Appendices - Hirohito's War
D: THE JAPANESE EMPIRE - FROM CO-PROSPERITY TO TYRANNY
Old Empire: Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria: During World War I the role of Korea moved from being a granary for Japan to a colony allowed limited industrialization. Some of this occurred when demand for Japanese textiles worldwide had meant that the demand for manufactured goods from its own colonies could not be met. Twenty companies with capital up to 30 million Yen were established during this period encompassing activities such as mining, brick making, shipbuilding, pig iron, steel, forestry, cement, sugar refining and milling. Makato Saito, who was Governor-General for all but two years of the 1920s abolished existing company law and implemented a company registration system identical to Japan’s. Tariffs were removed between Japan and Korea.
War again gave another spurt to industrialisation from the 1930s as the Kwantung Army in Manchuria rapidly expanded its demand for manufactured products. Historically Korea’s main roads had always fed into Manchuria and the sourcing of industrial products from the more northerly areas of Korea (now North Korea) was a natural development of Japan’s northern expansion. General Kazushige Ugaki who was Governor-General from 1931 to 1936 strongly supported the economic development Manchuria. Incentives were offered to private companies including low interest loans, expropriation of land and low tax rates.
As full-scale conflict developed in China, Korea too began to be managed on the basis of the total war concept that was developing from within the Japanese Army; essentially Japan and its colonies were a ‘Sparta’ in the making. In 1943 the Governor General reported that employment in manufacturing had risen 800 percent to 1.75m over the previous ten years. As the needs of Japanese military recruitment grew, Koreans moved upwards into more skilled positions, even into managerial and engineering posts. Korean entrepreneurs developed businesses as sub-contractors on the Japanese model. Advancement similarly developed in financial institutions.
As early as 1883 selected Koreans had been admitted to Japanese military academies but after 1915 this was reserved almost exclusively for members of the Korean royal family and the aristocracy. However admission, albeit difficult for Koreans, who had to pass language tests, again expanded rapidly after 1932. In essence elite Koreans were gradually drawn into Japan’s imperial project. In February 1932, shortly before the formal inauguration of Manchukuo, a well-known Christian leader Yun Chiho confided in his diary, “as a Korean patriot I would like to see Japan succeed in its Manchurian policy…” Japan controlled Manchuria,” he added, “will have room for employment of a large number of Koreans.”4 No longer at the periphery, Koreans were moving center stage. Thus Kim Yehyon, a consultant to the Chosen Fire and Marine Insurance Company, noted: “Once the War (Second Sino-Japanese War) comes to an end (with a Japanese Victory), it is not difficult to imagine that we Koreans as well, openly advancing into northern and central China, can reap various benefits as the third parties.”5
In Korea and Taiwan the expansion of the empire into China and later into Southeast Asia was accompanied by what was known as the kominka movement [1937-1945]. In essence it meant a policy “to transform [the colonial peoples] into Imperial subjects”6 It was not a policy designed to extend constitutional rights to Korea and Taiwan but was intended to make the colonial peoples “true Japanese”.7 In Korea an oath of loyalty to the Emperor in Japan was required. It started “We are subjects of the Imperial (Japanese) nation; we will repay His Majesty as well as the country with loyalty and sincerity.”8 In Taiwan emphasis was put on making Japanese the national language, as well as introducing Japanese religion, changing names (individuals and places) and recruitment of military volunteers. Shintoism was promoted in Japan and Korea. In both countries the study of classical Chinese was removed from the educational syllabus. In 1938 Korean was relegated to the status of an option subject and was removed completely in 1941. However in adoption of the Japanese language, Korea lagged Taiwan, which had become a colony 15 years earlier.
In general kominka policies were introduced in Taiwan in an atmosphere of greater acceptability than in Korea where the changes were more coercive and confrontational. Nevertheless in Korea the number of volunteer applicants to join Japanese Army brigades fighting in China increased from 2,946 in 1938 to 303,294 in 1943. A similar growth in numbers was seen in Taiwan. It became the fashion for Korean and Taiwanese colonials to demonstrate their loyalty by joining the ‘Army Volunteer System’. By 1945 207,183 Taiwanese had been recruited of whom 30,304 died in service.
