Japan's initial invasion of China culminated with the capture of Nanjing in December 1937. That victory was followed by an extended riot of violence, murder, and rape that shocked the world (9.1). Within a year, concerns over Japan's military successes in China were validated when news emerged that the Japanese had enticed Chiang Kai-shek's rival, Wang Jingwei, to serve as the president of occupied China (9.4). Japan hoped that their move would force Chiang Kai-shek to join the collaborationist government. When Chiang Kai-shek refused their repeated overtures, Japan secured collaborationist rule by signing a treaty with Wang Jingwei, designating him as the head of the government (9.5).
Wang Jingwei’s Telegraph to Chiang Kai-shek Indicating His Collaboration With the Japanese (1938)
An early confidant and friend of Sun Yat-sen, Wang Jingwei (1883-1944) entered the revolutionary fray in 1910 when he attempted to assassinate the last emperor's father and regent Zaifeng (Prince Chun) and played a prominent role in advocating for a republican-style government. Wang's stature within the party after the 1911 Revolution was such that many assumed that he, not Chiang Kai-shek, would assume leadership of the KMT after Sun's death in 1925. Yet, even after Chiang secured control of the KMT, Wang remained an influential figure. He served as administrative head of the national government, frequently feuding with Chiang Kai-shek over government policy. After the fall of Wuhan in October 1938, Wang increasingly questioned China's ability to maintain a protracted war against Japan. As the situation deteriorated in late December, he flew to Hanoi (in French Indochina). On December 29, he issued the following telegram, which was published in turn by the South China Daily on December 31, making his decision public to the world.
- 1. How does Wang Jingwei promise to bring about an end to the War of Resistance?
- 2. Why is Wang Jingwei convinced Japan would pursue a policy of peace?
Dear Comrades of Chongqing Central Party Committee, President Chiang, and Members of Central Executive Committees:
In April, the manifesto of the provisional National Congress explained the rationale for the War of Resistance and stated:
"Since the Tanggu Agreement our people have born the humiliation and burden of dealing with Japan, hoping for nothing more than ending the military combat. Only peaceful means should be employed to secure the northern provinces; furthermore, actions should be taken to properly resolve the issues of the four northeastern provinces; politically the minimal acceptable conclusion of negotiations is to maintain sovereignty and administrative integrity of China; economically cooperation must be based on the principle of equality and mutual benefit."
Since the Lugouqiao Incident in July of last year, China has come to realize that such aspirations are untenable and has been forced into a war of resistance. On the 22nd of this month, Japan readjusted the fundamental policy on Sino-Japanese relations, stating:
I. On Becoming Friendly Neighbors
Japan sincerely declares that it does not demand any Chinese territory nor does it insist upon payment for military expense. Japan not only respects China's sovereignty, but also plans to model their actions on those of the Meiji Reformation; that is to say in exchange for permission of free trade in China's interior, Japan will return all treaty settlements, abolish extraterritoriality, all so that China can achieve her independence.
With such a sincere declaration from the Japanese government, if we follow the peaceful approach, not only will the northern provinces be safeguarded, the territory lost since the War of Resistance can be regained, allowing Chinese sovereignty, administrative independence and integrity to be maintained. In this way, we ought to have confidence and pursue [Japan's] declaration to seek proper resolution for problems involving the four northeastern provinces.
II. On Mutual Prevention of Communism
For several years, the Japanese government has repeated this proposal. We worry they will take this opportunity to intervene in military and internal affairs.
Today the Japanese government has clearly declared Japan should model its behavior on the united anti-Communist spirit of Japan, German and Italy, to create a Sino-Japanese anti-communism agreement. In this way, our worries can finally be brought to an end. The purpose of anti-communism is to prevent the Comintern's internal collusion and interference, which would not alter the relationship with the Soviet Union. Since the Chinese Communists have declared they would fight for the realization of Three Principles of the People, they should immediately give up their organization and propaganda, abolish their special government, military bases, and completely abide by the legal system of Republic of China. The Three Principles of the People is the highest principle in the Republic of China. We all must freely and actively punish any organizations or [Communist] propaganda which violate this highest principle, in order to fulfill our responsibility of protecting the Republic of China.
III. On Economic Cooperation
For several years, the Japanese government has repeatedly proposed this. Up until now, we did not accept economic cooperation, as our political dispute was not resolved. Today, the Japanese government has genuinely declared to respect China's sovereignty and administrative independence and integrity. They have also stated they have no intention of controlling China's economy alone, nor are they asking China to restrict their activities with third party nations... .
China's and Japan's lands are connected. It is natural and necessary for them to become friendly neighbors. The two have gone in opposite directions in the past years, and so need to explore the reasons and clarify the responsibilities of each. In the future, although China will implement an education policy of becoming friends with neighbors, Japan should specifically order her people to give up their traditional belief that they need to invade and humiliate China. They should start an education policy of befriending China, to establish the foundation of long-term peace between the two nations. This is the effort we ought to make for obtaining the happiness of East Asia. Meanwhile, together with other nations, we must strive to secure Pacific and world peace, to maintain and strengthen friendship and mutual interest.
This is merely a proposal, waiting to be adopted!