BECK index

Summary and Evaluation of East Asia 1800-1949

 by Sanderson Beck

Qing Decline 1800-1912
China's Long Revolution 1912-49
Korea 1800-1949
Japan's Modernization 1800-1930
Japan's Imperial Wars 1931-1949
Pacific Islands
Evaluating East Asia 1800-1949

This chapter has been published in the book EAST ASIA 1800-1949.
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Qing Decline 1800-1912

Ancient China to 221 BC
Imperial China 221 BC to 1368
Ming Dynasty
Qing Dynasty to 1800

Emperor Jiajing (r. 1799-1820) tried to reduce the massive corruption that had spread in China during the administration by Heshan. Taxes fell heavily upon the poor, who often lost their lands. Most of the grain from the Yangzi provinces was shipped to Beijing by the Grand Canal. The White Lotus rebellion was crushed in 1805, but its Heavenly Reason sect revolted in 1813. The Triad Society rebelled in the south. China collected tribute from its neighbors, and exporting tea to the English brought in much silver. Shen Fu’s autobiography, Six Records from a Floating Life, describes the life of a poor scholar who found happiness from married love and literary pleasures.

Li Ruzhen completed his Daoist fantasy novel, Flowers in the Mirror, in 1827. Set during the Tang dynasty, Empress Wu while drunk orders all the flowers to bloom on one day in winter. A hundred flower fairies incarnate on Earth and eventually pass the exams for women that the Empress institutes. Tang Ao rejects an imperial rank and has fantastic travel adventures to bizarre places. He finds the flower spirits while organizing the revolt against the usurping Empress. The extraordinary countries that Tang Ao and his relatives visit portray various spiritual lessons. Tang Ao stays in the Country of Immortality. After the women pass the exams at the capital, the rebels overcome the temptations of the empire and depose Empress Wu. This novel contains much Daoist folklore and suggests that women can be emancipated through education.

Emperor Daoguang (r. 1821-50) was influenced by the conservative Cao Zhenyong until he died in 1835. In Mongolia, Prince Toghtakhu Toro implemented reforms and improved education. Jahangir of Kokand led a jihad in western Xinjiang from 1817 until his capture in 1828. The Manchus realized by 1835 that discouraging commerce there was counterproductive. The English sold more opium from India, and by 1826 China’s trade surplus had become a deficit. Competition increased after the British East India Company ended its monopoly in 1833. Qian Yong criticized religious festivals. Corruption and tax resistance reduced the Qing treasury to eight million taels by 1850. Wei Yuan (1794-1856) recommended various reforms such as shipping rice by sea, using European military methods, eliminating graft, improving accounting, and allowing emigration to Xinjiang. Chinese coolies were shipped overseas under exploitive contracts. Christian missionaries increased their evangelical and medical efforts in China.

The increased opium traffic cost China 38 million taels of silver between 1828 and 1836 while one in five officials had become addicted. In 1837 the Qing government tried to crack down on the illegal opium, but in 1838 a record 2,800 tons were imported. Lin Zexu proposed a comprehensive program and was appointed imperial commissioner. He blockaded Guangzhou (Canton) factories in March 1839, and the English turned over three million pounds of opium that were destroyed. Lin appealed to international law and wrote to Queen Victoria about the pernicious trade. The British retreated to barren Hong Kong, while English merchants lobbied for warships. In 1840 a British fleet blockaded Guangzhou and Ningbo, seizing Zhoushan. The English navy destroyed war-junks and shore batteries, and Guangzhou paid a ransom to avoid being bombarded. Pottinger arrived with more warships, and others brought 10,000 men from India. Chinese ships and guns were inferior to the iron steamships and flintlock rifles of the English. In 1842 the British captured abandoned Shanghai and blocked the Grand Canal. Nanjing’s viceroy Yilibu surrendered and signed a treaty promising to pay $12 million, abolish the Cohong monopoly, cede Hong Kong, and allow trade at Guangzhou, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Ningbo, and Shanghai. The British gained “favored nation” status so that any concession made to another country applied to them also. China made treaties with the United States, France, and Russia, who all got the same concessions and judicial immunity. Opium was still illegal but was a thriving business, especially at Shanghai.

Young Xianfeng became emperor in 1850 and promoted xenophobic officials, who refused to negotiate. In 1856 the British claimed their flag had been insulted and began bombarding Guangzhou. After an election the British sent Lord Elgin. British and French forces stormed Guangzhou and in the north captured the Dagu forts and Tianjin, where in 1858 a treaty was made that opened ten more ports, allowed inland trade, gave access for missionaries, and required more indemnities. An incident provoked more fighting, and in 1860 Anglo-French forces captured Beijing. The Qing emperor fled, but Prince Gong accepted the Convention of Beijing with even more concessions. Russia also consolidated its new territory and got a trade treaty in 1862.

Increasing taxes and poverty provoked banditry and a rebellion in 1847. Grand Canal silting caused flooding and a famine in Guangxi in 1849. Visionary Hong Xiuquan, Feng Yunshan, and Yang Xiuqing converted thousands to their Society of God Worshippers. Claiming to be in contact with God and Jesus Christ, they enforced the ten commandments and puritanical laws. They considered women equal but separated them. In 1850 people shared their possessions and lived in collective camps. They defeated the Qing forces sent against them and in 1851 proclaimed Hong king of the Heavenly Kingdom of the Great Peace (Qing Tianguo). They denounced Manchu laws and customs, and their army seized the city of Yongan. They gained weapons, boats, and silver from Yuezhou and Wuchang. In March 1853 they captured Nanjing and made it their capital. In September a Triad society took over Shanghai, but the Taiping leaders rejected their immoral habits. French troops helped the Qing army drive the rebels from Shanghai in 1855.

Qing general Zeng Guofan organized his Xiang army to fight the Taiping rebels. Hong sent a Taiping army north, but that campaign failed. The Taiping laws were strict, and land reform could not be implemented amid civil war. In 1856 Yang tried to depose Hong and was assassinated. North King Wei had 5,000 of Yang’s followers massacred, quarreled with Assistant King Shi Dakai, and was defeated and killed. Shi left with an army of 200,000 and was eventually defeated in Sichuan. Hong’s cousin Ren’gan tried to reform the Taiping government, and the military victories led by Loyal King Li Xiucheng extended the war; but Europeans now helped the Qing empire. Zeng besieged Nanjing in 1862. Qing general Li Hongzhang captured Suzhou in 1863. After Hong’s death Nanjing succumbed in July 1864, and a hundred thousand Taiping believers were massacred. More than twenty million people died during the Taiping revolution.

Poverty, taxes, and flooding of the Yellow River in 1855 also caused others to join the bandits of the Nian rebellion that started in 1851. Qing general Senggelinqin defeated 200,000 Nian forces and captured their leader in 1863, but the rebels defeated and killed Senggelinqin two years later. Li Hongzhang became imperial commissioner and with Zuo Zongtang’s help defeated the Nian rebels in 1868. Muslims in Yunnan also rebelled against the Chinese in 1855. Du Wenxiu founded a southern kingdom that lasted until they were finally defeated in 1873. A Taiping general aroused Muslims in the northwest to revolt against the Qing in 1862. Zuo Zongtang led an imperial army against them in 1867, but they did not surrender at Suzhou until 1873. Ya‘qub Beg was ruling independently in Xinjiang, and he made a treaty with the Russians in 1872. Zuo had to borrow money from British banks and did not pacify Xinjiang until 1878.

When a five-year-old became Emperor Tongzhi in 1861, his mother Cixi won the power struggle with help from Prince Gong. The local gentry assumed much authority during the rebellions, and they wanted more self-government. The generals Zeng Guofan, Li Hongzhang, and Zuo Zongtang applied Confucian principles to economic recovery. Zeng released his army in stages and promoted agriculture by reducing land taxes. Robert Hart became inspector-general of customs and raised large revenues from duties on local transport of merchandise. Scholar Feng Guifen recommended using western science and technology to surpass the westerners. Zeng and Li applied this policy of self-strengthening. Prince Gong and war minister Wenxiang established the Zongli Yamen as a foreign office to purchase western weapons and encourage technology by education and foreign contacts. Li Hongzhang founded gun factories at Shanghai in 1862 and with Zeng the Jiangnan Arsenal in 1865. Books on science and technology were translated. Li founded the Chinese Steamship Company in 1872.

The new treaties enabled missionaries to own land, and they competed with the Confucian gentry in offering education and social services. Judicial immunity did not prevent them from pressing claims in Chinese courts. In 1870 Chinese suspicions about how the French treated orphans escalated into violence at Tianjin, and twenty foreigners were killed. Zeng and then Li were assigned to settle the case. Foreigners were tried by their own laws and judges. In 1871 China made a treaty with Japan. An incident in the Ryukyu Islands provoked the Japanese to invade Taiwan in 1874, and China paid Japan 500,000 taels. In 1875 the Emperor died, but Empress Cixi got her three-year-old nephew recognized so that she could act again as regent.

After British consul Margary ventured up the Yangzi River and was murdered, Li Hongzhang negotiated for China to pay in indemnity of 200,000 taels and conceded commercial advantages. Guo Songdao advised applying European advances, but conservatives blocked the building of railways. Guo and others worked on improving China’s law codes, and some studied international law. Li promoted military and industrial technology and sent students abroad for military education. Zuo Zongtang supplied the frontier armies with European weapons, and after making an 1881 treaty with Russia, Xinjiang became a province in 1884. In 1882 the United States began discriminating against Chinese immigrants. As the French moved into Vietnam, they came into conflict with China; but after a brief war they made a treaty in 1885, and the French withdrew from Taiwan and the Pescadores. Regent Cixi replaced Prince Gong with other princes.

While China was busy with the French, the Japanese began moving into Korea. In 1884 China and Japan agreed to withdraw troops from Korea, but Yuan Shikai became Chinese resident. During a religious rebellion in 1894 Korea appealed to China and Japan for troops. This provoked the Sino-Japanese War over Korea that Japan won. In the 1895 Treaty of Shimonoseki the Chinese recognized Korea’s independence and agreed to pay Japan 200 million taels. Japan gained Taiwan and the Pescadores. Li Hongzhang negotiated a treaty in Russia. In 1897 Germans seized Jiaozhou in Shandong and were given a 99-year lease. Russia then grabbed Dairen and Port Arthur, forcing China to let them build the Southern Manchuria Railway. The British leased Weihaiwei and Kaulung, and France rented Guangzhou Bay. Christian missionaries gained more influence in China. Zhang Zhidong recommended studying Western politics.

Kang Youwei was a brilliant reformer with extremely advanced ideas. His esoteric Universal Principles of Humanity and Book of Great Unity foresaw a future of equality, democracy, world government, peaceful cooperation, and universal education and health care. He opposed discrimination by race, sex, nation, class, family, occupation, or species. Kang began submitting memorials on how to improve China in 1888, and he organized study societies, especially in Hunan where his reforms were first implemented. In 1898 Emperor Guangxu began studying his memorials, and during the summer Kang’s reforms were implemented by imperial decrees, affecting education, administration, agriculture, industry, and commerce.  They were resisted by Manchus, conservative officials, scholars, the military, eunuchs, and monks. Empress Cixi objected and took over the administration by force in September. Kang and his chief disciple Liang Qichao fled to Japan, and several reformers including young Tan Sitong were executed. Tan had written On the Study of Humanity, and he agreed with Kang that Confucius was a humanitarian reformer who was betrayed by later followers trying to protect the status quo. Yan Fu and Lin Shu translated influential books by Europeans.