In all conquered countries a certain percentage of the elite always aligned themselves with the new rulers. Manchuria was no exception. Once the warlord regime of Chang Hsueh-Liang was driven out, Manchurian factions stepped forward to help the Japanese invaders, in the form of the Kwantung Army, manage the newly annexed country. There was already an established precedent in Japanese management in Manchuria through the not inconsiderable activities of the South Manchuria Railway Company, a quasi-official joint stock company established after the Treaty of Portsmouth , which had granted this Russian concession to Japan. Using its monopoly position, the company had already diversified into mining and manufacture.
A bold experiment in state capitalism led to a rapid growth in the Manchurian economy. It was a development that was eagerly jumped on by Japanese Zaibatsu. However companies outside the tradition Zaibatsu conglomerates establishment were often even more aggressive. Manchuria gave them the opportunity to escape from the ‘capital capture’ structure that the Zaibatsu had imposed on Japan through their dominant banking institutions. Thus companies such as Nissan, a company outside the Zaibatsu structures, saw Manchuria as a means of breaking out from their inherent competitive disadvantages. Overall however, the economic development of Manchuria came to be seen as a disappointment. In particular, consumer demand for Japan’s industrial products remained weak – not surprisingly given that this largely agrarian society could not avoid the global downturn in commodity prices in the 1930s.
Nevertheless mass migration from Japan was encouraged and over 300,000 people moved to Manchuria. The Japanese-controlled Manchurian Bureau of Affairs was the overarching promoter of the scheme. It was aimed largely but not wholly at impoverished tenant farmers. Most Japanese emigrated under the ‘village colonization’ program organised by the Manchurian Emigration Council, the Colonial Ministry and the Agricultural and Forestry Ministry. In Japan, citizens were urged to “Go! Go and colonize the continent! For the development of the Yamato race, build the new order in Asia!”9
Manchuria became the centrepiece of the wartime Empire and the symbol of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. As historian Louise Young has concluded, “the hubris of Japan’s wartime empire was not the isolated expression of a few individuals, but the collective consciousness of an age.”10 Though it should be remembered that at the initial stages the government in Tokyo was reluctant to acquiesce to the Kwantung Army’s unauthorised annexation of Manchuria. It was only in the early months of 1932 as the Kwantung Army pressed for the setting up of the state of Manchukuo that Tokyo relented and began to accept the Army’s fait accompli.
Soon the Army, Foreign Office and Colonial Ministry were jostling for power in Manchukuo. It was a turf war convincingly won by the Army. In September 1932 Army Minister, Sadao Araki complained “the SMR [South Manchurian Railway] is a political plum for the men of parties, that the company considers only the interests of its stockholders… it has become too fond of profit and has lost sight of the fact that it owes its existence to the state and its citizens… [but] We must first free the SMR from the clutches of the political parties.”11 Army influence was at first rebuffed but after 1934 the Army used its power of veto over the cabinet in Japan to increase its power over the Manchurian Affairs Bureau. The aim of industrialisation was very clearly to prepare the economy of Manchukuo for war. In 1937 alone, the government of Manchukuo founded seventy-nine new companies aimed at the expansion of the military-industrial complex. To a large extent the Manchukuo model for economic expansion became the template for wartime Japan. However, after 1939 Japan no longer had the industrial capacity to provide the capital goods to enable further expansion of its colonies’ expansion. As a result the second five-year plan launched in 1942 was less ambitious than its predecessor.
After the absorption of Northern China, investment increased from Y1.1bn in 1936 to Y1.8bn in 1938; 38 per cent went to mining and industry, 27 per cent to finance and 19 per cent to commerce. The prime focus of these new areas of Phase III Imperial expansion was largely industrial resource extraction. The main commodities included coal, iron and alumina. Most of the industrial activity was financed by the North China Development Stock Company, which was financed 50/50 by the government and private sector. With the exception of the use of private money, the industrialisation of Manchuria and Northern China was not far away from the model used by the Soviet Union. After the America’s freezing of Japan’s financial assets, they created a quasi Yen block; in effect America had now forced on them an autarkic system of economic development. To begin with it was introduced in Manchuria and north China and later partially extended into French Indochina and the Dutch East Indies; it was designed to enable Japan to acquire commodities in a world with which it could not trade because it had been financially frozen out. However areas such as New Guinea, Burma and the Solomon Islands were not integrated into the Yen block system – reflecting a lack of resources and their low priority.
