On 1 October 1949, Mao Zedong declared the creation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The achievement of Mao Zedong as founding father of the PRC is, indeed, great. If we focus attention on this achievement alone, Mao Zedong can be described as “a man of great stature” who deserves to be respected.
It should be noted, however, that the PRC is a state that was ultimately created through victory in the Chinese Civil War between the Kuomintang (KMT) forces led by Chiang Kai-shek and forces loyal to the Communist Party of China (CPC) and is not by any means a state created by defeating the Japanese Army in the Sino-Japanese War.
The proof of this is that Japan announced defeat on 15 August 1945, but it was 1 October 1949 that the PRC was founded. During this four-year period, the KMT and the CPC waged a fierce civil war. Accordingly, the PRC’s claim that the PRC is a state created by defeating the invading Japanese army is factually incorrect. Also, the myth that CPC forces fought valiantly with the Japanese army during the Sino-Japanese War is untrue.
On the contrary, during the Sino-Japanese War, Mao Zedong concentrated his efforts on conspiring with the Japanese army to weaken the KMT forces. He planted communist spies such as Pan Hannian in the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s local agency Maison Iwai and sold KMT military intelligence obtained from the National Government in Chongqing through the KMT-CPC Cooperation to the Japanese at a high price, creating an environment in which it was easy for the Japanese military to deal blows to the KMT forces.
And that is not all.
Mao Zedong sent Communist spies to make direct contact with the Japanese army, even going as far as to propose a truce between the CPC forces and the Japanese army.
This paper compares and contrasts Japanese sources, such as Memories of Shanghai, the memoir of Iwai Eiichi, and Chinese sources to examine questions such as “what did Mao Zedong do during the Sino-Japanese War?” and “how did the CPC forces grow stronger?”
On this theme, Xie You-tian, who, after studying at the Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences, became a Visiting Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in the United States, wrote The Communist in China’s War Against Japan (1931–1945) (Mirror Books) in 2002, explaining how the Communists grew stronger and telling the hidden truth about China’s war against Japan. This book was written based on truly admirable detailed examination, but unfortunately there were no conclusive Japanese sources.
To fill in the gaps, I scraped together evidence that corresponds to primary Japanese sources as much as possible and corroborates the analysis of Xie You-tian. This resulted in the publication of my book Mao Zedong: The Man Who Conspired with the Japanese Army (Shincho Shinsho) in November 2015. Hearing about my book, a reporter from the UK’s BBC Zhongwen (Chinese) interviewed me and uploaded an article to the BBC Zhongwen website as a Christmas present on December 25. As a consequence, many Chinese people outside mainland China came to know about my book. I would like to give an outline of my book in this paper from the objective standpoint of “looking squarely at the history” of mankind.
Let us start by examining the spy correlation diagram entitled “Conspiracy between Communist Spies and the Japanese Army” shown below.
The left side of the correlation diagram shows the names of leading communist spies acting on the secret orders of Mao Zedong and the command structure, and the right side shows the names of Japanese organizations and individuals who were in contact with the Communist spies. To reiterate, the purpose of making contact was to sell military intelligence of the Chongqing National Government led by Chiang Kai-shek to the Japan side at a high price, to weaken the KTM forces under Chiang Kai-shek, making it easy for Mao Zedong to take power when the Sino-Japanese War ended. There is evidence that Mao Zedong maneuvered to ensure that the Sino-Japanese War dragged on to enable the CPC forces, which were so weak they bore no comparison to the KTM forces, to grow stronger, and there is even evidence that Mao Zedong proposed a partial truce between the Japanese Army and the CPC forces.
In 1939, Mao Zedong planted a Communist spy called Pan Hannian in Maison Iwai, a local agency of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Shanghai to get close to Iwai Eiichi (then Vice Consul in Shanghai). Pan Hannian was a professional spy from the CPC Central Intelligence Group’s Secret Service (Spy) Division. He had received training at Comintern headquarters in Moscow. The spy of the century Yuan Shu, known as the “five spy,” had penetrated Maison Iwai as a Communist spy earlier on.
Pan Hannian asked Yuan Shu for a meeting with Iwai Eiichi. He subsequently continued providing military intelligence about the KMT forces to the Japanese. In return, Pan Hannian received a large fee for providing intelligence from Iwai. The amount received each month was equivalent to five times a policeman’s annual salary at the time (2000 Hong Kong Yuan). Iwai Eiichi paid Pan Hannian from secret funds of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Japan was at war with the National Government of the “Republic of China” led by Chiang Kai-shek, which had moved the capital to Chongqing from Nanjing. If Japan could obtain military intelligence about the national government, it could turn the Sino-Japanese War in its favor.
