Translator's Note: This is an unauthorized translation of an excerpt from the book Matsui Iwane to Nankin Jiken no Shinjitsu by Takashi Hayasaka, originally published in 2011. Photographs and the author's notes have been redacted but the original page numbers have been retained for use in citations.





Chapter 1 - Becoming the Apostle of Sino-Japanese Friendship


"Iwane Matsui was the Hitler of Japan!"

A young man who was a student at Nanking University said that to me, almost frothing at the mouth, when we were sitting down at a restaurant close to the campus.

His opinion was not exceptional in the city of Nanking. By then I had heard the same sort of thing a number of times from other people. A middle-aged man with a wrinkled white shirt and a glum look on his face, maybe the owner of the restaurant, periodically gazed over at my conversation with the student while he washed small plates.

At no point did I find any common ground with the student. Iwane Matsui is well known in the city of Nanking and even those who don't know his full name usually at least claim to recognize the name "Matsui".

And yet, no one seemed to know the fact that Matsui was actually the Japanese Imperial Army's biggest advocate of Sino-Japanese friendship. One could even say that the whole trajectory of Iwane Matsui's life was defined by his concern for the nation of China.

The student responded to my argument by shaking his head and saying, "I can't believe that. Japanese people have to learn their history." After coughing lightly the student made a forced smile and then simply


told me "I guess that's all that needs to be said." The restaurant owner looked over at me and grinned.

On July 27 1878 Iwane Matsui, the man destined to be a general in the Japanese Army, was born into a family of samurai in Owari Domain, also known as the Nagoya Domain. His father Takekuni and his mother Hisa had been blessed with a large family. They had eight sons and four daughters in total, and Iwane Matsui was the sixth son.

It was said that the Matsui family's was descended since ancient times from the Seiwa Genji line of the Minamoto Clan. The founder of the family, Minamoto no Koreyoshi, was the son of Minamoto no Tameyoshi. In order to escape the Hogen and Heiji Rebellions Koreyoshi took refuge in Matsui No Sho in Bitchu Province, which was the hometown of one of his retainers, and from then on he used the family name "Matsui".

Starting from Koreyoshi, Munetsugu was the seventh generation. He left Bitchu in the year 1338 and moved to Suruga Province.

During the Warring States Period of Japanese history, the Matsuis prospered as the hereditary vassals of the Imagawa Clan. Nobushige Matsui at first lived in Tsutsumi Castle, in the village of Hirakawa in Kikou District, but later he was granted a fief in Futamata. Futamata is a strategic site in the Hokuen region.

The Kodanisan Tenryu Temple, which claims Nobushige as its founder, is even today maintained on the east bank of the Tenryu River. It was said that Iwane Matsui visited this temple, the bodaiji of his family, three times in his life to pray to his ancestors. Beside the road that leads to the temple gate there is a stone pillar commemorating one of Matsui's visits.

In 1560 Munenobu Matsui, Nobushige's younger brother, confronted Oda Nobunaga at Okehazama at the head of


the largest army serving Imagawa Yoshimoto. Munenobu would ultimately die in battle alongside Imagawa Yoshimoto.

The mound of earth where Munenobu's head is buried is also located at the Kodanisan Tenryu Temple. Taisen Enomoto, the temple's former head priest, tells visitors that, "Though Lord Munenobu was regarded as a criminal, it had been said that General Iwane Matsui quietly put his hands together in prayer at the site where his head was buried at the time he visited our temple."

However it is at Chofuku Temple, which was built at Okehazama, where a wooden monument is dedicated to Imagawa Yoshimoto and Munenobu Matsui, and preserved in the temple is a sample of Iwane Matsui's own writing testifying to when he came there in person.

Iwane Matsui's message, which has been carefully framed, includes four Chinese characters which mean "May their spirits rest in peace". Matsui gave the temple this sample of his calligraphy on one of his visits. The temple says that Iwane Matsui visited them about two times during the war in order to pray for the spirits of his ancestors.

In addition to that, there is another stone monument, also engraved with Iwane Matsui's name, located nearby Chofuku Temple at Okehazama Battlefield Park. Matsui wrote the inscription while visiting the park in May of 1933. On the front side of the moment are the words "Okehazama Battlefield Park Dengakutsubo", and on the side it says "Written by Army General Iwane Matsui". Dengakutsubo is believed to be the spot where Imagawa Yoshimoto was killed in battle.

These are a few indications that Iwane Matsui put great value on places connected with his ancestors. It may be that he was also stacking his own future as a soldier against the generals of medieval Japan who were his ancestors.

After the Warring States Period came to an end Buhyoe Matsui, a fourth generation descendent of Munenobu, held the important post of


Commissioner for Construction in the Nagoya area. The grid-like structure of the modern city of Nagoya can be attributed to his work. Nanao Matsui, Iwane's younger brother who deliberately followed in his footsteps and joined the army, noted later that "Our ancestors had owned a castle in Futamata in Enshu Province, but after the Owari family occupied Nagoya Castle they served him and worked as the Commissioner for Construction and the Commissioner of Towns."

In other words, the Matsuis were a very prominent family in the Nagoya area.

However, at the start of the Meiji Restoration the world of the samurai families was turned on its end. Matsui's father Takekuni did find work in government posts in the prefectural office as well as in the Districts of Higashikasugai and Mikawa Yana, but he lamented the hardship he had to endure.

Takekuni was an expert in the field of study known as Mitogaku and was an admirer of Toko Fujita. Mitogaku is partially based on Confucianism, and through Takekuni, Iwane Matsui was very familiar right from his childhood with Chinese studies. It's fair to say that Matsui's affinity for the Chinese was instilled by his father.

The second Chinese character in Takekuni's name is the same as the second character in name of Mitsukuni Mito, the founder of Mitogaku, and I have a personal theory that maybe Takekuni's father was also well versed in Mitogaku. If my supposition is true, that would mean that Iwane Matsui was at least a third-generation expert in Mitogaku and Confucianism.


While we're on the matter of names, what is the story behind the very unusual Japanese name of "Iwane"?

In Japanese "Iwane" refers to a large boulder firmly rooted in the earth, or else more specifically the part of such a boulder which is under the soil. The word's origins are ancient. At the time when the Chinese-based Manyogana writing system was used, we can see the expression "Iwagane" and that is thought to be the source of the word.

Furthermore, in the Nara Period there was a man named Ono No Iwane. He went to the city of Changan as an envoy to the Chinese Tang Dynasty, but he perished when his shop sunk in a storm on his return trip to Japan. It is an uncanny similarity not only that their names are the same, but also that both Iwanes were deeply connected to China. Still, it's not clear whether or not Takekuni was aware of Iwane Ono's life and named his son after him.

Either way, one can still affirm that Iwane Matsui's love of China was rooted in his family background.

Matsui in elementary school

Iwane Matsui attended the local Makino Elementary School and was a fairly taciturn student. Though his grades were excellent, he wasn't top of his class.

At Makino Elementary School a booklet would be put together in the year 1938 lauding Iwane Matsui's achievements. 1938 was the year in which Matsui had returned to Japan after the Battle of Nanking and I have been told that by then


Makino Elementary School was distributing the booklet to its students and teaching classes on his early life. An original copy of that booklet is kept by the aforementioned Chofuku Temple. The cover is missing  and the pages have deteriorated, but I was able to read the letters on the inside well enough. The publisher was "Hisayoshi Ito, Principal of Nagoya City Makino Elementary and High School".  The booklet includes detailed anecdotes of Matsui's school days, including the following one.

Iwane Matsui was said to be greatly averse to finishing things halfway. For example, if Matsui could only deduce a portion of the answer to a question on a test, then even if he had already answered half of it he would still cross it out and erase it.

When the teacher cautioned Matsui by putting down "If you just write a little you can get a point", Matsui told him straight that "My answer was a bit vague so I dropped it." When one looks back on Matsui's life as a whole, this early personal tendency of abhorring half-measures is quite suggestive.

Matsui was short and thin, but he had a bold and strong-willed side to him. For instance, when the schoolchildren played pretend cavalry games, Matsui was the first one to charge the "enemy lines".

At this time Makino was still a quiet and sparsely populated town. Matsui particularly enjoyed fly-fishing in the rivers.

Because he was from a well-known family, people in his neighborhood called him "Mr. Iwa".


Life in poverty

Next Matsui went to Tokyo and enrolled in Seijo School. Seijo School, which had been founded in January 1885 under the name of Literary and Military Arts Training Center, was an educational institution aimed primarily at cultivating aspiring young soldiers.

It changed its name to Seijo School in August of 1886 and developed into a school for those seeking entrance into the Military Preparatory School, which is precisely why Matsui enrolled there. Seijo School is a boarding school.

There was an urgent reason for Matsui's decision to choose a military career, and that was his father's debts.

The Matsuis were what one might call the archetypical "poor samurai".

Though called a distinguished family, the Matsuis had lost their stipend after the Meiji Restoration and they were living impoverished lives earning barely enough to feed themselves.

