Japan Focus, where there are always interesting articles, has two good offerings this week. First, an interesting connection between the Japanese puppet state of Manchuko and Taiwan under Japanese imperial rule emerges in this piece on Manchuko. One of the ways that being a Japanese colony affected Taiwan was that it enabled thousands of Taiwanese to travel around Asia to do things they otherwise might not have had the chance to do, with a historically new status as probationary Japanese. It also provided protection for Taiwanese operating in China, by giving them Japanese rather than Chinese citizenship (Manchukans by contrast had no citizenship, since they were going to be incorporated wholesale into the Japanese empire at some point, according to one view expressed in the article). On to the excerpt….

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Just as Korea was linked to Manchuria because it was a Japanese colony, Taiwan also developed ties with northeastern China.

Hsu Hsueh-chi (Xu Xueji), 54, who heads Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History in Taipei, has since the 1990s conducted research on Taiwanese who lived in Manchuria. When she studied the February 28, 1947, massacre of residents by the Guomindang government and the oppression that followed, Hsu noticed that many victims had returned from Manchuria.

Researchers on Japanese colonial rule had focused on Taiwanese who joined the Guomindang in Chongqing in southwestern China but not on those who went to Manchuria, she said. When she gathered information on some 700 people who lived in Manchuria, Hsu was impressed with the large number of doctors involved. Graduates of the Manchuria medical college alone topped 100, followed by government employees.

Hsu said many Taiwanese went to Manchuria where they were treated equally as Japanese and could play active roles in society. “Taiwan at the time had few institutes of higher education,” she said. “Landing jobs was not easy, and there was a wide gap in wages between Taiwanese and Japanese workers.” In addition, many young people went to Manchuria because they admired Xie Jieshi, a Taiwan native who became Manchukuo’s first foreign minister, according to Hsu.

Hsu interviewed some 50 people who had returned from Manchuria, but they were reluctant to talk. The returnees feared for their safety because Xie Jieshi was labeled a “traitor to China” after World War II. One of those Hsu interviewed was Li Shuiqing, who was among the first graduates of Kenkoku University (national foundation university), Manchukuo’s highest institution of learning.

Li, 89, said he was passionate about the ideal of Gozoku Kyowa when he entered the school. It had Korean, Russian and Mongolian students in addition to Japanese and Chinese. Li spent six years living with them in a dormitory. “I still retain close ties with old students who are like my brothers,” he said in fluent Japanese.

Li was poor, and the tuition-free Kenkoku University was like a dream come true. The school not only paid for meals and other living expenses but also provided students with an allowance. While it was common in Manchukuo for Japanese to eat rice and for Chinese to sup on gaoliang grain, students at the dormitory ate the same meals in protest against such discrimination. Looking back on his experience, Li said that Kenkoku University entered a period of turmoil around 1940 in its third year and eventually collapsed.

The Kwantung Army cracked down on dissidents at the end of 1941, when Japan entered into war against the United States and Britain. Some Kenkoku University students were arrested and died in prison.

During the Guomindang government’s crackdown on Taiwanese residents in 1947, Li’s junior in school was killed. While Li himself spent 2 1/2 years in prison, he believes he was fortunate to have attended Kenkoku University. “I was able to learn to see things from different viewpoints because I went to school with people of different nationalities,” he said.

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A second article discusses the probable Asian policies and policy shifts of new Australian PM Kevin Rudd, who once studied Mandarin here in Taiwan, and has considerable experience of both Taiwan and China. There are four long pieces collected inside this Japan Focus piece, too long to meaningfully excerpt here; don’t miss the two pieces that argue that while Rudd is a lot like “Tony Blair,” he is seeking a way to preserve the US Asian presence while not acting as Washington’s lap dog.