Pan Hannian was privy to KMT military intelligence because the Xi’an Incident instigated by Zhang Xueliang in December 1936 had led to the Second KMT-CPC Cooperation (the KMT and the CPC cooperating in the fight against Japanese). Without the KMT-CPC cooperation, the CPC forces would have been crushed and it was, therefore, Comintern that ordered the CPC to form a united front with the KMT.
This was because, in the 1930s, the National Government had conducted a huge clean-up operation to wipe out the CPC forces that planned to create a “state” called the Chinese Soviet Republic under the orders of Comintern inside the “Republic of China.” Consequently, between 1934 and 1936, Mao Zedong and his supporters made a retreat called the Long March, traversing some 12,500 km on foot, while fighting with the KMT forces. On finally reaching Yan’an, the First Red Army led by Mao Zedong and his supporters had dwindled from 100,000 soldiers to several thousand soldiers (according to Mao Zedong on Diplomacy, p.535, the army shrank from 300,000 soldiers to just over 20,000 soldiers). Since Chiang Kai-shek still had no intention of abandoning his cleanup operation, in the Xi’an Incident, Chiang Kai-shek was arrested in order to force him to enter into a truce with the CPC and form a united front against Japan.
However, Mao Zedong outwardly pretended to cooperate with Chiang Kai-shek and betrayed him behind his back. Since Zhou Enlai, Mao Zedong’s right-hand man (later Premier of the People’s Republic of China), was stationed in Chongqing due to the KMT-CPC Cooperation, it was actually easy to obtain military intelligence about KMT forces.
Around the time Pan Hannian was running around being a spy in Shanghai, one of the offices of the CPC Secret Service (underground organization) was in Hong Kong. This was where Pan Hannian and other Communist spies such as Liao Chengzhi, who likewise received orders from Mao Zedong, worked and collaborated with Koizumi Seiichi (Secret Service) from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stationed at the Consulate-General of Japan in Hong Kong, creating a sort of CPC-Japanese army collaborative intelligence agency.
Having developed a taste for conspiring with Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mao Zedong issued a secret order to Pan Hannian, telling him to negotiate directly with the Japanese army this time.
One day, Iwai received a request from Pan Hannian, who said that “Actually, we would like to request a truce between the Japanese army and the CPC forces in Northern China.” This is described in Memories of Shanghai (published by Kaiso no Shanhai Publication Committee, 1983), the memoir written by Iwai Eiichi himself, as the “surprise” that left the biggest impression on Iwai.
Following Pan Hannian’s request, Iwai introduced Pan Hannian to Colonel Kagesa Sadaaki (later Lieutenant General) who was Imperial Japanese Army General Staff and in charge of the “Mei Organ.” Through Iwai’s mediation, Pan Hannian went to the Japanese army’s top military advisors’ residence in Nanjing, and met Colonel Kagesa, and was then introduced by Colonel Kagesa to Wang Jingwei, head of the KTM Nanjing Government, which was Japan’s puppet government. The regime of Wang Jingwei was supported behind the scenes by many Japanese soldiers acting as military advisors, and Pan Hannian also met with Colonel Tokou and proposed peace talks between the CPC forces and the Japanese army.
At the time of the First KMT-CPC Cooperation (1924–1927), Mao Zedong was, in fact, well-liked by Sun Yat-sen and Wang Jingwei and was like a brother to Wang Jingwei. There was also a time when Wang Jingwei was President of the National Government and Mao Zedong worked as Director of the National Government’s Propaganda Department. And so Mao Zedong brought Pan Hannian into contact with the Wang Jingwei Government which had broken with Chiang Kai-shek and established the Nanjing National Government under the control of the Japanese Army, and sought to conspire in various ways.
Number 2 in the Wang Jingwei regime was an important figure called Zhou Fohai and under him was Li Shiqun, who controlled No.76 Secret Service. Pan Hannian not only met with Wang Jingwei and Li Shiqun but also came into contact with Zhou Fohai, Number 2 in the Wang Jingwei regime. This is mentioned in Zhou Fohai’s diary and in the records of Zhou Fohai’s son.
Ye Jianying (later marshal of the People’s Republic of China; one of the founders of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army) planted female writer Guan Lu in Agency No. 76 as Li Shiqun’s secretary, and Rao Shushi (at the time, standing Deputy General Secretary of the CPC Central China Army Branch, etc.) ordered Pan Hannian and Yang Fan (then General Secretary of the Enemy Work Department of the CPC Central China Bureau) to make contact with the Japanese army as Communist spies. These were all Mao Zedong’s secret orders, intended to turn the war against KTM forces in Chongqing in the favor of the CPC forces. The fight with the Japanese army was left to the KTM forces led by Chiang Kai-shek and, in the meantime, the Communist forces grew stronger. This was Mao Zedong’s strategy.
