China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
2 - Cultivating the Enemy: The Sino-Japanese Self-Governance Movement and the Making of Colonial Identities in Rural Manchuria, 1928-1932
Friday, July 6
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Rudraksha, Lower Ground Floor
Indigenous self-governance under imperial patronage was a key element in the Japanese colonial discourse of the early 1930s. Recent scholarship has suggested that this brand of trans-Asian imperialism was an offshoot of the anti-imperial internationalism of the interwar decade. Using previously untapped archival sources, this paper shows that this critical discursive turn was made possible, paradoxically, by a Chinese-led mass movement to reshape the frontier legal-geographic space of Manchuria before Japanese occupation.
Rising to power in a perilous time of inter-imperial rivalry, the nationalist-minded Chinese bureaucracy under Zhang Xueliang launched an ambitious program to cultivate Chinese identity through spatial reorganization and political empowerment. The campaign started with the redrawing of rural territorial boundaries and the migration of whole villages for Chinese defense needs. It culminated in the ensuing project to create a new legal infrastructure for the reshuffled rural political units to govern themselves autonomously. In a borderland ensnared in the Great Depression, however, the movement failed to inspire ethnic nationalism. Rather, it laid the ground for an ethnically open network of grassroots legal activism. Rural elites defied the paternalistic state, seeking to build their own connections across the many judicial borders crisscrossing the Manchurian space. The development resonated with parallel movements in Japan- and Russia-dominated parts of Manchuria, foreshadowing the emergence of new colonial identities under the rubric of imperial self-governance in Manchukuo.
Harvard University, United States