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A Reconsideration of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident

A Reconsideration of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident

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A Reconsideration of the Marco Polo Bridge IncidentAuthor(s): James B. CrowleySource:
The Journal of Asian Studies,
Vol. 22, No. 3 (May, 1963), pp. 277-291Published by:
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Accessed: 13/06/2011 13:15
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A
Reconsideration
f
the
Marco
Polo
Bridge
Incident
JAMESB. CROWLEY
ON
uly 7,
I937
a handful of ChineseandJapanesesoldiersexchanged rifle-fireinthevicinityof theMarcoPoloBridgeaboutthirtymilesfromPeking.Thisminor fracas precipitatedasequence ofevents thatsoon propelledJapanintofull-scalehostilitieson themainland-a war thatwas significantlyto influencethecourseofJapanese-Americannegotiationin thefateful monthsleadingup to the PacificWar.Manyhistorians have portrayedthe Chinaincidentas the consequenceofaconspiracybytheJapanesemilitary andas a repetitionofapatternofaggressionidentical withthatof the Mukden Incidentof
i931.'
With thisapproach,theSino-Japanesewarpresentslittle apparentdifficultyto ourascertainingwhy the fightingat the MarcoPoloBridgeoccasioneda majorwar. Theculprit isthe Japanesemilitary.Throughout the
I930's,
the influenceof theJapanesemilitary onthe creationofManchukuo,ontheformulation ofJapan'sChinapolicy, and on theresponsesofthe Chinesenationalistgovernmentwas clearly of paramountimportance.Theconsistentexpansionof Japanesepowerin northChinaand the growingintensityofChinese nationalismprovideda historicalcontextwhichrenderedsome type ofopen conflict highlyprobable,if notinevitable.But grantingthe pervasivepressuresoftheImperial Japanesearmyon Sino-Japaneserelations during thethirties, itneednot necessarily ollow that theChina incidentofI937was itselfcausedby the Japanesearmy. Thisobservationisoffered mainlyto emphasizethat the followingreappraisalisnotdesignedtoserve asadefenseorrationalizationofthepoliciesandactionsoftheJapanesearmy duringthe
1931-37
period.Thecentralconcernis torecapitulatethe eventsofJuly
1937
inorder toclarify therole of theJapanesemilitaryinthiscrisisand,in the process,toindicate severalreasonswhythis particularincidentwasnot resolved peacefully.Because thenarrative isbased almostentirelyon Japanesesources,the focusis inevitablyonJapanesepolicyand actions.In addition,the materialis structuredtohighlight two conclusions:theMarco PoloBridge Incidentwasnotcausedbya conspiracyofJapanesearmy officers;and theresultant Sino-Japanesewarwascausedmainly bythe interactionof the officialpoliciesand actsof theKonoe
JamesB. Crowleyis AssistantProfessorofHistoryat AmherstCollege.This article is basedon researchmadepossible byathree-year grantfrom theFord Foundation. Theauthoralsowishestoexpresshisdeep appreciationto thefollowingindividualsfortheirrecollectionsoftheevents ofJuly-August
I937:
the Honorable Arita Hachiro; AmbassadorsHidaka and Kamimura;GeneralsHashimotoGun,WachiTakagi,InadaSeijun,ImamuraHitoshi, Sato Kenryo,Colonel NishiuraSusumu; AdmiralsFukudomeShigeru,Hasegawa Kiyoshi,TomiokaSadatoshi and Takagi Sokichi; andto Mr. Hata Ikuhito who sharedhis notes based upon interviews with Generals Kawabe Torashiro andIkeda Sumihisa.Theauthor,ofcourse,assumesallresponsibilityfor the substance of thearticle.IForexample,YaleMaxon,Controlof Japanese Foreign Policy (Berkeley,
I957),
pp.
I20-I24;
andRichardStorry,The Double Patriots(London,
I
957, pp.
215-223.
277
 