It would take time for the CPC to grow stronger. It was thus necessary to drag the Sino-Japanese War out as long as possible to weaken the KMT forces and allow the CPC forces the time to grow strong enough to beat the KTM forces. Consequently, Mao Zedong ordered Pan Hannian to prevent the Japanese military (the Imperial Japanese Army General Staff Office and the Army Ministry of Japan) from secretly negotiating with the Chongqing Government’s Chiang Kai-shek and trying to hold peace talks.
Pan Hannian secretly reported to Iwai Eiichi that Soong Tse-liang (younger brother of Soong Tse-ven, who was the sibling of Madame Chiang Kai-shek, Soong May-ling), who was acting as representative of the Chongqing Government, was a “fake.” Since Iwai believed Pan Hannian implicitly, he reported this intelligence to Ambassador Abe in Shanghai, and Ambassador Abe immediately conveyed this intelligence to Chief of Staff Itagaki. These events are recorded at great length in Memories of Shanghai. In the end, after many twists and turns, the peace efforts ended in failure.
Meanwhile, on p.384 of The War of Pacification in North China Vol. 1 (Asagumo Shimbunsha Inc.) edited by the Office of War History in the National Institute for Defense Studies of the Ministry of Defense Institute in 1968, there is a section on KTM-CPC relations written by the staff section of the Japanese North China Area Army dated 1 October 1 1940, and the information contained in this section is summarized below.
The CPC’s ultimate goal is simply to overthrow the Chongqing Government and seize control of the whole of China itself. However, the CPC is still weak at present and is not strong enough to replace the KMT and take power. And so the mission of the CPC forces for the time being is to make Japan and the Chongqing Government fight each other as long as possible and build up their own strength in the meantime. This is why, outwardly, they look like they are obeying the Chongqing Government, believing that intensifying the opposition between the KTM and CPC forces is detrimental to the expansion of their own troops, when in actual fact they are moving to prevent Japan engaging in peace talks with the Chongqing Government. Because unless the Japanese Army and the Chongqing Government keep on fighting as long as possible, the CPC forces will not have the time they need to grow stronger.
It is interesting that this interpretation of the true state of the CPC forces by the Japanese army at the time based on the activities of the Communist spies is recorded without ulterior motive.
Mao Zedong was an extraordinary strategist. As planned, he succeeded in winning the civil war between the CPC and KMT that erupted after Japan’s defeat and drove the KMT forces led by Chiang Kai-shek to flee to Taiwan. As a result, Mao Zedong declared the creation of present-day China, in other words, the People’s Republic of China, on 1 October 1949.
In 1955, after the creation of the People’s Republic of China, Mao Zedong himself personally made the decision to round up and imprison as many as 1,000 people who had engaged in espionage under his secret orders, including Rao Shushi, Pan Hannian and Yang Fan. This was because the people who had actually worked for Mao Zedong knew too much about his strategy of “conspiring with the Japanese army.”
Pan Hannian, for example, was silenced as a traitor to his country and died in prison in 1977. Although the Cultural Revolution ended with the death of Mao Zedong in 1976, Pan Hannian had been imprisoned on the personal orders of Mao Zedong and so his honor could not really be restored. It was five years after his death in 1982 that Pan Hannian’s honor was finally restored.
Many friends of Pan Hannian then began to gather information about him to clear his name. And they all began to write that Pan Hannian had acted for the CPC on the orders of Mao Zedong. Such books include Pan Hannian the Intelligence Career (Author: Qi Yin, People’s Publishing House, 1996; “Intelligence” meaning espionage), and Biography of Pan Hannian (Author: Qi Yin, Chinese People’s Public Security University Press, 1997).
It should be noted that the plot in all the books is that both Pan Hannian and Yuan Shu engaged in espionage, drawing out information about the Japanese army from the Japanese for the CPC forces to use to their advantage in their fight against the Japanese army, and led the CPC forces to victory (the CPC forces drove the Japanese army to defeat).
However, when writing Mao Zedong: the Man who Conspired with the Japanese Army, I showed by comparing Japanese and Chinese sources against each other that exactly the opposite was true. This was because I was able to get hold of conclusive proof in Japanese and other sources such as Memories of Shanghai. While there has previously been analysis based solely on Chinese sources, I take pride in the fact that this may be the first attempt at an analysis proving Communist espionage during the Sino-Japanese War by comparing Chinese sources against Japanese evidence.
