Tag Archives: Japan

On Fertile Soil

A Chinese man under Soviet influence is shown spreading seeds onto Chinese soil, symbolizing the fertility of Russian Bolshevism in China as a result of chaos, famine, and rebellion facilitating the process.

The political cartoon On Fertile Soil by John Knott illustrates the vulnerability of China to Russian Bolshevism as a result of continuous unrest, devastating famines, and frequent uprisings during the 1930s of the country. The cartoon published in the Dallas Morning News on May 5th, 1931 depicts “Chaos”, “Famine”, and “Rebellion” as China’s soil that helped plant the seeds of “Bolshevism”, hence the title On Fertile Soil. Additionally, the man holding the bowl of seeds and spreading them onto the soil represents a Chinese man that has been “Sovietized” by Russian influences (Dallas Morning News). According to the Dallas Morning News editorial accompanying the cartoon, China’s Fifth of May, the Chinese Nationalist Party sought to reorganize China’s government and stabilize the country before organized oppositions with relations to Soviet Russia are able to induce a period of “rebellion and discord” which, in combination with China’s famine and financial depression during the time, would allow Russian propaganda an advantage in reaching its goal of “Sovietizing” China. Furthermore, the Nanking Government in China acknowledged the presence of “major foreign powers”, such as Japan, Great Britain, and the United States, and their “extraterritorial privileges” as a potential threat to the nation (Dallas Morning News).  Japan aggression, especially in 1931, led to the Chinese seeking aid from the U.S. since Japan was a mutual enemy (Phillips). The U.S. supplied China the aid the nation needed; however, the U.S.’s first priority was defeating Germany and as the Nationalist Party became more concerned with “eradicating” the Chinese Communist Party that rose instead of “confronting the Japanese occupation”,  the U.S. assistance to the Nationalists would decrease and eventually die out when the Nationalists are defeated by the Communists (Phillips). President of the Nationalist Party, Chiang Kai-shek, strongly opposed communism and desired to force Soviets and other Communist troops out of China, which in turn led to the protracted conflicts between the Nationalist Party and the Chinese Communist Party (Weigelin-Schwiedrzik).

Unrest in China during this time resulted from the mixture of foreign invasion from Japan, political instability, and economical depression, along with the other two issues depicted in Knott’s cartoon, famine and rebellion. With the Nationalist Party weakness being the north, Japan was able to invade Manchuria without being contested, leading to the beginning of World War II in China in 1931 (Calkins). Due to Japan pushing to conquer Chinese territories, the people of China would have to deal with the immense pressure of war in China, resulting in more chaos in the country. As Herbert Gibbons stated in his editorial Unrest In China And Its Meaning For Other Nation, Bolshevist propagandists held the benefit of gaining the Chinese citizens’ trusts by acting as the cure for the “economic ills” and stability of China during its time of anarchy and discord. The Chinese man wearing the Soviet cap in Knott’s cartoon symbolizes this idea of Soviet influence and communism being dispersed in China, foreshadowing the creation of the Chinese Soviet Republic in late 1931. However, with President Chiang leading the Nationalist Party, communists were ”killed or driven to exile” to combat the “Moscow Propaganda”, but even then the idea of communism would still exist even after this forceful tactic in the form of the Chinese Communist Party (Weigelin-Schwiedrzik & Gibbons).

Famine was a major recurring theme in the nineteenth and twentieth century of China (Pong). The diseases that occurred around the date of publication of Knott’s cartoon were ones that were the result of natural disasters, such as the flooding of the Yangzi River in 1931, leading to an outbreak of diseases and the destruction of several fields and homes in China (Pong). As a result, the people of China had to deal with widespread epidemics and destitution from the lack of food and financial instability due to the loss of crops and property. Another cause of famine was population growth in China because population was seen as a “major burden” to “agricultural economy and the natural environment” when population “outstrips the ability of land to produce food” (Pong). The calamitous effects of famine led to fear and agitation in China, allowing Bolsheviks to take advantage of their adversity and plant their “seed” on China’s soil, as depicted in Knott’s cartoon.

Since China’s government has been unstable until 1949 when the People’s Republic of China formed from the Chinese Communist Party, there was a great deal of conflicts between the Nationalist Party and the Communist party beforehand. In fact, a Chinese Civil War erupted between the two parties from 1927 to 1949 and China’s government became “lost” in this era (Miller). The war began after Chiang of the Nationalist Party was “no longer willing to work with Communists because he did not trust the Soviet influence [the Communist Party] heeded”, leading to him severing the “informal alliance” with the Communist Party in 1925 (Miller). As a result, the Communists attempted to overthrow the Nationalist government, yet failed, which in turn led to the Nationalists counterattacking, causing the civil war and several conflicts thereon after (Miller). Since Soviet influence is still pouring into China during this time, more and more Chinese citizens would favor Bolshevism. As mentioned before, the Chinese Soviet Republic was formed in 1931, in the middle of this civil war. Along with leading the Chinese Communist Party, Mao Zedong was the Central Executive Committee of this republic as well; however, he would soon have to abandon this republic as a result of its decline in 1934 (Weigelin-Schwiedrzik). He would continue leading the Communist Party, which would brutally defeat the Nationalist Party while they were cut off their food supply, leading to the Nationalists surrendering to the Communists, ending the war, and the formation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

As Mao Zedong led the Chinese Communist Party to victory in the civil war and established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, initiating the Chinese Communist Revolution and proving to be true that communist took over China after all (Calkins). Following this establishment, China and Russia signed a “treaty of friendship and alliance” and China would follow the “Soviet development model” for the next decade, developing the Sino-Soviet Alliance in the 1950s (Hyer).  Several Russian advisers were sent to China in order to train Chinese students and some students were also sent to study in the Soviet Union in order to spread Bolshevism (Hyer). However, China eventually grew resentment of “Soviet domination, ideological differences between the two countries, and boundary disputes” which resulted in the Sino-Soviet split in 1960, and a border war in 1969 (Hyer).  The Soviet Union indeed played a large role in spreading communism in China, but Mao Zedong eventually branched off of Bolshevism ideology and incorporated his own view of communism in China with the People’s Republic of China.

