Manchuria and Manchukuo

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MANCHURIA AND MANCHUKUO. Manchuria, a region in China roughly coincident with the present-day provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang, first became a focus of U.S. policy in East Asia in the late 1890s. The accelerating encroachment of foreign powers undermined the territorial integrity of China, impeded free access to Chinese markets, and threatened American interests. Secretary of State John Hay's Open Door Notes of 1899 and 1900 articulated a general policy that favored equal commercial opportunity throughout China, but Russian activity in Manchuria was his primary target. Between 1900 and 1905, the United States made common cause with Japan, which saw Russian power in Manchuria as a strategic threat, and provided Tokyo with diplomatic and financial support in the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). Friendship between the United States and Japan suffered after the latter took over Russian holdings in the southern part of Manchuria. Japanese claims to special rights in this part of China became a persistent irritant in U.S.-Japan relations for the next twenty-five years.

The United States launched a number of diplomatic initiatives aimed at dislodging Japan from southern Manchuria, most notably between 1907 and 1910 and between 1918 and 1922. They met with little success, in part because of Japanese intransigence but also because of the limits of American interest in settling the problem. Enforcing the Open Door in Manchuria was not worth the costs of alienating the Japanese, whose cooperation was essential to American policy goals elsewhere in China and in the Pacific.

This calculus continued to operate to a significant degree even after the Japanese army occupied Manchuria outright in 1931 (Manchurian Incident) and established the puppet state of Manzhouguo (Manchukuo) in 1932. The United States condemned the invasion and refused to recognize any changes in the status quo in China that violated existing treaties, but it took no further action. Not until well after the outbreak of the second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 did the United States begin a program of economic sanctions against Japan. Between 1938 and 1941, some Japanese officials, alarmed at the steady deterioration of relations with the United States, initiated attempts at reconciliation, but American diplomats made it clear that no settlement in China that failed to restore the status quo ante 1931, including the return of Manchuria to China, would be acceptable. Even Japan's most conciliatory leaders were unable to concede Manzhouguo, and this impasse dashed any hopes for averting a Japanese-American confrontation. Manchuria ceased to be a separate consideration for U.S. policy toward China and East Asia after Japan's defeat in World War II (1945), despite a brief period of uncertainty associated with the outbreak of civil war in China (1946–1949).


Cohen, Warren I. Amerca's Response to China: A History of Sino-American Relations. 4th ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

Hunt, Michael H. Frontier Defense and the Open Door: Manchuria in Chinese-American Relations, 1895–1911. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1973.

Iriye, Akira. Pacific Estrangement: Japanese American Expansion,1897–1911. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972.

LaFeber, Walter. The Clash: U.S.-Japanese Relations. New York: W.W. Norton, 1997.

Yoshihisa TakMatsusaka

See alsoChina, Relations with ; Japan, Relations with ; Open Door Policy ; Russia, Relations with ; Sino-Japanese War .

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Manchuria and Manchukuo

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