As the power of the court in Beijing weakened, many outlying areas either broke free (like Kashgar) or fell under the control of Imperialist powers. In the 1800s, Imperial Russia was most interested in the northern lands of the Qing Empire. In 1858, Russia gained nominal control over a huge tract of land called Outer Manchuria thanks to the Supplementary Treaty of Beijing that ended the Second Opium War. But Russia was not satisfied, and as the Qing Dynasty continued to weaken, they made further efforts to take control over the rest of Manchuria. Inner Manchuria came under strong Russian influence in the 1890s with the building of the Chinese Eastern Railway through Harbin to Vladivostok.
However, as a direct result of the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5) Japanese influence replaced Russia's in Inner Manchuria. In 1906, Japan laid the South Manchurian Railway to Port Arthur (Japanese: Ryojun). Between World War I and World War II Manchuria became a political and military battleground between Russia, Japan, and China. Japan moved into Outer Manchuria as a result of the chaos following the Russian Revolution of 1917. A combination of Soviet military successes and American economic pressure forced the Japanese to withdraw from the area, however, and Outer Manchuria returned to Soviet control by 1925. During the warlord period in China, the warlord Zhang Zuolin established himself in Inner Manchuria with Japanese backing. Later the Japanese Kantogun found him too independent and assassinated him in 1928. After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the former Emperor of China, Pu-Yi, was invited to come with his followers and act as the head of state for Manchuria; he accepted this request. On February 18, 1932 the "State of Manchuria" (Manchukuo, Pinyin: Mǎnzhōuguó) was declared to exist and recognized by Japan. The city of Changchun, renamed Hsinking (Xinjing, 新京), literally means the "New Capital", became the capital of the new entity. Chinese in Manchuria organized volunteer armies to oppose the Japanese and the new state required a war lasting several years to pacify the country. The Japanese initially installed Puyi as Head of State in 1932, and two years later he was declared Emperor of Manchukuo with the era name of Kangde or "Tranquility and Virtue". Manchukuo thus became the Great Manchurian Empire, sometimes termed Manchutikuo (Pinyin: Mǎnzhōu Dìguó). Zheng Xiaoxu served as Manchukuo's first prime minister until 1935, when Zhang Jinghui succeeded him. Puyi was nothing more than a figurehead and real authority rested in the hands of the Japanese military officials. An imperial palace was specially built for the emperor. All of the Manchu ministers served as front-men for their Japanese vice-ministers, who made all decisions. In this manner Japan formally detached Manchukuo from China in the course of the 1930s. With Japanese investment and rich natural resources, the area became an industrial powerhouse.
Only 23 out of 80 then-existing nations recognised the new state. The League of Nations (via the Lytton Report) declared that Manchuria remained rightfully part of China, leading Japan to resign its membership in 1934. The Manchukuo case prompted the United States to articulate the so-called Stimson Doctrine, under which international recognition was withheld from changes in the international system created by force of arms. Of the major powers Imperial Japan, the Soviet Union, Vichy France, Fascist Italy, Francoist Spain and Nazi Germany recognised Manchukuo diplomatically. In addition Manchukuo gained recognition from the Japanese collaborationist government of China under Wang Jingwei, as well as El Salvador and the Dominican Republic. Although the Chinese government did not recognise Manchukuo, the two countries established official ties for trade, communications and transportation.
Dates of recognition of Manchukuo were as follows: Empire of Japan, 16 Sept 1932; El Salvador, 3 Mar 1934; Holy See, 18 Apr 1934 (de facto); (Fascist) Italy, 29 Nov. 1937; (Nationalist) Spain, 2 Dec 1937; (Nazi) Germany, 12 May 1938; (German occupied) Poland, 19 Oct 1939 (de facto); Hungary, 9 Jan 1939; Slovakia, 1 June 1940 (puppet state of Nazi Germany which was recognized by Manchukuo on this date); 'New’ China (Wang Jingwei Government), 30 Nov. 1940 (date of pact); (Iron Guard dominated) Romania, 1 Dec 1940; Bulgaria, 10 May 1941; Finland, 18 July 1941; Croatia, 2 Aug 1941 (puppet state of Nazi Germany which was recognized by Manchukuo on this date); and Thailand, 5 Aug 1941.