Supporting twelve children was a great burden for Iwane Matsui's parents, but Matsui's father Takekuni was passionate about education and two of Iwane Matsui's older brothers, Busetsu and Kunika, were at that point taking classes in Tokyo. Takekuni probably wanted his children to have an education befitting of a historic family. Matsui's younger brother Nanao wrote the following about his family's financial problems.

"Though we were a well-known family in the area, we didn't have a particularly big income and our family expenses were huge. Our father had


many children and because he also wanted them to be educated tuition fees alone were quite large."

Even though Iwane Matsui had been small in stature since childhood, out of concern for his family's tight budget he opted for a military education because the tuition fees were low. As noted, however, Matsui was descended of samurai and perhaps Matsui was also thinking about following in his family's footsteps. Nanao recalled that Iwane Matsui was determined to "revive the fortunes of the Matsui clan".

It was for this reason that Nanao would later become a soldier himself.

The influence of Soroku Kawakami

After graduating from Seijo School Matsui progressed to Military Preparatory School.

While studying here, the one idea which left a deep impression on Iwane Matsui was Soroku Kawakami's theory that "Upholding the peace in East Asia is the Japanese Army's reason to be." Kawakami held that a future war with Russia would be difficult to avoid and thus he emphasized the need to construct a new order in Asia as a defense against that. The axis of Kawakami's plan was friendly cooperation between Japan and China.

Matsui felt considerable sympathy with Kawakami's beliefs which would again strengthen his interest in China. Matsui started by making great effort to master Chinese characters.

Then after graduating from the Military Preparatory School he continued on to the Imperial Japanese Army Academy. It was 1896, the year after the First Sino-Japanese War ended,


and the Academy was trying to find a way to shift to a course of study that would be closer to combat, including attaching more students to actual units for their training exercises.

Matsui's graduating class, the 9th, included other recognizable names. Sadao Araki, Jinzaburo Mazaki, Shigeru Honjo, and the future prime minister Nobuyuki Abe were all part of the same graduating class at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy.

Japan had been victorious in its war with China and had acquired Taiwan and the Liaodong Peninsula, though Japan was soon made to give up the latter due to the Triple Intervention of Germany, Russia, and France.

Incidentally Koki Hirota, who would be executed in Sugamo Prison alongside Matsui, also wanted to enter the Imperial Japanese Army Academy to save money for his poverty-stricken family, but the impact of the Triple Intervention led him to change his direction in life. Hirota came to the realization that, "Even if we win through strength of arms it's meaningless if we lose through diplomacy" and so he gave up on becoming a soldier and aspired instead to be a diplomat.

As for Matsui, he spent his time at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy where he thought deeply and cultivated his mind. His grades were excellent by the standards of anyone in his class and at the time of his graduation in November 1897 he had finished second in his class.

But at the same time, the country that fascinated Iwane Matsui, China, was still suffering from the growing pains of modernization in the wake of the First Sino-Japanese War.

Driven by the need to fundamentally reform the nation, the defeated Qing Dynasty considered Japan's Meiji Restoration as a model. Despite this, the reform movement led by Kang Youwei foundered


due to a coup d'état by the conservative group under Empress Dowager Cixi. Kang Youwei would go into exile in Japan.

The Boxer Rebellion of 1900 made the fall of the Qing Dynasty apparent and when the Boxer Protocol was concluded the next year the expansion of the Western powers into China immediately gathered momentum.

China was groaning under the pressure of the great powers, and in reaction to that a strong nationalism was beginning to grow within the people of China.

Iwane Matsui was then preoccupied with laying the groundwork for his future, working hard on his studies and his training, but throughout he continued to keep a watchful eye on trends in China.

Serving in the Russo-Japanese War

Meanwhile Matsui had graduated from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy and joined the Army War College in October of 1901.

He would be a member of the 18th graduating class. Jinzaburo Mazaki, Shigeru Honjo, and Nobuyuki Abe gained admission one year after Matsui so they were part of the 19th graduating class. At that time the acceptance rate for applicants into the Army War College was about 10%, and most people took the entrance exam several times.

The year before Matsui was accepted into the Army War College it had added Chinese as an elective course. For foreign language instruction the College had originally offered a choice between German and French, but in 1897 it had added Russian and English and from 1900 Chinese also became available. This meant that the Army had begun its first efforts


to train a high-ranking officer specializing in China.

Matsui did not hesitate to select Chinese as his foreign language choice.

Matsui was still attending the Army War College and was well on his way to becoming a senior leader in the Japanese Army on February 8 1904 when the Russo-Japanese War began. Japan staked its future on this war with the great power of Russia, and it would also end up dramatically changing the life of Iwane Matsui.

On the 9th, the day after the war began, the Army War College closed its doors. Matsui was immediately ordered to the front as if he been a dropout.

He became commander of a company in his hometown regiment, the 6th Regiment of Nagoya, and served as a battlefield officer on the continent in places like Jinzhou, Delisi, and Dashiqiao.

In the Battle of Shoushanpu, Matsui's company was almost wiped out in the brutal fighting. Matsui himself received serious injuries in the battle, including a piercing bullet wound to this thigh.

He was forced to stay in a hospital, but he was promoted to captain and then returned to the front in time for the Battle of Shahe. After that he was made an aide-de-camp in the 2nd Army.

Readmission to the Army War College

The Russo-Japanese War ended on September 5 1905. While Japan did win, in the final analysis it was a war of unprecedented scale.  About one million men were mobilized, of whom


about 120,000 were killed in battle or of disease.

Furthermore, though Japan had paid a terrible price for its victory, many denied that Japan had extracted sufficient gains from Russia. Dissatisfied citizens were responsible for many incident such as arson and other crimes throughout the country.

In March 1906, as the country finally started to show signs of returning to normalcy, the Army War College re-opened. Matsui returned to his studies on March 20.

In anticipation of reprisals from Russia, Japan now had to deal with the need to quickly revamp its military. It was amidst this tense state of affairs that Matsui re-entered the College.

At this time Matsui's ideas came under the influence of Sei Arao, who a senior of his from his hometown.

Arao, who was born in Owari Domain in 1859, had considerable experience stationed overseas in Qing China. He had worked in the Chinese Affairs Division of the Army General Staff and had firmly established himself as a China specialist within the Army.

Following the end of the Russo-Japanese War there were over 10,000 Chinese exchange students in Tokyo. The modernization of Japan, which had progressed to the point where Japan had surpassed Russia, was thought of as a good textbook for China to follow.

Tokyo was also the base of operations of the Chinese revolutionaries like Sun Yat-sen who sought to overthrow the ages-old Qing Dynasty and create a modern Chinese nation. In 1905 Sun Yat-sen established the Tongmenghui in Tokyo. Japan strongly supported the modernization of its neighbors through such acts as greatly increasing the number of Chinese exchange students it accepted.


Close cooperation between China and Japan was the cornerstone of Sei Arao's thought. His basic argument was that the nations of Asia should work together to counter encroachments by the great powers of the West.

However, China in its then-current state was a weak nation that was being preyed on by the Western powers, and remodelling China as a strong power was thus a national security imperative for Japan. Soroku Kawakami also had a high opinion of Arao and supported him.

Matsui's exposure to Arao's ideas had a big impact on him and would henceforth form the spiritual core of Matsui's own worldview. The ideals of Sei Arao would pave the way to Matsui's eventual establishment of the Greater Asia Association.

On November 28 1906 Matsui graduated from the Army War College as an honor student of the thirty-four in his class. The top student was Tetsutaro Higuchi, but Matsui was among the next five top-ranking students who were bestowed with a saber from the Emperor. The "Saber Group" were, so to speak, the elite of the elite.

The fact that he was a honor student even among the army's best and brightest soldiers is proof of his raw intelligence. Incidentally, Matsui was the only man in his graduating class who would rise to the rank of general.

The Army had high expectations for Matsui due to his outstanding academic performance. He was attached to the Army General Staff and for a short time was posted in France.


Chaos in mainland China

After returning from France the Army dispatched Matsui to China in 1907. It was said that Matsui actively sought to be stationed there.

In general most of the high-profile graduates of the Army War College steered clear of China and favored service in Europe if they were given the choice, but Matsui went to China voluntarily.

At times Matsui was treated as something of an oddball for the fact that he, a member of the elite "Saber Group", would willingly chose to work in China.

But Matsui did this out of a faith-like sixth sense. By this time Matsui knew in his gut that establishing good relations between China and Japan would be linked to the peace of Japan and of all Asia.

As a result of the Russo-Japanese War, Japan had acquired Russia's interests in the region of Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. Specifically, Russia had ceded to Japan the portion of the Eastern Chinese Railway south of Xinjing, which Japan called the South Manchuria Railway, and the Liaodong Peninsula, which Japan called the Kwantung Leased Territory. Along with them Japan also received the right to station troops there and administrative authority over cities adjacent to the railway line such as Mukden.

In China, however, a basic form of nationalism was germinating and anti-Japanese resistance movements were starting to grow in opposition to Japan's actions.

