North China Buffer State Strategy

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Map showing the territory of the Hebei-Chahar Political Council in blue and the East Hebei Anti-Communist Autonomous Government in red China 1936.png
Map showing the territory of the Hebei–Chahar Political Council in blue and the East Hebei Anti-Communist Autonomous Government in red

The North China Buffer State Strategy(華北分離工作,Kahoku Bunri Kōsaku) (simplified Chinese :华北五省自治; traditional Chinese :華北五省自治) is the general term for a series of political manoeuvrings Japan undertook in the five provinces of northern China, Hebei, Chahar, Suiyuan, Shanxi, and Shandong. It was an operation to detach all of northern China from the power of the Nationalist Government and put it under Japanese control or influence.

Simplified Chinese characters standardized Chinese characters developed in mainland China

Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore.

Traditional Chinese characters Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau, and in the Kangxi Dictionary. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.

Hebei Province

Hebei is a province of China in the North China region. The modern province was established in 1911 as Zhili Province or Chihli Province. Its one-character abbreviation is "冀" (Jì), named after Ji Province, a Han dynasty province (zhou) that included what is now southern Hebei. The name Hebei literally means "north of the river", referring to its location entirely to the north of the Yellow River.


In China the affair is referred to as the “North China Incident” corresponding only to the time between the series of "North China Autonomy Movements" orchestrated by the Japanese army since May 1935 and the founding of the Hebei–Chahar Political Council under Song Zheyuan in December. [1] It is recognized as ranking alongside the Manchurian Incident, the Shanghai Incident, and the Marco Polo Bridge Incident.

Hebei–Chahar Political Council

The Hebei–Chahar Political Council, or Hebei-Chahar Political Commission, was established at Beijing under Gen. Song Zheyuan, 1935-12-08.

Song Zheyuan Chinese general

Sòng Zhéyuán (宋哲元) was a Chinese general during the Chinese Civil War and Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945).

Marco Polo Bridge Incident initial battle of the Second Sino-Japanese War

The Marco Polo Bridge Incident, also known by Lugou Bridge Incident or Double-Seven Incident, was a battle between the Republic of China's National Revolutionary Army and the Imperial Japanese Army. It is widely considered to have been the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945).

Development of the strategy

Between the winter of 1934 and January 1935 small-scale clashes between the Chinese and Japanese armies were occurring frequently along the cease-fire lines established by the Tanggu Truce and the Japanese army was coming to the view that they needed to clear anti-Japanese forces out of northern China.

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.

On 7 December 1934 a decision was reached at a meeting of the Army, Navy, and Foreign Ministries of Japan concerning issues relating to policy toward China and an agenda was laid out to see to it that the power of the Chinese government did not extend to North China by setting up a pro-Japanese puppet government and extending Japan’s economic rights and interests in the area, and by suppressing anti-Japanese sentiments there. In addition, the same policy was also advocated at the Dalian Conference, a meeting of intelligence operatives working in China and Mongolia hosted by the Kwantung Army early in January 1935.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Japan) Runs the diplomatic relations of Japan with other countries

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is a cabinet-level ministry of the Japanese government responsible for the country's foreign relations.

Dalian Prefecture-level & Sub-provincial city in Liaoning, Peoples Republic of China

Dalian is a major city and seaport in the south of Liaoning Province, China. It is the southernmost city of the Liaodong Peninsula. Dalian is the province's second largest city and has sub-provincial administrative status. The Shandong Peninsula lies southwest across the Bohai Strait and Korea lies across the Yellow Sea to the east.

Kwantung Army military unit

The Kwantung Army was an army group of the Imperial Japanese Army in the first half of the 20th century. It became the largest and most prestigious command in the IJA. Many of its personnel, such as Chiefs of staff Seishirō Itagaki and Hideki Tōjō were promoted to high positions in both the military and civil government in the Empire of Japan and it was largely responsible for the creation of the Japanese-dominated Empire of Manchuria. In August 1945, the army group, around 713,000 men at the time, was defeated by and surrendered to Soviet troops as a result of the Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation.

Thus, the Japanese China Garrison Army and Kwantung Army concluded two pacts with the Nationalist government backed by their military might, the He–Umezu Agreement of June 10 and the Chin–Doihara Agreement of June 27. The two agreements respectively made Nationalist soldiers and officials withdraw from Hebei, and made the Nationalists and the semi-independent 29th Army pull out of Chahar. The KMT Wang-Chiang Coalition, which came into being in March 1932 with Chiang as Chairman of the National Military Commission and Wang as Premier, made these concessions to Japan through their decision to adopt the policy of “resistance while negotiating”, yimian dikang yimian jiaoshe in Chinese or the Eight-Character Policy, the name under which Wang promoted it because it comprises eight Chinese characters. This was part of their larger strategy of “first internal pacification, then external resistance” or xian annei hou rangwai. [2]

Japanese China Garrison Army military unit

The China Garrison Army was formed 1 June 1901 as the Chinese Empire Garrison Army, as part of Japan's contribution to the international coalition in China during the Boxer Rebellion. It took the name China Garrison Army from 14 April 1912 and onward, though was typically referred to as the Tianjin Garrison.