The political cartoon On Fertile Soil by John Knott in 1931 acted as a warning to China during its instability and vulnerability to Bolshevik influence. It foreshadowed that communism would come to rise and take over the Nationalist government due to the presence of Soviets in China, spreading their ideology while China was lost in the middle of chaos, famine, and rebellion. Soviet influence was deemed as successful as Mao Zedong sought to learn from the Soviet Union and dispersed communism in China. Even though the Sino-Soviet Alliance experienced a split in the 1960s, Knott was able to foreshadow the course of China and the presence of the Soviet Union in the country in the next 30 years with his political cartoon.

Calkins, Laura M. “Chinese Revolutions.” Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism since 1450, edited by Thomas Benjamin, vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2007, pp. 221-224. Gale Virtual Reference Library.

“China’s Fifth of May.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 5 May 1931, sec. 1: 16. Print.

“Famine Since 1800.” Encyclopedia of Modern China, edited by David Pong, vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2009, pp. 14-19. Gale Virtual Reference Library. 

Gibbons, Herbert A. “UNREST IN CHINA AND ITS MEANING FOR OTHER NATIONS.” New York Times (1923-Current file)Jan 31, New York, N.Y., 1932.

Hyer, Eric. “China–Russia Relations.” Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, edited by Karen Christensen and David Levinson, vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002, pp. 15-21. Gale Virtual Reference Library. 

Knott, John. “On Fertile Soil.” Cartoon. Dallas Morning News [Dallas, Texas] 5 May 1931, sec. 1: 16. Print.

Miller, Esmorie. “Chinese Civil War (1927–1949).” Encyclopedia of Prisoners of War and Internment, edited by Jonathan F. Vance, 2nd ed., Grey House Publishing, 2006, pp. 74-77. Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Phillips, Steven. “China–United States Relations.” Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, edited by Karen Christensen and David Levinson, vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002, pp. 23-28. Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Weigelin-Schwiedrzik, Susanne. “CCP-Controlled Areas.” Brill’s Encyclopedia of China, edited by Daniel Leese, Brill, 2009, pp. 92-94. Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section Four: China Vol. 20. Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Militarist Nation, Coming and Going



Amid shifting political powers and tense foreign relations of the early 1930’s, both France and Japan faced the challenge of balancing their budgets between the economic depression and the necessity of increased military spending. An editorial, written by an unknown author in 1933 in the Dallas Morning Newspaper, “Troublesome Budgets”, explicates the larger political stakes at play. It reveals the French government, urged by Premier Daladier, has increased taxes to offset the budget deficit and that while the Japanese Parliament is not currently in session, they will soon face the same dilemma. Frances is pressured to give out loans to the Japanese territory, Manchukuo, and that Japan is under pressure to forge a diplomatic agreement with the Soviet Union. Due to the debts and future responsibilities of both these countries, they cannot truly afford a full-scale war without assured bankruptcy, so they must remain open to political agreements with Germany and other potentially hostile nations. While admitting the concerning nature of these events, the author is optimistic, as these concessions may lead to the prevention of a massive, global war (Troublesome Budgets).

In the accompanying political cartoon, Militarist Nation, Coming and Going, John Francis Knott, a prominent cartoonist of the era, satirizes the precarious political situation of the French government in 1933, challenged with maintaining military strength in the wake of the devastation of World War I and facing the economic downturn of the Great Depression (Knott). The illustration depicts the front and back of a French soldier representing the two opposing sides of the interwar French government. His front, a crisp and well-maintained uniform with the words “Millions For Armament” on the ammunition pouches, is the paragon of military ideals, the image France wanted to convey to Germany as part of their defensive mentality. The back, however, is in tatters, covered with patches stating “taxes”, “unbalanced budget”, “defaulted debts” and “reduced wages”. The implied pacing motion of the soldier could be interpreted as a metaphor for France being on guard, a sentry keeping an eye out for possible warlike advancements by Germany. The soldier is wearing prototypical uniform of the World War I era, complete with an Adrian helmet, made of steel, and only issued to soldiers in heavy combat (Suciu). The defensive nature of the soldier’s uniform, as well as his worried expression is parallel to the apprehensive, tense nature of France during the interwar period. The patches on the uniform represent temporary sacrifices that are meant to fix the holes in the economy. This exposes what is underneath pretense of the supposedly formidable French Armed Forces: a weakened economy and divided populous.

