C. Frank Glass

A Shanghai View on Chinese Events

(February 1932)

From The Militant, Vol. V No. 12 (Whole No. 108), 19 March 1932, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


February 16, 1932

While the principal scene of Japanese military activities in China has shifted, at least temporarily, from Manchuria to Shanghai, Manchuria remains the focusing point of Japan’s colonial ambitions on the Asiatic mainland.

The current happenings in Shanghai, where major Japanese naval and military forces are endeavoring to defeat the Chinese 19th Route Army and oust it from Chapei, can be understood only in relation to the immediate pre-eminent political aim of Japanese imperialism, which is to expand its colonial possessions by the annexation of Manchuria and meanwhile, as a first step, to secure treaty recognition of the position it has taken there. Japanese imperialism hopes, by a display of its naval and military might, and by wreaking havoc and destruction to terrorize the yellow politicians and militarists of Nanking (now Loyang) into signing such a treaty.

The political and military spokesmen of imperial Nippon have declared ad nauseam, their intention to respect China’s territorial and administrative integrity, guaranteed by the Nine-Power Treaty, and to maintain the policy of the “open door” in Manchuria. A month of journeying through the three Eastern provinces has satisfied the writer – as it would all others with sound eyes and ears – that Manchuria has virtually ceased to be a part of China, and that the policy of the “open door” scarcely continues to exist except in the utterances of Japanese diplomats at Geneva, Washington and elsewhere.

Quite aside from the actual evidence, however, only a dullard could ever have imagined that the military campaigns of the Japanese in Manchuria were undertaken in any other interests than those of Japanese imperialism. Has British imperialism ever shared the spoils of its colonial wars with its trade rivals? Have the imperialists of France, of the United States, of Italy, of Spain ever done so? Has Japan done it in the case of Korea? What basis exists, then, for supposing that Manchuria will prove an exception to the general rule? None whatever.

Since September 18, when the troops of the Japanese garrison at Kwantung marched out of the South Manchuria Railway zone and occupied Mukden and other strategic points, the war of conquest, practically unresisted, has proceeded steadily. Fresh troops and munitions have poured into Manchuria as required. With the taking of Harbin, Japanese control of Manchuria is practically complete, for the retaking of strategic points in Heilungkiang province can be accomplished at any time. General Ma Chan-shan, erstwhile Chinese national hero, has been bargaining with the Japanese military at his headquarters in Hailun for some two months or more, and is now reported to have apologized to his former opponents for obstructing them at the Nonni River, He is clearly ready to strike a bargain on what he may consider favorable terms.

When I arrived at Shankaikuan, the evacuation of Chang Hsueh-liang’s armies from Manchuria had been completed. Forty-five trainloads of his troops had passed within the Great Wall during the preceding three or four days, without firing a single shot at the Japanese invaders. Thus was completed another chapter in the record of shameful capitulation of the Nanking government and its miserable Manchurian ally. The Japanese forces, having taken Chinchow, were advancing rapidly westward. It remained for them to ride triumphantly into Shankaikuan on the iron road of the Peiping-Mukden Railway to round out what has proved to be, initially, the easiest colonial conquest on record.

As an example of the cowardly refusal of those in power to even attempt to defend China’s soil, of their abject surrender to Japanese aggression, I might record that on the day prior to the arrival of the Japanese forces at Shankaikuan, a staff officer attached to the Chinese Garrison Headquarters rode out to meet the invaders, to inform them that they would meet with no resistance in the event that they desired to occupy the town. And Shaikankuan, lying immediately south of the Great Wall is outside Manchuria. One cannot doubt that they will prove equally obliging and accommodating should the hungry maw of Japanese imperialism demand the rest of China too. The freshest example is Shanghai (Chapei) where the 19th Route Army is stubbornly resisting the Japanese forces despite the receipt of orders from Nanking to withdraw and surrender the ground without fighting.

Shankaikuan apparently forms no part of the immediate objectives of the Japanese Army, belonging geographically to the Tientsin-Peiping area. Thus after a perfunctory inspection of the railway station and environs, the Japanese soldiery withdrew. From that station to Mukden, the whole railway line was in their hands. Before the advance westward, the staffs of all stations had fled and had been replaced by the officials and workers drawn from the South Manchuria Railway, Japanese-owned. All normal traffic on the section was obstructed and stopped and the line entirely given over to the transportation of Japanese troops and military supplies. Within a fortnight, the Japanese headquarters at Mukden announced the “independence” of the section and renamed it the Shenyang-Shankaikwan Railway, at the same time guaranteeing the interest due British bondholders.

