JAPAN: The Plan

4 minute read

In dead of night at Tokyo last week, highest army, navy and Cabinet bigwigs met and went secretly to see Emperor Hirohito in his moat-encircled castle. They clattered over the ancient drawbridge at 1:30 a. m., bound for the sixth Imperial Conference since the founding of the present Japanese Constitutional Empire. About noon the statesmen dispersed but not until late afternoon was the Japanese public permitted to know what had taken place.

Then Mr. Akira Kazami, chief secretary to the Japanese Cabinet, disclosed only that the Imperial Conference had “deliberated carefully the policy for regulating relations with a rejuvenated China in accordance with the plan submitted by the Government and adopted the plan in its original form.”The Plan, leaks soon revealed, is for the Japanese Government to assume that China “lost the war” with the fall of Can ton and Hankow and that the time has now come to “organize and consolidate” in China that peace which the Japanese choose to think they have won. Other events of the week in Japan indicated fur ther details of the policies deliberated in the middle of the night inside the Imperial Palace :

> The Empire was said to be ready to declare “outlawed”the Chinese Generalis simo, famed Chiang Kaishek, who mean while last week himself held a supreme Chinese conference on strategy. To replace “Outlaw Chiang,”the Japanese Government proposed to set up a new central Chinese Government, not another venal gang of mere puppets, such as those already established at Peking and Nanking, but a State headed by the Scholar Marshal, famed Wu Pei-fu. Marshal Wu had a long and brilliant military career under the Manchu Dynasty, thus might see eye-to-eye with a Japanese scheme to restore as Emperor of China the deposed Kang Teh, now puppet Emperor of Manchukuo.

No upstart bandit general, Wu Pei-fu is respected by many Chinese in his native Shantung Province who call themselves Wu mi (“infatuated with Wu”). Before he was ten years old, he could recite thousands of lines of the Chinese classics. No other Chinese military leader is so familiar with the writings of Confucius, from one of whose favorite pupils he is said to be directly descended. When barely 19 his academic robe was adorned with “four buttons,”scholarly rewards for “felicity in phrasing.”Almost alone among Chinese war lords, he cared little for wealth, was scrupulously honest, did not allow his troops to loot the Chinese countryside over which they maneuvered.

The Marshal liked strong wine, to eat off gold plate. But he has spent most of his time studying and meditating in Buddhist monasteries since 1927, when he and other Chinese provincial war lords were defeated by Generalissimo Chiang in his great campaign to unify China. “He is too matter of fact to be good company,”commented Upton Close, who knew Wu well, “but Wu Pei-fu is one of the few men in China who cannot be bought.”Last week the Marshal was available in Peking. If he has really come to terms with Japan (and in 1932 he wrote to Emperor Hirohito suggesting a Chinese-Japanese “conference of elder statesmen”for peace), the Great Powers may soon be tempted to consider that China has been given a central government which is an acceptable alternative to the Government of Chiang Kaishek.

> To force the Great Powers to concede that the war is over—which it is not—and to give them incentive for recognizing a new Chinese Government, the Japanese Government announced through Vice Admiral Koshiro Oikawa, commander-in-chief of the Japanese Fleet in China, that the Yangtze River will stay closed to all except Japanese and Chinese trade “as long as fighting continues.”Thus Japan bolted the already slammed Open Door (TIME, Nov. 14). Vice Admiral Oikawa blandly admitted that the interior of China swarms today with Japanese traveling salesmen and contractors of all sorts, claimed they are all accredited agents of the Japanese Government as well as of Japanese business.

> Biggest Japanese businessmen, the Tokyo armament tycoons, met War Minister Seishiro Itagaki last week at the Military Club. There Lieut. General Eiki Tojo warned them that Britain, France and the Soviet Union will continue to give aid to Generalissimo Chiang, and that when Russia thinks Japan has become “exhausted”by the struggle, Tokyo may expect Moscow to roll an offensive down against Korea through Vladivostok. Snapped Lieut. General Tojo at the tycoons: “We are now faced with the necessity of preparing armaments adequate to defend Japan on two fronts at the same time!”

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