The events leading up to this period in French history are crucial for understanding and interpreting the mentality of the French government and people. The French and global economies were still recovering from the devastation of the first World War, ending in 1918, with a victory by the Allies (Britain, France, Russia, Italy and the United States) and the creation of the League of Nations, aimed at preventing another worldwide military conflict. Germany, due to the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, was mandated to make war reparations, however because of their ruined economy, were unable to complete the payments, leaving France to fend for themselves, who in turn had to repay war debts to the United States. France had to spend large sums of money on reconstruction to repair the damage to the infrastructure and the ingrained societal systems (Hautcoeur 9). In 1924, taxes were too low to balance the budget, but instead of raising taxes they lowered the interest rate on bonds, which led to a decrease in the purchase of bonds which worsened the recession. In 1926, Prime Minister Raymond Poincare was given nearly absolute power over the economy and repaired by implementing new sales taxes and trimming the fat off the bureaucracy (Beaudry 16). While this left the economy in relatively good shape, the shock of World War I had created a defensive mentality in France. The resulting turmoil led to support for extremist groups and split France into two diametrically opposed, radical political alliances: The National Bloc, the right, who advocated for business, the army and were hellbent on revenge against Germany, and the Cartel des Guaches, a coalition of leftist parties who lobbied for the lower-middle class and were in favor of a foreign policy of security by negotiation.

The differing economic policies of the alignments came into play in 1931, when the Great Depression began to affect France. The Depression was not as consequential in France as it was in the United States; the French economy was mainly self-sufficient and relied on smaller business and local economies (Beaudry 12). The mentality towards depression was different than that of the United States; it was seen as a necessary evil to purge excess money and to send indebted companies, barely staying afloat, to failure. A success of the government was that they maintained a restrictive and procyclical policy, meaning that in a recession, they reduced government spending and increased taxes, which helped them avoid the full implications of the depression (Hautcoeur 7).

In 1933, the year of the cartoon, radicalistic Prime Minister Edouard Daladier, in an effort to avoid repeating the mistakes of the 1920’s, made the argument to Parliament that the augmentation of taxes is needed to offset the necessary military spending (Troublesome Budgets). This request is granted, demonstrating that they have learned from their past economic mistakes, however, in his cartoon, Knott outlines all their new errors. While Parliament is focusing on armament and defensive foreign policy, they are ignoring the crucial implications for their own economy. The largest militaristic expenditure was the Maginot Line, proposed by André Maginot, the French Minister of War, at the cost of 3 billion francs, a tactical defensive perimeter that spanned eighty-seven miles of the German-French border (Wilde). This dismal financial situation left France struggling to maintain insecure political relations and commit to defensive military tactics, while feigning to have the upper hand. Their financial difficulties made them receptive to Japanese and German demands, for treaties and military movements.

The irony in Knott’s cartoon is apparent in that things are not always what they seem on the surface. The title, Militarist Nation, Coming and Going, while fitting the illustration, seems to also imply the inevitable fall of France as an imperialist empire, in part due to its unrealistic budget priorities. Before the first half the 20th century, French was a prominent and influential player on the global stage. However, the two World Wars left the economy, politics and infrastructure of France devastated, and France was never able to return to its former status as a major power.


Works Cited

Beaudry, Paul, and Franck Portier. “The French Depression in the 1930s.” Review of Economic Dynamics 5.1 (2002): 73-99. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Hautcoeur, Pierre-Cyrille, and Pierre Sicsic. “Threat of a Capital Levy, Expected Devaluation and Interest Rates in France During the Interwar Period.” SSRN Electronic Journal (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Knott, John. “Militarist Nation, Coming and Going.” Dallas Morning News 19 Oct. 1933, 19th ed., sec. 2: 14. Print.
Kuttner, Robert. “The Economic Maginot Line.” The American Prospect. N.p., 11 Aug. 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Suciu, Peter. “The First Modern Steel Combat Helmet: The French ‘Adrian’ – Military Trader.” Military Trader. N.p., 2011. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
“Troublesome Budgets.” Editorial. Dallas Morning News 19 Oct. 1933, 19th ed., sec. 2: 14. Print.
Wilde, Robert. “The Maginot Line: France’s Defensive Failure.” About.com Education. N.p., 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.


Blind Politics


Trump’s “Foreign” Policy is a cartoon that seeks to map out some of the ideas that Donald Trump has had about other nations. In the cartoon, Trump is explaining his foreign policy, which includes labels like “RAPISTS” on Mexico, “OUR PAL PUTIN” on Russia, and “DROP BOMB HERE?” in the middle east. All of these labels are references to things that Trump has said about these countries before, and all of them point toward the fact that Trump thinks about the rest of the world in an ethnocentric way, influencing all of his decisions on policy. One policy in particular that Trump is especially vocal about is his policy to keep low-skill manufacturing jobs in the U.S. by putting tariffs on imported goods (Rich). Although Donald Trump seeks to boost the success of American companies by cutting America off from the rest of the world, his policies may only harm American industries like what happened during the Great Depression.

Donald Trump’s motives in his economic policies are benign on a surface level. According to him, one of the biggest problems with our country is that industries are moving production plants out of America since labor is cheaper in other countries, and then these companies are distributing their goods in the U.S. without having to pay taxes for imports. In this way America is losing both low-skill manufacturing jobs and tax revenue from tariffs on foreign-made goods. His policy is to prevent or discourage companies from doing this by putting taxes on their imports into the U.S.

Trump has repeatedly vowed to impose high tariffs – or the threat of high tariffs – to bully American companies into keeping jobs in the United States. His favorite example is Ford Motor Co., which plans to build a massive plant in Mexico. Trump has said that before he takes office he will persuade Ford to change course by threatening to charge the company a 35 percent tax on cars imported back into the United States (Robert).