China's modern history was full of bitterness in the land where the Qing Dynasty had ruled since 1644. Great Britain used the Opium War to establish colonies in China and after other countries including Germany, France, and Russia imposed upon China their own spheres of interest.


Though Japan was the last to acquire rights and interests in China, China's emotional reactions against that far surpassed Japan's expectations. Many Chinese tended to look down on Japan due to the ancient Sinocentric view that the Japanese were "eastern barbarians". This in turn spawned a reflexive refusal by the Chinese to acknowledge Japan's superior position.

Amidst the irreversible wave of imperialism extending worldwide, the relationship between China and Japan seemed increasingly precarious.

It was in this context that Iwane Matsui set off for China.

The influence of Taro Utsunomiya

One of the people who Matsui had caught the attention of during this period was Taro Utsunomiya.

Utsunomiya was born in 1861 into a family who were retainers of the Nabeshima Clan in the Saga Domain. He had demonstrated his talents during the First Sino-Japanese War as a staff officer in the Imperial General Headquarters and then became a member of the Transport Division of the Army General Staff. Following service as a military attaché in the British embassy he took up the post of Manager of the Army War College in April of 1906. Utsunomiya took notice of Matsui's high level of competence as well as his serious and humble personality.

At this time Utsunomiya was racking his brain over how to resolve the many pressing issues poisoning Sino-Japanese relations. Utsunomiya guided Matsui to be a specialist in the China problem and tried to groom Matsui as his right-hand man.


After Matsui decided to go to China Utsunomiya tried to support him in both his professional and private life and even offered to arrange his marriage. This shows just how attached to Matsui Utsunomiya had become.

The person who Utsunomiya had recommended to Matsui as his partner was Atsuko, the eldest daughter of Narinobu Hirayama. Hirayama was an influential man who had served in a variety of government posts including Chief Cabinet Secretary. He was the husband of Takeko who was the elder sister of Utsunomiya's wife Sumiko, which made Atsuko Utsunomiya's niece.

For Matsui this was a once-in-a-lifetime marriage offer, and yet he was hesitant. At this point Matsui was in debt. He and his brothers had assumed his father's debts and because of this Matsui was not up to the offer. His candid feelings were that he simply could not get married for the time being. Matsui asked his younger brother Nanao to give Utsunomiya the bad news and his personal apologies.

Nonetheless, Utsunomiya did not stop urging Matsui to accept. Matsui did finally assent to Utsunomiya's offer, after he had drawn up a debt management plan based on annual installment payments.

However, Narinobu Hirayama who had been recuperating from illness for some time took a turn for the worse as Matsui was going overseas to China and from there the marriage talks did not progress as planned.

Matsui would ultimately still be on duty in China at the time that Atsuko received another marriage offer from Kinichi, the eldest son of the Foreign Minister Jutaro Komura. The talks went smoothly and as a result her proposed marriage to Matsui was cancelled.

It was also at this time that Chiang Kai-shek arrived in Japan, and some sources say that it was Iwane Matsui who found Chiang a place to stay at while he was living in Japan. Chiang was an army exchange student who was in Tokyo to learn everything about the state of modern warfare. The military education system that Chiang would later construct in China was modelled


on Japan's Imperial Japanese Army Academy.

The strange pairing of Iwane Matsui and Chiang Kai-shek, who would later confront each other on the battlefield of Nanking, is one of those beautiful quirks of history.

The foundation of the Republic of China

The main places where Matsui was assigned to work in China were the cities of Beijing and Shanghai. His direct superior at this time was Nobuzumi Aoki, who was referred to as the leading "China expert" in the Imperial Army. Aoki had been active in the Special Service Agency during the Russo-Japanese War and after that he was a military attaché at the Chinese legation. One might call him the "ideologue" of the Meiji-era China experts. Under Aoki's leadership, Matsui attended diligently to his duties and gained wide-ranging experience in areas like intelligence-gathering.

While in China Matsui would often go further inland to spend time in Nanking where he usually stayed an inn called Horai House. The Inn was owned by a Japanese man named Mantaro Suzuki. When writing for the Japanese magazine "Hanashi" in February of 1938, Suzuki would put to paper the memories he had of Matsui from when Matsui was still a captain.

"Mr. Matsui was a man of poor physique, but he was quite spirited and back then showed a lot of promise. I said to him once, 'Mr. Matsui, you are so short, but it seems like your future is full of promise. You'll definitely become a lieutenant general.' Mr. Matsui probably would never have imagined that someone like him would become a full general.


He chuckled and said 'Old man, when that day comes I'll treat you to something nice!' Never mind lieutenant general because Mr. Matsui ended up as a full general. At the time he became a lieutenant general I asked Mr. Matsui to give me my reward, and he actually sent me five hundred yen!"

In 1909 while still in China Matsui was promoted from captain to major.

He also continued his research on China. At that time when it came to intelligence on China the Japanese Army was stronger than the Foreign Ministry. The Army's specialists made full use of their diverse networks to zealously gather the latest information on China, and it was at this time that Matsui formed a warm friendship with Sun Yat-sen. Iwane Matsui's younger brother Nanao noted that they were "steadfast friends".

In 1911 the work of Sun and his allies culminated in the Xinhai Revolution. The revolution spread across China rapidly as an explosion of discontent against the Qing Dynasty's failure to resist the territorial encroachments of the great powers. The forces of Sun Yat-sen and other Chinese revolutionaries were conscientiously aided by many Japanese, including Tsuyoshi Inukai, Mitsuru Toyama, Ikki Kita, Kotaro Hiraoka, Toten Miyazaki, Misao Suenaga, and Shokichi Umeya. These men believed that, thanks to the Xinhai Revolution, Japan would finally link up with an "awakened" China in order to counter Western imperialism.

The ideology of the Japanese who supported the Xinhai Revolution was in a way the starting point of Pan-Asianism, and was identical to Matsui's own view of China. It would be difficult, they said,


for Japan alone to repel the advances of the Western powers into Asia and therefore it was indispensable in confronting Western imperialism that Japan form a proper relationship with a modern China.

Men like Toten Miyazaki provided far-reaching support, including financial support, to the revolutionaries led by Sun Yat-sen. Without their help, the Xinhai Revolution would never have happened.

Kanji Ishiwara, who was then stationed in Korea, heard news of the revolution and shouted "Banzai" with his men in celebration of "the future prospects for the reborn China".

By February of 1912 the Xinhai Revolution had succeeded and the Qing Dynasty fell. The monarchy was abolished and the Republic of China was formally inaugurated. Nanking was selected as the capital city and Sun Yat-sen took up the post of provisional president.

In this way, Sun and his compatriots had thus assumed real power in China, but conflict among the warlord factions which were sprouting up in many places continued.

Within the maelstrom of the revolution, the new Republic proved unable to impose public order.

With this lawlessness in China showing no signs of abating, the movements in Japan for an independent Manchuria and Inner Mongolia gradually gained energy. Japan's Kwantung Army tried to promote the warlord Zhang Zuolin as a supporter of Japanese interests in the area.


The Twenty-One Demands

Iwane Matsui's marriage plans had fallen through once before, but in 1912 he wed Fumiko, the daughter of Masaharu Isobe, with the blessing of Taro Utsunomiya. Masaharu Isobe was the head of the Bureau of Mines, which was part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce. His daughter Fumiko was a graduate of the elite Gakushuin School for Girls, but she was said to be quite plainspoken, vivacious, and strong-willed.

Even after Matsui's original marriage talks with the Hirayama family had failed, Utsunomiya's faith in Matsui did not falter. It was at this time that Utsunomiya privately revealed to Matsui his ideas on policy toward China, which he had entitled "My Personal Outlook on China". That he would do this proves the depth of his confidence in Matsui. Utsunomiya also entrusted Matsui with 100,000 yen provided by Hisaya Iwasaki of the Mitsubishi Zaibatsu to be used to aid Sun Yat-sen.

In January of 1913 Matsui's mother Hisa died of illness. It was said that her last words were "Thank you for all the help you've given me."

In April of 1913 Iwane Matsui made a trip to French Indochina, once again at the behest of and through the good services of Taro Utsunomiya. Utsunomiya had been spending a lot of time thinking about southeast Asia in order to lay the groundwork for his proposed movement for "Asian coexistence and coprosperity in the face of Western imperialism".

Henceforth, Matsui would tout the same ideas about Asia. For the rest of his life Matsui would call Utsunomiya "teacher".


In 1915 Matsui became a lieutenant colonel and was attached to the 22nd Regiment in Matsuyama. His stay in Matsuyama was a brief four months before he returned to China once again. For the next three years he resided in Shanghai as an aide to Nobuzumi Aoki. By observing all the latest developments in China on the ground Matsui refined his understanding of that country.

It was also in 1915, during the First World War which had begun a year earlier, that Japan presented China with the Twenty-One Demands. Japan's attempt to guarantee its rights and interests in China were received by China as a "national humiliation". Animosity towards Japan greatly increased in China.

