Tag Archives: China

The Bear Craves Seawater


Sitting on the Eurasian continent, and armed soldier (Japan) guards territory labeled "Manchukuo" as a bear (Russia) looks on hungrily from Siberia.
Sitting on the Eurasian continent, and armed soldier (Japan) guards territory labeled “Manchukuo” as a bear (Russia) looks on hungrily from Siberia.

Japan’s invasion of Manchuria was a highly significant occurrence in the erratic, sensitive time between the first and second world wars, garnering many reactions from across the globe. Manchuria was a historically disputed region in East Asia predominantly belonging to China. However, China’s weak economic condition in the late 1800’s allowed external powers to exert spheres of influence in many regions of China. Beginning in the mid 19th century, Britain had boldly colonized Hong Kong and other Chinese islands (Kong). This prompted the U.S. to introduce the Open Door Policy as an attempt to halt further colonialist intentions in the early 1900’s. However, peace did not last as geopolitical turmoil and war plagued the following decades.

The growth of fascism in this post-WWI period pitted countries against each other, as superpowers clashed for control over weaker regions of the globe. Ultimately, it was the greed and aggression of Japanese imperialism in overtaking Manchuria in 1931 that broke the Open Door agreement among the superpowers . Relations among Russia, Japan and China fluctuated between amnesty and conflict, creating the tension that culminated into the Manchurian conflict.

Two looming figures fill the political cartoon “The Bear Craves Seawater” by John Knott, a former cartoonist for the Dallas Morning News. One is a thirsty bear labeled “Russia” eyeing a soldier, “Japan,” who guards territory labeled as “Manchukuo,” which can be can be identified as Manchuria from its geographic placement on the map. In an editorial accompanying Knott’s cartoon, “Russia Thinks of the Future,” the focus is specifically on Russia, an expanding militaristic force as Japan, and its reactions to the invasion. At the time this cartoon was published, October 1932, the world was suffering from the Great Depression, and the tension leading to World War II was beginning to thicken. However, the cartoon was specific to the relationship between Japan and Russia in this conflict over land.

Russia had a presence in Manchuria through the 1800s, and as China’s Qing dynasty declined, Russia was able to convince China, through bribery and intimidation, to allow the Chinese Eastern Railway to be built through Manchuria. This allowed Russia to exert more dominance and control in the region by ensuring access to the Pacific Ocean through their port of Vladivostok (Perrins). At that time, Russia was run by tsars, or emperors, who all prioritized expansionism for economic and nationalistic reasons. The Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 was a pivotal turning point for Russian history; ending the age of the tsars and bringing in socialism (Millar), which eventually influenced Chinese ideologies. Over the next few years, there were close relations between the communist parties in both nations. However, in 1927 the new Chinese ruler Chiang Kai-shek, a nationalist, turned against communism and the Russians. This left their relations tattered by 1932, causing Russia to lose an ally in China.

Chinese relations with Japan were just as negative. In the late 19th century, Japan had been expanding into Korea, China’s vassal state, which led to the first Sino-Japanese war in 1894 (Perrins). Korea was colonized through Japan’s victory, an experience that caused tremendous anti-Japanese sentiment among the Koreans- a factor that the Dallas Morning News editorial points out as a disadvantage to Japan. During World War I, Japan imposed its “21 Demands” on China, which was an attempt to assert more Japanese military involvement in China with an emphasis on Manchuria (Davis). The U.S. helped ward off Japan through diplomatic pressure along with the aid of a Chinese boycott of many Japanese goods. However, after WWI was over, China was left to itself and couldn’t resist military intrusion in its weak post-war state, despite anti-Japanese sentiment. Although Japan signed the Nine-Power agreement in 1922, acknowledging China’s principal hold on Manchuria, peace did not last (Davis). The Japanese military invaded Manchuria in 1931 over a fabricated conflict and violently took hold of the region, implementing a puppet government as an “independent” state renamed “Manchukuo.” The League of Nations condemned Japan yet did not take action, and in response, Japan simply left the League. China and Japan’s relations would remain volatile, leading to the second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. It wasn’t until the end of World War II that Japan relinquished control over Manchuria (Perrins).