This policy is a bit more feasible than many of his other policies, but his no-compromise attitude and business background may cause him to force companies to decide between selling to America or to the rest of the world.

So what’s been interesting about Trump is he has really appealed to this older sense of nationalism as opposed to modern American conservatism. He criticizes outsourcing of jobs to other countries, things like that. So that’s his economic point of view. Then you throw in things on immigration – the Buckleyan conservatives are open to skills-based immigration. Let’s bring the best and brightest from around the world to America. The  view is that those individuals are a threat to the people who live here now, and we should only bring them in very, very limited numbers. (Robert)

The kind of America that Trump believes in is a kind of America that is self-sustaining, isolated, and free of foreign influence without benefit. Putting massive tariffs on imported goods discourages trade and encourages consumers to buy domestic goods, but trying to force this has never worked.

Trump is interested in running the country like a business. He seeks to be the CEO instead of the diplomatic leader. This comes into play when he talks about NATO and relations with Japan. “If we’re attacked, Japan doesn’t have to do anything. They can sit home and watch Sony television… They have to pay… It’s got to be a two-way street” (Henderson). Trump is talking about the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security signed in 1960. This treaty requires both nations to defend each other in case of an attack, but article 9 of the treaty stops Japan from coming to the aid of the U.S. in the event of an attack. This treaty was made since “alliance with Japan is crucial for America’s Asia-Pacific strategy and security,” (Henderson) but Trump is instead looking at this alliance as a business opportunity. This goes back to the ethnocentric ideas that Trump has. It is a privilege to use the best military in the world, so other people have to pay for it, simple as that. The only problem is; it is not as simple as that. “Mr. Trump regards treaties with other countries as contracts that needed to be reviewed to see whether they benefited Americans” (Rich). Concerns that are rising about Trump’s relations with other countries are very similar to the concerns brought about by the Smoot-Hawley Tariff. This tariff, passed by Herbert Hoover during the Great Depression, started global trade wars that became detrimental to both American and world economies. If Trump seriously gives up an alliance with the Japanese for lack of profit, he will inevitably set off a chain reaction of instability in Asia, that could spread even further. An alliance with Japan is necessary not only for peace between nations, but also for trade. Donald Trump is trying to look out for his own country, but he is doing it through an ethnocentric lens. Doing this has led to mistakes before, such as when Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed a 42 percent tariff on Japanese cotton in 1936 in hopes of stimulating the American textile economy. This action was later referred to as the “cotton blunder” because of the backfire it caused; Japan responded to this tariff with a counter-tariff and a threat to trade with other nations instead of the U.S.

There are times when being a businessman is useful, but being able to balance this skill with good diplomacy is more important for the President of the United States. Because Donald Trump sees things through an ethnocentric viewpoint, he fails to recognize that benefitting other nations through alliances and trade agreements can be good.


Henderson, Barney. “Donald Trump Savages Japan, Saying All They Will Do Is ‘watch Sony TVs’ If US Is Attacked and Threatening to ‘walk’ Away from Treaty.” The Telegraph [UK] 5 Aug. 2016: 1+. Print.

Johnson, Sean Sullivan;Jenna. “Trump ramps up rhetoric on trade.” The Washington Post. (July 1, 2016 Friday ): 1348 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2016/11/15.

Rich, Motoko. “Abe to Meet Trump to Press Japan’s Case on Security and Trade.” The New York Times 11 Nov. 2016: 1+. Print.

Robert, Siegel. “Nationalism V. Conservatism: What Trump’s Rise Means For The GOP.” All Things Considered (NPR) (2016): Newspaper Source. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

“Trump’s protectionist rhetoric worries Chinese.” Global Times (China). (March 17, 2016 Thursday): 817 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2016/10/24.

Roosevelt’s Cotton Tariff

A good customer threatens to walk out

A Good Customer Threatens to Walk Out is a political cartoon by John Knott seeking to give immediacy and perspective to the problem of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s new tariff on cotton goods during a fragile time in the history of the United States of America: The Great Depression. The cartoon depicts the two parties affected by the tariff – The Japanese and American textile departments. Although the “Raw Cotton for Export” is plentiful, and “Japan’s Textile Industry” is readily available, trade cannot occur because of the piece of paper that is sitting between the Japanese and American characters – the tariff on Japan’s cotton goods. The editorial accompanying this cartoon, “Cotton Blunder,” tells the story that explains the visible tension in the scene. Effective June 20th, 1936, President Roosevelt decided to raise taxes on Japanese cotton by 42 per cent. “The new tariff action will give [Japan] an excuse to retaliate by buying less raw cotton from America and more from other countries” (“Cotton Blunder” 9). Although Roosevelt was trying to help American textile companies by placing a tariff on Japanese imported textiles, it only angered Japan and threatened to perpetuate the Great Depression even further due to its implications.

After the devastating stock market crash of 1929, America’s economy had started a seemingly unstoppable downward spiral. Herbert Hoover was the standing president at the time, and although it was not his fault the American economy had crashed, it was his fault it had gotten worse. One of the worst decisions he made as president was passing the notorious “Smoot-Hawley” Tariff Act which imposed 20,000 record-high taxes on imported goods. As if facing increased inflation and skyrocketing prices for common goods was not bad enough, now people were expected to pay extra money for foreign goods (Henderson). Though it was supposed to stimulate domestic economy, it only closed the metaphorical Pandora’s box of American economics before hope could escape. This tariff hurt other nations’ economies as well, since the U.S. was previously a prominent trade partner for many countries. Now, however, their goods were not selling in the U.S. so the immediate reaction from affected countries was to enact tariffs of their own in response. Consequentially, the “Smoot-Hawley” Tariff Act set off a chain of trade blockades in the global marketplace until the world had become divided into economic blocks; effectively making the Great Depression a worldwide event.