Some Chinese resented the proselytizing Christian missionaries. Secret societies of Boxers using martial arts and swords attacked foreigners and Chinese Christians. Empress Cixi was persuaded to use the Boxers as militias against foreign encroachments, and soon half the Army had joined them. On June 10, 1900 the Boxers stopped a train that was going from Tianjin to Beijing with 2,100 British soldiers. Boxers attacked foreigners and Christians in Beijing, and European forces took over the Dagu forts. China declared war on the foreign powers on June 21, but Li Hongzhang, Zhang Zhidong, and Yuan Shikai protected foreigners from Boxers in their provinces. Foreign soldiers took control of Tianjin, and in August an international force of 18,811 troops marched from Tianjin to Beijing and relieved the besieged legations. Cixi fled with Emperor Guangxu, and China agreed to pay an indemnity of 450 million taels over 39 years. The Americans persuaded the Europeans to accept its Open Door Policy, and they agreed not to seize Chinese territory. About 200,000 Russian troops had invaded Manchuria; they promised to leave in three stages, but soldiers became railway guards.

Empress Cixi began to allow political reforms in 1901 that modernized education, administration, and industry. In the next four years foot-binding was banned; tobacco and liquor were taxed; schools were improved; silver currency was standardized; railways were built; punishments were moderated; civil service exams were abolished; a constitution was planned; and thousands of Chinese studied in Japan. Emperor Guangxu died one day before 73-year-old Cixi on November 15, 1908. Prince Chun ruled as regent for 3-year-old Puyi. By 1909 the number of schools had increased dramatically, and millions signed petitions for a constitutional parliament. In 1910 the Qing army invaded and annexed Tibet, and military expenditures grew to a third of the budget.

Sun Yatsen became a medical doctor but turned his efforts to organizing revolution. After the Chinese legation in London held him prisoner for twelve days in October 1896, he became famous. Sun wanted to overthrow the Qing dynasty, and he disagreed with Kang Youwei who favored a reformed monarchy. Both traveled around the world raising money for their causes. Liang Qichao lived in Japan and published Public Opinion 1898-1902 and The New People’s Miscellany 1902-07. Zou Rong wrote The Revolutionary Army and died in prison at age 19. Qiu Jin founded The Chinese Women’s Journal in Shanghai and advocated equal rights for women. She joined a revolt and was executed. Sun Yat-sen founded the Revolutionary Alliance in August 1905, and Huang Xing published The People’s Report, explaining the difference between revolution and reform. Huang worked with Sun, but numerous revolts failed.

In February 1911 Chinese students in Tokyo called for the armed self-defense of China against Europeans. Sun Yat-sen raised $70,000 for an uprising in Guangzhou that failed in April. Prince Chun appointed a cabinet of thirteen in May with only four Han Chinese, and he ordered the railways nationalized. Railway investors stopped paying taxes, and counties in Sichuan began declaring independence. Imperial troops were sent from Hubei and were overcome by armed bands of peasants. The Revolutionary Alliance had infiltrated the New Army.

After revolutionaries exploded a bomb accidentally and were arrested, the revolution began on October 10 with a mutiny in Wuchang. Revolutionaries seized the arsenal in Hanyang, and a mutiny in Hubei set up a military government under commander Li Yuanhong. While the Qing court called on retired Yuan Shikai, the revolution spread to Shaanxi, Hunan, Shanxi, Jiangxi, and Yunnan. Yuan Shikai sent imperial forces that regained Hankou from revolutionaries led by Huang Xing on November 2, but then Zhejiang, Fujian, and Guangdong joined the revolution. Prince Chun and the premier Prince Qing resigned, and a provisional national assembly elected Yuan Shikai premier. The revolutionaries took over Shanghai and Nanjing, forming a provisional government on December 14. After persuading the English to stop loaning the Qing regime money, Sun Yat-sen returned from abroad and was elected provisional president of the Chinese republic. He offered to let Yuan be president if he accepted the parliament’s constitution. Yuan did so, and Emperor Puyi abdicated on February 12, 1912. Yuan Shikai managed to keep Beijing as the capital.

China's Long Revolution 1912-49

President Yuan Shikai appointed Sun Yat-sen director of railways and consolidated his power as revolutionaries resigned. Sun and Huang Xing formed the National People’s Party (Guomindang), and they won the most seats in the December 1912 elections. Song Jiaoren criticized Yuan and was assassinated on March 20, 1913. Yuan borrowed £25 million from the Five-Power Banking Consortium in April and used the money to suppress widespread rebellion that began in July. Thousands were executed in the next year. Yuan promoted Confucian religion and education. On October 7 he recognized Tibet’s autonomy, and the British recognized the Chinese republic. Yuan was elected president for five years, and he expelled Guomindang members from Parliament, which was dissolved on January 4, 1914. In May a Constitutional Compact gave President Yuan much power, and he imposed press censorship. Sun Yat-sen formed the secret Revolutionary Party in July. Early in the Great War the Japanese pushed the Germans out of Shandong, and their 21 Demands asked China for control over Shandong, Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, the southeast coast, and the Yangzi Valley. Despite protests Yuan signed the treaty on May 25, and he prohibited the boycott of Japanese products. Sun Yat-sen was criticized for negotiating with Japan and for eloping with his secretary Song Qingling. Yuan planned to become emperor in 1916, but protests turned into independence movements. Yuan Shikai died on June 6, 1916.

Vice President Li Yuanhong succeeded Yuan and appointed Duan Qirui premier and Feng Guozhang vice president. These and other warlords struggled for power for several years. About 200,000 Chinese went overseas to work for the Allies during the war. Sun Yat-sen governed Guangzhou, but Lu Rongting controlled Guangxi and Guangdong. General Zhang Xun became governor of Zhili. Li resigned, and Duan borrowed money. Warlords got revenue from the increasing opium trade. Feng Guozhang gained power with the Zhili clique. Feng Yuxiang was a Christian warlord who tried to ban vice. Xu Shuzheng led the Anfu Club, and in 1918 they used bribes to win a majority in the Parliament. Sun was defeated by Lu and fled to Shanghai. Zhang Zuolin governed Mukden and took control of three provinces in Manchuria. China developed industry during the World War, but foreign investors controlled most of the assets.

An active student movement developed at Beijing University after Cai Yuanpei became dean. Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao wrote progressive articles in New Youth and the Weekly Critic. Hu Shi studied philosophy with John Dewey and promoted writing in plain language (baihua). When the Versailles peace conference granted Shandong to Japan in April 1919, Beijing students organized protests on May 4. Anarchists burned the house of the hated Cao Rulin, and 32 were arrested. A student union was formed, and student demonstrations erupted in other cities. Students lectured in the streets, and 1,150 were arrested by June 4. In Shanghai 13,000 striking students were joined by 60,000 factory workers. China rejected the peace treaty with Germany but joined the League of Nations. A manifesto was published, and females were admitted into Beijing University in 1920. Mao Zedong in Hunan and others studied Marxism, and Hu Shi advocated practical reforms. Liang Qichao suggested that Eastern ways could be an antidote to the European trend toward massive violence.

Qu Qiubai wrote about the Russian revolution, and Comintern agents came to China. Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai helped start the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1921. They opposed the warlords and the plutocrats, and they helped workers organize unions. In 1923 they defined political and economic reforms. Liang Shuming advocated adopting Western institutions. The Guomindang promoted independence and federalism, but General Wu Peifu crushed this in 1921. Chinese diplomats tried to improve foreign relations and signed the Nine-Power Treaty in 1922. Wu tried to unify China by making Li Yuanhong president; but his government went broke, and he was replaced by Cao Kun in 1923. Several warlords invaded; but Feng Yuxiang turned against Wu and joined with Zhang Zuolin to form the National People’s Army, appointing Duan Qirui.

In November 1920 the Guomindang resolved to implement Sun Yat-sen’s three people’s principles of independence, democracy, and socialism in a constitution with the traditional executive, legislative, and judicial branches along with the Chinese civil service exams and a censorate. In his Plan for National Reconstruction Sun suggested that capitalism and socialism could work together. Sun accepted Comintern advisors and Communists into the Guomindang, and the Comintern urged Chinese Communists to work with the Nationalists for a bourgeois revolution first. Sun came into conflict with Chen Jiongming at Guangzhou. The first Guomindang national congress met in January 1924, and Sun appointed Jiang (Kai-shek) head of the Huangpu military academy in May. Peng Pai and Mao Zedong organized and taught farmers and peasants. Sun wanted fair treaties, but Duan confirmed the “unequal treaties.” Sun Yat-sen died of liver cancer in March 1925 and is revered as the father of modern China.

A labor dispute in Shanghai led to the killing of eleven protesting students on May 30th, 1925, and this atrocity provoked a general strike by 160,000 in Shanghai. The movement spread, and the Guomindang and CCP greatly increased their membership. That summer some in the Guomindang met at Sun Yat-sen’s tomb and resolved to drive out the Communists. Huangpu cadets also studied Sun Yat-sen and were anti-Communist. In 1926 Zhang Zuolin allied with Wu Peifu and removed Duan Qirui. Meanwhile Jiang shut down Communist newspapers in Guangzhou and began his northern expedition in July, first conquering Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, and Fujian while Guangxi and Guizhou came to terms.

In 1927 Jiang Jieshi (Chiang Kai-shek) moved the Guomindang to the right and turned on the Communists. Zhou Enlai and Li Lisan organized strikes in Shanghai, and 800,000 workers fought the warlord Zhang Zongchang. After Zhang’s troops withdrew from Nanjing, Jiang’s Nationalist army occupied the city. Jiang’s troops entered Shanghai, and in April they attacked suspected Communists in both cities, massacring thousands. Jiang extorted money from capitalists, and Wang Jingwei agreed in July to expel the Communists from the Guomindang. The Wuhan cities were put under martial law. Some Communists led by Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong tried to revolt, but they were defeated. After being defeated by the warlord Sun Chuanfang, Jiang went to Japan and married Song Meiling. Her brother T. V. Soong persuaded Wang to resign. The Comintern directed Qu Qiubai to order a Communist insurrection in Guangzhou in December, but it failed. Jiang gathered several armies led by himself, Feng Yuxiang, Yan Xishan, and later Bai Chongxi. Jiang clashed with the Japanese in Shandong and retreated. Japan’s prime minister Tanaka arranged for Zhang Zuolin to withdraw from Beijing, and Yan’s Shanxi army entered Beijing on June 8, 1928. Hu Hanmin drafted a constitution, and Jiang became president, ending all unequal treaties.

The Nationalist government’s deficit spending was organized by T. V.  Soong. They built railways, roads, and telephone lines and educated an elite class in colleges and universities. Peasants and workers suffered from low wages and miserable conditions. Most provinces were ruled by generals, and fascist organizations grew. Reorganizationists and rightists rebelled, and millions of people died in the civil wars and flooding in 1930-31. In the fall of 1931 the Japanese invaded and took over Manchuria.

China suffered from the depression in the early 1930s, but then the Nationalists built 14,000 blockhouses to attack Communists. Jiang’s war effort was helped by German companies and Mussolini, and his fascist New Life propaganda was spread in the schools and media. The Nationalist government controlled 70% of banking assets. Jiang announced his opposition to the Japanese and gained more nationalist support. After Zhang Xueliang held Jiang hostage, he agreed to a united front with the Communists in February 1937 to fight the Japanese; but Zhang was kept under arrest.