Both Russia and Japan were proud, imperial nations with interests in Manchuria’s resources and tactical position since the 19th century. Russia had been wary of Japan throughout the late 19th century, involving itself in the outcome of the first Sino-Japanese war of 1894. Japan had to give up the Liaodong peninsula, one of its war prizes, because of pressure from Russia, Germany and France (Davis). The clashes between the two in Manchuria culminated into the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, which ended with President Theodore Roosevelt’s Treaty of Portsmouth (Dobbs). The treaty granted more privileges to Japan, as the U.S. was closer to Japan at the time before the growth of authoritarianism. The Open Door Policy allowed Japan to have such smooth access to Russia’s former property, including its precious railway. Russia did not have the means to engage Japan through the following years and first world war. By 1932, A New York Times article explained that Russia chose to focus on it’s 5 year plan on infrastructure and would not fight Japan because it knew China would not cooperate (Solkolsky). Russia also knew of China’s profound hatred and boycotting of Japan in recent years, and thus relied on that to be a hurdle for Japan.

The Dallas Morning News editorial suggests that Russia was watching Japan’s actions intently, but backed off from any violence, in order to know when it might have the chance to reassert dominance over the region; hence, the watchful bear in Knott’s cartoon. Russia decided to wait for Japan’s inevitable downfall, seeing the flaws in its arrogance and opposition from former allies. The humor from Knott’s art stems from the characterization of the countries. Both are hyperbolized as absurd huge figures the size of giants sitting on the globe. One can tell that Russia seems to have the desire to take Manchuria from Japan through the characterization of the curious bear and the alert soldier.

The editorial’s predictions of Russia’s future actions weren’t untrue. Towards the last days of World War II, Russia invaded Manchuria and pushed back Japan’s weak forces. For years, Russia continued to plunder the region until China reacquired it (Perrins). The deep-running histories between China, Russia and Japan need to be understood to comprehend how such a dangerous, territorial brawl over Manchuria could have taken place. This conflict influenced WWII greatly, with Japan’s aggression and resignation from the League of Nations contributing to the growth of fascism plaguing the globe in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The power-hunger and imperialism of Russia has also persisted to the modern day, the Bear’s teeth biting into many world affairs and upholding Russia’s reputation as a relentless force.

Works Cited:

“Russia Thinks of the Future”, The Dallas Morning News, 23 October 1932, Section 3:8

“Manchuria, Japanese Invasion of (1931).” Encyclopedia of Invasions and Conquests: From
Ancient Times to the Present, edited by Paul Davis, 2nd ed., Grey House Publishing, 2006,
pp. 372-373. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3487400201/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=40f6f0f6. Accessed 13 Mar. 2018.

Dobbs, Charles M. “Manchuria.” America in the World, 1776 to the Present: A Supplement to the
Dictionary of American History, edited by Edward J. Blum, vol. 2, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2016, pp. 641-642. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3630800322/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=0fd11509. Accessed 13 Mar. 2018.

Kong, Belinda. “Hong Kong (Britain/China).” Cultural Sociology of the Middle East, Asia, & Africa: An
Encyclopedia, vol. 3: East and Southeast Asia, SAGE Reference, 2012, pp. 288-290. Gale Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX4182600620/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=d4c4bfd1. Accessed 27 Apr. 2018.

Knott, John, “The Bear Craves Sea Water”, The Dallas Morning News, 23 October 1932, Section 3:8

Millar, James R., editor. Encyclopedia of Russian History. Vol. 1, Macmillan Reference USA, 2004. Gale
Virtual Reference Library, http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.utexas.edu/apps/pub/5BUJ/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL. Accessed 10 Apr. 2018

Perrins, Robert John. “Manchuria.” Encyclopedia of Modern Asia, edited by Karen Christensen and
David Levinson, vol. 4, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002, pp. 27-29. Gale Virtual Reference Library,http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/CX3403701854/GVRL?u=txshracd2598&sid=GVRL&xid=36824cf2. Accessed 13 Mar. 2018.

JAPAN’S: While Accepting the Situation Created in North Manchuria, the Soviets Elsewhere Press Their Plans for Wide Domination.” The New York Times, 19 June 1932, p. XX3.

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.

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”.


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, 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.