Online ISSN : 2424-2616
Print ISSN : 0018-2478
ISSN-L : 0018-2478
Sino-japanese Relations and the Japanese Navy : 1933-1937
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1999 Volume 108 Issue 4 Pages 527-552,618-62


In modern times, especially after the Russio-Japanese War, how to deal with China was one of the most important problems for Japan. It was not just as a common diplomatic problem, but also was closely related to Japan's secuity-its independence and national security-and also to matters influencing daily life in Japan, such as resources, population, provisions, and foreign trade. Most of the research so far on the history of Sino-Japanese relations has focused on the antagonism between the Japanese Army and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while the Navy's policy towards China has been almost neglected. In order to grasp the whole image of this history, however, it is necessary to restudy it from the viewpoint of the Navy by examining the role it played in Japan's policy-making towards China. Because Japan's policy towards China, as above mentioned, bore great in those days, the Navy also had to grapple with the China problem after the Russio-Japanese War, the Navy had foresaw that the outbreak of a Japanese-American War could be caused by the China question, Modern Japan's diplomatic policy was mostly decided in the tripartite meeting by the Army, the Navy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This is the matter to be examined in the present article which focuses on the Navy's activities before and after the time when Japan made its North China maneuver which led to the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War. After the Manchurian Incident, the Army had an increasingly powerful voice on the issue of China, and "the policy towards China" began to become a "synonym of the policy towards the Army." It has been said that the Navy function-d as "a brake" to control the Army, but recent studies, mainly of the Meiji and Taisho eras, have begun to focuson the cooperative relations between the Army and the Navy on the China problem. This matter is taken up here by considering the aspect not only of the Navy's role of slowing the Army down, but also of advancing into China under the cooperation with the Army.After 1935, the Navy shifted its policy towards China to a more moderate one. Up to 1935, it had proceeded with the "South China maneuver" that aimed to make that region's local governments pro-Japanese, just like the Army had done in Manchuria and North China. The Navy forcefully urged the Kuomintang government to adopt a pro-Japanese attitude by using the pressure of the North and South China maneuvers, since they had already planned a Sino-Japanese united front against the United States in the midst of friction over naval disarmament. On the other hand, after the Second London Naval Conferenceof 1935, the Navy began to grope for detente with the U.S. and they suspended its plan to partition of China. It can be said, however, that the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War meant that the Navy failed to moderate Japan's policy towards China. Considering also that up to 1935 the Navy had carried out a China partition policy like the Army, its role did not serve as a brake on Japan's hardline measures, but rather accelerated them. And, in the view of China, the Navy's policy constantly forced China to take stronger measures against Japan before and after 1935. This is because the Navy had up to 1935 caused anti-Japanese sentiment in China by carrying out the partition policy, while after 1935 it encouraged the Kuomintang govern-ment to unify China.

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© 1999 The Historical Society of Japan
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