Matsui, however, did not stop consistently advocating Sino-Japanese friendship.

While based in Shanghai Matsui was elevated to the rank of colonel. Taking his orders from Aoki, Matsui energetically traversed the whole country including Nanking, Tianjin, and Hankou. Aoki was an opponent of the imperial regime of Yuan Shikai and a supporter of the Nationalist Revolution led by Sun Yat-sen's southern-based government, and Matsui needed to travel a lot as one of the executors of Sun and Aoki's initiatives. It was also at this time, when Matsui was a colonel, that he established close personal ties with the leading figures of the Guomindang.

The Nine Power Treaty

The Versailles Peace Conference opened in Paris in January 1919 and as one of the victorious countries of the First World War Japan received Germany's properties in the Shandong Province of China. This too


would worsen Chinese perceptions of Japan.

In February of 1919 Matsui came back from China and became commander of the 29th Infantry Regiment in Himeji. After he left China a mass protest movement was carried out against the Twenty-One Demands. This was the so-called "May Fourth Movement". This movement, which was launched in Beijing, spread like wildfire to every part of the country. Contrary to Iwane Matsui's expectations, the brunt of Chinese nationalism was being pointed not to the Western powers, but to Japan.

In 1921 at the time of the Siberia Intervention Matsui was sent overseas again as a staff officer in the Vladivostok Expeditionary Army. After that he was appointed head of the Special Service Agency in Harbin and served as an advisor to Zhang Zuolin.

Next year the Nine Power Treaty was signed and the Washington System was inaugurated within the international community. Japan also assented to the terms of the deal, which included an open door policy for business and affirmation of Chinese sovereignty. Fixed rules relating to China had now been agreed upon.

Japan and China signed a new treaty on the basis of the Nine Power Treaty and Japan handed back to China the Kiautschou Bay Concession which it had inherited from Germany. Japan also tried to resolve the issue of the Twenty-One Demands by rescinding some of their provisions.

In March of 1923 Matsui was promoted to major general and then in February of 1924 he became commander of the 35th Brigade. One year later in May he was handed the prestigious post of Chief of the Intelligence Division of the Army General Staff. The Intelligence Division was called the Second Division whereas the Operations Division was the First Division.


Up to that point the men who had led the Intelligence Division were usually experts in the West. It could be said that the appointment of a China expert like Matsui was an unprecedented selection.

Sun Yat-sen's Greater Asianism

As Chief of the Intelligence Division of the Army General Staff, Matsui again directly confronted the pressing issue of Japan's relations with China. China was very unstable at this point. It would be fair to say that they were still in a state of civil war.

In January of 1924 the Guomindang adopted a party policy of pro-communism and alliance with the Soviet Union, which gave rise to the First United Front. During the Second Zhili–Fengtian War that started in September Zhang Zuolin's forces seized control of the Beiyang Government with Japanese backing.

Then in November Sun Yat-sen visited Kobe where he delivered a speech that would later be known as the Greater Asianism Speech. In this speech Sun forcefully expounded his views that "Asia's problem is the clash of East Asian and Western culture", that "The core of Greater Asianism must be based on the humanity and moral virtue of Eastern Civilization", and that "Using our humanity and moral virtue Asia should cooperate and unify to resist Western pressure". Sun stressed the importance of his theory of "Greater Asianism", which was to also become the focal point of Iwane Matsui's worldview. In his speech Sun also posed the question, "What path will Japan chose in the future?"

However, Sun Yat-sen passed away in Beijing on March 12 1925. Because of this, a struggle to assume his mantle flared up within the Guomindang between Chiang Kai-shek of the GMD's right-wing faction and Wang Jingwei of the GMD's left-wing faction.


Next July the GMD set up a government in Canton led by Chairman Wang Jingwei, but it was still uncertain how the power struggle within the party would ultimately end.

After the Zhongshan Warship Incident of March 1926 Chiang Kai-shek came out on top in political manoeuvring and began to consolidate his power.

In July the Northern Expedition commenced under Chiang's leadership with the goal of unifying China. The National Revolutionary Army charged from its southern bases into northern China to topple the power of Zhang Zuolin. On the way they were joined by troops sent by Yan Xishan and China fell into even greater chaos. Soon after this, the GMD suffered another rupture and in February of 1927 Wang Jingwei's Wuhan Government came into being.

Matsui watched all this civil unrest in China while he was leading the Intelligence Division of the Army General Staff.

What he was hoping for was a rapprochement between the forces led by Chiang Kai-shek and those led by Zhang Zuolin. Matsui believed that the best course for China would be to resolve the civil war quickly and put together a new political system that would resist the spread of communism.

Here Matsui's helping hand was his younger brother Nanao. Nanao, who had graduated from the 11th class at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy and from the 20th class at the Army War College, was made head of the Special Service Agency in Mukden in 1923 and then in 1924 became an advisor to Zhang Zuolin.

Intensification of the anti-Japanese movement

Japan was continuing to deal with the clash between its own interests and those of the Western powers.


The Washington System, which preached self-determination and opposition to hegemony, had taken root as the new framework for international relations. Though this was altering standards inherited the era of rampant imperialism, it's hard to deny that the essence of the system was peace under the Anglo-American umbrella.

Asia was still being exploited by the Western powers, and Matsui argued that for Asia to free itself from its bonds it would be necessary for its two great powers, Japan and China, to act as one.

But Japan's actual relationship with China was in a state of flux.

When Chiang Kai-shek's National Revolutionary Army captured Nanking in March of 1927, it attacked foreign consulates and residents, the so-called Nanking Incident. Even the Japanese consulate with diplomatic immunity became a target. Most Japanese citizens in Nanking were picked up by Japanese Navy warships and steamed safely to Shanghai, but it was a close call.

The Western powers employed military force to suppress these anti-foreign riots, with both Great Britain and the United States bombarding the city from their ships anchored on the Yangtze River. The Japanese Navy, by contrast, stuck to the policy of forbearance and discretion handed down by the Japanese government, and shied away from striking back.

This response caused a big stir within Japan. Japan being the only nation involved which did not employ military force, the government was attacked from all sides for its "weakness".

After the Nanking Incident, acts of violence against foreigners including Japanese occurred one after another throughout China.


To some extent, the outbreak of such incidents can basically be related with the extremist "expel the barbarians" movement of Japan's Meiji Revolution. It's one of those difficult processes that must be undergone in order to establish a modern nation within the international community.

However, the outlet for the nascent nationalism developing in China was anti-Japanese sentiment. The rise of this new nationalism was all that was necessary to plant the seeds of an intense distrust of the Japanese people into the minds of the Chinese. More and more Japanese people were forced to leave China's major cities and return home.

It is believed that communists were the ultimate instigators of these anti-Japanese riots.

Another major outburst of violence occurred in Hankou on April 3, and many Japanese were evacuated.

In response to this turn of events, Japanese attitudes toward China also toughened. It was only natural that the view that the Chinese were an "insolent" people became generalized.

Especially among the officers of the Japanese Army who were working on the problem of China the sentiment was strong that the Chinese should show a little more gratitude to the men of Japan who had made Sun Yat-sen's revolution possible. They felt deep anger and disappointment that Japan also was being made of target of Chinese anti-foreignism in spite of that.

The pro-Chinese group including Iwane Matsui felt conflicted.

On April 12 Chiang Kai-shek drove the communists out of Shanghai and switched to an anti-communist policy. On the 18th the Nationalist Government was established in Nanking.

The First United Front had effectively collapsed. The divisions between the Guomindang and the Communist Party became clear


as China was thrust into a new stage in its history, the Chinese Civil War.

In face of the ongoing disorder and anti-Japanese violence, Japan sought to protect its citizens in China, resulting in the First Shandong Expedition of May 1927.

But the expedition only made China even more hostile to Japan. In spite of the best intentions, Japan had in Chinese eyes become the leading imperialist power. Amidst the wild frenzy produced by China's warped nationalism, the anti-Japanese movement spread throughout the country like an unstoppable avalanche.

Sino-Japanese relations thus fell into a vicious cycle.

The Eastern Conference

The so-called "Eastern Conference" was held between the end of June and the 7th of July in 1927. Matsui, Chief of the Intelligence Division of the Army General Staff, attended the conference as an ad-hoc committee member representing the Japanese Army. Other key participants included Kaku Mori, the Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister, Shigeru Yoshida, the Consul General in Mukden, Jiro Minami, the Deputy Chief of the Army General Staff, and Nobuyuki Abe, the head of the Military Affairs Bureau.

At the conference Matsui gave a report on the situation in China and on Russian maneuvers in the area. At that time what worried the Army General Staff above all else was the "communization of China". In the judgment of the General Staff, even the blame for the Nanking Incident lay not with Chiang Kai-shek but with the communists. Matsui considered Chiang to be a moderate and advocating providing him with aid and support when necessary. He concluded


at the conference that "The fact that a moderate like Chiang Kai-Shek has seized the reins of military power is a favorable development for Japan."