The peasant unions had millions of members, and Mao Zedong wrote an incisive report on the successes of the peasant movement in Hunan. In 1927 landlord militias killed about 380,000 peasants in Hunan. As the Guomindang split, small groups of Communists were led by Peng Pai, Zhu De, and Mao, who promised democratic methods and fair treatment. In December an insurrection in Guangzhou resulted in thousands of Communists being massacred. In 1928 Mao and Zhu De set up a Soviet base on the Hunan-Jiangxi border. In 1929 Nationalist attacks forced them to move east, and Mao began his rectification campaigns for party discipline. In 1930 a few thousand suspected counter-revolutionaries were executed, and the purge continued until the end of 1931. Zhu De’s army of 40,000 defeated 100,000 Nationalists, but in 1931 Jiang led 300,000 Nationalist troops against the Communists. The Chinese Soviet Republic was formed on November 7, 1931, and by 1933 the Red Army had grown to 500,000.

The CCP declared war on Japan in April 1932. Fujian set up a People’s Revolutionary Government in October 1933, and Jiang’s army attacked them. The Red Army killed thousands of landlords and rich peasants. In October 1934 they began the long march southwest, and in January 1935 Mao Zedong became chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council. They met troops led by Zhang Guotao and then went north to Shaanxi where they could fight the Japanese as well as for social revolution. They tried to negotiate a united front with the Nationalists; but this did not work until after Zhang Xueliang captured Jiang in December 1936.

Lu Xun became a writer to try to help the Chinese spiritually transform themselves. His pessimistic stories portray the physical and spiritual poverty of many Chinese during the era of the warlords. Lu also wrote essays, noting the male hypocrisy on chastity and protesting the persecution of writers by the government.

Mao Dun wrote novels portraying the suffering of the poor who were exploited by the wealthy and of the difficulties that revolutionaries faced. Lao She wrote satirical novels that exposed the social and political problems in China’s turbulent era of wars. His Rickshaw Boy was successful in the United States, and he was later persecuted by the Communists. Writer Ba Jin was influenced by the anarchists Kropotkin, Emma Goldman, and Vanzetti. His novels exposed the problems in human relationships, especially in traditional Chinese families.

Ding Ling was a student in the May Fourth movement and became an anarchist. She was sexually liberated, and after bearing children for two men who died, she became a Communist and lived at Yan’an. She wrote about how liberated women can work for all humanity. Shen Congwen was influenced by European literature, and he knew Ding Ling. He was so independent that his novels were banned by both the Nationalists and the Communists. As a pacifist he opposed the violence of both sides.

Pearl Buck was raised in China by American missionaries, and she wrote novelistic biographies of both her parents. She wrote many novels about Asia, most of them set in China. The Good Earth was an extraordinarily successful novel and film that introduced many to Chinese life. Her novels portrayed the plight of women in Chinese society during this difficult period. After moving to the United States in 1935 Pearl Buck helped raise money for China relief. Her novel Dragon Seed was set during the war with Japan and portrays a strong woman who learns how to read. Other novels described the Empress Cixi, the history of Korea, and the Cultural Revolution.

Japanese encroachment in China provoked a major war in July 1937. Japanese forces invaded Shanghai in August, killing 250,000 Chinese soldiers by October. The Chinese retreated to Nanjing, but it was abandoned on December 12. Japanese soldiers massacred more than 200,000 Chinese while raping about 50,000 women in Nanjing. Jiang Jieshi retreated and set up a new capital at Chongqing in Sichuan. His engineers destroyed the dikes of the Yellow River, changing its course and flooding out two million people. Factory equipment was moved west as the Japanese occupied eastern and northern China. Japan set up puppet governments and used the unemployed in their armies. Jiang led the Nationalist government and had the Burma Road built. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controlled Shaanxi and was allied with the Nationalists against Japan. Mao Zedong insisted on the Communists remaining independent. They helped poor peasants, and party membership greatly increased.

China borrowed money from the Soviet Union and made a non-aggression pact that lasted until April 1941. Britain and the United States also aided China. Jiang got military advice from Germans and Italians. The Japanese bombed Chongqing, and the American Flying Tigers helped the Chinese. Wang Jingwei became an occupation leader for the Japanese from 1940 until his death in 1944. Dai Li used more spies and Blue Shirts, and the Nationalists began blockading the Communists. Liu Shaoqi taught people how to be good Communists, and Mao Zedong taught strategy. The Communists let everyone over eighteen vote, but only 8% of those elected were women. The Communists learned to be self-sufficient, and in 1941 they were attacked by Nationalist forces.

As an ally of China the United States increased its lend-lease aid during the war against Japan. In 1942 more than two million Chinese died from famine in Henan. Many Nationalists defected to the Japanese and protected them from the Communists. Xinjiang’s Governor Sheng Shicai expelled Soviet advisors and sided with Jiang. The authoritarian Nationalist government used monopolies and censorship. Mao began a rectification campaign and was recognized as the top Communist leader followed by Liu Shaoqi, Zhou Enlai, and Commander Zhu De. The Allies ended their “unequal treaties” with China. Jiang had General Stilwell replaced, and General Patrick Hurley was anti-Communist. In June 1944 American B-29s began bombing runs from Chongqing. A Japanese offensive defeated the Chinese army in Henan. Millions of Chinese were drafted into the army and deserted or died in miserable conditions. Jiang rejected an alliance with the Communists, whose armies grew. Stalin promised not to side with the Communists but to support Jiang. The Communists held a congress in the spring of 1945 and held territory with 95 million people. The Soviet army entered the war on August 8 and invaded Manchuria. Nearly twenty million Chinese died in the war against Japan.

The Allies ordered the Japanese to surrender to the Nationalists in China and to Soviet forces in Manchuria, but departing Russians left weapons for the Communists. Jiang tried to take over Manchuria and appointed Chinese governors. Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai met with Hurley and Jiang to try to avoid civil war, and they made an agreement. George Marshall tried to mediate; but the Guomindang changed the constitution without the approval of the Communists, and Jiang mobilized his army in June 1946. Mao complained that the Americans were helping the Nationalists.

As the Nationalist army took over territory, Mao Zedong called for a war of self-defense by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Marshall warned Jiang, who continued fighting and convened a National Assembly. Nationalist forces took over Yan’an, and Mao had to retreat. Marshall ended mediation in January 1947. Lin Biao led PLA troops in Manchuria. The Nationalist government tried to suppress dissent; but even massive US aid could not control inflation while the rich were protected. As many defeated Nationalist troops went over to the Communists, Mao called for a united front that included businessmen to overthrow the dictatorial Jiang. T. V. Soong implemented a new currency in August 1948, but huge government deficits caused more inflation. In January 1949 Lin Biao’s troops captured Tianjin and Beijing, and Mao announced his eight-point surrender program that called for democracy and land reform. Millions of peasants were given land and joined the PLA. Jiang fled to Taiwan, and the Communist army crossed the Yangzi River to defeat Li Zongren in the south. Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

Mao Zedong was from a peasant family but studied ethics and was influenced by the May Fourth student movement. After studying Marxism he worked organizing workers and peasants in Hunan. He helped found the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and he wrote a radical report on the Hunan peasant movement. After Jiang betrayed the Communists, Mao believed that a long war would be needed for a socialist revolution. During the long march in 1935 he became the recognized leader. During the years at Yan’an he studied Marxism and wrote about strategy and the relationship between theory and practice. He urged dedication to the revolution and criticized selfish liberalism and sectarian tendencies. Mao adapted socialism to China’s situation. He noted that in past Chinese revolutions the peasants had been badly led and that feudalism remained. Mao published On New Democracy in 1940 and recommended people’s congresses by towns, districts, counties, provinces, and for the nation. Land should be confiscated and distributed to the peasants. In 1945 he proposed coalition government, but the Guomindang government rejected their democratic reforms. As they won the revolution in 1949 he wrote how the working class would lead the masses in solidarity with the world proletariat. Women would have equal rights, and universal education would help them reach their goals.

Korea 1800-1949

Korea to 1800

Dowager Queen Chongsun acted as regent for young Sunjo (r. 1800-34), and Catholics were persecuted in 1801. That year 66,067 government slaves were emancipated. When Chongsun died in 1802, the Andong Kim clan regained control and ended the persecution. Chong Yag-yong (1762-1836) lived in exile and wrote brilliantly about Practical Learning in prose and poetry. The yangban class grew in numbers and lost status. Unpaid officials overtaxed people to make up for the bribes needed to gain office. Some individuals prospered with the developing commerce, and others formed local collectives to survive. Many suffered unemployment and turned to fire-field farming or banditry. Rebellions broke out in 1804 and 1811. Floods and a cholera epidemic were devastating during the 1820s. While Honjong (r. 1834-49) was king, three priests and eighty Korean converts were executed in 1839. Under King Ch’olchong (r. 1849-63) the Andong Kim clan regained power, and the number of Catholics in Korea increased to 23,000. Writers criticized discrimination based on social class and called for opening up to western ways. Ch’oe Che-u (1824-64) had mystical experiences and started a new religion called Tonghak (Eastern Learning) in 1860. He taught the unity of God with humanity and proclaimed everyone equal. Ch’oe Che-u was arrested for sedition and beheaded in 1864, but his successor Ch’oe Si-hyong fled with followers into the mountains.

When young Kojong became king in 1864, his father governed as the Taewon’gun (Grand Prince). He appointed officials from all four colors and tried to end the corruption of the Andong Kim clan. He taxed the yangban class and imposed surtaxes to pay for the reconstruction of the Kyongbok palace. Debased coins caused inflation, but eventually punishing of corrupt officials led to increased revenues. Like China, Korea resisted foreign trade. After seeing what happened to the Chinese in the Opium Wars, they defended themselves from aggressive westerners even more. In 1866 the Taewon’gun executed nine French missionaries and about 8,000 Korean Catholics. In 1871 the Taewon’gun angered Confucians when he closed most of their academies. Queen Min got his regency ended, and he retired in 1874. Koreans had so far defended themselves from encroaching westerners, but in 1876 they were forced to make a friendship treaty with modernizing Japan.

Traditional Confucians criticized the opening of Korea, and some leaders were punished. Unpaid soldiers mutinied in 1882 and attacked the Japanese legation, and Korea agreed to pay the Japanese reparations. King Kojong restored the Taewon’gun, who was abducted by Chinese forces. In the next four years Korea made unequal treaties with the United States, England, Germany, Italy, Russia, and France. In 1884 Japanese soldiers supported a coup attempt that wanted reforms, but 1,500 Chinese soldiers defeated them. In 1885 Japan and China agreed to withdraw their troops from Korea, and the Russians promised to protect Korean territory. Japan increased its imports from Korea and gained fishing rights and coaling stations.

In 1894 Chon Pong-jun led a revolt by Tonghak believers that began in Kobu county and spread. Korea asked China for help, and they sent 3,000 soldiers; but Japan sent 7,000 men and drove out the Chinese before quelling the Tonghak rebellion. China in the 1895 Shimonoseki Treaty recognized the independence of Korea. The Japanese restored the Taewon’gun and enacted 208 new laws to implement major reforms, ending slavery, torture, punishment of relatives, and discrimination against widows and illegitimate sons. The Taewon’gun opposed them and was forced to retire. King Kojong appointed Pak Yong-hyo, and on January 7, 1895 they proclaimed fourteen guiding principles for Korea that established the power of the King and the Ministry of Finances. An army was to be conscripted, and law codes were to be reformed. Most district officials were dismissed, and the Japanese assassinated Queen Min on October 8. The pro-Japanese government of King Kojong and Kim Hong-jip was restored. Russians guarded King Kojong, and an armed uprising broke out against foreigners. A pro-Russian cabinet gave economic concessions to Russians but also to Americans, the French, and Germans as well as the Japanese. Pak persuaded So Chae-p’il to return from the United States, and he organized an independence  movement until he was deported in 1898. The Russians continued to advance, but in 1904 they were attacked by the Japanese and were defeated the next year.