The “Smoot-Hawley” Tariff Act was not only the downfall of the Herbert Hoover administration; it was also a catalyst for the rise of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration. In his campaign for president, FDR told the American people that he would lower tariffs during his presidency. True to his word, after he was elected, FDR passed the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act in 1934. (Koyama) This act allowed Roosevelt to negotiate reciprocal trade agreements with other nations. However, in 1936, Roosevelt was faced with a dilemma: Northern American textile companies were pushing for government intervention in their competition with the increasingly successful Japanese textile market. “The immediate effects of this tremendous increase in imports from Japan, irrespective of the relation of their total volume to the total American production and consumption, were the ever-present threat to the American price structure and the resultant uncertainty and instability which had marked the American market since the influx began” (Murchison 273). But as wary as Roosevelt was about this problem of a weakened domestic industry, he was also reserved about implementing tariffs. He sought a gentleman’s agreement with Japan to set a quota that would limit shipments to about 45,000,000 square yards of cotton annually in order to regulate the influx of foreign goods. Unfortunately, talks for this agreement suddenly collapsed in May, and as a result, Roosevelt passed a 42% tariff on Japanese cotton goods.

Textile interests expressed satisfaction today over the president’s proclamation raising tariff walls in an effort to halt a sharp increase in shipments of cotton cloth from Japan to this country. President Roosevelt acted after the tariff commission reported importations of Japanese cotton goods rose rapidly during the first quarter of this year following failure to effect a “gentlemen’s agreement” with the island empire to restrict cotton textile exports to the United States. By proclamation issued yesterday under the 1930 flexible tariff act, the president increased tariffs approximately 42%, effective June 20. The higher rates will apply to the types of cotton cloth of which Japan supplies about 90% of this country’s imports, the remainder coming from Great Britain and Switzerland. The proclamation followed recommendations of the tariff commission, which investigated costs of domestic and foreign cotton cloths last year. (Tariff Hiked on Japanese Cotton Goods)

This article came out about the same time that the Dallas Morning News editorial came out. As Knott’s cartoon points out, southern cotton producers and middle men had benefitted from Japan’s increasing presence in the marketplace since Japan bought raw cotton from American manufacturers; a fact overlooked by the Roosevelt administration when making the decision to implant the tariff. In trying to stimulate the northern cotton textile companies, he effectively killed southern ones. This wasn’t the only problem Roosevelt now faced; he had also started a trade war with the Japanese. There are two ways they could retaliate now; either by implementing a counter-tariff on American goods in Japan, or by simply halting trade with the U.S. therefore Japan appears to be an unhappy customer in the cartoon, verbally threatening to take his trading business elsewhere. A frightened Uncle Sam is seen to the right, frantically asking for someone to call for Mr. Hull, the current secretary of state. After this cartoon was published, it was Mr. Hull that, with cooperation from the Japanese Embassy at Washington, could peacefully end this potentially disastrous tariff (Woolner).

This cartoon is comedic due to its use of visual humor. The Japanese man appears angry, slamming his fist on the counter, anyone’s natural response upon learning that they have been betrayed. The way the man is drawn is also a source of humor, since features like big teeth and large, circular glasses give a stereotypical American view of the Japanese at that time.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a big mistake by raising tariffs; a mistake that he should have avoided after seeing the negative effects raising tariffs had on the country under Herbert Hoover’s administration. He would have started a trade war with Japan and worsened the Great Depression if not for the efforts of the secretary of state at that time, Cordell Hull. In the end, Japan and America made a compromise in trade and America survived this “cotton blunder.” The lesson learned was that what may be a good idea in theory can backfire when a president’s vision fails to reach further than his own borders.


Balio, Tino. “Surviving the Great Depression.” Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939. Ed. Charles Harpole. Vol. 5. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1993. 13-36. History of the American Cinema 5. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Berglund, Abraham. “The Tariff Act of 1930.” The American Economic Review, vol. 20, no. 3, 1930, pp. 467–479.

“Cotton Blunder.” The Dallas Morning News 26 May 1936: 2. Print.

Henderson, David R. “Hoover’s Economic Policies.” The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, 2008. Print.

Koyama, Kumiko. “The Passage of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act: Why Did the President Sign the Bill?” Journal of Policy History 21.2 (2009): 163–186. Web.

Murchison, Claudius T. “American-Japanese Cotton Goods Agreement.” Journal of Marketing, vol. 2, no. 4, 1938, pp. 272–277.

“Tariff Hiked On Japanese Goods.” Newspapers.com. The Lincoln Star, n.d. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Woolner, David B. “Hull, Cordell.” Encyclopedia of the Great Depression. Ed. Robert S. McElvaine. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. 485-486. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

Zeiler, Thomas W. “Tariff Policy.” Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy. Ed. Richard Dean Burns, Alexander DeConde, and Fredrik Logevall. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002. 531-546. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 Oct. 2016.

