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Manchukuo ( , Manshūkoku, literally "State of Manchuria") was a puppet state in Manchuria and eastern Inner Mongolia. The region was the historical homeland of the Manchus, who founded the Qing Dynastymarker of China. In 1931, the region was seized by Japan following the Mukden Incident and in 1932, a puppet government was created, with Puyi, the last Qing emperor, installed as the nominal regent and emperor. Manchukuo's government was abolished in 1945 after the defeat of Imperial Japan at the end of World War II. Manchus formed a minority in Manchukuo, whose largest ethnic group were Han Chinese. There were also Koreans, Japanese, Mongols, White Russians and less numerous minorities. The Mongol regions of western Manchukuo were ruled under a slightly different system in acknowledgement of the Mongolian traditions there. The southern part of the Liaodong Peninsulamarker was ruled by Japan as the Kwantung Leased Territory.



After Manchu tribes conquered China they replaced the Ming Dynastymarker with the Qingmarker. However, the Manchu emperors did not fully integrate their homeland into China. This legal, and to a degree ethnic, division persisted until the Qing dynasty began to fall apart in the 1800s.

As the power of the court in Beijing weakened, many outlying areas either broke free (like Kashgarmarker) or fell under the control of Imperialist powers. In the 1800s, Imperial Russiamarker was most interested in the northern lands of the Qing Empire. In 1858, Russia gained nominal control over a huge tract of land called Outer Manchuria thanks to the Supplementary Treaty of Beijing that ended the Second Opium War. But Russia was not satisfied, and as the Qing Dynasty continued to weaken, they made further efforts to take control over the rest of Manchuria. Inner Manchuria came under strong Russianmarker influence in the 1890s with the building of the Chinese Eastern Railway through Harbinmarker to Vladivostokmarker.


As a direct result of the Russo-Japanese War (1904/05) Japanesemarker influence replaced Russia's in Inner Manchuria. In 1906, Japanmarker laid the South Manchurian Railway to Port Arthurmarker (Japanese: Ryojun). Between World War I and World War II Manchuria became a political and military battleground between Russia, Japan, and China. Japanmarker moved into Outer Manchuria as a result of the chaos following the Russian Revolution of 1917. A combination of Soviet military successes and Americanmarker economic pressure forced the Japanese to withdraw from the area, however, and Outer Manchuria returned to Sovietmarker control by 1925.

During the warlord period in China, the warlord Zhang Zuolin established himself in Inner Manchuria with Japanese backing. Later the Japanese Kantogun found him too independent and assassinated him in 1928.

The throne of the emperor in Manchuko, circa 1937.
After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Japanese militarists moved forward to separate the region from Chinese control and to create a Japanese-aligned puppet state. To create an air of legitimacy, the last Emperor of China, Pu-Yi, was invited to come with his followers and act as the head of state for Manchuria. One of his faithful companions was Cheng Hsiao-hsu, a Qing reformist and loyalist.

On 18 February 1932 the State of Manchuria (Manchukuo, Pinyin: Mǎnzhōuguó) was proclaimed and recognized by Japan on 16 September 1932. The city of Changchunmarker, renamed Xinjing (新京, literally "New Capital"), became the capital of the new entity. Chinese in Manchuria organized volunteer armies to oppose the Japanese and the new state required a war lasting several years to pacify the country.

The Japanese initially installed Puyi as Head of State in 1932, and two years later he was declared Emperor of Manchukuo with the era name of Kangde ("Tranquility and Virtue"). Manchukuo thus became the Great Manchurian Empire, sometimes termed Manchutikuo (Pinyin: Mǎnzhōu Dìguó). Zheng Xiaoxu served as Manchukuo's first prime minister until 1935, when Zhang Jinghui succeeded him. Puyi was nothing more than a figurehead and real authority rested in the hands of the Japanese military officials. An imperial palacemarker was specially built for the emperor. All of the Manchu ministers served as front-men for their Japanese vice-ministers, who made all decisions.

In this manner Japan formally detached Manchukuo from China in the course of the 1930s. With Japanese investment and rich natural resources, the area became an industrial powerhouse.

In 1935, Manchukuo bought Chinese Eastern Railway from the Soviet Union.

