Chapter 5 

Biographies

 

 

 

Konoe Fumimaro: (co no eh foo me ma roe) 1891-1945. Born into an aristocratic family, he inherited the title of prince. Serving in the House of Peers from 1916, he became its vice president in 1931 and president in 1933. He supported both the privileges of nobility and the prerogatives of representative government. He also advocated Asian self-determination, and was opposed to Western involvement in Asia. Serving as prime minister in 1937-1939 and 1940-1941, Konoe's first cabinet presided over the opening of the Sino-Japanese war of 1937-1945, and his second cabinet inaugurated the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere. In his memoirs (written during and immediately after WWII), he stated his opposition to war with the Allies and proclaimed that he had been unable to contain the militarists. His critics said that despite his intent, he was an ineffective and wavering leader whose policies reinforced the militarists. It has also been noted that his policies promoted authoritarianism and committed Japan to war and expansion.

Konoe served as vice prime minister in the first postwar cabinet, and worked towards the establishment of a new constitution, in compliance with Occupation demands. However, he was later indicted as a war criminal, and on the day he was to report to Occupation authorities for detention and trial, he committed suicide.

 

Kita Ikki: (1883-1937). Given name, Terujiro. Radical right-wing writer and activist in Japan. Kita was born on Sado Island to a prosperous rural family. In his youth, he was attracted to socialism and in 1906 he published Kokutairon oyobi junsei shakaishugi (The National Polity and Pure Socialism), in which he argued that socialism suited Japan's national principles. The book was banned ten days after its publication. When the Chinese revolution broke out in 1911, Kita went to China as an observer for the Kokuryukai (Amur River Society). After the murder of his friend, the revolutionary leader Song Jiaoren, in 1913, he returned to Japan to write Shina kakumei gaishi (A Private History of the Chinese Revolution, 1921), in which he ascribed the revolution's failure to a lack of Japanese support.

In 1916 Kita went to China and in 1919, while still in Shanghai, he wrote Nihon kaizo hoan taiko (Outline Plan for the Reorganization of Japan). In this book Kita advocated nationalization of excessive wealth, establishment of a welfare state, and the liberation of Asia from Western imperialism by a "revolutionary Japanese empire." In order to achieve these goals, he called for a coup d'etat that would allow the "people's emperor" to suspend the constitution and assume direct powers. Although the book was first banned, a censored version was published in 1923. Uncensored, handwritten copies were circulated clandestinely, however, by his followers.

In 1919 Kita returned to Japan as a sinophile, a devoted adherent of Nichiren Buddhism, and a virulent nationalist. With Okawa Shumei, he soon became active in various right-wing organizations. Through his friend Nishida Mitsugi, Kita started an enduring association with a group of young officers. For some years he was financed by the Mitsui concern, which by means of these contributions sought to avert attacks on its leaders.

Kita's followers among the young officers perpetrated the February Twenty-sixth Incident of 1936. When the incident broke out, Kita encouraged the rebels to hold fast until their demands were met. After the rebellion was suppressed, he and Nishida were arrested. Both men were sentenced to death and executed in 1937. Kita is sometimes referred to as the father of Japanese fascism because of his advocacy of curbs on private wealth and state direction of large enterprises. [Excerpted, with minor editing, from: Ben-Ami Shillony, Encyclopedia of Asian History; reproduced with permission.]

 

Lu Xun: (1881-1936). Pseudonym of Zhou Shuren, preeminent modern Chinese writer. At his best, with insight and intelligent anger, Lu Xun exposed China's condition and the dilemma of intellectuals caught in the demands of life in a backward country in modern times.