Prior to World War II, the Japanese colonized Manchukuo and used it as a base from which to invade China. In the summer of 1939 a border dispute between Manchukuo and the Mongolian People's Republic resulted in the Battle of Khalkhin Gol. During this battle, a combined Soviet-Mongolian force defeated the Japanese Kwantung Army (Kantogun) supported by limited Manchukuoan forces.
On August 8, 1945, the Soviet Union declared war on Japan in accordance with the agreement at the Yalta Conference, and invaded Manchukuo from outer Manchuria and Outer Mongolia. This was called Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation. During the Soviet offensive the Army of Manchukuo, theoretically a two hundred-thousand-man force, well armed and trained along Japanese lines, performed poorly and whole units surrendered to the Soviets without firing a single shot; there were even cases of armed riots and mutinies against the Japanese forces. Emperor Kang De had hoped to escape to Japan to surrender to the Americans, but the Soviets captured him and eventually extradited him to the communist government in China, where the authorities had him imprisoned as a war criminal along with all other captured Manchukuo officials.
From 1945 to 1948, Manchuria (Inner Manchuria) served as a base area for the People's Liberation Army in the Chinese Civil War against the Kuomintang (KMT). With Soviet encouragement, the Chinese Communists used Manchuria as a staging ground until the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Many Manchukuo army and Japanese Kantogun personnel served with the communist troops during the Chinese Civil War against the Nationalist forces.
Historians generally consider Manchukuo a puppet state or colony of Imperial Japan because of the Japanese military's strong presence and strict control of the government administration, Chinese historians generally refer to the state as 'Wei Manzhouguo' ('false Manchukuo') to emphasize its alleged lack of legitimacy. Some historians see Manchukuo as an effort at building an ideal Japanese state in Asia that failed due to the pressures of war.
Manchukuo was proclaimed a monarchy on 1 March 1934, with Puyi assuming the throne under the reign name of Emperor Kang-de. Puyi was assisted in his executive duties by a Privy Council, and a General Affairs State Council. This State Council was the center of political power, and consisted of several cabinet ministers, each assisted by a Japanese vice-minister.
The commanding officer of the Kwantung Army in Manchukuo was simultaneously Japanese ambassador to Manchukuo. He functioned in a manner similar to that of a British resident officer in British overseas protectorates, with the power to veto decisions by the emperor.
The Legislative Council was largely a ceremonial body, existing to rubber-stamp decisions issued by the State Council. The only authorized political party was the government-sponsored Concordia Association, although various émigré groups were permitted their own political associations.
During its short-lived existence, Manchukuo was divided into between five (in 1932) and 19 (in 1941) provinces, one special ward of Peiman (Japanese:北満特別区) and two Special cities which were Hsinking (Japanese : 新京特別市) and Harbin (Japanese : 哈爾浜特別市). Each province was divided into between four (Hsingan-tung) and 24 (Fengtien) prefectures. Peiman lasted less than 3 years (July 1 1933 - January 1 1936) and Harbin was later incorporated into Binkiang province. Lungkiang also existed as a province in the 1932 before being divided into Heiho, Lungkiang and Sankiang in 1934. Antung and Chinchow provinces separated themselves from Fengtien while Binkiang and Chientao from Kirin separated themselves in the same year.
In early 1934, the total population of Manchukuo was estimated as 30,880,000, with 6.1 persons the average family, and 122 men for each 100 women. These numbers included 29,510,000 Chinese, 590,760 Japanese, 680,000 Koreans, and 98,431 other nationalities (Russians, Mongols, etc). Around 80% of the population was rural. Other statistics indicate that in Manchukuo the population rose by 18,000,000.
From Japanese sources come these numbers: in 1940 the total population in Manchukuo of Lungkiang, Jehol, Kirin, Liaoning (Fengtien) and Hsingan provinces at 43,233,954; or an Interior Ministry figure of 31,008,600. Another figure of the period evaluated the total population as 36,933,000 residents.