Diplomatic recognition

China did not recognise Manchukuo but the two countries established official ties for trade, communications and transportation.

In 1933, the League of Nations adopted the Lytton Report, declaring that Manchuria remained rightfully part of Chinamarker, leading Japan to resign its membership. The Manchukuo case prompted the United States to articulate the so-called Stimson Doctrine, under which international recognition was withheld from changes in the international system created by force of arms.

In spite of the League of Nation's approach, the new state was diplomatically recognised by El Salvadormarker (3 March 1934) and the Dominican Republicmarker (1934), the Soviet Unionmarker (de facto 23 March 1935; de jure 13 April 1941), Italy (29 November 1937), Spainmarker (2 December 1937), Germany (12 May 1938) and Hungary (9 January 1939).It is commonly believed The Holy See established diplomatic relations with Manchukuo in 1934. In fact, the Holy See never did it. Bishop Auguste Ernest Pierre Gaspais was appointed as «representative ad tempus of the Holy See and of the Catholic missions of Manchukuo to the government of Manchukuo» by the Congregation of Propaganda Fide (a purely religious Vatican body responsible for missions) and not by the Secretary of State responsible for diplomatic relations with States.

After the outbreak of World War II, the state was recognised by Slovakia (1 June 1940), France, Romania (1 December 1940), Bulgaria (10 May 1941), Finlandmarker (18 July 1941), Denmarkmarker (August 1941), Croatiamarker (2 August 1941) - all controlled or influenced by Japan's ally Germany - as well as by the China's Wang Jinwei government (30 November 1940), Thailandmarker (5 August 1941) and the Philippines (1943) - all under Japanese control.

World War II and aftermath

Prior to World War II, the Japanese colonized Manchukuo and used it as a base from which to invade China. In the summer of 1939 a border dispute between Manchukuo and the Mongolian People's Republic resulted in the Battle of Khalkhin Golmarker. During this battle, a combined Soviet-Mongolian force defeated the Japanese Kwantung Army (Kantogun) supported by limited Manchukuoan forces.

On 8 August 1945, the Soviet Unionmarker declared war on Japan in accordance with the agreement at the Yalta Conferencemarker, and invaded Manchukuo from outer Manchuria and Outer Mongolia. This was called Manchurian Strategic Offensive Operation. During the Soviet offensive the Army of Manchukuo, theoretically a two hundred-thousand-man force, well armed and trained along Japanese lines, performed poorly and whole units surrendered to the Soviets without firing a single shot; there were even cases of armed riots and mutinies against the Japanese forces. Emperor Kangde had hoped to escape to Japan to surrender to the Americans, but the Soviets captured him and eventually extradited him to the communist government in China, where the authorities had him imprisoned as a war criminal along with all other captured Manchukuo officials.

From 1945 to 1948, Manchuria (Inner Manchuria) served as a base area for the People's Liberation Army in the Chinese Civil War against the Kuomintang (KMT). With Soviet encouragement, the Chinese Communists used Manchuria as a staging ground until the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Many Manchukuo army and Japanese Kantogun personnel served with the communist troops during the Chinese Civil War against the Nationalist forces. About the 1.5 million Japanese that had been left in Manchukuo at the end of WWII were sent back to their homeland in 1946-1948 by the U.S. Navy ships in the operation now known as the Japanese repatriation from Huludao.


Historians generally consider Manchukuo a puppet state of Imperial Japanmarker because of the Japanese military's strong presence and strict control of the government administration. Chinese historians generally refer to the state as 'Wei Manzhouguo' ('false Manchukuo'). Some historians see Manchukuo as an effort at building an idealized Japanese state in mainland Asia that failed due to the pressures of war.

Manchukuo was proclaimed a monarchy on 1 March 1934, with Puyi assuming the throne under the reign name of Emperor Kang-de. Puyi was assisted in his executive duties by a Privy Council ( ), and a General Affairs State Council ( ). This State Council was the center of political power, and consisted of several cabinet ministers, each assisted by a Japanese vice-minister.

The commanding officer of the Kwantung Army in Manchukuo was simultaneously Japanese ambassador to Manchukuo. He functioned in a manner similar to that of a British resident officer in British overseas protectorates, with the power to veto decisions by the emperor.