With this important railway line under their control, together with all branch and feeder lines, and now, lately, the partial seizure of the Chinese Eastern Railway, jointly owned and operated by China and Soviet China with the disbanding of all Chinese administrative organs which made the slightest show of opposition and their replacement by puppet governments; with all activities, governmental and economic, supervised and controlled by the paid servants of Japanese imperialism: with all opposition stifled by military terror, what more is required to complete the picture of Manchuria as Japan’s newest colonial possession? It is needless to add that the Japanese drive against Chinchow and points further west was accompanied by those acts of wanton destruction and brutality that are customarily associated with wars of colonial subjugation. Railway stations at places where positively no resistance was encountered by the Japanese troops were wantonly wrecked, and such members of the station staff as remained at their posts were brutally beaten up, in same instances seriously maimed and even killed.

In their triumphant invasion of Manchuria, the Japanese imperialists have not had things entirely their own way. First, they have been obliged to take some steps to allay the “misgivings” of their imperialist rivals, notably the United States, a task which, in the nature of the case, called for not a little ingenuity. In this field, since no other course was apparently open, they have confined themselves to hypocritical denials of any intention to annex Manchuria and to renewed pledges to maintain there the “open door”. The factual answer to the first has already been given above. Manchuria has been annexed de facto if not de jure.

As to the maintenance of the “open door,” it is commonly known that at three of the principal ports through which Manchuria’s import trade flows, via: Dairen, Antung and Yinkow, goods of Japanese origin are permitted to enter at reduced tariff rates, in some cases duty free, while other foreign goods pay the officially levied duties. With the extension of Japanese control throughout Manchuria it can be expected that this system of preference, which is carried out sub rosa, will likewise be extended to all Manchurian ports of entry, to the ultimate severe handicapping of trade of Japan’s commercial rivals. This is but one example of Manchuria’s gradually closing door. The preference enjoyed by Japanese products is at present surreptitious, but the exigencies of the economic crisis, which demands ever new trade outlets, will compel, ultimately, the official and formal sealing of a door which today stands only slightly ajar.

The second difficulty encountered one which grows constantly, is the opposition of the people over whom it seeks to become the overlord. Betrayed and deserted by the armies paid (ostensibly at any rate) to defend them, the peoples of Manchuria have been seemingly slow in developing opposition to the foreign imperialist invaders. In early January, however, the first substantial signs of an energetic partisan movement showed themselves. The remnants of the disbanded Chinese soldiery, mostly of peasant origin, discarded their uniforms and merged themselves with their compatriots in the villages to escape detection by Japanese troops intent on their extermination as “hunghudze” (bandits).

Forming themselves into small, mobile bands, reinforced by members of the village poor, they swooped down on Japanese outposts under cover of darkness, engaged the defenders in sharp battle, often annihilating them completely, and then retreated into the night richer in arms and ammunition. In this way tremendous losses were sustained by the Japanese forces, especially those guarding small stations on the railway line between Mukden and Chinchow. Japanese reinforcements would endeavor to locate and round up the raiders as soon as it got light, but by then they had melted away into the neighboring villages from which they came, arms concealed, unidentifiable, awaiting their next opportunity.

Realizing the impossibility of tracing these annoying challengers of their might, and seriously perturbed by the losses in men and guns, the Japanese military command in Mukden have been considering punitive expeditions into the villages that flank the railway. It was proposed that in the village closest to the scene of the raid by a partisan band one adult male out of every ten should be taken out and shot as an example of others, and that this measure should be repeated after each raid. So far there have been no reports that such action has been instituted, although partisan activities increasingly harass the Japanese forces and hinder the consolidation of their initial conquest. Were such action taken it would only have the effect of strengthening and intensifying the spontaneous opposition it would aim to crush.

The growth of the partisan movement in Manchuria has had repercussions in Korea, where the movement fur independence has been visibly stimulated. The Korean people have never been persuaded of the benevolence of Japanese imperialism, less so today than ever with the fresh example of Manchuria before them. At the same time the Japanese workers at home are voicing strong opposition to their masters’ doings in Manchuria, and numerous huge protest demonstrations have been held in leading cities.

All these movements bid fair to hinder, possibly defeat, the realization of Japan’s colonial ambitions, and all the scorpions of repression will be released to subdue them.

To counteract the growing opposition of the United States, Japan will seek to embroil the Soviet Union in war, assured that this will draw to her side all the imperialist powers, including the United States. It is plain that the continued “misgivings” of the State Department will shortly find expression in more concrete form than diplomatic notes of protest. Not for much longer will Japan’s hollow declarations concerning her aims in Manchuria satisfy her powerful rival.

The final word, however, will rest with the revolutionary masses of the Far East, in alliance with the workers of the Soviet Union and of the whole world.

Last updated on 18.5.2013