To begin with, if the role of the Communist spies was to obtain intelligence about the Japanese army and pass this to Mao Zedong and his supporters (in other words, if they made contact with Iwai Eiichi to obtain intelligence), it would obviously be strange for them to receive an enormous fee for providing intelligence from the Japanese. It doesn’t add up.
And if Pan Hannian and Yuan Shu engaged in espionage to obtain intelligence about the Japanese army, there was surely no need at all for Mao Zedong to sentence Pan Hannian and the other spies to life imprisonment as men who knew too much.
Liao Chengzhi, Ye Jianying and Zhou Enlai were the only Communist spies not to be imprisoned. Liao Cheng-zhi spoke Japanese so well that even a Japanese would have been put to shame and so he could be used as an interpreter. Later, together with Takasaki Tatsunosuke, Liao Cheng-zhi was also involved in trade between Japan and China under the name LT Trading (using the initials of the two men). Ye Jianying knew how to keep secrets and Mao Zedong would also struggle if all the military leaders he could trust disappeared. Zhou Enlai was exceptional at getting things done and so was essential as Mao Zedong’s right-hand man. He was also better at keeping secrets than anyone else, of course. Because of this, these men survived.
Mao Zedong’s strategy was ultimately to weaken the KMT forces led by his political opponent Chiang Kai-shek, in order to take power. To this end, he joined forces with anyone, be it the Japanese army or Wang Jingwei’s puppet government. The whole point was for Mao Zedong to take power. He did anything to achieve that goal. That’s all there was to it.
So, the author does not presume that Mao Zedong did something wrong or evil. Neither does the author intend to judge what Mao did, rather believing that Mao was a “great person” who possessed great charisma and excellent sense in all strategies including propaganda.
After the creation of the PRC, Mao Zedong frequently recruited generals from the former Imperial Japanese Army. The reason was that these generals did, in fact, collaborate as military advisors, for example, Okamura Yasuji from the former Japanese Imperial Army (former general, former commander-in-chief of the China Expeditionary Army) established the Paidan (White Team) to realize the return to mainland China of Chiang Kai-shek who had fled to Taiwan. And so Mao Zedong tried to recruit Okamura to draw him over to his own side at any cost, but Okamura refused. And so Endo Saburo (former Lieutenant General) was singled out. It was in 1956, the year after Pan Hannian was imprisoned, that Mao Zedong met with Endo Saburo. Those who knew directly that Mao Zedong had conspired with the Japanese army were no longer around.
When Mao Zedong met former members of the Imperial Japanese Army or leftwing Japanese, he said over and over again in many different ways that he was grateful to the Imperial Japanese Army (see Mao Zedong on Diplomacy for further details).
In China, these words were interpreted in a far-fetched manner as Mao Zedong’s unique sense of humor but it was nothing of the sort. Mao Zedong was sincerely grateful for the Imperial Japanese Army’s China offensive. If the Imperial Japanese Army had not launched an offensive on China, the CPC forces would never have grown stronger and the PRC would not have been created.
It is worth noting that when Mao Zedong talked to Japanese (including former members of the Imperial Japanese Army) who visited China, he did not use the word “invasion of China” but carefully selected the word “offensive.”
With the creation of the PRC on 1 October 1949, the Government Administration Council of the Central People’s Government (now the State Council) decided on 23 December 1949 to make August 15 a day for commemorating victory in the war against Japan (Sino-Japanese War). On 13 August 1951, it was decided in writing to make September 3 a day of commemoration. This was just a decision with no action, and Mao Zedong merely sent a congratulatory telegram to Stalin in the Soviet Union on September 2. This is because the PRC is a state created by defeating the KMT forces in the civil war between the KMT and the CPC after the Sino-Japanese War had ended and not a state created by defeating the Japanese army.
Also according to The Life of Mao Zedong (Party Literature Research Center of the CPC Central Committee), not once in his lifetime did Mao Zedong hold any kind of event to celebrate victory in the war against Japan. This is because Mao Zedong was fully aware that the PRC is not a state that was created by defeating the Japanese Army. If Mao Zedong were to celebrate victory over Japan day this would be tantamount to praising the KMT.
While Mao Zedong was alive, he was loath to mention the Nanjing Incident (Nanjing Massacre) and also made no attempt to include it in textbooks. This is because around 13 December 1937 when the Nanjing Massacre occurred, the CPC forces led by Mao Zedong and his supporters had fled so deep into the mountains that they could not be attacked by the Japanese army. That was the mountainous region of Yan’an in Shaanxi province. It was the KMT forces led by Chiang Kai-shek who fought on the frontline in Nanjing.