The Legislative Council ( ) was largely a ceremonial body, existing to rubber-stamp decisions issued by the State Council. The only authorized political party was the government-sponsored Concordia Association, although various émigré groups were permitted their own political associations.

Administrative division of Manchukuo

See List of administrative divisions of Manchukuo for a complete list of prefecture-level divisions.

During its short-lived existence, Manchukuo was divided into between five (in 1932) and 19 (in 1941) provinces, one special ward of Peiman ( ) and two Special cities which were Hsinkingmarker ( ) and Harbinmarker ( ). Each province was divided into between four (Hsingan-tung) and 24 (Fengtien) prefectures. Peiman lasted less than 3 years (1 July 1933 – 1 January 1936) and Harbin was later incorporated into Binkiang province. Lungkiang also existed as a province in the 1932 before being divided into Heiho, Lungkiang and Sankiang in 1934. Antung and Chinchow provinces separated themselves from Fengtien while Binkiang and Chientao from Kirin separated themselves in the same year.


Map of Manchukuo
1908, the number of residents was 15,834,000, which rose to 30,000,000 in 1931 and 43,000,000 for the Manchukuo state. The population balance remained 123 men to 100 women and the total number in 1941 was 50,000,000.

In early 1934, the total population of Manchukuo was estimated as 30,880,000, with 6.1 persons the average family, and 122 men for each 100 women. These numbers included 29,510,000 Han Chinese, 590,760 Japanese, 680,000 Koreans, and 98,431 of other nationality White Russians, Mongols, etc. Around 80% of the population was rural. Other statistics indicate that in Manchukuo the population rose by 18,000,000.

From Japanese sources come these numbers: in 1940 the total population in Manchukuo of Lungkiang, Jehol, Kirin, Liaoningmarker (Fengtien) and Hsingan provinces at 43,233,954; or an Interior Ministry figure of 31,008,600. Another figure of the period evaluated the total population as 36,933,000 residents.

Around the same time the Soviet Union was promoting the Siberian Jewish Autonomous Oblastmarker across the Manchukuo-Soviet border, some Japanese officials explored a plan (known as the Fugu Plan) to attract Jewish refugees to Manchukuo as part of their colonisation efforts which was never adopted as official policy.

Population of main cities

Japanese population

In 1931–2, there were 100,000 Japanese farmers; other sources mention 590,760 inhabitants of Japanese nationality. Other figures for Manchukuo speak of a Japanese population 240,000 strong, later growing to 837,000. In Hsinking, they made up 25% of the population. The Japanese government had official plans projecting the emigration of 5 million Japanese to Manchukuo between 1936 and 1956. Between 1938 and 1942 a contingent of young farmers of 200,000 arrived in Manchukuo; joining this group after 1936 were 20,000 complete families. When Japan lost sea and air control of the Yellow Sea, this migration stopped.

When the Red Army invaded Manchukuo, they captured 850,000 Japanese settlers. With the exception of some civil servants and soldiers, these were repatriated to Japan in 1946–7. Many Japanese orphans in China were left behind in the confusion by then Japanese government and were adopted by Chinese families. Some of them were stigmatized as Japanese during the Cultural Revolution , many however, integrated well into Chinese society. In the 1980s Japan began to organise a repatriation programme for them but not all chose to go back to Japan.


Manchukuo experienced rapid economic growth and progress in its social systems . Its industrial system was among the most advanced making it one of the industrial powerhouses in the region . Manchukuo's steel production surpassed Japan's in the late 1930s. Many Manchurian cities were modernised during Manchukuo era. However, most of these benefited Japanese immigrants rather than the local population and raw material flowed into Japan later to support the war effort. Traditional lands were taken and redistributed to Japanese farmers with local farmers relocated and forced into collective farming units over smaller areas of land.

See also:


Hsinking Railway Station

Manchukuo built an efficient and massive railway system that still functions well today.


Manchukuo Imperial Army

The Manchukuo Imperial Army was the armed force of Manchukuo.

Cavalry of the Manchukuo Imperial Army.

Manchukuo Imperial Guards

The Manchukuo Imperial Guards was the elite unit of the Manchukuo armed forces created in 1933. It was charged with the protection of the Kangde Emperor Puyi, and senior members of the Manchukuo civil government. Its headquarters was in the capital of Hsinking, near the Imperial Palace in the center of the city.