Matsui held high expectations for Chiang and set out the importance of treating him in a conciliatory manner.

At the end of the conference "The Principles of China Policy" was laid down, including "non-interference in the internal affairs of mainland China and securing Japan's special interests in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia" as well as "promotion of Japan's economic interests in China, especially in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia".

The Eastern Conference would later be subject of a major controversy. According to China, it was at this conference that the document known as the "Tanaka Memorial" was unveiled, which confirmed Japan's determination to embark on a course of "aggressive war" and by extension "world conquest". Even at the League of Nations China would later sharply criticize Japan on the basis of the Tanaka Memorial. Though it would also be eventually brought up at the postwar Tokyo War Crimes Trials as well, today the memorial is known to be a complete forgery.

However, the forgery was not exposed until after the war, and at the time the dissemination of this spurious document greatly strengthened anti-Japanese sentiments in China. Conspiracy theories about Japan's imperialistic intentions took hold in Chinese minds and even spread internationally when the Tanaka Memorial was reported on by the media of Great Britain and the United States.


However, the main points of the real document, "The Principles of China Policy", anticipated "the reestablishment of law and order and political stability in China", urged "the formation of a unified polity in mainland China", and emphasized "supporting the peaceful economic development of China with the cooperation of the great powers". Essentially the policy was to accept the unification of China on the condition that it did not affect Japan's rights and interests in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia.

Matsui played a major role in the formulation of this manifesto.

Honeymoon with Chiang Kai-shek

In July of 1927 Matsui was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General. As the leading pro-Chinese army officer, Matsui's stock was rising with each passing day.

China was taking its first steps toward modernization.

In September the GMD Special Central Committee came into being in Nanking, but Chiang himself had became embroiled in a power struggle within the party and ended up resigning his position as Supreme Commander of the National Revolutionary Army and retiring from public life.

But Iwane Matsui lend Chiang a hand while he was still reeling from the bitterness of being forced to resign from office. Chiang largely had Matsui to thank for arranging his trip to Japan in late-September.

On November 5 Chiang met with the Prime Minister of Japan, Giichi Tanaka. Their discussion centered around the issue of China reacquiring Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. Within the Japanese Army there were two general points of view on this issue.


One group argued that Japan's goal should be to use Zhang Zuolin as their puppet and have him block China's advance north, while the other group advocated forgoing with Zhang and setting up an independent government in the region. The latter group did not rule out the possibility of military intervention.

Despite this, Matsui's position was different from either of these stances. Matsui appreciated Chiang's abilities, and wondered if he would one day become the man who would unify China. If that was the case then supporting him would be the best policy for Japan to adopt, provided that he recognize Japan's special rights and interests in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia. These vital interests were the hard-won prize that innumerable Japanese men had given their lives to attain during the Russo-Japanese War.

Matsui strongly dismissed the thought of establishing a puppet state or rashly resorting to military force and instead put forward his own proposal for a conditional alliance with Chiang.

This was a concrete policy manifesting Matsui's pro-Chinese sympathies.

The talks between Tanaka and Chiang produced an agreement whereby Japan would consent to the eventual unification of China under the Nationalist Government and Chiang would acknowledge Japan's special interests in Manchuria. This was almost identical to what Matsui had proposed.

When Chiang returned to China he made the following statement of intent to a group of reporters in Shanghai.


"We cannot ignore the importance of Japan's political and economic interests in Manchuria and we also understand the remarkable elevation of Japan's national spirit during the Russo-Japanese War. Even Master Sun recognized that. I have given assurances that due consideration will be given to Japan's special position in Manchuria."

This was Japan's honeymoon with Chiang Kai-shek, which Matsui's efforts played a big part in realizing. And yet, Chiang and Matsui would end up fighting one another, each at the head of two opposing armies at the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The Jinan Incident and the assassination of Zhang Zuolin

In January of 1928 Chiang was reinstated as Supreme Commander of the National Revolutionary Army.

Then in April he restarted the Northern Expedition by marching against the forces of Zhang Zuolin with the aim of unifying China. In response to this the government of Giichi Tanaka organized the Second Shandong Expedition in order to protect Japanese resident in China.

The Jinan Incident occurred during this expedition. When China's National Revolutionary Army entered Jinan, the capital city of Shandong Province, it clashed with the Japanese troops stationed there and a fierce battle erupted resulting in many casualties on both sides. The Japanese Foreign Ministry recorded the following on the murder of Japanese civilians by the Chinese Army.

"One person had all his organs ripped from his abdomen, a woman had a stick rammed into her vagina, one had the top of his face ripped off, and one heavily decomposed corpse had a slash running from his left cheek to the right side of the back of his head and his right ear was cut off. Two bodies had their penises


cut off."

The disintegration of law and order spread throughout the country and engulfed China's Japanese residents. Responding to these incidents, the Japanese Army decided to send reinforcements, which became the Third Shandong Expedition.

At the Eastern Conference Japan had deemed Chiang a moderate and had demonstrated a degree of sympathy for the unification of China, but after the Jinan Incident Japan's attitude hardened. The nonstop atrocities committed by the Chinese had the effect of revitalizing Japan's hardliners. Criticism of Chiang also increased within the Japanese Army where the high hopes once had of him quickly evaporated.

Sino-Japanese relations were not moving in the direction Iwane Matsui had intended.

And it was in this context that Zhang Zuolin was assassinated on June 4 1928. Zhang, the warlord of Manchuria, was blown up along with his train on the outskirts of Mukden.

This was believed to be a plot carried out by extremists within the Japanese Army, though there are still many mysterious elements to the incident, with some saying that it was actually the work of secret agents from the USSR.

Either way, the assassination caused the deal that Matsui had arranged between Tanaka and Chiang to completely collapse.

Iwane Matsui was deeply angered by the assassination. He had considered Zhang a buffer against communism, a view which was shared by Prime Minister Tanaka and Army Minister Yoshinori Shirakawa.


At this time Matsui was in Jinan in Shandong Province to inspect the scene of the Jinan Incident. After this he arrived at Mukden to manage the aftermath of the assassination.

Matsui took the incident to be "a local job by a few young officers" and strongly advocated tough punishments for those involved.

The incident also increased Chiang's distrust of Japan. Matsui was naturally apprehensive that Sino-Japanese relations would become even more twisted.

Attendance at the World Disarmament Conference

Following the assassination of Zhang Zuolin, the National Revolutionary Army entered Beijing and the Northern Expedition ended in June.

In December Matsui was relieved of his duties as Chief of the Intelligence Division, and then made an official trip to Europe for the Army General Staff.

In August of 1929 he became commander of the 11th Division in Zentsuji.

On September 18 1931 the Japanese Army invaded Manchuria because of the Mukden Incident. The mastermind behind the crisis was a group under Ishiwara Kanji, the Chief of Operations in the Kwantung Army.

Nevertheless, the press in Japan reported it as the blowing up of a railway by the "ruthless Chinese Army". The military officially declared it the work of the Chinese, and while the belief that it was actually a conspiracy from within the Kwantung Army did exist among some, it was not until after the war that the whole truth became clear.


The Minseito government at the time led by Prime Minister Reijiro Wakatsuki decided to pursue a policy of non-expansion of hostilities, for which it was immediately censured by all Japan's major newspapers for its "weak attitude". From that time on Japan's newspapers would expand their circulation exponentially by adopting a extreme editorial line.

On September 21 China brought the case before the League of Nations as an "illegal act of aggression" by the Japanese Army.

In December Matsui attended the World Disarmament Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, where he was given full power to represent the Army Ministry.

Matsui received more than a few shocks at this international conference. A "disarmament conference" sounded like a fine ideas, but actually it was just a podium for the great powers of the West to repeat old platitudes which would not inconvenience their own interests. The big men here were all "white men", not Asians.

Even concerning the pending issues that followed the Manchurian Crisis the Western powers only asserted their own national interests and had little desire for a fundamental resolution to the problems. Japan was a permanent member of the League of Nations, but Matsui resented the hypocrisy inherent within the organization.

But even while these thoughts tormented Matsui in Europe, the Japanese Army was continuing its push into Manchuria. Jinzhou was taken on January 3 1932. International opinion gradually turned against Japan.

Ultimately, the flames of war leapt to Shanghai. Most agree that this conflict too was set up by the Kwantung Army.


As the fighting spread, it was only natural that the anti-Japanese mass movement would intensify across China. Numerous anti-Japanese protests exploded into the streets of major cities including Shanghai, Beijing, and Nanking.

Japan's continental policy and its relationship with China were rocked to the core due to interventions by both sides and began to turn in a direction far removed from Matsui's scenario.

The limits of the League of Nations

On March 1 1932 the independence of Manchukuo was declared. Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, became Chief Executive, touting Manchukuo's sovereignty from the Republic of China and the political ideal of "righteous government". The Kwantung Army continued to occupy the new state.

During this period Chiang's determination to resist Japan was further strengthened.