In a Japanese policy statement issued on 20 November 1941, it was cautioned that a “premature encouragement of native independence shall be avoided.”12 There was no plan as to how the Southeast Asian countries should develop and fit into Japan’s empire model. That the occupation would be rapacious was made clear from the outset. The Army been ordered to live off the land and it was made clear that the native populations would have to lump it: “Economic hardships imposed on native livelihood as a result of the acquisition of resources vital to the national defense for the self-sufficiency of troops must be endured.”13 It displayed a prosaic exploitative pragmatism though officers such as Iwaichi Fujiwara and Keiji Suzuki carried a more emotive and idealist message. Given the overextension of Japanese power and the lack of pre-planning for Phase IV of the Empire, it is perhaps not surprising that local rule was military, ad hoc, chaotic and more often than not brutal.
Apart from the idea of pan-Asian liberation and the strategic and economic arguments for the southward advance, a clear plan is impossible to discern. E. Bruce Reynolds noted that Japan “failed to capitalise on the pro-Japanese Asian mood.”14 Opportunistically Phibun, Thailand’s prime minister and effective dictator, used the advance of Japan’s Empire to make an opportunistic alliance that enabled him to filch disputed border territories in both Indochina and Burma. Thailand was arguably a model for the future development of a Japanese Empire though as soon as the war started to go against Japan Phibun defected at the earliest opportunity.
A key figure in the Dutch East Indies military government, Shizuo Saito, stated that, “Our major objective in the war was to acquire the natural resources of the land, and this was impossible to achieve without the cooperation of the natives.”15 In the 1920s Sukarno had predicted that Japanese aggression was bound to result in war with the “two imperial states of Britain and the United States.”16 Sukarno also noted that as an imperialist country in its own right Japan was hardly suitable for the role of “standard bearer of the oppressed Asia people.”17 Nevertheless Sukarno let it be known that he preferred Japanese militarism to Dutch democracy; whether he would have felt the same if he had known that Japan had decided to keep the Dutch East Indies and Malaya ‘for eternity’ is doubtful. Japan’s views on Empire only began to change as losing the war becoming increasingly inevitable. The compliance of nationalists such as Sukarno led Japanese authorities to declare, “Indonesian people rendered hearty co-operation to our military administration.”18 His policies did not please all of his followers and in a coup reminiscent of the Xian incident in China, Sukarno and his deputy Mohammad Hatta were captured by younger nationalists in the so-called Rengasdengkok Incident.
Although a post-war liberation of Asia by Japan was never intended and in spite of all the evidence to the contrary, Japan’s liberation of Asia became a post-war self-justification for their empire. On rare occasions ‘liberation’ was resisted. On 9 October 1942 Chinese inhabitants of Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu in northern Borneo) rose in revolt against their Japanese ‘liberators’ slaying forty Japanese soldiers. In putting down the revolt the small port town was indiscriminately bombed, mostly killing innocent civilians. The tiny Suluk Muslim population, which had offered little support for the uprising, was reduced from 838 to 288 by the end of the war.
The Philippines was the most westernized of the Asian countries. Uniquely the Philippines even had representation in the United States Congress with two non-voting members. Quezon averred: “We owe loyalty to America, and we are bound to her by bonds of everlasting gratitude.”19 He referred to America as “Mother America”.20 In spite of the close relationship between the Filipino elite and the United States, collaborators were soon found. José Laurel visited Japan after becoming President of the Second Philippine Republic in October 1943 and was promised independence. Unlike in Burma, Japan did not make it a condition that Filipinos participate in the war on Japan’s side. Nevertheless Laurel, the Philippine’s puppet ruler, attended the Greater East Asian Conference in November 1943. Other attendees included Subhas Chandra Bose who was the provisional head of ‘Free India’. Ba Maw attended from Burma but the Dutch East Indies was not represented.
Ba Maw developed a close personal relationship with Tojo after meeting the senior Japanese leadership on five occasions. Laurel met Tojo before the conference and opined, “Should Japan be defeated, we know that we in East Asia will become slaves.”21 It was one of the reason given by Hirohito in his post-war confessions (Showa Tenno no Dokuhaku Roku ) for not removing Tojo earlier: “a reshuffle that disregarded those ties might make it difficult to retain public goodwill in Greater East Asia.”22 Phibun refused to go to the conference in Tokyo, correctly judging that the balance of the war had moved in favour of the Allies.