Lytton Report

Last updated
Lytton Commission members in Shanghai (Lord Lytton wearing a coat in center of photo) Lytton Commission in Shanghai.jpg
Lytton Commission members in Shanghai (Lord Lytton wearing a coat in center of photo)

Lytton Report(リットン報告書,Ritton Hōkokusho) are the findings of the Lytton Commission, entrusted in 1931 by the League of Nations in an attempt to evaluate the Mukden Incident, which led to the Empire of Japan's seizure of Manchuria.

League of Nations 20th-century intergovernmental organisation, predecessor to the United Nations

The League of Nations, abbreviated as LN or LoN, was an intergovernmental organisation founded on 10 January 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first worldwide intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. Its primary goals, as stated in its Covenant, included preventing wars through collective security and disarmament and settling international disputes through negotiation and arbitration. Other issues in this and related treaties included labour conditions, just treatment of native inhabitants, human and drug trafficking, the arms trade, global health, prisoners of war, and protection of minorities in Europe. At its greatest extent from 28 September 1934 to 23 February 1935, it had 58 members.

Mukden Incident event in which Lt. Suemori Kawamoto of the Japanese Army detonated dynamite on a Japan-owned railway line near Mukden (now Shenyang) in 18 Sept. 1931, blamed by Japan on Chinese dissidents and used as a pretext for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria

The Mukden Incident, or Manchurian Incident, was an event staged by Japanese military personnel as a pretext for the Japanese invasion in 1931 of northeastern China, known as Manchuria.

Empire of Japan Empire in the Asia-Pacific region between 1868–1947

The Empire of Japan was the historical nation-state and great power that existed from the Meiji Restoration in 1868 to the enactment of the 1947 constitution of modern Japan.


The five-member commission headed by Victor Bulwer-Lytton of Great Britain announced its conclusions on to October 1932. It stated that Japan was the aggressor, had wrongfully invaded Manchuria and that it should be returned to the Chinese. It also argued that the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo should not be recognized, and recommended Manchurian autonomy under Chinese sovereignty. The League of Nations General Assembly adopted the report, and Japan quit the League. The recommendations went into effect after Japan surrendered in 1945.

Victor Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton British politician and colonial administrator

Victor Alexander George Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton,, styled Viscount Knebworth from 1880 to 1891, was a British politician and colonial administrator. He served as Governor of Bengal between 1922 and 1927 and was briefly Acting Viceroy of India in 1926. He headed the Lytton Commission for the League of Nations, in 1931-32, producing the Lytton Report which condemned Japanese aggression against China in Manchuria.

Manchukuo former Japan puppet state in China

Manchukuo was a puppet state of the Empire of Japan in Northeast China and Inner Mongolia from 1932 until 1945. It was founded as a republic, but in 1934 it became a constitutional monarchy. It had limited international recognition and was under the de facto control of Japan.

The Commission

The Lytton Commission was headed by V. A. G. R. Bulwer-Lytton, the second Earl of Lytton of Great Britain, and included four other members, one each from the US (Major General Frank Ross McCoy), Germany (Dr. Heinrich Schnee), Italy (Count Aldrovandi-Marescotti), and France (General Henri Claudel). [1] The group spent six weeks in Manchuria in spring 1932 (despite having been sent in December 1931) on a fact-finding mission, after meeting with government leaders in the Republic of China and in Japan. It was hoped that the report would defuse the hostilities between Japan and China and would thus help maintain peace and stability in the Far East.

Earl of Lytton

Earl of Lytton, in the County of Derby, is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created in 1880 for the diplomat and poet Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Baron Lytton. He was Viceroy of India from 1876 to 1880 and British Ambassador to France from 1887 to 1891. He was made Viscount Knebworth, of Knebworth in the County of Hertford, at the same time he was given the earldom, also in the Peerage of the United Kingdom.

Frank Ross McCoy United States Army general

Frank Ross McCoy was an American Army officer. He served in the Philippines, during World War I, and led an American relief mission to Tokyo after the 1923 earthquake. He retired from military service in 1938. In his civilian career, he was president of the Foreign Policy Association and chairman of the Far Eastern Commission.

Heinrich Schnee German politician

Heinrich Albert Schnee was a German lawyer, colonial civil servant, politician, writer, and association official. He served as the last Governor of German East Africa.

The Lytton Report

Lytton Commission, which is investigating the blast point of the railway. Lytton Commission at railway.jpg
Lytton Commission, which is investigating the blast point of the railway.