Two days later on March 3 Sino-Japanese relations were again debated in the League of Nations Assembly. It was expected that Japan would be judged harshly but by then Japan has imposed a ceasefire in Shanghai so for the time being the one-sided criticism of Japan was avoided.

Still, Matsui was not pleased with the discussion. Though Matsui felt a profound distrust in and disappointment with the League of Nations, what dismayed him the most was the attitude assumed by the representatives of both China and Japan. The representatives of both countries were hurling abuse at each other. They acted


just like they were inveterate enemies.

Matsui found this quite perturbing. Matsui's view of history was that Japan and China had been brothers in one family since ancient times and had mutually supported one another. Now China and Japan were frothing at the mouth exchanging one insult after another within earshot of the white man. Matsui wanted to put a quick end to this fight between brothers. After Japan and China had become allies, they had to take back Asia from Europe and create an "Asia for the Asians".

The anger that Matsui felt at that time had an unparalleled impact on his actions thereafter.

In the wake of that bitter experience, Matsui returned home with a new determination to resume the struggle to immediately repair Sino-Japanese relations. He had come to believe that "Restoring order to and rebuilding Asia are Japan's historical duties."

Matsui arrived back in Japan in August of 1932.

Though the League of Nations' Lytton Commission did recognize Japan's interests in Manchuria, the League adopted a resolution to have Japan tentatively withdraw from Manchukuo before November 16. The Commission did not state that the invasion of Manchuria had been untaken in self-defense as Japan claimed. As a result of the Lytton Report Japan would ultimately opt to withdraw from the League.


Chapter 2 - The Rise of the Greater Asia Association

Establishment of the Greater Asia Association

In Tokyo at this time there was an organization called the Pan-Asia Study Group.

This research group was formed in the spring of 1932 to deal with Asian issues. Prominent scholars and commentators including Yu Nakayama and Takeyo Nakatani signed on as members. Another of its members was Rash Behari Bose, an Indian revolutionary and independence activist who was in exile from British-ruled India.

After Matsui returned from Switzerland he paid an unexpected visit to the office of the Pan-Asia Study Group in the Yaesu Building near Tokyo Station. Takeyo Nakatani, a leading member of the group, reminisced that on that day "A military officer suddenly walked in. I noticed that he was wearing the epaulet of a lieutenant general."

Nakatani was a graduate of Tokyo Imperial University. He had been a professor at Hosei University and then became a member of the House of Representatives. Nakatani and Matsui had already been acquainted.

"Oh, it's you Mr. Matsui", Nakatani said. "What are you doing here?"


Matsui answered, "I heard that you are doing pan-Asian studies so I came to request that you let me participate."

But Nakatani felt a bit uneasy about Matsui's offer. He told Matsui upfront that "It would be a real honor even for our group to have a powerful man like you join us, but to be honest with you, soldiers, or rather the militarists, have grown in strength since the Manchurian Crisis and are everywhere now. If a high-profile army officer joins our group of scholars and writers there is a real risk that people might misunderstand and think that we are a mouthpiece for the military authorities and that we are using the influence of the military for some sort of plot. Why don't we put your generous offer on hold and instead have you cooperate with us from outside the study group?"

Matsui listened to what he had to say, but did not back down so easily.

"Don't be narrow-minded!", he said. "We share the same goals... Indeed, why not make full use of the influence of the military,


as well as the influence of big business, in order to revitalize the movement? You're just a few people doing academic research and inquiries, publishing pamphlets, and writing a magazine. That's all and good, but through that alone you're not really going to have a big impact within Japan or across Asia, are you? Start thinking big and join forces with me!"

Nakatani could not help but give way in the face of Matsui's strong insistence. That is how Matsui became a member of the Pan-Asia Study Group. Upon admitting him, the group began to change course in favor of rapid expansion of operations.

On December 22 1932 the First Preparatory Discussion Panel on Establishing the Greater Asia Association was convened for the purpose of enlarging the Pan-Asia Study Group. Iwane Matsui chaired the meeting, while the seat of honor was reserved for Fumimaro Konoe. The assembled members were all prominent men of influence, including Koki Hirota, Toshishiro Obata, Masaharu Honma, and Teiichi Suzuki. The Pan-Asia Study Group had thus amplified its voice as an organization and now was seeking further growth.

The Greater Asia Association held its first official meeting on March 1 1933. Among its members were not only all the aforementioned individuals but also Matsui's old classmates from the Imperial Japanese Army Academy Sadao Araki and Shigeru Honjo. Matsui's younger brother Nanao also signed up.

Though each member had his own personal view on Asia policy, according to the Founding Statement of Greater Asia Association drafted


by Takeyo Nakatani the organization aimed to "have multiple pan-continental or pan-ethnic groups potentially including an Asian alliance, a Soviet Alliance, an American Alliance, a European Alliance, or else an Anglo-Saxon Alliance" and thus "establish a mechanism for global peace". The spirit of this declaration was certainly not "Asian supremacy". The Greater Asia Association, it should be noted, emphasized that it was seeking the establishment of a relationship of equality between Asia and the West and was not advocating simple anti-Westernism.

Considering the far-reaching impact that the founding of the Greater Asia Association had both inside and outside Japan, it is worth also noting that the Association itself stipulated that, "We are a cultural and ideological organization and not a political group." Matsui assumed a key position on the new Committee of the Greater Asia Association.

Matsui had decided that Sino-Japanese cooperation was the "first prerequisite" to liberate Asia from Western domination and make "Asia for the Asians" a reality and now the Greater Asia Association would finally take the big leap overseas.

The Asian League

Iwane Matsui contributed an essay entitled "An Argument for an Asian League" to the edition of the Japanese journal "Gaiko Jiho" published on March 15. This essay nicely demonstrates the structure of Matsui's worldview at that time so I would like to quote it at length.


"The world is divided into political and economic blocs with a few powerful nations at their center. The League of Nations is being used by them. In Asia Japan and China form a clear political continent, but we entered the League of Nations independently without consulting with one another and now even the issues that should be resolved through direct bilateral negotiations are manhandled by the nations of Europe which have no connection to East Asia in the first place and therefore have no understanding or appreciation of it. That conflict and antagonism between China and Japan has been, and continues to be, fanned and exploited by others is extremely regrettable both for lasting peace in East Asia and for the revival of Asia."

When Matsui said "the issues that should be resolved through direct bilateral negotiations" he was referring specifically to the series of clashes between Japan and China over the restitution of Manchuria. The basic viewpoint that Matsui held towards the League of Nations was that the Western powers were actually unsympathetic to events outside their own regions and were motivated only by what affected their own national interests. That seemed evident to him from the history and geography of the world and it was thus impossible to expect much from the League of Nations which had been constructed on the basis of this reality and reflected it. From Matsui's perspective it would be more proper to settle the many problems that existed in international society on a region-by-region basis.

Matsui's attitude towards the League of Nation was in general extremely critical, and


in view of the state of the times, his way of thinking truly hits the mark. We can't call his theory a product of narrowmindedness in a League of Nations where Great Britain and France constituted major powers effectively commanding the votes not only of their own mainlands but also of their dependencies such as British India. The United States, which had been the original proponent of the League of Nations, did not become a member because of opposition in the Senate but had constructed a massive sphere around itself based off the Monroe Doctrine.

After all, it was strong opposition from Great Britain and the United States which torpedoed the Racial Equality Proposal put forward by Japan when the League of Nations was founded. That was the true colors of the League of Nations.

Looking through all the writings Matsui left behind, one notices just how often the phrase "revival of Asia" crops up. The central premise behind Matsui's ideas was that only a united Asia, with Japan and China at its center, could resist the West.

Matsui, who insisted so strongly on "cooperation between the nations of Asia", was becoming more and more determined to spend the rest of his life making the "Asian League" a reality.

That is why the Greater Asia Association was created.

Japan officially withdrew from the League of Nations on March 27 1933.


Defeating China in one blow

Although Sino-Japanese amity remained the consistent basis of Matsui's China policy, Matsui could not dispel his suspicions of the Nationalist Government under Chiang Kai-shek, which had become very anti-Japanese and was also currying the favor of the Western powers. What's more Chiang was at that time proving incapable of holding in check the rising strength of the Chinese Communist Party in southern China.

Because of this, Matsui was becoming more critical of the Nationalist Government. He was also displeased with the joyous manner with which the Nationalist Government received the report of the Lytton Commission.

I can deduce what Matsui thought about China back then from an essay entitled "The Way to Save China" which he wrote in the first issue of "Greater Asianism", the official bulletin of the Greater Asia Association, which was published in May of 1933.

"It is the Nationalist Government which has brought back the influence of Great Britain in the area of the Yangtze River and has allowed it to spread across China, and it is also the Nationalist Government and its ruling party which is continuing to promote the invasion of American capital into southern and central China. And then there is the Lytton Report, the contents of which sought to put not only Manchuria but all of mainland China under international supervision. It has to be said that the ones who unconditionally accepted the League of Nation's recommendations based on this report bear a heavy responsibility for having sold out their own country of China and betrayed Asia."


