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CHINA: The Russo-Japanese War

John Derbyshire says: "There are a number of circles to be squared in presenting the Russo-Japanese War to Chinese students in a politically acceptable fashion. Remember that the lights were going out on the Qing dynasty at the time, central control failing. In theory, the only Japanese trophy from the war was the S. Manchurian railroad (which at first they did not want--they tried to sell it to the American millionaire E.H. Harriman, but he didn't want it, either). In practice, however, it was plain that the Japanese, faute de mieux, ended up exerting a good deal of control over Manchuria from thei point on. The modern city of Dalian, which I knew quite well prior to its Deng-era rebuilding, was laid out and built by the Japanese. None of this squares easily with the official narrative of Japanese aggression starting up after 1919.

More generally, the authorities still seem to be extremely touchy about any events that cast Manchuria as a separate theater of historical events. Possibly this is institutional memory of the Gao Gang affair. (Gao, post-1949 warlord of Manchuria, concluded his own agreements with Stalin, and at one point I believe issued his own currency.) "Splitting the Motherland" is of course the most heinous crime in the communist party book.This seems wacky in an age when more of us fret about China taking over Siberia than about Russia taking Manchuria; but institutional memory can be awfully long".

Ronald Hilton - 9/2/02