Sino-Japanese

Current projects on Sino-Japanese research:

“The Bullets of a Defeated Nation: The Shibuya Incident of 1946 “, chapter coming in a book edited by Barak Kushner (2018-19)

Japan’s defeat in World War II brought the nation face to face with its former colonies. In the years after 1945, Japanese on the home islands glimpsed at every turn the flotsam of the empire and the stigma of defeat. Japanese migrants flooded into broken ports from settlements in Manchuria and across Asia, bereft of all but the ashes of the dead. While Japanese refugees returned, Asian migrants already lodged in Japan stood as another testimony to the failed colonial experiment. Prime among these individuals on Japanese city streets in 1945 and 1946 were the former subjects of the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” – Koreans, Chinese, and, in particular, Taiwanese. In the postwar flux, Asian immigrants in Japan were eager to demonstrate competitive advantage, even national supremacy, over their former colonial masters. In 1945, Koreans, Chinese, and Taiwanese residents in Japan readily foresaw that the August capitulation would elevate their own status from nationless subjects into respected allies of the American occupation. Asian migrants in Japan associated with “victorious nations,” however, would prove disappointed with the American occupation. Among the ranks of states victorious in World War II, the Republic of China [ROC] was foremost in its eagerness to influence American occupation policy in Japan. As one facet of that influence, the Chinese government was eager to establish legal dominion over the Chinese and Taiwanese population of the Japanese islands. Such dominion would validate China’s self-image as a powerful arbiter of international affairs and indicate, symbolically at least, the Republic’s eradication of the “national humiliation” (国耻) inflicted by Japan. The efforts of Chiang Kai-shek’s government to appear strong in relation to Japan also served an internal political function. At a time when the Chinese Communists were pressing to “ardently scrub away the national humiliation,” the image of a humbled Japan bowing to Chiang’s Chinese government had obvious political benefits. Illustrative of China’s frustrated attempts to influence U.S. policy in postwar Japan was the Shibuya Incident of 1946 – an incident named for the district in western Tokyo which was dominated by black market activity among Japanese, Koreans, and a few hundred savvy Taiwanese. When a riot broke out in the black market on July 19, 1946, the local upheaval killed six Taiwanese and one Japanese policeman, injured many others, and set into motion two controversial trials whose effects rippled through the already unstable postwar Sino-Japanese relationship. The arrest and deportation of the Taiwanese concerned, coupled with the exoneration of most of the Japanese in January 1947, stimulated a flurry of activity by the Chinese Mission in Tokyo. The Shibuya Incident also set off a firestorm of comment in the Chinese press, adding strength to China’s already potent anti-Japanese discourse. Throughout, the incident and subsequent court cases exposed the growing rift between U.S. and Chinese interests in the occupation of Japan, highlighted issues of nationality in the postwar flux, and brought into stark relief the limits of Chinese nationalism in Japan itself. Clumsy American attempts to mend fences with the Chinese press after the Shibuya Incident directly triggered the “Oppose American Revival of Japan” movement in 1948, the last great student-led campaign of the Chinese civil war era.

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