The Lytton Report contained an account of the situation in Manchuria before September 1931, when the Mukden Incident took place as the Japanese army (without authorization from the Japanese government) seized the large Chinese province of Manchuria. [2] The Report described the unsatisfactory features of the Chinese administration and giving weight to the various claims and complaints of Japan. It then proceeded with a narrative of the events in Manchuria subsequent to September 18, 1931, based on the evidence of many participants and on that of eyewitnesses. It devoted particular attention to the origins and development of the State of Manchukuo, which had already been proclaimed by the time the Commission reached Manchuria. It also covered the question of the economic interests of Japan both in Manchuria and China as a whole, and the nature and effects of the Chinese anti-Japanese boycott. Soviet Union interests in the region were also mentioned. Finally, the Commission submitted a study of the conditions to which, in its judgment, any satisfactory solution should conform, and made various proposals and suggestions as to how an agreement embodying these principles might be brought about.

However, the report did not directly address one of its chief goals: the cause of the Mukden Incident. Instead, it simply stated the Japanese position (that the Chinese had been responsible),  with no comment as to the truth or falsity of the Japanese claims. [3] Although there was no doubt as to Japan's guilt among the five commission members, [4] Claudel (the French delegate) insisted that Japan not be portrayed as the aggressor. [5]

In spite of care to preserve impartiality between the conflicting views of China and Japan, the effect of the Report was regarded as a substantial vindication of the Chinese case on most fundamental issues. In particular, the Commission stated that the operations of the Imperial Japanese Army following on the Mukden incident could not be regarded as legitimate self-defence. Regarding Manchukuo, the Report concluded that the new State could not have been formed without the presence of Japanese troops; that it had no general Chinese support; and that it was not part of a genuine and spontaneous independent movement. Still, the report held that both China and Japan had legitimate grievances. Japan, it states, took advantage of questionable rights, and China obstructed by the exercise of her undoubted rights. The Geneva correspondent of the "Daily Telegraph" says: "The report, which was approved unanimously, proposes that China and Japan shall be given three months in which to accept or reject the recommendations. It is hoped that the parties will agree to direct negotiations."

Impartiality is a principle of justice holding that decisions should be based on objective criteria, rather than on the basis of bias, prejudice, or preferring the benefit to one person over another for improper reasons.

Imperial Japanese Army Official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan, from 1868 to 1945

The Imperial Japanese Army was the official ground-based armed force of the Empire of Japan from 1868 to 1945. It was controlled by the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office and the Ministry of the Army, both of which were nominally subordinate to the Emperor of Japan as supreme commander of the army and the navy. Later an Inspectorate General of Aviation became the third agency with oversight of the army. During wartime or national emergencies, the nominal command functions of the emperor would be centralized in an Imperial General Headquarters (IGHQ), an ad-hoc body consisting of the chief and vice chief of the Army General Staff, the Minister of the Army, the chief and vice chief of the Naval General Staff, the Inspector General of Aviation, and the Inspector General of Military Training.

The "Daily Telegraph" French correspondent says: "The report insists on the withdrawal of Japanese troops within the South Manchuria railway zone, and recommends the establishment of an organisation under the sovereignty of China to deal with conditions in Manchuria, taking due account of the rights and interests of Japan, and the formation of a committee of negotiation for the application of these and other recommendations." [6]


In September 1932, even before the official announcement of the findings of the Lytton Report on October 2, 1932, was made public, the Japanese government extended official diplomatic recognition to the puppet government of Manchukuo. When the findings of the Report were announced before the General Assembly of the League of Nations, and a motion was raised to condemn Japan as an aggressor in February 1933, the Japanese delegation led by ambassador Yosuke Matsuoka walked out. Japan gave formal notice of its withdrawal from the League of Nations on March 27, 1933. The United States announced the Stimson Doctrine, which warned Japan that areas gained by conquest would not be recognized. [7]

In the end, the Lytton Report basically served to show the weaknesses of the League of Nations and its inability to enforce its decisions. The situation was complicated by the length of time it took for the Lytton Commission to prepare its report, during which time Japan was able to firmly secure its control over Manchuria and was thus able to reject the condemnation of the League with impunity.


The Lytton Commission was set up through the initiative of Japanese, [8] making the whole commission questionable as Japan spearheaded to their eventual withdrawal from the League of Nations in 1933.

Related Research Articles

This article is concerned with the events that preceded World War II in Asia.

Manchukuo yuan currency

The Manchukuo yuan (滿洲國圓) was the official unit of currency of the Empire of Manchuria, from June 1932 to August 1945.

