Accepted paper:

The Japanese Press and the Making of Nationalist China, 1926-29


Andrea Revelant (Ca' Foscari University of Venice)

Paper short abstract:

The paper illustrates how Japanese public opinion responded to the establishment of the Nationalist government in China, shedding light on the diversity of viewpoints expressed in major newspapers and magazines about the prospects for bilateral cooperation.

Paper long abstract:

With the Northern Expedition (1926-28), the Nationalist Party (GMD) emerged in China as the leading force for reunification of the country. International diplomacy had thus to face a new government in Nanjing that claimed back the sovereign rights lost to the foreign powers since the late Qing period. To Japan, in particular, the establishment of the Nationalist regime posed a threat to its 'special interests' in Northeast China. Historians have studied extensively the political process that in 1931 led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, taking into account both domestic conditions and the wider international context. Public opinion in Japan, however, has remained rather on the sidelines of research. This paper aims to illustrate how Japanese society responded to the rise of the GMD in the crucial years between the start of the Northern Expedition and recognition of the Nationalist government by Japan in June 1929. A systematic survey of major newspapers and magazines brings to light a diversity of opinions that previous research had not acknowledged adequately. Within the liberal camp, for instance, the Asahi and Mainichi groups followed two distinct editorial lines. On the other hand, by tracking threads in the discourse on China, it is possible to detect the overall shifts in public opinion through the period examined. Discussion focuses on four key issues, that is to say: the reliability of the Nationalist government; the prospects for actual unification of China under the GMD; the chances for Japan to coordinate its China policy with the other powers; and the importance of Manchuria relative to the rest of China in Japan's foreign relations and economic development. As the Japanese press dealt with these issues with an eye to public opinion in the Unites States and Europe, the latter became one of the inputs in the domestic debate. The paper concludes by pointing at the conditions for Sino-Japanese cooperation according to the mainstream press. These results provide a basis for further investigation into the following years, up to the outbreak of the Manchurian Incident.

panel S7_10
Reflecting Mirrors: Sino-Japanese Relations in the International Public Discourse, 1901-1945