278JAMES B.CROWLEY
Cabinetand theNationalistgovernment.In orderto developthese themes,it isap-propriatefirsttoreviewbrieflythebasicChinapolicyof the Japanesegovernmentatthetime of the
1937
Chinaincident.Followingthe establishmentofManchukuo,theaggressiveextensionofJapanesecontrolinto northChinawasa constantelementin Japan's China policy.Essentially,Japansoughtto erecta bufferzone betweenManchukuoandthe Nationalistgovern-mentin Nankingby supportingvarious"local"Mongolianand Chinesegovernmentsinnorth China.In June
I935,
this policymanifesteditselfintheHo-UmezuandChin-Doiharaagreementswhich,in effect,excludedthepoliticalandmilitaryorgansoftheKuomintang fromnorthChina.2 Theprimary objectiveoftheNationalistgovernmentthencenteredonthe re-establishmentofitscontrolin thesep-rovinces,whiletheJapanesegovernmentsoughtto attainhegemonyoverthe entirecountry,preferablybya comprehensiveSino-Japanesereaty thatwould transformtheKuomin-tangintoa dependencyofthe Imperialgovernment.Throughoutthefall of
I935,
bothgovernmentswereengagedinintensivenegotiationstoachievetheirconflictingaspirations.3ChiangKai-shek,forexample,expressedwillingnesstoconcludea Sino-JapaneseFriendshipTreaty,providedtheKuomintangwaspermittedtore-establishits controlinnorth China.4AlthoughtheJapaneseForeignMinistryseriouslycon-sidered aquidproquo-supportforthe Kuomintangin northChinain returnforatreatythatrecognizedatleast thedefactoexistenceofManchukuo-strenuousobjec-tionsfrom Japanesefinancialandmilitarycircleseffectivelysquashedthisidea.5Neithergovernmentwasable,therefore,toproduceamutuallyacceptablereatydraftand,onJanuary8,
1936,
thenegotiationswereterminated.'After the abortiveattemptata modusvivendi,an outlineof a PolicyforDealingwithNorthChina waspreparedbytheWarMinistryonJanuary
I3,
I936;
whichdefinedthe ultimateobjectiveas a"stable"north Chinaundergovernmentsheadedby Chinesewhowerenot membersofthe Kuomintang.7TheImperialGeneralStaffalsoembracedapolicyinitiallyproposedbyMorishimaMorito,the Headof theAsianAffairs Bureauof the ForeignMinistry.8Accordingto Morishima'splan,Japanwouldpredicateits China policyonthe assumptionsthat ChiangKai-shekeventuallywould
2
Thebest treatmentsof theseagreementsare HataIkuhito,"UmezuKa6-kinkyoteikeii"[Particularsof theHo-Umezu Agreement],Azijakenkyui,IV
(I957),65-iI4;
and ShimadaToshihiko,"UmezuKa0-kin ky6teinoseiritsu"[TheConclusionof the Umezu-HoYing-chinAgreement],Nihon gaik5shikenkyui:Sh5wajidai [StudyofJapaneseDiplomaticHistory;theShowaPeriod] (Tokyo,
I959),
pp.50-70.
3
Archivesof the JapaneseForeignMinistry,
Teikoku
no taiShiseisaku kankeinoken[ConcerningtheChinaPolicyof the ImperialGovernment],especiallyvolumes IV,VI,and VIII. Theauthoris particu-larly indebtedtoMr. Kurihara Ken,the formerheadof theArchival Section,for hisunfailingassistancein locatingpertinentmaterial.
4
Ibid., VI,"Hirota DaijinShe TaishiSh5 Kairokudai nikai"[Minutesof the SecondConversationbetweenForeignMinisterHirotaandChiang'sAmbassadorChiang Tsuo-pin]September7,
I935,
TopSecret.
5
Ibid.,IV,"Sh5Taishi dai nijikaidan nitsukusuru daijinoshu shinan"[SummaryoftheForeignMinister'sReplyto theSecond ConversationwithChiang'sAmbassador],September i8,
I935,
TopSecret.
6
Ibid., VIII,"Showa jfiichinenichigatsuy5kaGaimuDaijinheyaniokerutogi no kekkani motozukutaiShi gaik5shi-an"[Summaryof OurChina PolicyBasedUpon theResults ofthe DiscussionsintheOffice ofthe ForeignMinister, January8,
1936],
TopSecret.
7
InternationalMilitaryTribunalFarEast (IMTFE),Document
1634,p.
3.
8
TeikokutaiShi
. . .
op. cit.,VIII,"Nankin seikenno NiShiNankin kaigiteianni tai suruken"[ConcerningtheProposedMeeting inNanking bytheNankingPoliticalAuthorities], Sanb6Dainibu[G-2,ArmyGeneralStaff], February2,
I936,
Top Secret.

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