Tanggu Truce peace treaty

The Tanggu Truce, sometimes called the Tangku Truce, was a cease-fire signed between Republic of China and Empire of Japan in Tanggu District, Tianjin on May 31, 1933, formally ending the Japanese invasion of Manchuria which had begun two years earlier.

The political situation in Japan (1914–44) dealt with the realities of the two World Wars and their effect on Japanese national policy.

Zhang Jinghui Chinese politician

Zhang Jinghui ; was a Chinese general and politician during the Warlord era. He is noted for his role in the Japanese puppet regime of Manchukuo in which he served as its second and final Prime Minister.

Nakamura Incident

The Nakamura Incident refers to the extrajudicial killing of Imperial Japanese Army Captain Shintarō Nakamura and three others, on 27 June 1931 by Chinese soldiers in Manchuria.

Takashi Hishikari Japanese general

Takashi Hishikari was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army.

Japanese invasion of Manchuria part of the Second Sino-Japanese War

The Japanese invasion of Manchuria began on 18 September 1931, when the Kwantung Army of the Empire of Japan invaded Manchuria immediately following the Mukden Incident. After the war, the Japanese established the puppet state of Manchukuo. Their occupation lasted until the Soviet Union and Mongolia launched the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation in 1945.

Jinzhou Operation military operation

The Jinzhou (Chinchow) Operation was an operation in 1931 during the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, which was a preliminary, contributing factor to the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937.

Pacification of Manchukuo campaign led by the Imperial Japanese Army to pacify resistance to the puppet state of Manchukuo

The Pacification of Manchukuo was a Japanese anti-insurgency campaign during the Second Sino-Japanese War to suppress any armed resistance to the newly established puppet state of Manchukuo from various anti-Japanese volunteer armies in occupied Manchuria and later the Communist Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army. The operations were carried out by the Imperial Japanese Kwantung Army and the collaborationist forces of the Manchukuo government from March 1932 until 1942, and resulted in a Japanese victory.

Zhang Haipeng Chinese general

Zhang Haipeng (1867–1949), was a Chinese Northeastern Army general, who went over to the Japanese during the Invasion of Manchuria and became a general in the Manchukuo Imperial Army of the State of Manchuria.

Zang Shiyi Chinese collaborator with Japan

Zang Shiyi was a Chinese general and Governor of Liaoning Province at the time of the invasion of Manchuria in 1932.

Yuan Jinkai Chinese politician

Yuan Jinkai, was a politician in the late Qing Empire, serving subsequently under the Beiyang Government and the Fengtian clique, subsequently becoming a cabinet minister in the Empire of Manchukuo.

Yu Zhishan Chinese politician

Yu Zhishan, was a military officer under the Beiyang Government and the Fengtian clique, subsequently becoming a cabinet minister in the Empire of Manchukuo.

Zhang Yanqing (politician) Chinese politician

Zhang Yanqing, was a politician in the early Republic of China who subsequently served as Foreign Minister in the Cabinet of the Empire of Manchukuo. His father, Zhang Zhidong was an important official in the late Qing Empire and his brother, Zhang Renli was an official in the Reorganized National Government of China.

Lü Ronghuan Chinese politician

Lu Ronghuan, was a politician in the early Republic of China who subsequently served in a number of Cabinet posts of the Empire of Manchukuo.

Ding Jianxiu Chinese politician

Ding Jianxiu, was a politician in the early Republic of China who subsequently served in a number of Cabinet-level ministries of the Empire of Manchukuo.

Sun Qichang Chinese collaborator

Sun Qichang , was a politician in the early Republic of China who subsequently served as a cabinet minister in the Empire of Manchukuo.


  1. Five Wise Westerners Time Magazine 10 Oct 1932
  2. Robert H. Ferrell, "The Mukden Incident: September 18–19, 1931." Journal of modern history 27.1 (1955): 66-72. in JSTOR
  3. The Mukden Incident by Thomas Ferrell, Journal of Modern History March 1955 (see page 67),
  4. Memo from the US Ambassador in Japan to the US Secretary of State, 16 July 1932, Foreign Relations of the United States, Japan 1931-1941 (see pages 93-94),
  5. Myopic Grandeur by John E. Dreifort (see pages 80-83)
  7. Frederick V. Field, "American Far Eastern Policy, 1931-1937." Pacific Affairs 10.4 (1937): 377-392. in JSTOR
  8. Martel, Gordon (1999). The Origins of the Second World War Reconsidered: A.J.P. Taylor and the Historians. Great Britain: Routledge. p. 6. ISBN   0-415-16324-2.

Further reading