Around the same time the Soviet Union was promoting the Siberian Jewish Autonomous Oblast across the Manchukuo-Soviet border, some Japanese officials promoted the Fugu Plan to attract Jewish refugees to Manchukuo as part of their colonisation efforts. The Japanese wanted to exploit the Jews' innate capability to generate wealth, or so they believed from naïve readings of anti-Semitic propaganda.
Financing of the settlement was expected to come from rich Jews, but the German government preferred the Final Solution. In any case, Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union made such population transfer impossible, since the Axis powers did not control the necessary sea lanes.
When the Red Army invaded Manchukuo, they captured 850,000 Japanese settlers. With the exception of some civil servants and soldiers, these were repatriated to Japan in 1946–7. Many Japanese orphans in China were left behind in the confusion by then Japanese government and were adopted by Chinese families. Some of them were stigmatized as Japanese during the Cultural Revolution, and in the 1980s Japan began to organise a repatriation programme for them.
Manchukuo experienced rapid economic growth and progress in its social systems. Its industrial system was among the most advanced making it one of the industrial powerhouses in the region. Manchukuo's steel production surpassed Japan's in the late 1930s. Many Manchurian cities were modernised during Manchukuo era.
The Chinese slave laborers often suffered illness due to high-intensity toil works. Some badly ill workers were directly pushed into Mass graves in order to avoid the medical expenditure and the world's most serious mine disaster Benxihu Colliery happened in Manchukuo.
Bacteriological weapons were experimented on humans by the infamous unit 731 located near Harbin in Beinyinhe from 1932 to 1936 and to Pingfan until 1945. Victims, mostly Chinese, Russians and Koreans, were subjected to vivisection, sometimes without anesthesia.
In 2007, an article by Reiji Yoshida in the Japan Times argued that the Japanese investments were partly financed by selling drugs. According to the article, a document found by Yoshida shows that the Kōa-in was directly implicated in providing funds to drug dealers in China for the benefit of the puppet governments of Manchukuo, Nanjing and Mongolia. This document corroborates evidence analyzed earlier by the Tokyo tribunal which stated that
Japan's real purpose in engaging drug traffic was far more sinister than even the debauchery of Chinese people. Japan, having signed and ratified the opium conventions, was bound not to engage in drug traffic, but she found in the alleged but false independence of Manchukuo a convenient opportunity to carry on a worldwide drug traffic and cast the guilt upon that puppet state.... In 1937, it was pointed out in the League of Nations that 90% of all illicit white drugs in the world were of Japanese origin....
Confucius's teachings also played an important role in Manchukuo's public school education. In rural areas, student were trained to practice modern agricultural techniques to improve production. Education focused on practical work training for boys and domestic work for girls, all based on adherence to the "Kingly Way" and stressing loyalty to the Emperor. The regime used numerous festivals, sport events, and ceremonies to foster loyalty of citizens. Eventually, Japanese became the official language in addition to the Chinese language taught in Manchukuo schools.
Manchukuo issued its first postage stamps on July 28, 1932. A number of denominations existed, with two designs: the pagoda at Liaoyang and a portrait of Puyi. Originally the inscription read (in Chinese) "Manchu State Postal Administration"; in 1934, a new issue read "Manchu Empire Postal Administration". An orchid crest design appeared in 1935, and a design featuring the Sacred White Mountains in 1936.
1936 also saw a new regular series featuring various scenes and surmounted by the orchid crest. Between 1937 and 1945, the government issued a variety of commemoratives: for anniversaries of its own existence, to note the passing of new laws, and to honor Japan in various ways, for instance, on the 2600th anniversary of the Japanese Empire in 1940. The last issue of Manchukuo came on May 2, 1945, commemorating the 10th anniversary of an edict.
After the dissolution of the government, successor postal authorities locally handstamped many of the remaining stamp stocks with "Republic of China" in Chinese and so forth. In addition, the Port Arthur and Dairen Postal Administration overprinted many Manchukuo stamps between 1946 and 1949.
|Personal Names||Period of Reigns||era names (年號) and their corresponding range of years|
|All given names in bold.|
|Aixinjuelo Puyi 愛新覺羅溥儀 ai4 xin1 jue2 luo2 pu3 yi2||March 1932–August 1945|| Datong (大同 da4 tong2) 1932|
Kangde (康德 kang1 de2) 1934