Matsui was starting to feel that the Nationalist Government was not serving the interests of China, and this was to become a strong conviction of his which would shape his future actions.

This was also the time that factional conflict was growing within the Japanese Army between the Control Faction and the Imperial Way Faction. Matsui was regarded as being more or less a member of the Control Faction.

Matsui himself, however, showed very little interest in military power struggles and instead concentrated on building up the Greater Asian Movement which was at the center of his worldview.

Within the military a group centered around Tetsuzan Nagata of the Control Faction were actively expounding the so-called "Chugoku Ichigeki Ron", which means the "China One Blow Argument". According to this argument, Japan could not turn a blind eye to the trend within China to view Japan as an enemy and should instead topple the Nationalist Government in one sharp blow before it had a chance to further consolidate its power.

Because of his distrust towards the Nationalist Government Matsui gradually began to lean in favor of the "China One Blow Argument". It was a tough decision for Matsui to make to reluctantly raise his fists at his beloved China in order to make the country come to it senses, but Matsui's undisguised frustration with the attitude of Nationalist Government was making him believe that there was no other choice.

In reaction to this view were the growing voices of the anti-Soviet faction who counterargued that the USSR was the biggest threat to Japan and that there was no time to deal with China.

A major split in opinion was developing within the Army.

While this was going on, the Kwantung Army invaded Rehe Province, but the Tanggu Truce was signed on May 31 1933 and with that the clash between Japan and China caused by the Manchurian Crisis came to a tentative conclusion.


According to this agreement a neutral zone was to be marked out on the south side of the Great Wall from which the Chinese Army would undertake a wholesale withdrawal. The Kwantung Army halted its advance across the Great Wall, but it can be said that its original goal to create a north China buffer zone to protect Manchuria had been almost brought to completion.

Chiang Kai-shek swallowed this truce and the bitterness that accompanied it. Chiang re-affirmed his standpoint that the first task was to bring stability inside China, thus giving priority to the struggle against communism rather than the struggle against Japan.

Chiang, who had rationally analyzed the power difference between Japan and China at that time, chose to avoid armed conflict with Japan for the time being and resolve each problem through negotiation.

But Chiang faced this with considerable anguish. On June 6 after the conclusion of the Tanggu Truce he wrote that "After having suffered the humiliation of this recent truce, we endured for the sake of vengeance later. We have to surely and confidently implement our reconstruction plans, without flinching or slackening our efforts, in order to wipe away this disgrace within ten years."

Chiang's words, brimming with a powerful determination, would be gradually turned into action amid the maelstrom of the historical forces which were to be unleashed.

Promotion to the rank of general


Iwane Matsui went on to become a member of the Supreme War Council, and then starting in August of 1933 he served as commander of the Taiwan Army. In October, while still in that post, he received an imperial appointment to the rank of general. At last Matsui had ascended to the highest rank of the Japanese Imperial Army, but now his latest passion was to establish and foster his pan-Asianism in Taiwan. Within the Japanese Army Matsui was known as "the Grand Old Man of the China School".

Sino-Japanese relations were for a time showing signs of improvement. Chiang Kai-shek's government in Nanking had changed its stance by toning down its rhetoric of retaking Manchuria and cracking down on anti-Japanese activities. In accordance with his policy of "first internal pacification, then external resistance", Chiang had launched in October of 1933 the Fifth Encirclement Campaign against the communist Red Army of Jiangxi Province.

On January 6 1934 the Greater Asia Association set up a branch in Taiwan, a move which was of course sponsored by Matsui. Matsui took the title of "honorary advisor" to the new branch.

Then in August he was re-appointed to the Supreme War Council.

Sino-Japanese relations remained in good shape. In January of 1935 Foreign Minister Koki Hirota dismissed the "China One Blow Argument" and declared before a full session of the House of Representatives "There will definitely be no war as long as I'm in office." Matsui welcomed Hirota's appeal for goodwill towards China.

Thanks to Hirota's strong support, Japan decided to upgrade its legation in China to the status of embassy


in May before the Western powers had. Japan's move was received favorably by China.

It's not the case that after the Manchurian Incident Japan and China were racing down a collision course to war. Right up to the outbreak of the war, Sino-Japanese relations were in a constant state of flux. If we don't pin down the reoccurring themes we will not understand the true nature of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The upswing in Japan's relations with China made even Matsui feel at ease for a time.

Becoming a reservist

And yet, the stabilization of Sino-Japanese relations was short-lived.

On May 2 1935 two Chinese men were assassinated in the Japanese concession of Tianjin by a terrorist group affiliated with the Guomindang. The two victims were the owners of a newspaper and were regarded as being pro-Japanese. Japan demanded that China prevent further anti-Japanese incidents and the result of this was the He-Umezu Agreement. Under the terms of the deal Chiang would withdraw all the military forces under the direct control of the Nationalist Government from Hebei Province. The Japanese side had conducted the negotiations in a high-handed manner, applying the threat of military force, and Chiang felt humiliated again. This chaos in North China cast a dark shadow over Japan and China's fleeting hopes for the future.

After the conclusion of the He-Umezu Agreement, the Japanese Army accelerated its North China Buffer State Strategy. The Army had been dreaming for a while now of driving out the anti-Japanese elements interspersed throughout North China.

Colonel Gun Hashimoto, then Chief of the Military Section of the Army Ministry, later remarked that, to make Manchuria


geopolitically stable "There was a need to make the neighboring region of North China into a safe zone."

Moreover, Japan was planning to establish an economically self-sufficient zone comprising Japan, Manchuria, and North China by exploiting the resources of northern China including iron and coal. The key figures pushing this operation forward included Kenji Doihara, the head of the Special Service Agency in Mukden, and Takashi Sakai, the Chief of Staff of the China Garrison Army.

Sino-Japanese relations were undergoing an extremely tense transition. Even Chiang Kai-shek, who had for a time been focused on annihilating the communists, once again hardened his attitude toward Japan.

Matsui was still fretting about these developments in August of 1935 when he retired from active service and entered the First Reserve.

The ideal China Matsui envisaged

Though now a reservist, Matsui's passion for China had not cooled. Just the opposite, after leaving active service Matsui spent more time working for the Greater Asia Association.

Matsui was made President of the Greater Asia Association, a post which had been vacant up to then, and busied himself on realizing his convictions. However, even though army officers had taken up key posts in the Greater Asia Association, its administration was funded through membership fees. The Association was expanding as a purely private organization.

In October of 1935 Matsui visited the major cities of China and Manchukuo. While apprising himself of the latest news on the scene he planned to bring the Greater Asian Movement to China as well. Across the Asian mainland Matsui called upon people to understand and cooperate with the Greater Asia Movement. At this time the Japanese Army's North China Buffer State Strategy was continuing to progress.


After returning to Japan Matsui wrote about his impressions of China from his trip in the edition of the newspaper Osaka Mainichi Shimbun which was put out on December 13 1935.

"Above all it is Chiang Kai-shek and his faction, the small ruling party, who see China as their own property. They abuse their power and seem to exist by ignoring the real will of the four hundred million people they rule."

Matsui was becoming more wary of and more hostile toward Chiang Kai-shek. One can imagine that Matsui who had once esteemed Chiang as a "moderate" now felt betrayed. In the same newspaper Matsui said the following about how China should be ideally.

"It seems natural and fitting that China be divided into four outer regions, such as one for North, Central, South, and West China, as a circumstance transitionary to unification. This would take the form of a central power composed of united but autonomous provinces."

Matsui argued that a centralized and dictatorial government was not suitable for China, a vast land inhabited by many races each with its own culture and customs. One of the conclusions that Matsui had drawn about China was that even if China wished to be unified in the future "For now that would be difficult." Matsui said that his "vision for a China most befitting the present circumstances" was


a loose federation based region-by-region on "united but autonomous provinces", known as "Rensho Jichi" in Japanese.

A little more explanation is needed of Matsui's concept of "united but autonomous provinces".

In short, the concept held that China aim for a decentralized unification, something more moderate and realistic than a conventional unification. Each province would be granted a legal sphere of autonomy and have its own constitution. Each provincial governor would be elected by the people of his province and the basis for the central government would be an assembly composed of each provincial government. The system can be understood as analogous to that of the United States, a federal system where each state has its own constitution.

At that time the population of China was said to be over four hundred million people. In Japan a many-sided debate was taking placing over whether or not unification as a "nation-state" was really possible there. Even if we look through Chinese history, the Qing for instance were a dynasty and not a true nation-state. Matsui believed that trying to forge a nation-state on the Chinese continent would be an extremely challenging path for China to take. In light of that, the establishment of a decentralized government based on "united but autonomous provinces" was probably the only way China could be saved.

That debate on "united but autonomous provinces" was actively taking place not only in Japan but also in China. Even Mao Zedong said that he sympathized with that idea during one period before becoming a communist, and Iwane Matsui also maintained that that this was the best approach China could take.

Matsui's vision was for China to set a state structure of "united but autonomous provinces", put an end to its de-facto state of civil war, and lay the foundations for a "strong Asia" through deeper friendship with Japan.