Lu Xun's life divides into approximately ten-year segments. In Japan from 1902 to 1909, he turned from medical studies to literature. His translations and journals, ventures with his brother Zhou Zuoren, barely sold, however, and on returning to China, these activities ceased. For nearly a decade he taught biology and then, in Beijing, did administrative work and traditional scholarship. In 1918 Lu Xun published "Diary of a Madman." Eight years of writing and teaching of Chinese literature followed, a period that saw the publication in 1921 of one of his most highly regarded works, The True Story of Ah Q. In 1927 Lu Xun moved to Shanghai; by 1929 he was supporting the Communist Party; a year later he helped found its League of Left-Wing Writers. When the Party ordered the league dissolved (1936), Lu Xun formed a splinter group. Reconciliation was achieved two weeks before his death.

 

Lu Xun's literary output was small compared to his influence—two dozen short stories (collected in Nahan, 1923, and Panghuang, 1926) and one slim volume each of prose poems, poetry, and retold classical tales. Moreover, in his hands, the satiric essay (zawen) attained a perfect, merciless form. Translations, letters, diaries, traditional scholarship, and writings on woodblock engravings make up the larger remainder of his collected works.

Lu Xun established the major themes of China and the "Chinese character," which he conceived of as spiritually infirm. In style, he evolved a prose that was terse, abusive, and vivid at a time when wordiness characterized the vernacular movement. The legacy of Lu Xun remains a formidable one, the more difficult to assess because not unflawed. For Communist critics, his elevation beyond criticism has further slowed down evaluation. Lu Xun's followers, however, fell swiftly: by 1957, Feng Xuefeng, Hu Feng, and Xiao Jun had all been purged. [Excerpted, with minor editing, from: San Chou, Encyclopedia of Asian History} reproduced with permission.]

 

Douglas MacArthur: 1880-1964. Born to a career army father who rose to the rank of lieutenant general, MacArthur graduated first in the West Point class of 1903. After graduation, he went on tours of duty in the Philippines and Japan, then to WWI Europe, and then became superintendent of West Point between 1919 and 1922. Returning to the Philippines thereafter, he became that county's chief military advisor.

In July 1941, President Roosevelt appointed MacArthur commander of US forces in the Far East. During the war, MacArthur's greatest achievement was the island-hopping counterattack in New Guinea and the subsequent counterinvasion of the Philippines. He was considered the logical choice for the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers (SCAP) occupying Japan, and he insured that the occupation was not only "all-American," but also all-Army. He accepted the Japanese surrender on board the USS Missouri on September 2,1945.

Presiding over the reshaping and democratization of postwar Japan, MacArthur was confident of his understanding of the "Oriental mind," and many saw him as aloof and arrogant. Nonetheless, given Japan's current situation and how much of it was born of MacArthur-imposed changes, the Occupation of Japan is seen as a success.

In 1950, when the Korean War erupted, MacArthur was named commander of the UN forces in Korea. His brilliant strategy at Inchon led to the recapture of Seoul and the routing of North Korean forces, but he pressed too far north, and the Chinese stepped in. MacArthur advocated expanding the war to include attacks on China, a position which put him at loggerheads with President Truman. Truman relieved MacArthur of his commands in Korea and Japan in 1951. This was MacArthur's final "lesson" in democracy for Japan-that civilian authority is more important than military authority.

 

Ramon Magsaysay: (mug sigh sigh) 1907-1957. Born of a poor family, Magsaysay worked his way through college, graduating in 1933 and joining a transportation company. During WWII he fought the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and returned to his home province to join the guerrilla movement. In postwar civilian rule, Magsaysay won a congressional seat as a member of the Liberal Party and was appointed secretary of defense in 1950. Combining considerable US aid and a policy of army reform and land offers to insurgents, Magsaysay was able to quell the Huk rebellion. In 1953, after charging the government with corruption, he resigned, changed political affiliation to the Nacionalista Party and won the presidential election in December. As president, Magsaysay enjoyed tremendous popular support, faced equally strong resistance from the entrenched political establishment, continued to work for political reforms and land redistribution, and encouraged political participation by young, reform-minded commoners. In foreign policy, he was a strong ally of the US. His death in a plane crash in 1957 was considered a tragic loss by the Filipino people.