law.[108] The official ideology of Manchukuo was the wangdao ("Kingly Way") devised by a former mandarin under the Qing turned Prime Minister of Manchukuo Zheng Xiaoxu calling for an ordered Confucian society that would promote justice and harmony that was billed at the time as the beginning of a new era in world history.[110] The purpose of the law in Manchukuo was not the protection of the rights of the individual, as the wangdao ideology was expressly hostile towards individualism, which was seen as a decadent Western concept inimical to Asia, but rather the interests of the state by ensuring that subjects fulfilled their duties to the emperor.[111] The wangdao favored the collective over the individual, as the wangdao called for all people to put the needs of society ahead of their own needs.[111] Zheng together with the Japanese legal scholar Ishiwara Kanji in a joint statement attacked the Western legal tradition for promoting individualism, which they claimed led to selfishness, greed and materialism, and argued that the wangdao with its disregard for the individual was a morally superior system.[112] The seemingly idealistic Human Rights Protection Law counterbalanced the "rights" of the subjects with their "responsibilities" to the state with a greater emphasis on the latter, just as was the case in Japan. The wangdao promoted Confucian morality and spirituality, which was seen as coming down from Emperor Puyi, and as such, the legal system existed to serve the needs of the state headed by Emperor Puyi, who could change the laws as he saw fit.[113] In this regard it is noteworthy that Legislative Yuan had only the power of assisting the Emperor with making laws, being endowed with far fewer powers than even the Imperial Diet in Japan had, which had the power to reject or approve laws. It was often suggested at the time that the Legislative Yuan of Manchukuo was a model for the Imperial Diet in Japan, an idea Hirohito, the Japanese emperor, was sympathetic to, but never took up.[114] Hirohito in the end preferred the Meiji constitution passed by his grandfather in 1889 as it gave the Emperor of Japan ultimate power while at the same time the fiction of the Imperial Diet together with a Prime Minister and his cabinet governing Japan gave the Emperor a scapegoat when things went wrong.

Initially, the judges who had served the Zhangs were retained, but in 1934, the Judicial Law College headed by the Japanese judge Furuta Masatake was opened in Changchun, to be replaced by a larger Law University in 1937. Right from the start, the new applicants vastly exceeded the number of openings as the first class of the Law College numbered only 100, but 1,210 students had applied.[115] The legal system that the students were trained was closely modeled after the Japanese legal system, which in its turn was modeled after the French legal system, but there were a number of particularities unique to Manchukuo.[116] Law students were trained to write essays on such topics as the "theory of the harmony of the five races [of Manchukuo]", the "political theory of the Kingly Way", "practical differences between consular jurisdiction and extraterritoriality", and how best to "realize the governance of the Kingly Way".[116] The Japanese professors were "astonished" by the "enthusiasm" which the students wrote their essays on these subjects as the students expressed the hope that the wangdao was a uniquely Asian solution to the problems of the modern world, and that Manchukuo represented nothing less than the beginning of a new civilization that would lead to a utopian society in the near future.[116] The Japanese professors were greatly impressed with the Confucian idealism of their students, but noted that their students all used stock phrases to the extent it was hard to tell their essays apart, cited examples of wise judges from ancient China while ignoring more recent legal developments, and were long on expressing idealistic statements about how the wangdao would lead to a perfect society, but were short on how explaining just how this was to be done in practice.[117]

An example of the extent of Japanese influence on the legal system of Manchukuo was that every issue of the Manchukuo Legal Advisory Journal always contained a summary of the most recent rulings by the Supreme Court of Japan, and the reasons why the Japanese Supreme Court had ruled in these cases.[118] However, there were some differences between the Manchukuo and Japanese legal systems. In Japan itself, corporal punishment had been abolished as part of the successful effort to end the extraterritorial rights enjoyed by citizens of the Western powers, but retained for the Japanese colonies of Korea and Taiwan.[118] However, corporal punishment, especially flogging, was a major part of the Manchukuo legal system with judges being very much inclined to impose floggings on low-income Chinese men convicted of minor offenses that would normally merit only a fine or a short prison sentence in Japan.[119] Writing in a legal journal in 1936, Ono Jitsuo, a Japanese judge serving in Manchukuo, regretted having to impose floggings as a punishment for relatively minor crimes but argued that it was necessary of Manchukuo's 30 million people "more than half are ignorant and completely illiterate barbarians" who were too poor to pay fines and too numerous to imprison.[120] In Taiwan and Korea, Japanese law was supreme, but judges in both colonies had to respect "local customs" in regards to family law.[121] In the case of Manchukuo, a place with a Han majority, but that ideology proclaimed the "five races" of Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Manchus, and Mongols as all equal, this led in effect to several family laws for each of the "five races" respecting their "local customs" plus the Russian and Hui Muslim minorities.[122]

The Manchukuo police had the power to arrest without charge anyone who was engaged in the vaguely defined crime of "undermining the state".[123] Manchukuo had an extensive system of courts at four levels staffed by a mixture of Chinese and Japanese judges. All of the courts had both two Japanese and two Chinese judges with the Chinese serving as the nominal superior judges and the Japanese the junior judges, but in practice the Japanese judges were the masters and the Chinese judges puppets.[124] Despite the claims that the legal system of Manchukuo was a great improvement over the legal system presided over by Marshal Zhang Xueliang the "Young Marshal", the courts in Manchukuo were inefficient and slow, and ignored by the authorities whenever it suited them.[125] In Asia, the rule of law and an advanced legal system are commonly seen as one of the marks of "civilization", which is why the chaotic and corrupt legal system run by Marshal Zhang was denigrated so much by the Japanese and Manchukuo media.