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Reviewed by:
  • Japanese Cultural Policy toward China, 1918-1931: A Comparative Perspective, and: Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism
  • John H. Boyle (bio)
See Heng Teow. Japanese Cultural Policy toward China, 1918-1931: A Comparative Perspective. Harvard East Asian Monographs, vol. 175. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1999. xiii, 310 pp. Hardcover $39. 50, ISBN 0-674-47257-8.
Louise Young . Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1998. xii, 487 pp. Hardcover $45.00, ISBN 0-520-21071-9.

Among the most punishing of the terms extracted by the foreign powers from the dying empire of China following the defeat of the Boxer Uprising in 1900 was a staggering assortment of indemnities. Japan, Britain, Russia, Germany, France, the United States, and a host of other countries awarded themselves financial redress in the amount of 450 million silver taels. Funds that might have gone into modernization schemes or armaments were to be diverted to pay foreign bondholders of China's debt for decades into the future. According to one calculation, the interest and payments, intended to be paid out until 1940, would have amounted to a grand total of U.S. $739 million.

In a gesture of goodwill unusual for the day, the United States in 1908 notified China that it intended to return the excessive portion of its share of the indemnity to China. The move triggered some calls for similar remissions from other countries but it was not until World War I that other creditor nations, including Britain and Japan, agreed to follow the American example. Japan indicated its intention to remit in 1918 and did so a few years later. By 1924, all the nations signatory to the Boxer Protocol had followed suit. The debts were not simply canceled or waived. In each case, the imperial powers specified how the remitted funds were to be used, and this provides See Heng Teow with the intriguing basis for his "Comparative Perspective." The author concentrates on Britain, Japan, and the United States.

From the beginning the Chinese government made it clear that it would prefer to use remissions to foster industrial development in the empire. And from the beginning the American government rejected such uses in favor of cultural and educational projects. "Indemnity scholarships" allowed for hundreds of Chinese to study in the United States, and Tsinghua College was established to better prepare students for an American education. In part to address Chinese concerns that the United States would interfere with the Chinese educational system, and in part because of the belief native to Americans that cultural matters properly resided in the private sphere, the U.S. government itself played relatively little role in directing the cultural and educational projects in China. In sharp contrast to [End Page 552] Japan, no American governmental cultural institution was established to run the indemnity enterprises there.

Great Britain, writes Teow, was more "chameleon-like" in its cultural approach (p. 118). Initially, Britain was anxious to compete with the United States in the race to expand cultural and educational ties with China. By the late 1920s, however, and increasingly in the depression-ridden 1930s, London's goals began to shift in the direction of economic endeavors such as railway construction and river conservancy. Allocations for the purchase of British materials to implement such programs had a special appeal.

Teow argues that Japanese remission policies differed from American and British policies with respect not so much to goals as to means—each nation was motivated by a mixture of pragmatic interests, ethnocentric rivalries, and idealism. Far from turning funds over to China, Japan enacted legislation creating a special account, which was placed under the Ministry of Finance in Tokyo, and then, in 1923, established the China Cultural Affairs Bureau to use these funds and to plan and supervise, on a long-term basis, its cultural activities on the continent. Among all the Boxer Protocol signatories, "Japan stood out as the only country that used its remission to institutionalize a cultural policy toward China" (p. 197).

In stressing their own cultural affinity to China and in...


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