In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Chiang Kai-shek’s “Humanitarian Bombs” and the Mirage Known as the “Manchurian-Mongolian Problem”:New Japanese-Language Perspectives on the Transnational History of Modern East Asia
  • Kyu Hyun Kim (bio)
Iechika Ryōko Shō Kaiseki no gaikō senryaku to Nitchū sensō [Chiang Kai-shek’s diplomatic strategies and the Sino-Japanese War]. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2012. ISBN: 978-4-00-025865-4.
Nakami Tatsuo ‘Manmō mondai’ no rekishiteki kōzu [The historical composition of the “Manchurian-Mongolian problem”]. Tokyo: Daigaku Shuppankai, 2013. ISBN: 978-4-86-337131-6.

On May 20, 1938, two American-made Chinese airplanes—Martin B-10 monoplane bombers—took off from Ningbo, Zhejiang province, in the direction of southwestern Japan. Instead of dropping bombs, they released propaganda materials produced by the Nationalist Party (Guomindang), pleading with the industrial workers, farmers, and petty bourgeois citizens of Japan to stop fighting China and resist their militarist government. This “humanitarian bombardment,” masterminded by Chiang Kai-shek, is little known today—perhaps deservedly so, for it had its embarrassing features. For one, the planes never reached the strategically important areas and merely flew over sparsely populated regions of Kumamoto and Miyazaki prefectures. Further, the propaganda materials were either voluntarily [End Page 637] turned over to or confiscated by the Japanese authorities almost as soon as they hit the ground. As far as we can tell, the operation had little impact on the Japanese attitude toward China or on the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945).

However, as Iechika Ryōko—a Keiai University professor and specialist in modern Sino-Japanese relations—demonstrates in her impeccably researched and stimulating new book, Chiang Kai-shek’s Diplomatic Strategies and the Sino-Japanese War, this flight of Chinese bomber planes over southwestern Japan was much more than a quixotic footnote in the history of Chinese resistance campaigns against the Japanese Empire. It was, according to Iechika, one of the puzzle pieces that fit together in intricate and multilayered patterns to constitute Chiang Kai-shek’s grand diplomatic strategy. This strategy was aimed both at persuading the world powers (especially the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union) to render support to the Chinese resistance and at gaining prestige and stature for the Nationalist regime that would eventually (as Chiang staunchly believed) emerge victorious against Japan.

Iechika’s study complements recent English-language scholarship that reevaluates, and in some sense rehabilitates, the contribution of the Nationalists to the defeat of the Japanese Empire and the liberation of China, most notably Jay Taylor’s 2011 biography of Chiang (The Generalissimo). The loosening up of access to archival materials and the easing of surveillance over scholarship in both China and Taiwan—as well as the recent clearance permitting access to Chiang’s personal diary, deposited in 2005 at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University—have allowed scholars such as Iechika and Taylor to challenge the Communists’ image of Chiang as an inept military commander and an autocratic “coward” devoted to his own survival above any other objective.

Sharing with Taylor a fundamental critique of this Communist characterization of Chiang Kai-shek, Iechika makes use of the Guomindang archival materials (some of which have recently been digitized for online use by Academia Historica), Chiang’s diary, and a massive amount of published and unpublished sources collected in Japan to sculpt a complex and intriguing profile of the Generalissimo. Iechika’s Chiang emerges as an aggressive and clever—if often arrogant and self-satisfied—strategist, simultaneously pursuing a platter of war plans, diplomatic policies, and long-term projects [End Page 638] of nation-building. She argues that Chiang, more than any other wartime Chinese leader, including Mao Zedong, saw the Second Sino-Japanese War as a global conflict fought on several levels of engagement—not just on the ground, among foot soldiers, but also in terms of securing networks for transporting material resources and transmitting information, and even in the realm of domestic and international public discourse (2–8).

In the early chapters, Iechika explores the Generalissimo’s ideological beliefs as well as his character preceding the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, thereby placing his approach to the war with Japan in the...


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