The Waking Giant

The Waking Giant
A giant is lying in slumber, while a man, who is smaller in comparison, is standing in wait of battle. John Knott illustrated the lack of unification of China and the conquest by Japan during the Battle of Shanghai

The Waking Giant

John  F. Knott – February 10, 1932

The political cartoon The Waking Giant, created by John Knott and published in the Dallas Morning News on February 10, 1932, depicts a giant lying in slumber and a man, who is smaller in comparison, standing in wait of battle. The man wears a hat with the word “JAPAN” written across it. He is holding a sword upon which the words, “MOVE TO CUT UP CHINA” are written, symbolizing Japan’s efforts to break up China into sections of conquest (Knott). The cartoon conveys the lack of unification of China and imperial conquest by Japan during the Battle of Shanghai in 1932.

This era in global history was littered with tension between colonizing nations. The French Empire, Spanish Empire, British Empire, and other western nations were colonizing large swaths of the world. Among the nations seeking to expand their territory was Japan. In the early 1930’s, Japan, a heavy industrialized nation, was in financial distress and looked towards neighboring China for the necessary natural resources to keep Japan’s national economy afloat (“Japan Invades Manchuria 1931”). The giant, which represents China in Knott’s political cartoon, is wearing traditional Chinese clothing, tangzhuang, while the Japanese soldier is in more modern military attire. The difference between traditional and modern clothing is used to emphasize China’s lack of technological and industrial progress compared to Japan and also to suggest that if engaged in war, China would face an unfavorable battle with Japan.

Perhaps the most critical question that comes to mind is: Why did Knott, or anyone in America in the early 1930s, care about what happened to China? During this era of colonization, America stood by the idea that every nation should cease to expand their territory any further. America also had a political and diplomatic investment in China through Chiang Kai-shek. Chiang Kai-shek was the nationalist political and military leader at the time. He had support from many American political leaders and citizens (Whitman). Chiang Kai-shek started to lead unification of politically disarrayed China and opposed the colonization of China by Japan  (“Chiang Kai-shek: Internal and External Conflict In China”).

Similar to the Japanese soldier ready to strike before the giant fully awoke from his slumber in Knott’s political cartoon, Japan needed to find an excuse to act against China and gain their natural resource-filled territories. Japan found its self-justification to take up arms when the Chinese military “violated” Japan’s established boundaries within which the Chinese military was allowed to operate in Shanghai. In response, Japan sent a naval fleet to Shanghai. On January 28, 1932, Japan started bombarding the city, and fighting between the Chinese and Japanese military ensued with no end in sight (Chen).

Also appearing in the Dallas Morning News along with Knott’s political cartoon was the editorial A Stubborn Defense, which conveyed how the Chinese military was desperately attempting to face off against a nation with greater military might. The article depicted China as a tenacious nation that was willing to defend what was rightfully theirs until the end. The article also stated that, even though military forces were continuing to advance in Manchuria, the Japanese public was not completely invested in the cause of war. The editorial argued that if such a tenacious defense continued, the situation might lead to withdrawal of armed forces due to disapproval on the part of the Japanese public (Dallas Morning News Section 2 Page 4).

The fighting did on stop, however, until almost three months later, when the Shanghai Ceasefire Agreement was signed. In contrast to the hopes of the editorial, the result was not in China’s favor. Shanghai and the surrounding cities ended up under the control of Japan (Chen). The relationship between Japan and China after the battle remained tense and eventually gave away to the Second Sino-Japanese War. As for America, their political and diplomatic investment fell through when a civil war erupted in China between the nationalist party Kuo Min Tang and the Communist forces led by Mao Tse Tung. After the Communist Party took power, Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan (“Chiang Kai-shek: Internal and External Conflict In China”). America continued to support Chiang Kai-shek and also engraved its influence on defeated Japan after World War II (“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty”).

This historical incident holds relevance even today. Similar to the previous tensions surrounding Japan’s colonization of China, recently China has been in dispute with Japan over islands in the East China Sea. Juxtaposed to when America supported China under Chiang Kai-Shek, the U.S. now has a strong political and diplomatic investment in Japan. In keeping with formal U.S. treaty obligations negotiated after the Second World War, President Barack Obama has announced that America will support Japan with military power if tensions over the disputed islands were to turn violent (“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties”). The constant change is diplomatic alliances conveys the fact that, among other things, each nation is looking out for its own self-interest. This is neither a selfishly evil or a morally righteous act, but rather is something that everyone should be aware of as the world’s balance of power(s) continues to shift.

Works Cited

“A Stubborn Defense” Dallas Morning News 10 Feb. 1932: Section 2 Page 4. Print.

“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.” Asia for Educators. Columbia University, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Budge, Kent G. “Shanghai.” The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia:. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

Chen, Peter. “First Battle of Shanghai.” WW2DB RSS. Lava Development, n.d. Web. 25 Oct 2015.

“Chiang Kai-shek.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“Japan Invades Manchuria 1931 – Inter-war Period: Causes of WWII.” Japan Invades Manchuria 1931 – Inter-war Period: Causes of WWII. Weebly.com, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Knott, John. “The Waking Giant” Dallas Morning News 10 Feb. 1932: Section 2 Page 4. Print.

“The Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine.” The Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine – 1921–1936 – Milestones – Office of the Historian. U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2015.