Zhang Guotao, Chairman of the Military Commission of the Fourth Red Army, who was in Yan’an by 4 April 1938, recorded in his memoir that when they first heard about the Lugouqiao (Lugou Bridge) Incident (incident that marked the start of the Sino-Japanese war) on 7 July 1937, Mao Zedong and his supporters were pleased, saying that “this would weaken the KMT forces.”
Also in The Life of Mao Zedong edited by the Party Literature Research Center of the CPC Central Committee, there are just four Chinese characters that translate as the “fall of Nanjing” in the section for the day on which the Nanjing Incident occurred. The Life of Mao Zedong is a huge work covering Mao Zedong’s entire life, organized into 9 volumes and more than 6,000 pages in total, and yet, throughout the whole work, the words “Nanjing Massacre” do not appear even once. This is because it was feared that any mention of the Nanjing Massacre would risk exposing the fact that the CPC forces did not properly fight against the Japanese army. Accordingly, as long as Mao Zedong was alive, the Nanjing Massacre was basically not mentioned in any school text books.
As explained above, as long as we align our sights with the fact that Mao Zedong conspired with the Japanese army, the grounds for Mao Zedong’s “mysterious words and deeds” all start to become clear.
Today, China is always vehemently demanding that Japan squarely face its history, causing deterioration in Sino-Japanese relations.
Not a single Japanese believes that the war waged by Japan was a good war, the Japanese people repeatedly reflect upon the war, and the Japanese Government and government personnel have apologized almost thirty times before to the Chinese Government.
Nonetheless, China continues to thrust the history card at Japan and if they exploit this for political gain, Japanese sentiment towards the Chinese people will worsen and Sino-Japanese relations will deteriorate.
When China came up with the reform and opening-up policy after the Cultural Revolution, many Japanese were sincerely pleased and supported China, and made efforts to cooperate with China’s economic development at any cost.
Japan was the first country in the world to lift the economic sanctions imposed on China by Western nations after the Tian’anmen Incident on 4 June 1989.
However, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the normalization of diplomatic ties between China and Japan (1972) became less important, and China’s economy began to develop, China’s friendly stance towards Japan began to change, and China began to demand strongly that Japan squarely face its history. As a result, the feelings of the Japanese public towards China worsened, and unless this changes, the Japanese will not leave a favorable impression on their children’s children.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s death and it also marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution.
If Mao Zedong truly created the PRC for the people of China or for the innocent people, why after the creation of the PRC when peace was finally restored and the war had ended did he drive so many innocent people to their deaths?
Was this not because Mao Zedong’s founding philosophy boiled down to ensuring that he himself always reigned supreme?
If he acted “for the people,” surely he would not have been able to drive so many innocent people to their death after the creation of the PRC. And during the Sino-Japanese War, he would not have been capable of “acts of treachery against the people,” leading to the sacrifice of even more soldiers belonging to the KMT forces who were also “Chinese people.”
In 1948, my family died of starvation in the siege of Changchun where we lived during the civil war between the KMT and the CPC. At the time, Changchun was enclosed within two lots of barbed wire and I had the experience of sleeping on starved corpses in the void (Qia-zi) that I crossed to escape from Changchun and losing my memory. I also have scars from the bullets of the guns of the Eighth Route Army on my arms. Several hundreds of thousands of people died in Changchun during the siege (all Chinese people except for twenty or thirty Japanese).
Nonetheless I lived my life telling myself that “This is a revolutionary war for a bright, free future. To be sacrificed for this is an honor and, in the words of Mao Zedong, we will endure it so that more Chinese people can live in freedom and be happy.”
However, I waited for tens of years, and have not been allowed to publish my book recording the facts of Qia-zi in mainland China and freedom of speech is being restricted more and more. The words Mao Zedong said to the Chinese people at the time of the civil war between the KTM and the CPC, telling them that this is for a bright, free future have also turned out to be a betrayal.
If it is truly about the people, China should have the courage to squarely face the facts, for all those who sacrificed their lives.
I believe that now is the time for Japan and China to build truly amicable relations based on the truth. By squarely facing its history, China will be in no way showing Japan’s acts of war in a positive light. That kind of war must never happen again. It is my hope that, on this premise, China squarely faces the evident truth about Mao Zedong and the international community comes to a common understanding.
Translated from an original article in Japanese written for Discuss Japan. [10 April 2016]