In exchange for their recognizing Japan’s influence in Korea, Japan accepted the empires of the United States, Britain, and Russia. Korea became a protectorate of Japan with Ito Hirobumi as Resident-General. Koreans complained, and in 1906 the Independence News began publishing. The Japanese reacted to protests with military force in 1907. They took over Korean farms from the poor; 2,000 Japanese were in the Korean government by 1909, and 170,000 Japanese lived in Korea by 1910. All the public schools had Japanese teachers. The small Korean army was disbanded, provoking a guerrilla movement that was defeated by 1910. Some went into exile to organize resistance. A Korean assassinated Ito on October 26, 1909. Japan formally annexed Korea in August 1910. The Japanese reorganized the Korean government and increased law enforcement. Many Koreans lost their land to Japanese companies and individuals. The Japanese took over industries and imposed government monopolies. Very few Koreans went to school, but Korean literature portrayed the oppression and suggested progressive reforms. Yi Kwang-su’s Heartless expressed feminist themes. Han Yong-un published On the Revitalization of Korean Buddhism in 1913.

Encouraged by Wilson’s Fourteen Points, Koreans worked for self-determination and published an eloquent Declaration of Independence for the massive demonstrations held on March 1, 1919. They dedicated themselves to overcoming Japanese oppression without blaming them and committed themselves to doing so without violence. The leaders were from the Ch’ondogyo (Eastern Learning) religion, Christians, and the Buddhist Han Yong-un. Protests occurred throughout Korea and continued into April when 7,645 people were killed and 46,811 were arrested. Koreans in exile were active and elected Syngman Rhee as president of a provisional government. Bolsheviks assisted the Korean Socialist Party that met in Siberia. Korean revolutionaries killed Japanese soldiers in Manchuria, and the Japanese retaliated with the 1920 massacre. Admiral Saito Makoto became governor-general of Korea in August 1919 and implemented liberal reforms while increasing the police. Newspapers were allowed but censored.

Japan imported much of Korea’s rice, but Korean farmers became poorer. Korea developed manufacturing, but 95% of its exports went to Japan. Korean workers were only paid half as much as the Japanese, and Japanese capitalists owned seven-eighths of Korean industries. Koreans formed various organizations while the Japanese tried to spread their propaganda. Even the Comintern ordered Korean Communists to join the Japanese Communist Party or in Manchuria the Chinese party. Koreans who protested were suspended from school or arrested. In 1931 Korean nationalist groups declared war on the Japanese and the Communists. Korean literature and theater described the suffering under colonialism. During the war 1937-45 the Japanese exploited the Koreans even more and banned the Korean language from schools. The Korean Provisional Government in exile declared war on Japan on December 9, 1941, but many Koreans were conscripted into the Japanese army.

To accept the surrender of the Japanese in August 1945 the Allies divided Korea at the 38th parallel with Soviet forces occupying the north and Americans in the south. The Communist guerrilla leader Kim Il Sung was welcomed by the Soviets, and US General Hodge honored Syngman Rhee. Most heavy industry was in the north while the south had more food and consumer goods. Stalin ordered Russian troops to respect civil liberties, but most industries were taken over by the Communist government. The Soviet army and police fired on demonstrators. Most exiles returned to south Korea, and they were joined by 800,000 refugees from the north. The Allies agreed on a trusteeship. Elections were held separately, and the UN Temporary Commission was not allowed in the north. In the south the elections were contested, but the north had a single list of candidates. Communists organized strikes in the south; but martial law was declared, and the US Military Government banned the Korean Communist Party. In the south the Republic of Korea elected Syngman Rhee president and arrested Communist guerrillas. In the north the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was led by Kim Il Sung. Most Soviet and American forces withdrew, and fighting occurred around the border in 1949.

Japan's Modernization 1800-1930

Japan to 1800

Russian encroachments in the north stimulated the building of Japanese defenses. While Ienari was preoccupied with twenty concubines, Mizuno Tadanari became his chief advisor in 1812. In an era of pleasure while theaters and prostitution flourished, the government’s gold and silver reserves fell by a third. In 1825 foreigners were still excluded and were threatened with death. Frequent debasing of the currency caused inflation. Sumptuary laws were imposed in 1827 against prostitution, alcohol, gambling, and luxuries. Merchants exploited the poor and gained wealth. Infanticide kept the population at about 32 million. During a famine in 1837 former magistrate Oshio led a revolt against the merchant houses in Osaka that failed.

Nanboku wrote erotic and scary melodramas that thrilled audiences. The self-educated peasant Ninomiya Sontoku helped farmers and urged mutual aid. Aizawa’s New Proposals began arousing nationalism in 1825 and after they were published in 1857. Hirata Atsutane believed in making Shinto the national religion and the Emperor sole ruler, but he was arrested in 1841.

The number of schools in Japan greatly increased prior to 1867. New religions began appearing. In 1814 Kurozumi Munetada founded a sect based on worship of the sun goddess Amaterasu, and in 1838 healer Nakayama Miki started the Tenri movement. The Konkokyo sect also emphasized mutual aid. The provinces Choshu and Satsuma used commercial profits to develop military capability. Famine provoked increasing revolts starting in 1836. Takano Nagahide opposed the exclusion policy and was arrested but escaped in 1844. Takashima demonstrated guns in 1841, and Torii Yozo imprisoned him. Shogun Ieyoshi (r. 1837-53) let senior councilor Mizuno continue to govern, and after Ienari’s death in 1841 he implemented various reforms. Abe Mashiro replaced Mizuno and Torii in 1845, allowing western military technology. Sakuma Shozan advised numerous improvements with the slogan, “Eastern ethics and western science.” He was arrested on Perry’s ship in 1854, was imprisoned until 1862, and was assassinated two years later. Yokoi Shonan led the Practical Party and also favored western science.

The US warships of Commodore Perry forced Japan in 1854 to make a trade treaty that was followed by agreements with the British, Russians, and Dutch. More concessions were made in 1858, and Japanese envoys were sent abroad. Terrorist attacks against foreigners in Japan began in 1860. Tokugawa Nariaki was blamed and executed, and in revenge tairo Ii Naosuke was assassinated in Edo. In 1864 Chosu forces defended the Emperor from the Bakufu. The next year allied ships and the Bakufu forced the Emperor to sign the treaties. The 14-year-old Mutsuhito became emperor in February 1867, and Shogun Keiki resigned to be the Emperor’s prime minister in November; but in January 1868 Satsuma, Choshu, and Tosa forces made Keiki surrender, and Tokugawa lands were confiscated to finance the Meiji restoration of the Emperor.

Edo was renamed Tokyo in 1868. Kido Koin and young leaders from the provinces and the imperial court persuaded the daimyos to surrender their titles to the Emperor. They agreed to settle political issues by public discussion, and a modern government was formed. Feudalism was abolished, and the sale of girls as prostitutes or geishas was banned. In 1873 twenty-year-old males were conscripted for military service with some exceptions. A new banking system was based on the United States Federal Reserve with the yen as a decimal currency. The central government had most of the power and taxed land directly. The social classes were dissolved into commoners except for the daimyos and courtiers (kwazoku). Iwakura led a mission of envoys abroad that hired many foreign experts. Christian missionaries were allowed into Japan in 1873, and western civilization accelerated its enormous impact. Leaders divided on whether to threaten Korea with war, but a revolt of 2,500 Hizen samurai led by Eto was suppressed in 1875. The rebellion led by Saigo in Satsuma with 22,000 samurai was crushed by 65,000 troops and marked the final demise of Japanese feudalism in 1877.

Japan annexed the Ryuku Islands in 1879. Okuma proposed a parliamentary system, but the Emperor dismissed him. Itagaki led a People’s Rights Movement and founded the Liberal party in 1881. The number of newspapers greatly increased. Yamagata used German advisors to improve the army’s morale. Okuma helped organize the Constitutional Progressive Party, but laws prohibited public meetings. Ito Hirobumi went to Europe in 1882 and was especially influenced by German ideas. When a mob attacked Japanese in Seoul, Japan won compensation from Korea. After Japanese diplomats consulted with Kim Ok-kyun, who tried to murder the Korean cabinet, the Chinese garrison attacked the Japanese. Ito and Li Hongzhang signed a treaty in April 1885. Finance minister Matsukata sharply reduced government expenditures to stop inflation; but this helped the capitalists and hurt poor peasants because most revenue was from land taxes. Local elections stimulated democracy, and people petitioned for more rights. Emperor Meiji was influenced by Confucian advisors, and traditional morality was emphasized in the schools.

Mori Arinori reformed education from 1884 until he was murdered in 1889 by a zealot of Shinto. Ito organized a cabinet system and became prime minister, and the government was dominated by men from Choshu and Satsuma. After Okuma dismissed these oligarchs, he was maimed by a terrorist bomb. Ito’s commission submitted a constitution that was adopted in 1889. The Emperor was recognized as divine, and the Diet was elected by the wealthiest one percent of the people. An Imperial Rescript was memorized by students and encouraged them to sacrifice themselves for Japan. Prime Minister Yamagata persuaded the Diet to appropriate more money for the Army and Navy, but he was criticized by Ito and resigned in 1991. Ito prorogued and dissolved the Diet and insisted on a fair election in 1894. Using colloquial language, Futabatei’s The Drifting Cloud in 1886 was Japan’s first modern novel.

After learning Dutch and English and traveling widely, Fukuzawa Yukichi published many books on western science and customs. He recommended practical rather than moralistic education and believed in human equality. He published his book on civilization in 1875. He suggested that by learning from the west they could overthrow the nobles. He urged individuals to improve themselves by education, and he considered international law essential to world peace; but for Japan he advocated its independence as the first priority. Fukuzawa founded News of the Times in 1882, and he taught at an innovative school. He was pragmatic and valued human freedom, and he condemned private vengeance and suicide. He criticized traditional Confucian relationships, and he emphasized the equality of women. He argued that government is a social contract to protect people and their rights.

In 1894 during the Tonghak rebellion in Korea, Japan sent more troops than China, and they stayed to reform the Korean government. Japan declared war on China and drove them out of Korea. The Japanese army invaded the Shandong peninsula and massacred people at Port Arthur. Japan negotiated the Shimonoseki Treaty with Li Hongzhang, and China recognized Korea’s independence and ceded Taiwan and opened seven ports to Japan. Thousands died subduing Taiwan in 1895, and Japan greatly increased its military spending. Japanese swordsmen killed Korea’s Queen Min but were not punished. Kanai’s disciple Kuwata Kumazo taught progressive economics at Tokyo University, and Kitasato discovered the bacilli for bubonic plague, dysentery, and tetanus. The Ashio Copper Mine polluted rivers, and large protests led to litigation. The Meiji civil code was modernized in 1898. Yamagata became prime minister, and the military gained influence. They banned labor unions. Japan and Russia made agreements in 1898, but during the Boxer rebellion Russians occupied Manchuria. General Katsura was prime minister from 1901 to 1905 and built up the Navy. In 1902 Japan made an alliance with the British. Primary schooling was made free and became universal.

Japan demanded that Russia withdraw from Manchuria or recognize Japan’s interests in Korea. In February 1904 Japan attacked the Russian fleet at Port Arthur, and both sides declared war. Japanese forces took over Korea and invaded Manchuria in May. The Japanese besieged Port Arthur for 242 days before the Russians surrendered. The largest battle in history so far was fought at Mukden in March 1905. The Japanese won this and the first sea battle with steamships in the Tsushima Straits. This war showed that torpedo-boats, battleships, hand grenades, machine-guns, and floating mines were effective. Japan ended the war and accepted the southern half of Sakhalin Island and the Liaodong peninsula by signing a treaty mediated by US President Theodore Roosevelt. Both sides agreed to withdraw from Manchuria. Pro-war patriots protested in Japan, and police repression led to riots that were quelled. In the secret Taft-Katsura agreement the United States and Japan agreed to recognize each other’s interests in the Philippines and Korea. Japan’s victory over Russia astounded the world and encouraged many Asians.