Whitman, Alden. “The Life of Chiang Kai-shek: A Leader Who Was Thrust Aside by Revolution.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 6 Apr. 1975. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

Japan-China Island Dispute

Patrick Chappatte epicts an island lying in-between two naval ships rushing towards each other. One of the ships displays Japan’s national flag, while the other displays China’s national flag. A man that resembles Uncle Sam is tie to an anchor that is being dragged behind the Japanese ship. Uncle Sam is holding up a hand to signal “stop”.
Patrick Chappatte epicts an island lying in-between two naval ships rushing towards each other. One of the ships displays Japan’s national flag, while the other displays China’s national flag. A man that resembles Uncle Sam is tie to an anchor that is being dragged behind the Japanese ship. Uncle Sam is holding up a hand to signal “stop”.

Japan-China Island Dispute

Patrick Chappatte – September 19, 2012

The political cartoon Japan-China Island Dispute, created by Patrick Chappatte and published in The New York Times on September 20, 2012, depicts an island lying in-between two naval ships rushing towards each other. One of the ships displays Japan’s national flag, while the other displays China’s national flag. A man who resembles Uncle Sam is tied to an anchor that is being dragged behind the Japanese ship. Uncle Sam is holding up a hand to signal “stop” (Chappatte). The cartoon conveys the conflict between China and Japan over disputed islands and America’s role in this complex foreign issue.

The island in the political cartoon represents a set of eight uninhabited islands that are called “Senkaku” islands by the Japanese, “Diaoyudao” islands by the Chinese, and “Diaoyutai” islands by Taiwan (Yu). The Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands are located northeast of Taiwan and consist of seven square kilometers in total area. Their importance lies in their proximity to nearby shipping lanes, rich fish-filled waters, nearby (possible) oil and gas reserves, and strategic military location for dominance within the Asia-Pacific region (“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties”). These islands are located on the East China Sea and should not be confused with another set of disputed islands between China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam in the South China Sea (McKirdy and Hunt).

In some ways the disputes over these islands resemble events in Asia before, during, and after World War II, when nations were in conflict over territory and colonization (“The Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine”). The current Disputed Islands Conflict holds relevance to our lives because the countries in these territorial disagreements are the same major political players who were at odds immediately before and during the Second World War and also because the failure to satisfactorily resolve earlier territorial disagreements is now the source of renewed geo-political tension and potential conflict. This is worrisome; for as George Santayana would once wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it” (Santayana 284).

In Chappatte’s cartoon, the two colliding battle ships represent Japan and China and their this territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands. Japan claims it originally surveyed the islands, found them uninhabited, and officially made them part of Japan’s territory on January 14, 1895. According to the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco, however, Japan had to give up some of its islands to China, although these disputed lands were not a part of the treaty. The Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands remained under US trusteeship until they were returned to Japan in 1971. Meanwhile, China contends that the islands have been apart of China since before Japan’s nineteenth century survey and therefore should have been given to China under the Treaty of San Francisco (“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties”).

Not mentioned in the political cartoon but equally important is Taiwan’s involvement in this conflict. Taiwan argues that the islands belong to them. The Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands are crucial fishing areas for the Taiwanese economy and food supply. Japan offered a diplomatic solution to Taiwan by allowing them to fish in the area in exchange for naval assistance in surveillance of the islands (Chiu Bi-Whei). This strategic move not only gave Japan a neighboring ally in this matter but also bolstered the division between China and Taiwan.

In Chappatte’s political cartoon, Uncle Sam represents America’s involvement on the side of Japan in this dispute. After its loss in World War II, Japan’s constitution was rewritten by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur (“Bringing Democracy to Japan”). Under Article Nine of the new constitution, Japan was to disband all military forces. After the formal U.S. Occupation ended, Japan was only able to operate a defensive military Self-Defense Force (“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty”). Not having any military whatsoever would have left Japan crippled if foreign affairs were to turn violent. To resolve this pressing matter, in 1952 the two countries signed the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. Under this treaty, America was allowed to station U.S. military bases in Japan; in exchange, Japan would receive U.S. military aide if they were to experience foreign conflicts (“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty”).

The current discord between Japan and China is reminiscent of tensions between the two nations during the early 1930’s and leading up to World War II. The tense situation over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyudao/Diaoyutai islands in the East China Sea revelas a continuous, unresolved source of friction between China and Japan. In order to maintain open international ocean trade routes as well as overall peace in the Asia-Pacific region, America has given support to Japan in this complex foreign dispute. If violent conflict were to erupt, the damage would not only be felt by Japanese and Chinese citizens and others in the region, but also by the American people here at home due to our alliance with Japan and our obligations to provide military support under the terms of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.

Works Cited

“Article 9 and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty.” Asia for Educators. Columbia University, n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“Bringing Democracy to Japan.” Crf-usa.org. Constitutional Rights Foundation, n.d. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.

Chappatte, Patrick. “Japan-China Island Dispute.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Chiu Bi-Whei. “Taiwan Wants a Say in Senkaku Talks.” DW.COM. Made for Minds, 09 Sept. 2013. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.

“How Uninhabited Islands Soured China-Japan Ties – BBC News.” BBC News. BBC, 10 Nov. 2014. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

McKirdy, Euan, and Katie Hunt. “Showdown in the South China Sea: How Did We Get Here? – CNN.com.” CNN. Cable News Network, 28 Oct. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

Santayana, George. The Life of Reason, Or, The Phases of Human Progress. New York: Scribner, 1954. Print.