Sympathy for this line of thinking steadily growing within Japan. In the Army as well, the belief was widely shared by China experts.

Yasuji Okamura, Chief of the Intelligence Division of the Army General Staff, and Seishiro Itagaki, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Kwantung Army, likewise thought that "The unification of China will be difficult at this point" and that "China should not be unified by the Guomindang".

Establishment of the East Hebei Anticommunist  Autonomous Government

However, Sino-Japanese relations were not moving towards Matsui's ideal.

Matsui was surprised to see the anti-Japanese movement in China become even further energized in the wake of the He-Umezu Agreement. On October 7 1935 Foreign Minister Koki Hirota laid down his "Three Principles" for conducting negotiations with China, including tacit recognition of Manchukuo, joint defense against communism, and suppression of anti-Japanese movements, but these were not received favorably by China.

In November, China effectuated a currency reform backed by Great Britain. The reform involved transitioning from a silver standard to a pegged exchange rate, which Japan was vehemently opposed to. Initially Britain had been planning to manage the reform with Japan's help, but Japan refused to be a part of it. By this time the Japanese government had decided that the reform would directly obstruct the North China Buffer State Strategy which it was pressing forward with unilaterally.

It was the Anglo-Japanese Alliance which had brought Japan into the modern era in the first place. Following the First World War the Alliance


was terminated at the Washington Naval Conference, but relations between the two countries had remained strong. It was after the Manchurian Crisis that Britain started to adopt a stern policy toward Japan.

When the Indo-Japanese Commercial Treaty was cancelled by the colonial government of India in 1933 the anti-English movement spread to Japan. Cotton spinning was at that time the mainstay of Japan's export industries and the rapid increase in exports to India came into conflict with British interests. Japan was increasingly unhappy with Britain due to suspicions that the British had pulled the strings behind the Indian government's decision.

The dark clouds hanging over Anglo-Japanese relations cast a pall directly over Japan's thorny conundrum with China.

China's British-sponsored currency reform had been spearheaded by the pro-Western faction of the Nationalist Government of China. What this meant was that the pro-Japanese faction had lost the power struggle occurring within the Chinese government.

The reform can be regarded as one of Chiang's policies to make progress towards unifying China, this time with British support, something Japan expressed grave reservations about. Jiro Minami, commander of the Kwantung Army and ambassador to Manchukuo, reported to Foreign Minister Hirota that "If we leave this matter unattended to, there is a danger that the foundation of the our empire's national policy, to bring peace to an East Asia under Japanese hegemony, shall be completely destroyed." The Japanese government feared that the currency reform was one measure by China and Britain to throttle Japan economically.

On November 25 the pro-Japanese East Hebei Anticommunist  Autonomous Council came into being


as a product of Japan's political manoeuvring in North China. Before long it had rechristened itself as the East Hebei Anticommunist  Autonomous Government and declared its independence from the Nationalist Government.

But the reality of the East Hebei Anticommunist  Autonomous Government is that it was a puppet state of the Kwantung Army.

Next year, in January of 1936, the Japanese cabinet approved the First Administrative Policy Toward North China, which officially designated the North China Buffer State Strategy, the plan to separate North China from the Nationalist Government, as a national policy.

Then in April the Japanese government announced that it would reinforce the China Garrison Army. Between May and June fresh troops were send to Chinese cities such as Tianjin and Beiping.

The Nationalist Government voiced strong opposition to the move. Numerous protests were held throughout China and there were also many incidents of attacks on Japanese citizens in China. The pro-Japanese faction of the Guomindang withered away and with it Japan lost its contacts for conducting negotiations with the Nationalist Government.

Reunion with Chiang Kai-shek

The first man to advance the idea of Greater Asianism was Sun Yat-sen, but the movement Matsui was expending so much of his energy on incurred an intense backlash within China. Quite contrary to the views of its advocates, China understood pan-Asianism as sophistry to cover Japan's conquest of Asia.

Tragically, this gap between the two sides was unfathomably wide.

Even Matsui was keenly aware of that. On February 3 1936 Matsui departed Japan with an itinerary to visit numerous locations in central and southern China. The goal


of the journey was to convert the Chinese side, as much as he could, to the Greater Asian mission. Matsui was already in the reserves at this point and he paid for the trip out of his own pocket.

At every place he visited Matsui spoke about the ideal of Greater Asianism and earnestly requested understanding on the part of the Chinese. Incidentally, Matsui was still in China when the February 26 Incident erupted in Tokyo.

On March 14 Matsui reached Nanking and held talks with Chiang Kai-shek.

The last time Matsui and Chiang had met face-to-face was about nine years ago. That was in 1927 when Matsui introduced Chiang to then-Prime Minister Giichi Tanaka. Back then the two men were on very good and friendly terms with one another, but a lot had happened between Japan and China since then.

Matsui had thought from the beginning that he could use this opportunity to patch up his rapport with Chiang. Matsui hoped to find a way to transmit his good intentions to Chiang.

The two men sat down together, and Matsui started thing off by greeting him with "You look to be in fine health, don't you?"

Then the real discussion began. On Manchuria, Matsui said, "Why don't we just put everything in the hands of Puyi?", but Chiang


replied "That would be quite infeasible" and quickly brushed off Matsui's suggestion.

Their conversation, basically a repetitive verbal tug-of-war, lasted one and a half hours. Matsui still had some expectation that Chiang would be the inheritor of the mantle of Sun Yat-sen's Greater Asianism, but he was disappointed by Chiang's extremely hardheaded attitude.

Even so, Matsui had not totally given up on Chiang. Matsui found a glimmer of hope in the fact that Chiang did have a level of sympathy for the idea of Greater Asianism itself, and in the fact that they were united by a common anti-communism.  He reported to Prime Minister Koki Hirota that, "I am not without hope for peace between Japan and China."

The Xian Incident

After returning home Matsui devoted even more of his energy to propagating Greater Asianism, this time making a vigorous tour through Japan. At this time the pan-Asian elements of Greater Asianism were stronger than ever and the Greater Asia Association was in general acquiring all the trappings of a political movement. The Greater Asia Association of China was set up with its headquarters in Tianjin.

In October branches of the Greater Asia Association were created in succession in Fukuoka, Kanazama, and Osaka. In December they also opened a branch in Kyoto.


The Association was in the process of expanding slowly but surely and as its president Matsui continued to preside over its growth.

And yet, Matsui's Greater Asianism was actually fuel for the anti-Japanese fires burning in China.

Before this on August 24 the Chengdu Incident had occurred in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan in which a Chinese mob attacked four Japanese citizens, two of whom were killed. On September 3 there was the Beihai Incident in which a Japanese shopkeeper was murdered in the area of Beihai in Guangdong Province. These incidents were given extensive coverage in Japanese newspapers and magazines and severely damaged China's image in the eyes of the people of Japan.

Mutual ill will was being generated by thoughtless behavior on both sides, and it would not be long before one of the most consequential events in the struggle for China and in the history of Sino-Japanese relations would happen.

In December Chiang was put under house arrest by Zhang Xueliang while he was visiting Xian. During this event, known as the Xian Incident, Zhang demanded that Chiang drop his anti-communist policy and form a National United Front to fight Japan. After conferring with both Zhang and Zhou Enlai of the Chinese Communist Party Chiang agreed to national resistance against Japan.

With that, the two rivals Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong joined forces, marking a clear change in China's national policy towards fighting Japan as one. The people of China who were in a de-facto state of civil war were making a bid to come together under the banner of anti-Japanese resistance. This was the Second United Front. Chiang's old rallying cry of "first internal pacification, then external resistance"


was thus turned on its head to "first external resistance, then internal pacification".

There is one long-standing theory which states that all these developments were unfolding according to the plans of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. Exhausting China and Japan by making them fight one another would be linked to the expansion of communism.

Chiang's transformation came off as a "betrayal" in Japan. Japan's China policy had lost its one steady footing and Sino-Japanese relations were now falling into the abyss.

And with the Xian Incident, Matsui's worldview also collapsed in total failure.

Still, the next Japanese government did show signs that it would adopt a flexible attitude toward China. In April of 1937 the cabinet of Prime Minister Senjuro Hayashi approved the Guiding Policy for North China and the China Action Plan, which included the conciliatory measure of abolishing the North China Buffer State Strategy. Through this conciliatory stand Hayashi's foreign minister Naotake Sato wanted to change the way Japan did diplomacy with China.

However, the Japanese military found the new China policy hard to swallow. The Kwantung Army vocally attacked the Hayashi cabinet's initiatives, stating that, "We are leaving the ignorant Chinese masses with the impression that Japan is readily taken advantage of and thus are inviting even more anti-Japanese activities."

Koki Hirota, named foreign minister in the cabinet of Fumimaro Konoe inaugurated on June 4, repudiated "Sato Diplomacy" and brought back the Three Principles.

Japan's policy toward China, which was set with a democratic rather than a dictatorial government, was about as stable as a sailboat in a storm.