Katayama organized a socialist party in Japan, but it was banned in 1907. Japan and Russia agreed to divide Manchuria and linked their railways at Harbin. Japanese novels became more realistic, and later confessional novels were popular. In 1904 Japan took more control over Korea and established Ito as resident-general, and in 1907 they forced King Kojong to abdicate and disbanded the Korean army. Yamagata planned for the conquest of Manchuria and China, and in 1910 Japan annexed Korea as a colony. At home Japan punished radicals, hanging eleven in 1911, and they arrested those advocating universal suffrage. Prime Minister Saionji tried to control military spending. Nishida Kitaro wrote a popular book on ethics. Saionji’s cabinet sold arms to the Manchu regime while Mitsui and other private companies aided the Chinese revolutionaries. Sun Yat-sen got loans from Japan. Emperor Meiji died, and the Taisho era (1912-26) was run by ministers. Katsura became prime minister again, but a democracy movement forced him to resign. Admiral Yamamoto became premier and built up the Navy before riots led to his resignation in 1914.

Japan joined the war on the side of the British and took Qingdao and islands in Micronesia from the Germans. Japan issued China the infamous 21 Demands and sent more troops to Manchuria and Shandong. Yuan Shikai humiliated China by acceding to Japan’s demands. Japanese elections became campaigns dominated by bribery. Japan secretly loaned 145 million yen to the Chinese warlord Duan Qirui. High rice prices caused massive riots across Japan in 1918. The commoner Hara Kei became the first prime minister for a majority party government in September 1918, and more men were allowed to vote. Exports during the Great War helped turn Japan’s national debt to a surplus. Prices went up 130%, but wages went down 32%. Sixteen trade unions formed in 1919 and won the eight-hour workday. More Japanese colonized Manchuria, and Japan sent forces to fight the Bolsheviks in Siberia and did not withdraw until 1922. Japan used force to suppress the massive Korean independence movement in April 1919, and the Versailles Peace Conference let Japan keep the territories they had taken from Germany.

Japan was one of four nations with a permanent seat on the Council of the League of Nations. Premier Hara blocked a vote on universal suffrage and financed the Navy, railways, roads, and communications by telephone and telegraph. Workers and intellectuals opposed the policies that were dominated by aristocrats, capitalists, and the military. Japan accepted the  limits of the Washington Naval Conference in 1922 and agreed to the Open Door Policy of the Nine-Power Treaty. The US Immigration Act of 1924 excluded the Japanese. The Kanto earthquake on September 1, 1923 killed 140,000 and destroyed much of Tokyo and Yokohama, causing instability. Shidehara established diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union in 1925, and all males over 25 were granted the vote. Military spending declined, but Japan refused to agree to banning chemical and bacteriological weapons. Hirohito became emperor on December 25, 1926. Tanaka became prime minister in 1927 and promoted industry and agriculture. Jiang (Kai-shek) visited and promised Japan control north of the Great Wall, and Tanaka supported Zhang Zuolin in Manchuria. Troops were sent to defend the Japanese in Jinan in May 1928, and they drove out Jiang’s Nationalist army. A Japanese team killed Zhang, and his son Zhang Xueliang opposed Japan. Victorious Jiang did not renew China’s trade treaty with Japan. Tanaka had suspected Communists arrested, and the press was censored. Prime Minister Hamaguchi favored diplomacy and was shot by a militarist.

Japan's Imperial Wars 1931-1949

Wakatsuki became prime minister in 1931 and also resisted the vocal militarists. The Guandong Army in Manchuria began planning military action on their own. In September they falsely blamed the Chinese for an incident and attacked them. The Japanese commander Hayashi sent the Korean army into Manchuria, and China appealed to the League of Nations. While Doihara moved Puyi to Mukden to be a puppet ruler. Japan arrested conspirators, but most were released. Wakatsuki and his cabinet resigned in December, and Inukai of the Seiyukai party became premier. He helped capitalists by taking Japan off the gold standard and asked Emperor Hirohito to approve reinforcements in Manchuria. Japan captured Jinzhou on January 3, 1932, violating open China. Hirohito praised the Guandong Army. Fighting broke out in Shanghai, and Japanese planes bombed Chapei. The Seiyukai party won the February election, and Chinese collaborators set up the Manzhouguo state under Puyi on March 1. The Chinese accepted a cease-fire mediated by the British on March 5,  ending China’s boycott of Japan. The League of Nations Assembly did not recognize Manzhouguo. Inukai opposed large military budgets and was assassinated on May 15. The Emperor and Saionji appointed Admiral Saito Makoto, who doubled the military budget that year. His government agreed to defend Manzhouguo and secretly controlled it. Thousands of teachers and dissidents were arrested for criticizing Manzhouguo or militarism. In early 1933 the Guandong Army invaded Jehol, and Japan withdrew from the League of Nations.

Propaganda in films and the press promoted the Japanese empire and militarism. A textile scandal caused Saito to resign. Japan did not ratify the Geneva Convention on prisoners and abrogated its naval treaties. The Japanese sold opium products in northern China. In 1935 the Japanese army pushed Chinese forces out of Hebei and Chahar. Japanese imperialists argued over strategy, whether to strike the Soviet Union in the north or the United States in the south, and the Emperor favored the latter. Demoted Col. Aizawa killed his boss Nagata, and during his court martial, a coup attempt using a mutiny killed some top officials but failed. In the February election the democratic party had defeated the fascists. Kempeitai commander Tojo set up Qin Dechun to govern Inner Mongolia, but Zhang Xueliang defeated him. Japan continued to industrialize its economy and increased exports. Japan signed a pact with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union in November 1936. General Hayashi became prime minister in February 1937, but after Jiang sent forces into Shanghai, his party was defeated by a coalition that made Konoe Fumimaro premier.

In July 1937 Japanese soldiers near Beijing provoked an incident with Chinese troops that led to Japan sending reinforcements. Emperor Hirohito authorized the use of chemical weapons, and aerial bombing helped the Japanese take Beijing. General Tojo was ordered to invade Inner Mongolia in August. During negotiations fighting broke out in Shanghai, and Japan attacked. China mobilized, and Japan sent more divisions in November. The Chinese army retreated from Shanghai, but two days of saturation bombing caused Nanjing to fall. The Japanese troops slaughtered another quarter million Chinese and raped tens of thousands of women. Japan set up a Provisional Government in Beijing, and armies advanced south. Jiang had dykes destroyed so that the Yellow River would flood. Japan captured the Wuhan cities and Guangzhou and stayed to occupy much of China.

After some battles in the north Japan signed a truce with the Soviet Union. Japan stayed out of the European war and used the collaborator Wang Jingwei to help them govern China from Nanjing. In 1940 Japan pressured French Indochina to stop trading with the Nationalists at Chongqing. Japan announced their Co-Prosperity Sphere in Greater East Asia, and they signed a pact with Germany and Italy on September 27, 1940. Japanese political parties dissolved, and they organized an imperial association. Japan exploited China and planned the economy with rationing.

Japan helped Thailand take territory from Indochina. The United States cracked the Japanese code and tried to negotiate. In June 1941 the Dutch stopped selling Japan oil and strategic materials, and in August the United States stopped all trade with Japan except for cotton and food. US Secretary of State Hull insisted on the acceptance of four principles as basic to any agreement. Prime Minister Konoe would not approve war against the US and resigned in October. War minister Tojo succeeded him and insisted they needed oil reserves to keep from becoming a third-class nation. The US would not support Japan’s occupation of China, and the two sides could not agree. Kido believed submitting to the US would cause civil war in Japan, and they planned surprise attacks. Admiral Yamamoto believed that unless the war was short, Japan would lose to America.

As Japan was declaring war, two waves of Japanese planes from aircraft carriers devastated the US naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. On the same day Japan attacked Malaya, Hong Kong, and the Philippines, capturing Manila on January 2, 1942. Japanese forces took 85,000 prisoners at Singapore on February 15 and held 260,000 from Malaya for three years. After the Japanese won a naval battle, the Dutch surrendered Java on March 9. The Japanese army took Rangoon on March 8 and Mandalay on May 1. After the US bombed Tokyo, Hirohito broke his truce with Jiang, and Japanese troops killed another 250,000 Chinese in Zhejiang. The first naval battle with planes from aircraft carriers in the Coral Sea in May was a standoff, and the Americans ended Japanese naval supremacy by defeating them at Midway in June. In August the US Marines began fighting on Guadalcanal, and the Japanese finally withdrew after six months. US submarines sank cargo ships, and Lockheed began producing P-38 Lightnings that were superior to Japanese Zeros.

In 1943 Japan tried to negotiate, but Jiang would not agree. Tojo promised self-determination to the nations they had conquered. That year Japan lost 6,203 planes and 4,823 airmen. The Americans attacked the Solomon Islands and New Guinea, but General MacArthur bypassed large concentrations of Japanese troops who were left to starve. Admiral Nimitz directed the attacks in Micronesia. In March 1944 Japanese forces invaded Assam with Indian recruits under Subhas Bose, but they were forced to retreat in July. A spring and summer offensive by the Japanese conquered more territory in China, but the Allies regained the Burma Road. In hard fighting the Americans took over Saipan, Guam, and Tinian, which the US used for long-range bombers. Premier Tojo resigned in July, and his successor General Koiso could find no negotiating partners. US planes bombed Taiwan, the Philippines, and the East Indies. Americans defeated the Japanese Navy in the largest naval battle in history and landed 200,000 men in the Philippines. Japan lost 336,352 men trying to defend the Philippines, and Manila fell on February 24, 1945. The Japanese began using suicidal kamikaze pilots. The Americans took over Iwo Jima in March and Okinawa in June. Starting in February, US planes dropped thousands of tons of bombs on Tokyo and industrial targets in Japan. The United States had eighty times the industrial resources of Japan and destroyed their planes, ships, and finally their factories.

US planes dropped leaflets, and Hirohito authorized negotiation in June. President Truman and Churchill issued the Potsdam Declaration that demanded the unconditional surrender of Japan’s armed forces and threatened “utter destruction.” When Premier Suzuki ignored this, the US used the first atomic weapon to destroy Hiroshima on August 6, instantly killing about 70,000 people. Even more would die later from burns, disease, and radiation. Two days later the Soviet Union declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria. The next day a plutonium bomb devastated Nagasaki. Emperor Hirohito and Prime Minister Suzuki agreed to the surrender on August 14. A coup attempt failed, and many high-ranking Japanese committed suicide. Hirohito spoke on radio for the first time and explained the war was over. Japan lost 480,000 men in the China War and 1,565,000 men in the Pacific War, and they estimated 4,470,000 were wounded or ill. Another 393,000 Japanese civilians were killed by air raids. An estimated 19 million Chinese may have died in their long war against Japan.

