First Advisor

Kenneth J. Ruoff

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in History and University Honors




Japanese -- China -- Manchuria -- History -- 20th century, Koreans -- China -- Manchuria -- History -- 20th century, Manchuria (China) -- Emigration and immigration




Before the invasion of the Japanese Kwantung Army into Manchuria in 1931, Japanese expansion had already begun. One strategy centered on Japan’s Korean subject in Manchuria, a region in northeast China. The rights and obligations of the Koreans here had been decided through agreements between the Qing and then-independent Korea. Following Korea's annexation by the Empire of Japan in 1910, the Japanese began to abuse their new subject’s right in tandem with Japanese extraterritoriality held in China to begin a process of land grabbing. This strategy relied on vague interpretations of nationality regarding the Koreans in order to maximize Japanese holdings. This thesis traces how following World War One, increased international emphasis on ideas such as ethnic self-determination and the primacy of the nation-state as a political unit pressured Japan to justify their actions more along the new liberal trends. Following the invasion of Manchuria, Manchukuo was established there as a "pan-Asian" state, but widely acknowledged to be a Japanese puppet. Despite the rhetoric, however, the Japanese bureaucrats running Manchukuo did not follow through on these progressive ideals and instead found ways to use pan-Asian rhetoric as a tool to help preserve Japanese hegemony. This thesis traces the adjustments Imperial Japan made to its expansionary strategy in the face of criticism from the post-World War One international order and the ways in which these adjustments highlighted contradictions within the Empire. Additionally observed is how these adjustments provide insight into the role of nationality, subjecthood, and ethnicity in the Japanese Empire.


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