Manchukuo Imperial Navy

The Manchukuo Imperial Navy (Manshu Teikoku Kaigun) was the navy of the Japanese state of Manchukuo. As Manchukuo was a largely land-locked state, the leadership of the Japanese Kwantung Army regarded the development of a navy to have a very low military priority, although it was politically desirable to create at least a nominal force as a symbol of the legitimacy of the new regime.

Manchukuo Imperial Air Force

The Manchukuo Imperial Air Force (Dai Manshū Teikoku Kūgun) was established in February 1937, initially with 30 men selected from the Manchukuo Imperial Army and trained at the Japanese Kwantung Army aircraft arsenal in Harbin. The official air force's predecessor was the Manchukuo Air Transport Company (later re-named the Manchukuo National Airways) a paramilitary airline formed in 1931, which undertook transport and reconnaissance missions for the Japanese military.

War crimes in Manchukuo

According to a joint study of historians Zhifen Ju, Mitsuyochi Himeta, Toru Kubo and Mark Peattie, more than 10 million Chinese civilians were mobilized by the Shōwa period army for slave work in Manchukuo under the supervision of the Kōa-in.

The Chinese slave laborers often suffered illness due to high-intensity manual labor. Some badly ill workers were directly pushed into mass graves in order to avoid the medical expenditure and the world's most serious mine disaster, at Benxihu Colliery, happened in Manchukuo.

Bacteriological weapons were experimented on humans by the infamous unit 731 located near Harbin in Beinyinhe from 1932 to 1936 and to Pingfan until 1945. Victims, mostly Chinese, Russians and Koreans, were subjected to vivisection, sometimes without anesthesia.

Drug trafficking

Poppy harvest in Manchukuo
In 2007, an article by Reiji Yoshida in the Japan Times argued that the Japanese investments were partly financed by selling drugs. According to the article, a document found by Yoshida shows that the Kōa-in was directly implicated in providing funds to drug dealers in China for the benefit of the puppet governments of Manchukuo, Nanjing and Mongolia. This document corroborates evidence analyzed earlier by the Tokyo tribunal which stated that


Manchukuo developed an efficient public education system. The government established many schools and technical colleges, 12,000 primary schools in Manchukuo, 200 middle schools, 140 normal schools (for preparing teachers), and 50 technical and professional schools. In total the system had 600,000 children and young pupils and 25,000 teachers. There were 1,600 private schools (with Japanese permits), 150 missionary schools and in Harbin 25 Russian schools. Local Chinese children and Japanese children usually attended different schools, and the ones who did attend the same school were segregated racially, with the Japanese students assigned to better-equipped classes.

Confucius's teachings also played an important role in Manchukuo's public school education. In rural areas, students were trained to practice modern agricultural techniques to improve production. Education focused on practical work training for boys and domestic work for girls, all based on adherence to the "Kingly Way" and stressing loyalty to the Emperor. The regime used numerous festivals, sport events, and ceremonies to foster loyalty of citizens. Eventually, Japanese became the official language in addition to the Chinese language taught in Manchukuo schools.

Stamps and postal history

Manchukuo issued its first postage stamps on 28 July 1932. A number of denominations existed, with two designs: the pagoda at Liaoyangmarker and a portrait of Puyi. Originally the inscription read (in Chinese) "Manchu State Postal Administration"; in 1934, a new issue read "Manchu Empire Postal Administration". An orchid crest design appeared in 1935, and a design featuring the Sacred White Mountains in 1936.

1936 also saw a new regular series featuring various scenes and surmounted by the orchid crest. Between 1937 and 1945, the government issued a variety of commemoratives: for anniversaries of its own existence, to note the passing of new laws, and to honor Japan in various ways, for instance, on the 2600th anniversary of the Japanese Empire in 1940. The last issue of Manchukuo came on 2 May 1945, commemorating the 10th anniversary of an edict.

After the dissolution of the government, successor postal authorities locally handstamped many of the remaining stamp stocks with "Republic of China" in Chinese and so forth. In addition, the Port Arthurmarker and Dairen Postal Administration overprinted many Manchukuo stamps between 1946 and 1949.