On September 2, General MacArthur signed the surrender documents and expressed the hope that humanity would learn how to end war and that Japan would become constructive. The Japanese government destroyed many records of war crimes before the Occupation forces arrived. Cases of US soldiers raping Japanese women were reported early in the occupation, and brothels were organized with 70,000 women; but they were disbanded in March 1946 to stop spreading venereal disease. As Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), MacArthur put Japan under martial law, but he was persuaded to let the Japanese government carry out the Occupation policy that emphasized demilitarization and democratization. Japanese troops were demobilized, and American ships returned 6.5 million Japanese troops and civilians to Japan. About a half million Japanese died in Soviet labor camps. More than a million Koreans were repatriated from Japan. The Japanese struggled to survive and rebuild. The Emperor supported democracy and pacifism and was not prosecuted. MacArthur cancelled repressive laws but imposed censorship. The cabinet resigned, and Shidehara became prime minister. Japanese politics and economics were restructured to increase democracy and promote education, women’s rights, and labor unions. Books and radio programs taught the Japanese how militarism had brought about the devastating war. The Emperor admitted he was not divine, and imperial ideas were renounced.

Women were allowed to vote, and some were elected. Unions grew, and employees bargained for more participation. Ultranationalist and militarist groups were abolished, and hundreds of thousands of individuals were purged from government and schools. The royal family lost its wealth, and women could inherit. Schools were improved, and textbooks were revised. MacArthur supervised the revision of the Meiji Constitution, and Shidehara proposed an article renouncing war. The Liberal party won the most seats in the 1946 election, and Yoshida became prime minister. The Diet adopted the new constitution that guaranteed equal rights, education, and social welfare. The Diet passed the Farm Land Reform Law, and in four years more than two million landlords sold about five million acres to nearly five million tenants. MacArthur stopped a general strike in early 1947, and Communism was deterred; but the Labor Standards Law guaranteed the eight-hour day, vacations, sick leave, safety protection, and limits on hours for women and children. In April 1947 the Socialists won the most seats and formed a coalition with the Democratic party. The next year the Liberals formed a coalition with the Democrats, and Yoshida became prime minister again. The Americans held on to Okinawa for military bases. The large cartels were to be broken up, but the advent of the Cold War rolled back this policy. Immunization reduced diseases and the death rate.

In the first war crimes trial Generals Yamashita and Honma were convicted and executed in the Philippines. In the major trials using the Nuremberg Principles more than five thousand Japanese were tried. The Emperor and his family and those who worked on bacteriological and chemical weapons were given immunity. Of the 28 Class A war criminals 23 were executed; two were sentenced to prison, and two died during the trial; and Okawa was declared insane. The Indian judge Pal voted against the convictions and condemned the American use of atomic weapons. Of the others 2,944 were sentenced to prison, and 1,018 were acquitted; 984 death sentences were upheld. The Japanese had maltreated and killed many prisoners, especially in Borneo, and in their ruthless war they left many to starve. The public trials helped the Japanese people to realize the consequences of their imperialistic war for others as well as by the defeat they experienced themselves.


On the first voyage around the world Magellan was killed in 1521, and Legazpi began settlements on the Philippine islands in 1565. Despite Spanish invasions the southern islands remained Muslim, but others converted to Christianity. From 1593 to 1815 Spain required all commerce from the Philippines to go through Acapulco, Mexico. Spaniards and the Dutch battled over trade until they made a treaty in 1648. Spaniards claimed the Mariana Islands in 1669 and conquered the Chamorros. In the Philippines corrupt alcalde-mayors were allowed to engage in trade and business from 1751 until 1844. The British navy sacked Manila in 1762 and stayed for two years while native Filipinos rebelled against unpopular Spanish overlords. The Philippines fought an expensive war against Muslim raiders between 1778 and 1793.

The Philippines prohibited foreigners from retail business in 1828, but Manila was opened to world trade in 1834. In the 1840s Filipinos began to struggle for racial equality. Gunboats bought from the British were used to defeat the Muslims on Mindanao in 1848. In 1850 Chinese immigration was allowed again. The Jesuits returned to the Philippines in 1859, and by 1863 the Philippines had free public education. In 1869 a new Spanish constitution brought to the Philippines universal suffrage and a free press. In 1872 striking workers were joined by some mutinying soldiers; thirteen, including three prominent priests, were executed while others were imprisoned or fled.

Filipinos began publishing La Solidaridad in 1889 to encourage education and political reforms. Masonic lodges formed and worked for representative government. Jose Rizal learned many languages and became an ophthalmologist in Germany. His 1887 novel Noli Me Tangere criticized the friars and explored a possible revolution; it was banned in the Philippines. After the Dominicans expelled his family from Calamba, Rizal’s 1891 novel El Filibusterismo was a stronger call for revolution but also a warning against violence. Rizal returned to Manila in June 1892 and with Andres Bonifacio organized the Philippine League. Eleven days later Rizal was deported to Mindanao, and Bonifacio with revolutionaries formed the secret Katipunan. Jacinto edited their newspaper Freedom (Kalayaan) that came out in March 1896 and advocated revolt. The Government closed the press, but Katipunan membership increased to 30,000. Bonifacio began the revolution on August 30, and Rizal, who opposed its violence, was arrested and executed on December 30.

Governor-General Blanco declared martial law in eight provinces, arrested hundreds, and tortured them; more than 4,000 died in Manila jails. Kawit mayor Emilio Aguinaldo led the rebels in Cavite, became a general, and demanded independence. An internal conflict resulted in Aguinaldo approving the execution of Bonifacio on May 10, 1897. A constitution was signed in November, and Aguinaldo was elected president. He negotiated a truce and in December accepted money to go into exile at Hong Kong. Yet the revolution continued.

An American consul sold weapons to Aguinaldo and urged him to return to the Philippines. The United States declared war on Spain, and on May 1 Commodore Dewey’s ships sank the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. A US ship took Aguinaldo back to Cavite, and his forces revived the revolution and were supported by seven provinces. Governor Augustin offered the Philippines home rule and a Consultative Assembly. Aguinaldo declared independence on June 12, and Apolinario Mabini changed his dictatorship to a revolutionary government. The US Navy and the revolutionaries besieged the Spaniards in Manila. General Jaudenes preferred to surrender to white Americans rather than to brown Filipinos after a sham battle on August 13. The Revolutionary Congress made a constitution in Malolos in September, and most of the Philippines accepted the new government. On December 10 Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States for $20,000,000, and President McKinley announced “benevolent assimilation.” The Philippine Republic was inaugurated on January 23, 1899.

Americans began the war against the Filipinos on February 4, 1899 and advanced. In May some Filipinos accepted the Schurman Commission proposal. General Otis restricted the press and appointed Supreme Court justices. Vicar General Aglipay organized the Filipino Catholic Church and even fought as a guerrilla general. General Arthur MacArthur replaced Otis in May 1900, and the American army was increased to 120,000. The Taft Commission began taxing and establishing law courts in September. Arellano and Tavera organized the Federal Party in December. In January 1901 the Commission established a public school system, and five hundred American teachers arrived in August. Aguinaldo was captured in March and swore allegiance to the US. Taft became the first American governor on July 4. Resistance continued, and both sides committed atrocities. The Americans burned towns, tortured and killed prisoners, and herded many thousands of Filipinos into “reconcentration” areas. The Americans had 4,234 soldiers killed and spent $600,000,000 on the war. About 20,000 Filipino soldiers were killed in battle, and at least 200,000 civilians died from disease, hunger, or execution.

American trade with the Philippines expanded as Filipinos exported raw materials for low prices and imported expensive manufactured products. Another 200,000 Filipinos died in 1902-04 in a cholera epidemic. The Union Obrera Democrata was founded in February 1902. Aglipay was elected leader of the new Filipino Church. Juan Abad and other authors of controversial plays were imprisoned. The Billibad Prison in Manila had a death rate of 438 per thousand in 1905. Sporadic resistance efforts that often had religious leaders were suppressed. The US Army massacred nine hundred Moros in March 1906. The Federal Party became the Progressive Party and favored independence. Sergio Osmeña and Manuel L. Quezon helped form the Union Nacionalista party. Only 150,000 out of eight million were eligible to vote in 1907. Americans improved health conditions, and Manila’s death rate was cut in half by 1914.

English replaced Spanish as the official language in the Philippines. Quezon slowed down the effort for independence, but he took credit for the 1916 Jones Law and was elected president of the new Senate. Most departments except Education were soon headed by Filipinos. The Nacionalista party dominated the Senate and House. The Government spent nearly half its budget on education. Quezon and Osmeña led delegations to Washington. Labor strikes increased in the 1920s and 1930s.

 Elected delegates to a convention drafted a constitution in 1934. After President Franklin Roosevelt signed it, the Philippine voters ratified it on May 14, 1935. Quezon and Osmeña were overwhelmingly elected president and vice president and were inaugurated on November 15, but the US High Commissioner still outranked President Quezon. Benigno Ramos wrote for Sakdal and had demanded independence by December, but the Philippine Constabulary crushed their 60,000 poorly armed rebels. President Quezon announced his Social Justice Program and raised the minimum wage, but exploitation by the wealthy continued. Filipino women gained the right to vote in 1937, and Quezon made Tagalog the official language. When Japan invaded China, the Philippines declared its neutrality. A left-wing coalition formed the Popular Front but still could not defeat the Nacionalista party. General Douglas MacArthur was given command of the combined US and Philippine armies, and they suppressed subversive organizations.

Though warned, MacArthur did little to defend against the Japanese attack on Clark Field that destroyed fifty American planes on December 8, 1941. As the Japanese invaded the Philippines, MacArthur had his 80,000 men retreat to Bataan. The Japanese claimed they were liberating the Philippines but bombed and looted Manila, raping women. Americans at Bataan suffered hunger and disease, and MacArthur went to Australia in March. About 75,000 Americans surrendered, and 10,000 died on the march to a prison camp. The National Assembly elected Jose Laurel president for the puppet government, and he required Filipino teachers. The Japanese planted cotton and used most of the rice as they exploited the country and executed guerrillas, who nonetheless grew in numbers. President Quezon died on August 1, 1944 and was succeeded by Osmeña. The Americans won the largest naval battle ever at Leyte and landed troops in October. About 200,000 Japanese were killed, and Americans entered Manila on February 3, 1945. The Japanese Navy sent in 20,000 men, and about 100,000 civilians were killed. The Hukbalahaps fought against the Japanese and refused to be disarmed by the Americans. MacArthur administered the Philippines and directed the attacks on the southern islands and the napalming of Japanese in the mountains. President Osmeña led the civil government, and MacArthur declared the Philippines liberated on July 4, 1945.

The Government asked for $8 billion in reparations from the Japanese, and Osmeña tried to control prices. MacArthur exonerated most collaborators to help conservatives like Manuel Roxas, who organized the Liberal party with help from the High Commissioner McNutt. The Democratic Alliance (DA) demanded independence, removal of collaborators, and agrarian reform. With help from the rich and the Americans, the Liberal party won the election on April 23, 1946 and excluded the six elected from the DA. The US withheld aid until July 4 when the Philippines accepted a trade agreement that favored the Americans and was declared independent. In 1947 McNutt secured 99-year leases on 22 military installations for the US. In March 1948 President Roxas outlawed the Hukbalahaps, but he died of a heart attack on April 15. President Quirino offered the Huks amnesty if they disarmed; but they could not agree, and the Huks formed a People’s Liberation Army. Jose Avelino started a new party, and the Huks boycotted the 1949 election that was won by Quirino.

Pacific Islands

The Mariana Islands and the Carolines were under the Spanish empire, but American missionaries began proselytizing in the Carolines in 1852. Hiram Bingham was in the Gilbert Islands 1857-75. Germany annexed the Marshall Islands in 1885. The United States captured Guam in June 1898, and the next year Germany bought most of Micronesia from Spain. The Japanese navy occupied eastern Micronesia in October 1914, but they lost them to the American forces in 1944. The United States kept the Marianas and Marshall Islands under United Nations trusteeship. The Japanese took over Guam in December 1941, but the Americans returned with force in 1944 and made it a US territory.

