Organized Panel Session
Just as colonialism was losing its global legitimacy, Japanese military forces invaded Northeast China and created the "puppet state" of Manchukuo (1932-1945). Japanese occupiers portrayed Manchukuo as a model nation-state built around the "Harmony of the Five Races" and the "Kingly Way." But the everyday violence of occupation, combined with resistance from local populations and the colonizers' own internal contradictions, exposed the disconnect between this discourse and the realities of life in the puppet state.
Drawing on multilingual and multidisciplinary perspectives, this panel moves beyond high politics to examine how Manchukuo looked from its rural peripheries, factories, and even the air. Ed Pulford's analysis of Chinese writer Luo Binji's novel On the Borderline (1937) shows how tensions between Han Chinese and Koreans in the border town of Hunchun challenged myths of unified anti-Japanese resistance as well as the Manchukuo state's promotion of multiethnic harmony. Joseph Seeley also looks to the Korea-Manchukuo border to examine how rampant smuggling and boundary disputes on the Yalu River betrayed official proclamations of "Manchurian-Korean unity." Moving to Manchukuo's industrial frontier, Koji Hirata's work on the Showa Steel Works shows how such state-owned industries closely resembled those in the socialist Soviet Union despite Manchukuo's avowed anti-Communism. Finally Kathryn Meyer examines the complex relationship between the ostensible civilian mission of the Manchurian Airline Company and its actual function as a logistical backup to the Japanese military in the years leading up to the Second Sino-Japanese War.