Manchukuo 1932–1945
Personal Names Period of Reigns era names (年號) and their corresponding range of years
All given names in 'bold.
Aixinjueluo Puyi 愛新覺羅溥儀 Àixīnjuéluó Pǔyì March 1932–August 1945 Datong (大同 Dàtóng) 1932–1934

Kangde (康德 Kāngdé) 1934–1945

In popular culture

The 1987 film of Bernardo Bertolucci, The Last Emperor, made a controversial portrait of Manchukuo through the memories of Emperor Puyi, during his days as political prisoner in Communist Chinamarker.


Main Article: National Anthem of Manchukuo

1933 Anthem
Traditional Chinese Pinyin English translation
天地內 有了新滿洲 Tiān dì nèi, yǒu liǎo xīn mǎnzhōu (Now) there is the new Manchuria on Earth,
新滿洲 便是新天地 Xīn mǎnzhōu, biàn shì xīn tiān dì and the new Manchuria is our new land.
頂天立地 無苦無憂 造成我國家 Dǐng tiān lì dì, wú kǔ wú yōu, zào chéng wǒ guójiā Let us make our country to be upright and free of sadness,
只有親愛竝無怨仇 Zhǐ yǒu qīn'ài bìng wú yuànchóu with only love and no hate.
人民三千萬 人民三千萬 Rénmín sān qiān wàn, rénmín sān qiān wàn Thirty million people, thirty million people,
縱加十倍也得自由 Zòng jiā shí bèi yě dé zìyóu at ten times more we should still be free.
重仁義 尚禮讓 使我身修 Zhòng rényì, shàng lǐràng, shǐ wǒ shēn xiū, With virtue and li, rectified am I;
家已齊 國已治 此外何求? Jiā yǐ qí, guó yǐ zhì, cǐwài hé qiú? with family in order and with the state well-ruled, there are nothing I want.
近之則與世界同化 Jìn zhī, zé yǔ shìjiè tónghuà For now, may we assimilate with the world;
遠之則與天地同流 Yuǎn zhī, zé yǔ tiāndì tóng liú for the future, may we follow the ways of the Heaven and Earth.

1942 Anthem
Traditional Chinese Pinyin English translation
神光開宇宙 表裏山河壯皇猷 Shén guāng kāi yǔzhòu, biǎolǐ shānhé zhuàng huáng yóu With the Universe created in God's Light, the vast land strengthens the Emperor's rule;
帝德之隆 巍巍蕩蕩莫與儔 Dì'dé zhī lóng wēiwēi dàngdàng mò yǔ chóu So full is His virtue, so wide that it is beyond compare
永受天祐兮 萬壽無疆薄海謳 Yǒng shòu tiān yòu xī, wànshòuwújiāng bó hǎi xú May He always receive divine guidance, with his years surpassing the sea;
仰贊天業兮 輝煌日月侔 Yǎng zàn tiān yè xī, huīhuáng rì yuè móu [Let us] worship the divine work, its glory equals the sun and moon.
Japanese Hepburn romanization English translation
大御光 天地に充ち Ohomi-hikari ametsuchi ni michi Filling the world with Divine light,
帝徳は 隆く 崇し Teitoku wa takaku tafutoshi The Emperor's virtue is noble and worshipped.
豊栄の 万寿ことほぎ Toyosaka no banju kotohogi Let us salute him with long life and prosperity
天つ御業 仰ぎまつらむ Ametsumiwaza afugimatsuramu and we revere the Emperor's deeds

See also


  1. Encyclopædia Britannica article on Manchukuo
  2. Reginald Fleming Johnston, p. 438.
  3. Between World Wars
  4. [1]
  5. [2]
  6. Borisov, O. (1977). The Soviet Union and the Manchurian Revolutionary Base (1945-1949). Moscow, Progress Publishers.
  7. Columbia Encyclopedia article on Manchukuo
  8. Doak, Kevin Michael. Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern The Journal of Japanese Studies - Volume 30, Number 2, Summer 2004, pp. 502-507. ISSN: 0095-6848.
  9. Zhifen Ju, Japan's atrocities of conscripting and abusing north China draftees after the outbreak of the Pacific war, 2002.
  11. Japan profited as opium dealer wartime China,
  12. Japan Focus.

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