The He-Umezu Agreement ; was a secret agreement between the Empire of Japan and the Republic of China concluded on 10 June 1935, 2 years prior to the outbreak of general hostilities in the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The Chin–Doihara Agreement was a treaty that resolved the North Chahar Incident of 27 June 1935 between the Empire of Japan and Republic of China. The agreement was made between Kwantung Army negotiator, Kenji Doihara, representing Japan, and Deputy Commander of the Kuomintang 29th Army, General Qin Dechun, representing China. It resulted in the demilitarisation of Chahar.

Formation of puppet governments

In contemporary north China the people had witnessed the remarkable events in Manchuria while dissatisfaction was rising among the citizens and various military cliques due to heavy taxation and exploitation by the Nationalist government. Chiang Kai-shek's leverage in north China receded and in June 1935 Bai Jianwu launched an abortive coup d'état in Fengtai with the aim of establishing a pro-Japanese and pro-Manchukuo government.

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.

Fengtai District District in Beijing, Peoples Republic of China

Fengtai District is a district of the municipality of Beijing. It lies to the southwest of the city center, extending into the city's southwestern suburbs.

Political and economic grievances increased among the masses and movements for autonomy gathered momentum in places like Shandong, Shanxi, and Hebei where the Xianghe Incident occurred in October in which peasants disavowed the Nationalist government in opposition to a KMT tax hike and demanded self-government against oppressive taxation. Then, on 3 November 1935 the Nationalists undertook a currency reform with British support and introduced the new silver standard and currency management system, but upon recalling the old currency they confronted more separatist tendencies when the Japanese-backed military leaders of north China refused to hand over the silver. [3]

The Japanese army feared that the currency reform would strengthen of the Chinese government's economic control over north China, and they made efforts to establish a pro-Japanese puppet government in Hebei and Chahar. However, because the Japanese encountered strong resistance from the Nationalist government and because various Chinese military leaders failed to respond to their invitations, on 25 November 1935 they established as a provisional measure the East Hebei Autonomous Council, a government under Yin Ju-keng that would have jurisdiction over an area of Hebei Province demilitarized by the Tanggu Truce.

Chiang Kai-shek did not recognize Yin's declaration of autonomy and on 18 December 1935, in order to prevent the other factions in northern China from declaring their independence in the same manner, he set up the Hebei–Chahar Political Council under Song Zheyuan encompassing Beiping (now Beijing), Tianjin, and the provinces of Hebei and Chahar. In his address upon taking office, Song proclaimed a policy of anti-communism, Sino-Japanese friendship, and respect for the will of the people. At first the East Hebei Autonomous Council thought that the Hebei–Chahar Political Council was a similar type of autonomous body and considered a merger, but this idea was abandoned when they realized that the Hebei–Chahar Political Council was effectively under the control of the Nationalist government and on 25 December they asserted their full autonomy and organized the East Hebei Autonomous Anti-Communist Government.

Thus, through the manoeuvrings of Japan, the Nationalist government of China, and a variety of Chinese warlords, two different anti-communist and pro-Japanese autonomous governments were born in northern China.

On 13 January 1936 the Japanese cabinet endorsed the First Administrative Policy Toward North China, which made keeping north China separate from the Nationalist government into Japan's official national policy. This policy was reaffirmed in the second and third administrative policies of 11 August 1936 and 16 April 1937.

Aftermath in China

In China frustrations with the government's policies gradually grew. When Wang Jingwei was wounded in an assassination attempt in November 1935 he left the government to recuperate. [4] However, at the stage of the Kuomintang's Fifth Congress the same year Chiang Kai-shek did not yet close the door to a diplomatic solution, stating that "If the tipping point hasn't come, we shouldn't talk about sacrifices. We will not accept infringements on our national sovereignty, but up to that point we should strive for friendly relations and political mediation and should make the utmost efforts for peace." [4]

In the middle of April 1936 Japanese decided to reinforce the Japanese China Garrison Army and posted troops in Beiping, Tianjin, and Fengtai in May and June. The Nationalist government notified Japan of its opposition to the move and protests against Japan's policies by civilians and students occurred in Beiping, Tianjin, and other cities. The Chinese people's spirit of resistance towards Japan greatly increased and skirmishes happened repeatedly between Chinese and Japanese forces in the vicinity of Fengtai where the Japanese troops had just been stationed. Furthermore, attacks on Japanese people in places throughout China became frequent. Japan planned to expand the North China buffer state further, but their defeat in the Suiyuan Campaign only strengthened China's will to resist. After the Xian Incident of 12 December 1936, the detention of Chiang Kai-shek by his subordinate Zhang Xueliang, the Republic of China and the Red Army, with the brokerage of the Comintern, concluded the Second United Front and a definite shift for the Nationalists from anti-communism to resistance against the Japanese.

Works depicting the North China Buffer State Strategy

See also

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  1. Naotaka Uchida、『華北事変の研究 -塘沽停戦協定と華北危機下の日中関係一九三二~一九三五- 』、Kyuko Shoin, 2006、pages 5-6
  2. Wang Ke-wen, “North China Autonomy,” in Modern China: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Nationalism, ed. Wang Ke-wen (New York: Garland Pub., 1998),246.
  3. Brett Sheehan, Trust in troubled times: money, banks, and state-society relations in republican Tianjin (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 170-171.
  4. 1 2 Hideo Kobayashi and Michio Hayashi、『日中戦争史論 汪精衛政権と中国占領地』、Ocha no Mizushobo、2005、p.45-48