“The Mukden Incident of 1931 and the Stimson Doctrine.” History.state.gov. U.S. Department of State Office of the Historian, n.d. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

Yu, Miles. “Taiwan’s First President Ignites Firestorm with Claim That Disputed Islands Belong to Japan.” Washington Times. The Washington Times, 6 Aug. 2015. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

His Final Refuge


His Final Refuge

John Francis Knott- February 7, 1932

His Final Refuge by John Knott is a political cartoon that criticizes the events leading up to the Second Sino-Japanese War.  His Final Refuge is told from the American viewpoint and how the United States viewed the countries in East Asia.  As Japan and Russia industrialized and became world players over the course of the 20th Century, the United States viewed each country as a potential threat to its own power.  Due to increasing politico-economic tensions the United States would back certain countries at different times in accordance with its own foreign policy agenda.  In this context we can begin to see how different wars between the East Asian countries affected the United States’ alliances.  Once Japan began to rise to prominent power and began to attack Russia for resources, the United States supported Russia.  Later on in World War I the United States and Japan ended up on the same side while still not on good terms, which further increased tensions.  With the rise of communism the United States stopped supporting Russia and sent in troops to help clear the country of its communist revolution.  The complex political-economic relationships between all of these countries provide the backdrop for His Final Refuge by John Knott.

Nationalism amongst nations in the 19th century grew which in turn cause many countries to become colonial nations to expand their borders.  With many new nations becoming colonial nations, the new colonial nations began to challenge the already powerful Western European countries like Germany and France.  The first Sino-Japanese War in 1894 dealt with China and Japan fighting over Korea.  China ended up losing due to being poorly equipped.  Due to the Japanese victory Japan began to rise to power and split China up into a weak country that consisted of spheres of influence, which are territories that accommodate an outside nation culturally, economically, militarily or politically.  Japan then continued their expansion into the Asian mainland in order to grow their empire.  Japan also fought with Russia over the possession of Manchuria and Korea in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904.  Japan won the Russo-Japanese War and Russia gave up Port Arthur and the Liaodong Peninsula to Japan and recognized Korea as a Japanese sphere of influence.  In 1914 World War I had begun and Japan had joined the Allies in order to gain Germany’s pacific territories.  During this time Japan began to politically dominate China and the Pacific.  The United States began to dislike Japan due to competition over territories in the Pacific and tensions further increased when both nations were on the same side in World War I despite competition with each other.  In 1917 during the Russian Revolution once Tsar Nicholas II was removed from power the United States praised the revolution but once the Bolsheviks regained power president Wilson sent troops to stop the revolution even though Russia was technically an ally.  This shows us that the United States is also vying to keep other nations in control and keep its place as the most powerful industrial nation.

In the February 7th, 1932 edition of the Dallas Morning Newspaper, It is reported that Japan laid down its heaviest bombardment in Shanghai on January 28th, which shows how much tensions are escalating in East Asia.  Another article in the February 7th, 1932 edition of the Dallas Morning Newspaper reports that Russia is expecting another world war and has began to train troops to prepare.  It is also reported in the same edition of the Dallas Morning Newspaper that Russia might join with China in order to stop Japan from encroaching on its territory, although the two countries have treaties.  These events reported by the newspaper show us that tensions between these nations were building at a rapid pace.

His Final Refuge by John Knott depicts Russia as a communist nation living in a wooden shack watching China getting hit by a Japanese soldier with a large rifle.  In John Dower’s book, War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific, Dower explains that in many other cartoons of in that period Japan is depicted as ape like.  Many Americans believed that the Japanese were inferior and possessed less intelligence than them, which created this common trope among American political cartoons at the after World War I.  The Russian is depicted as looking silently among the horrendous act of the Japanese moving the Chinese into submission.  His Final Refuge refers to China being put in its final resting place through complete political and economic domination.  At the time of 1932 it looked like Japan would dominate China but during The Second Sino Japanese War in 1937, The United States began to aid China and in 1945 the Japanese troops surrendered.

This cartoon provides a grim depiction of what the United States believed was going on with Japan.  Japan was increasingly militarizing and expanding itself as a nation after the first Sino-Japanese war and the United States believed it was going to finally dominate Japan during the period in between the First and Second Sino-Japanese Wars.  This period before World War II in East Asia marks an era of increasing tensions due to colonialism, which in turn creates shifting alliances between China, Japan, Russia and the United States.  These increasing tensions will finally erupt later on proving to be fatal for the world as the Second Sino-Japanese War occurs in 1937 and World War II begins in 1939 with The United States and Russia siding with the Allies and Japan siding with the Axis.

Works Cited:

Andrea, Alfred J., and Carolyn Neel. “Sino-Japanese War, 1894–1895.” World History Encyclopedia. Vol. 16. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2011. 837. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

Author Not Listed. “Heaviest Bombardment Yet Laid Down by Japanese Guns.” The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 7 Feb. 1932: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

Christensen, Karen, and David Levinson. “China–Japan Relations.” Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. Vol. 2. New York City: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002. 6-12. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

Dower, John W. War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. New York: Pantheon, 1986. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.

Eberspaecher, Cord. “Russo-Japanese War.” Encyclopedia of Western Colonialism since 1450. Ed. Thomas Benjamin. Vol. 3. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 988-990. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.

Elias Tobenkin. “World War Expected By Soviet And Men, Women and Children are Being Given Rigid Training.” The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 7 Feb. 1932: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.

Knott, John F. “His Final Refuge.” Cartoon. The Dallas Morning News [Dallas] 7 Feb. 1932: n. pag. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.