The Dutch began controlling western New Guinea in 1828, and English missionaries started coming to eastern New Guinea in 1871 and annexed it in 1888. Australia took over British New Guinea in 1906, and Hubert Murray governed it until 1940. Germans claimed northern New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago in 1884, but Australians took it away in September 1914. Many indentured laborers were taken from the Solomon Islands to Queensland, Fiji, Samoa, and New Caledonia, and the British declared a protectorate in 1893. France claimed New Caledonia in 1853, made it a penal colony, and exploited its nickel, copper, and cobalt. The Free French took control of the government in September 1940. The Japanese invaded New Guinea and the Solomon Islands in 1942, but the Americans defeated them on Guadalcanal. In the Solomons the Maasina Rule tried to win freedom from British rule. In 1947 the dominant powers formed the South Pacific Commission to try to solve problems in Micronesia and Melanesia.

After Fiji’s sandalwood was exploited, Wesleyan missionaries came in 1835. Rival kings Ma’afu and Cakobau ceded Fiji to the British in 1874. Fiji grew cotton and began importing Melanesian laborers in the 1860s and Indians in 1879. Fiji’s sugar exports rapidly increased. Fiji’s Governor Cecil Rodwell cancelled the indenture system in 1920. Indians outnumbered Fijians, but a few Europeans dominated the government.

The Tonga chief Taufa‘ahau accepted the Methodist religion in 1831 and ruled as King George Tupou until 1893. He proclaimed a constitution with an elected legislature in 1875. The British declared a protectorate in 1900, but Tonga remained independent and kept European planters out of the kingdom.

Missionary John Williams began converting Samoans in 1830. Wesleyans arrived in 1835 and Catholics in 1845. Samoans fought tribal wars 1842-57. The British and Americans were influential, and in 1860 Samoan chiefs adopted the Vaimauga code of laws. From 1868 Malietoa Laupepa and Malietoa Talavou struggled for the kingship until Talavou died in 1880. Germans supported Tamasese, who forced Laupepa into exile; but Mata’afa Iosefa gathered Laupepa’s followers and defeated the German-backed Tamasese government. The Germans, British, and Americans agreed in 1889 to let Laupepa be king. After he died in 1898, the commissioners abolished the kingship. Germany took western Samoa; the Americans held eastern Samoa with Pago Pago harbor; and the British got Tonga and most of the Solomons. In August 1914 New Zealand took over Western Samoa. In 1918 Governor Logan let influenza spread. The Samoan League (Mau) used nonviolent non-cooperation for reforms and autonomy, and O. F. Nelson tried to appeal to the League of Nations in 1928. Tupua Tamasese returned from exile in 1929, and in December police killed eleven Samoans, including Tupua. In March 1930 New Zealand sent marines who arrested four hundred leaders. Nelson and others were banished, and reforms came slowly. Western Samoa accepted a United Nations trusteeship after World War II with a High Commissioner from New Zealand.

Margaret Mead visited American Samoa in 1928 and published Coming of Age in Samoa about their sexual mores. The US Navy made Pago Pago a military base and suppressed the Mau movement. Americans trained there, and after the Pacific War the chiefs created a local legislature.

Missionaries had little success in Tahiti until Pomare II converted in 1812. The Christian Tahitians won a civil war and in 1819 imposed puritanical laws. The French used force to protect Catholics in 1838 and took over Tahiti five years later. In 1866 the Assembly adopted the Code Napoleon. In 1880 Tahiti became a French colony, and France conquered and annexed the Leeward Islands in 1899. In 1946 Polynesians became French citizens and elected representatives.

Kamehameha through force became the chief of the Hawaiian Islands in 1795 and appointed some haole (white) sailors as governors. After he died in 1819, his favorite wife Kaahumanu persuaded his son Kamehameha II to abandon the kapu (taboo) traditions that discriminated against women. Missionaries began their work in 1820. Kamehameha II died of measles in London in 1824. Kaahumanu wanted to be a Christian and urged laws against vices. By the 1830s Hawaii had more than a thousand schools teaching 50,000 people to read. Kamehameha III (1833-54) proclaimed religious toleration and human rights in 1839, and the next year the Government had a constitution and public schools. Hawaii’s independence was recognized by Britain, France, and the United States. Land titles of the King, chiefs, and commoners were settled, giving the Government land to sell at low prices. Hawaii developed a booming sugar industry and exported rice and coffee. In 1875 they made a reciprocal treaty on duty-free trade with the United States.

Claus Spreckels gave money and loans to King Kalakaua and received favorable deals that helped his sugar business. The corrupt Walter Gibson became premier in 1882, and Hawaii’s debt greatly increased. Lorrin Thurston and Sanford Dole organized the Hawaiian League, which in 1887 persuaded Kalakaua to accept the “Bayonet Constitution.” Gibson was charged with embezzlement and was allowed to leave. The US gained the use of Pearl Harbor as a naval station. Half-Hawaiian Robert Wilcox led a coup attempt on July 30, 1889, but a jury acquitted him of treason. Kalakaua died of illness and was succeeded by his sister Liliuokalani in January 1891. One year later she was about to proclaim a new constitution to restore royal power; but the US Navy helped a provisional government take power, and she yielded. Americans devised and proclaimed a new constitution with Dole as president in 1894. Only 4,447 could vote, and the American Union party won. In January 1895 another revolt led by Wilcox was squelched, and Liliuokalani was put under house arrest and abdicated. The United States annexed Hawaii in July 1898, and Hawaii became a US territory in June 1900.

Wilcox and the Home Rule party won the first election. They released native prisoners and enacted an income tax in 1901; but from 1902 to 1940 the Republicans dominated the Hawaiian legislature. Oriental immigrants were a majority of the population but could not vote. Chinese immigration was stopped in 1898, and immigration of Japanese workers ended in 1907. They tried to improve their low wages by strikes. Those born in Hawaii became citizens, and by 1936 the Japanese were a quarter of the voters. Hawaiians demanded their fair share of public services and gained more benefits in 1924. More than a hundred thousand Filipinos had come to Hawaii by 1932. Jim Dole’s Hawaiian Pineapple Company bought most of Lanai in 1922, but the Big Five companies controlled the sugar industry and took over Hawaiian Pineapple in 1932. Hawaiians voted two to one for statehood in 1940. On Sunday December 7, 1941 the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,403 Americans while destroying 188 planes and 18 ships.

Martial law was declared, but Hawaii’s 160,000 Japanese were not interned as the 110,000 Japanese Americans were in the United States. Jury trials and habeas corpus were restored in 1943. Many Japanese Hawaiians served well in the American military. Unions became more active in 1946, and some Communists were persecuted.

Evaluating East Asia 1800-1949

By 1800 China had been ruled by the Manchus for a century and a half. With population growing beyond three hundred million, heavy taxes and corruption led to banditry and rebellions supported by secret societies, millenarian Buddhists, and Muslims in the western regions. As the English increased their sale of opium from India in order to balance their buying of tea and other products, more Chinese became addicted and corrupted. In the 1830s the loss of silver from buying opium led to higher taxes and worse poverty. The Qing government tried to stop the importation of opium, but the English merchants persuaded their government to send gunboats, resulting in the Opium Wars. The French, wanting to protect their missionaries, joined the English invasion, and in “unequal treaties” made between 1842 and 1860 the Chinese gave the westerners various concessions.

Rebellions began breaking out in 1851, and the Taiping revolution, inspired by a peculiar form of Christianity, ruled a portion of China from Nanjing between 1853 and 1864 during a devastating civil war in which more than twenty million people died. Though named after peace, the Taiping rebels used violence and destroyed Confucian temples, arousing strong opposition, and they were not able to practice their ideals of chastity, respect for women, and land reform. The Nian rebellions were started by bandits, and the Muslim rebellions in the west were eventually put down by armies raised by leaders such as Zeng Guofan, Li Hongzhang, and Zuo Zongtang. During the Tongzhi era (1861-75) the Chinese began to rebuild under the policy of self-strengthening, turning to western science and technology to make their education and military more practical and modern.

China lost a war to Japan over Korea and was forced to give concessions to Japan and encroaching European nations. Kang Youwei led a reform movement that began in Hunan and was tried by Emperor Guangxu for three months in 1898; but the dowager Cixi stopped the radical changes that disturbed the status quo and forced Kang and Liang Qichao to live in exile. Resentment against foreigners and Chinese Christians led to an uprising by those who used martial arts and swords in 1900. Cixi backed the Boxers in a foolish war against Westerners, whose armies took over Beijing and forced her to flee for a while. China had to pay a large indemnity, making the foreign exploitation worse. The Manchus realized they had to allow reforms or face a revolution that was being organized by Sun Yat-sen and others. When the army began mutinying in October 1911, the Chinese revolution against the Manchu dynasty could not be stopped.

Although Sun Yat-sen was elected president, he yielded to the general Yuan Shikai, who borrowed money from western powers and used force to defeat the National People’s Party (Guomindang). During the European War the Japanese took over some Chinese territories and persuaded Yuan and the Peace Conference to let them keep them. After Yuan died, regional warlords struggled for power in China. Confucianism had been used to perpetrate patriarchal domination, and many turned to anarchism or Marxism to solve the problems of feudalism and economic exploitation. Students protested and led a movement for change that erupted on May 4, 1919. Women began attending Beijing University in 1920. While the warlords continued their violent conflicts in the 1920s, Sun Yat-sen welcomed Communists into the Guomindang; and they accepted his three principles of independence, democracy, and socialism. After Sun’s death in 1924 Jiang (Kai-shek) became the top Guomindang military leader. Peng Pai and Mao Zedong organized peasants. The repression of student protests on March 30, 1925 led to a general strike in Shanghai, and the Guomindang and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) both grew rapidly. Jiang and conservatives in the Guomindang turned against the Communists in 1927, beginning a long civil war to determine whether China would be governed by the fascist right or the Communist left. Jiang gained support from capitalists and formed alliances with warlords to take power.

The Nationalists governed as an elite class and left the workers and peasants in misery. Their war against the Communists became worse while the CCP established base areas and used guerrilla tactics. Mao and the Communists tried to develop democracy, but they also repressed dissent. In 1934-35 Communists made a long march to the north where they could also fight the Japanese who had invaded Manchuria. In 1937 Jiang was persuaded to form a united front with the Communists against the Japanese, who invaded Shanghai in August. The modernized military of the Japanese killed hundreds of thousands and occupied northern and eastern China. The Nationalists moved their capital to Chongqing in Sichuan, and the CCP maintained its base in Shaanxi.

The Communists developed self-reliance and were attacked by the Nationalists in 1941. Mao and Liu Shaoqi educated and disciplined party members. Many millions of Chinese died in this long war. By 1945 the Communists held territory with 95 million people and tried to negotiate peace with Jiang; but he tried to regain Manchuria, and the civil war resumed despite an American effort to mediate a settlement and Mao’s willingness to compromise. After the Nationalists unilaterally changed the new constitution, Mao called for a war of self-defense. At first the Communists had to retreat and use guerrilla tactics; but the Nationalists’ exploitation by the rich led to uncontrolled inflation, and their repression of dissent alienated many. The Communists gave peasants land, and the Red Army grew and went on the offensive. Mao declared the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and Jiang had to flee to Taiwan.

Mao’s successful revolution applied socialism to China by appealing to peasants and bringing them land reform to overcome feudalism. Beginning from Kang’s reforms in 1898, China’s long revolution took more than a half century, and the civil war lasted more than twenty years. Imperial Japan’s militaristic invasion caused many more millions to die and suffer under Japanese hegemony. The Manchu dynasty had been overthrown, and the Chinese people were led into a socialist experiment amid the violence. Yet Sun Yat-sen’s ideas and the compromises of Mao with the business class would eventually hold out the prospect that the Communist government would move toward a socialist market economy as it did under Deng Xiaoping, but at the end of 1949 Mao’s governing of China was just beginning and would have its own problems.

