Sixth Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University


last update 2002/03/09

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 3
Stepping-Stones to Empire: Political and Diplomatic Dimensions of the Japanese Empire
Organizer: Igor Saveliev, Niigata University
Chair: Hideo Kobayashi, Waseda University

Within three decades between the fin-de-siécle war with the Celestial Kingdom and invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the architects of Japan's colonial empire faced a huge variety of difficulties in constructing successful colonial regimes in each of empire's diverse parts. Thinkers, policymakers, and diplomats demonstrated a wide range of solutions in the building of a colonial empire, frequently employing Western models, diplomatic instruments, or even criticizing the ruling elite. This panel attempts to explore the extent to which these solutions were successful and how they contributed to the steady progress towards the creation of a Japanese colonial empire.

Stegewerns's research looks at Yoshino Sakuzo's changing perceptions of Japanese civilisation's role in the world order and the similarities between the position of the repressed Japanese proletariat and that of the suppressed Chinese and Korean people. Saveliev's research focuses on the place of rebellious Koreans opposing the pro-Japanese Sôtokufu in the context of the fragile Japanese-Russian rapprochement and the division of spheres of influence in northeast China..

1) Dick Stegewerns, Osaka Sangyo University. "Japanese Opinion Leaders' Views of the Post-WWI Order and their Reactions to Korean Nationalism."

Up to the First World War Japan's expansion into the Asian continent was in line with the Western imperialist framework and the Japanese accordingly used the same argument of bringing civilisation to 'the heathen' to justify their expansionist policy. They professed to feel the heavy responsibility of 'the white man's burden' just as keenly as their European counterparts and thus had no problem whatsoever in completely neglecting Chinese and Korean nationalist demands. However, when after World War One the United States came to dominate the discourse on international relations and the convenient argument of 'civilisation' was thrown overboard in favour of the tricky concept of 'the ethnic nation' things very rapidly changed. To all parts of the Japanese elite it was clear that the necessary adjustments had to be made, for instance in the policy of colonial rule of Korea and the policy of securing a safe sphere of influence in Manchuria. In this paper I will concentrate on Yoshino Sakuzô and some other representatives of the 'Taishô civilisation critics', a generation of opinion leaders who had previously supported the general suffrage movement and after the war became active in the proletariat movement. Partly as the result of socialist influences they gradually became aware of the similarities between the position of the repressed Japanese proletariat and that of the suppressed Chinese and Korean people. However, the degree to which they were willing to accommodate the ethnic national demands of the colonised Koreans was rather different from their more considerate stand towards the sovereign Chinese.

2) Sven Saaler, German Institute of Japanese Studies. "Empire in flux: the Siberian Intervention and Japanese Colonial Empire after World War I"

Siberia has received little attention in the study of Japanese colonial policy. This must be surprising since the region played a central role in Japanese writings on overseas expansion since the Edo period, and Russia was considered the most serious threat to Japanese independence since the early 19th century. After pointing out early traces of Japanese interest in Siberia, I will try to show how after the annexation of Korea and the establishment of control over parts of Manchuria, the focus of Japanese colonial policy again shifted towards Siberia. During and after World War I, Japan with the "Siberian Intervention" launched a large-scale effort to expand its influence over Siberia and the Russian Far East, enlarge its colonial empire by whatever means and thus reduce Russian influence in East Asia.

During the Siberian Intervention (1918-1922), which eventually was to become the largest Japanese military enterprise between the Russo-Japanese War and the Sino-Japanese War that broke out in 1937, Japan had to adjust to a changing international environment and thus new dimensions in colonial policies became relevant. In this paper, I want to discuss three central changes that could be observed during the Japanese military, political and
economic engagement in Siberia: the surfacing influence of "ideology" in discussions on foreign and colonial policy; a further shift from "formal empire" to "informal empire"; and the establishment of the military, especially the Imperial Army, as a major factor in decision-making in foreign and colonial policy.

3) Igor Saveliev, Niigata University. "Russo-Japanese Colonial Rivalry over Northeast China and Rebellious Koreans in the Maritime Province."

A short interlude in Russo-Japanese hostilities between the end of the Russo-Japanese War and the expedition to Siberia was marked by mutual efforts in maintaining the status-quo in northeast China (Manchuria). Four Russo-Japanese conventions were aimed at strengthening this entente, which was occasionally threatened by the remnants of their former rivalry over the influence in northeast China and the Korean Peninsula.

The activities of rebellious Koreans who opposed the pro-Japanese Sôtokufu and moved to Russia's Maritime Province represented one of the issues which required substantial efforts from Japanese diplomats in order to convince their Russian counterparts of the necessity of stopping such activities. A difference in understanding the matter by Russia's central and local authorities added some sharpness to the dialogue between St. Petersburg and Tokyo.

This paper, drawing upon Japanese and Russian archival sources, attempts to analyze how diplomats and officials of both empires settled this issue in 1906-1914.


Discussant: Mark Caprio, Rikkyo University


list of panels