Korea maintained its independence in isolation and resisted aggressive western efforts to trade, having learned vicariously from China’s Opium Wars. Yet this isolation prevented Korea from keeping up with some western advances in science and technology.  Korea began opening up when they had to make a treaty with Japan in 1876. Korea accepted unequal treaties with six western powers. In 1894 a revolt by the religious Tonghak led to the Government appealing to both Japan and China. The Japanese army defeated the Chinese and the Tonghak rebellion. The Japanese forced China to recognize Korea’s independence and began implementing reforms. Korea was forced to grant concessions to Japan and to Europeans. Japan defeated Russia in a war that warned Europeans and inspired Asians that they could overcome western imperialism. After making deals with the United States and England, Japan made Korea a protectorate.

The Japanese took control over Korea and annexed it as a colony in 1910. For the next 35 years Japan imposed its culture and exploitation on Koreans with severe repression. Some Koreans boldly declared their independence on March 1, 1919; but the Japanese military crushed the nonviolent movement by killing 7,645 and arresting 46,811. Korean revolutionaries went into exile or fought the Japanese in Manchuria. During the war years 1937-45 the Japanese exploitation was even more ruthless, and many Koreans were conscripted into Japan’s army. At the end of the war Korea was divided as Soviet forces occupied the north and the American army controlled the south. Communists formed a government in the north, and many refugees went to the south. The two governments that formed reflected the influence of the USSR and the US in a new cold war that would become hot in 1950. Korea had suffered under Japanese militarism and was then divided by a new global conflict.

Japan applied the lessons of the Opium Wars in China and managed to make a relatively peaceful transition into modernizing reforms as it was forced to open to western influences. Japanese intellectuals learned from Europe and the United States, adopting political and financial advances. However, as the feudal system was abolished by the Meiji restoration, the dangers of growing nationalism and imitation of the aggressive west bolstered by the Bushido code of the samurai produced an extremely militaristic culture. Confucian education with western improvements and local elections stimulated the People’s Rights Movement in the 1880s and the acceptance of a constitution in 1889. Yet the Shinto religion still nurtured national devotion under the divine emperor. The Japanese learned western technology and modernized their army and navy. Japan became the most powerful nation in Asia and overcame the Chinese to dominate Korea. The military influenced the government which increased their budget.

Japan achieved an impressive victory when they defeated Russia in 1905; yet some public opinion was dissatisfied with the gains of this aggressive war. Japan annexed Korea as a colony and exploited its rice to feed the growing population. While Europe was submerged in war, Japan took over Pacific islands from Germany; their aggressive diplomacy gave them a foothold in China. Japan used military force to keep Korea from becoming independent. With one of the four permanent seats on the League of Nations Council, Japan had become a world power and reluctantly accepted arms control on its navy while refusing to give up chemical and bacteriological weapons. The government suppressed Communists and defeated Jiang’s army in Jinan.

The militarists took the initiative in September 1931 by attacking Manchuria, invading from Korea, and setting up the puppet state of Manzhouguo. The League of Nations objected to this violation of international law, and Japan withdrew from the League, becoming an outlaw nation that also rejected the Geneva Convention on prisoners. Propaganda promoted Japanese imperialism. Even though the democratic party defeated the fascists, imperial Japan continued its aggression against China and signed a pact with Nazi Germany. In the summer of 1937 Japanese soldiers provoked an incident and invaded China. The aerial bombing of Shanghai and Nanjing were followed by massive killing and raping. The Japanese would occupy a large portion of China until their defeat in 1945, causing the death of millions.

Their aggression extended into Indochina, but Japan still needed oil and other materials to fuel its war machine. Tojo believed that Japan would be humiliated without it and approved the bold step of launching a surprise attack against the United States Navy. This was a foolish attempt to defeat the US quickly, but it had the effect of making the Americans determined to enter the war and defeat the Japanese as well as Germany and Italy, whom Japan had chosen as allies in the Second World War. From a military perspective Japan might have had a better chance of dominating Asia if they had refrained from attacking the United States, which may not have been motivated to intervene in an Asian war. Yet aggression against any nation is a major violation of international law and ethics which the Nuremberg Principles would define as a crime against the peace, the worst crime a nation can commit because it causes devastating war. Japan invaded numerous countries in Asia and the Pacific. During the Pacific War the Japanese also committed many war crimes and crimes against humanity, especially in their bad treatment of prisoners.

In being defeated militarily Japan suffered tremendous destruction and suffering as the industrial might of the United States was directed against them, culminating in massive fire bombing and the two atomic blasts in Japan itself. Japanese imperialism was utterly defeated even though Emperor Hirohito survived as a symbolic leader who had to surrender to the Americans. The Japanese were forced to withdraw from all the nations they had conquered, and the American military occupied Japan. Although the United States used the same destructive methods as Japan to defeat them, the Japanese were suffering the consequences of their actions. Except for the Emperor, the worst of the Japanese war criminals were tried by the Allied nations, and most were convicted.

In the postwar occupation General MacArthur imposed censorship and the removal of militarists from the government and schools, and democratic methods were adopted. Women were given equal rights, and in one of history’s most remarkable turnabouts the Japanese adopted a pacifist constitution that renounced the use of war. Ironically the US would not give up its military bases on Okinawa, claiming they would defend Japan. Land reform helped the poor, and Japan began a steady recovery toward a progressive society. Thus the nation that had committed the worst violations in Asia became a model for a successful country that is free of militarism.

The long period of Spanish domination in the Philippines made it the only Christian country in Asia. Gunboats were used to suppress the Muslims on Mindanao. The Jesuits provided more education, and so Filipinos developed a resistance movement for independence sooner than in other Asian countries. Jose Rizal was well educated and inspired people with his novels; but when they began violent revolution in 1896 despite his warnings, he became the martyr. The revolution paused for a truce when its leading general Aguinaldo accepted money to leave the country in December 1897. When the Americans went to war with Spain in April 1898, they supported him and destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay. The Filipino revolution revived and declared independence in June. The Spaniards besieged in Manila preferred to surrender to the white Americans in August. The Filipino revolutionaries had won over most of the country, but Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States. The revolutionaries inaugurated the Philippine Republic, and twelve days later the Americans attacked the Filipinos. The American army was increased to 120,000 men and won the war that caused 220,000 Filipino deaths. Thus the United States replaced Spain as the imperial power.

English became the official language of the Philippines under the American government, and democratic reforms came slowly. The Philippines did develop its schools, and President Franklin Roosevelt allowed a constitution in 1935. Women gained the right to vote two years later, but independence was postponed. The Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941, occupied the country, and set up a puppet government to exploit its resources. After General MacArthur returned with the American forces, many Filipinos died during the invasion that also killed about 200,000 Japanese. Although the Hukbalahaps had fought the Japanese, after the war the occupying Americans suppressed their radical politics and helped the conservatives. The United States withheld economic aid until the Philippines agreed to a trade treaty favoring the Americans. The Philippines became independent, but the US maintained its military installations.

The simple life in the Pacific islands was transformed by the invasion of Europeans, Asians, and Americans, who brought deadly diseases and forced them into the modern age and the global economy.

Spain held many islands in Micronesia, but Germans seized the Marshall islands in 1885 as well as northeast New Guinea in Melanesia. The United States claimed Guam in 1898, and the Japanese took over most of Micronesia from the Germans in 1914. New Guinea was divided between the Dutch and the British, who also claimed the Solomon Islands. France used New Caledonia as a penal colony and exploited its minerals. In 1874 the British took over Fiji, which imported indentured laborers from Melanesia and India. A Tonga chief accepted the Methodist religion in 1831 and a constitution in 1875. Although Tonga became a British protectorate in 1900, it managed to avoid European exploitation. Japan lost all its possessions in the Pacific during the Pacific War. The Americans took over most of Micronesia, and much of Melanesia was maintained by the British and Australia.

Samoa was also evangelized by Methodists and kept its kingship until 1898. Then Germans took over the larger Western Samoa while the Americans gained the harbor at Pago Pago. In 1914 New Zealand took Western Samoa away from the Germans and governed it as their colony. Samoans used nonviolent methods in the struggle to get reforms and autonomy; but the government suppressed them, and New Zealand sent in marines in 1930. The Mau movement was also suppressed in American Samoa. French sailors thought they had found paradise in Tahiti, but missionaries converted the chief and imposed puritanical laws. France made it a colony in 1880 and conquered the Leeward Islands.

Hawaii was also devastated by diseases and was strongly affected by Christian missionaries who emphasized education. The United States made a reciprocal trade treaty with Hawaii in 1875, and Americans became increasingly involved in the Hawaiian economy and politics. Spreckels bribed King Kalakaua and greatly expanded the sugar industry. Thurston and Dole made Kalakaua accept a constitution, and the Americans would not let Queen Liliuokalani restore royal prerogatives. The Americans created a new constitution and made Dole president in 1894. The United States annexed Hawaii, which became a territory in 1900. The Republican party of business interests controlled the Hawaiian legislature. Chinese and Japanese immigration was phased out, but a hundred thousand Filipinos were allowed. Although the Hawaiians voted for statehood in 1940, the racists in the US Congress were not yet ready to make Hawaii a state. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Americans imposed martial law until October 1944. After the war the unions became more active.

While the British came to dominate most of South Asia during the colonial era, China, Korea, and Japan went through their own processes of adjustment to the modern technology stimulated by westerners. In the 19th century the Europeans and Americans brought trade and new ideas to the Orient, and they used their military advantage to impose unfair commercial treaties. Japan modernized most rapidly and became the major imperial power in East Asia; but they became too aggressive and suffered an overwhelming defeat. Korea was especially dominated by Japanese imperialism; but China, only being half conquered, suspended its civil war to resist the Japanese occupation. The modernization process in China turned against patriarchal Confucianism and struggled to overcome the Manchu dynasty. In an era of warlords the political struggle between the Nationalists and Communists played out in a violent situation. Like Japan, China lacked the nonviolent philosophy and methods that Gandhi used in India. Thus many millions died in their various wars. Yet China, Japan, and Korea did manage to stave off European imperialism to maintain some sort of autonomy.

As the only Christian nation in Asia, the Philippines was unique. Also like Hawaii and a few other Pacific islands, they came under the influence of the United States, whose imperialism was modified by revolutionary and democratic ideals. The American influence on Japan during the postwar occupation helped bring about a radical transformation from being the most militarist nation in Asia to the most peaceful one. Thus these nations were able to develop education and democratic governments, though with US military bases they became a part of the American sphere of influence. Because of the Pacific War many Pacific islands were also invaded and liberated from the Japanese by the Americans and also became part of that sphere. In China the Communists led by Mao won the revolution and naturally formed an alliance with the Soviet Union. Korea was divided by the two sides and would soon become the scene of military conflict.

Copyright © 2007 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book EAST ASIA 1800-1949.
For ordering information, please click here.


Qing Decline 1799-1875
Qing Dynasty Fall 1875-1912
Republican China in Turmoil 1912-1926
Nationalist-Communist Civil War 1927-1937
China at War 1937-1949
Korea 1800-1949
Japan's Modernization 1800-1894
Imperial Japan 1894-1937
Japan's War and Defeat 1937-1949
Philippines to 1949
Pacific Islands to 1949
Summary and Evaluation


World Chronological Index
Chronology of Asia & Africa to 1800
Chronology of Asia & Africa 1800-1950
Chronology of East Asia to 1950

BECK index