Biographies & Memoirs


Imperial Dreams

IN THE ORGANIZATIONAL STATUTE OF MANCHUKUO WERE 13 clauses dealing with the authority of the Chief Executive. Article 1 stated that “the Chief Executive controls Manchukuo.” Articles 2, 3 and 4 stipulated that I should direct the “legislative power,” administer the “executive power,” perform the “judicial power” and that I should have the right to issue “emergency decrees” which would have the effect of laws, to set up the “personnel system and appoint officials” and to be “Commander of the Army, Navy and Air forces.” I was also placed in control of “general and special problems, the commutation of punishment, the restoration of civil rights,” and so on. In fact, however, I didn’t even have the power to decide whether or not I could pass out of the door to go for a walk.

One day I decided to take a stroll to Tatung Park with my wife Wan Jung and two of my younger sisters. Soon after we entered the park, automobiles full of Japanese gendarmes and Chief Executive Mansion Police drove up and asked me to return. Later, the Japanese Advisor to the Chief Executive Mansion told me that in order to preserve my prestige and dignity, as well as for my safety, I could not go out in private, and from that time on, except for special arrangements made by the Kwantung Army, I never left the Executive Mansion.

After I had worked diligently for a few days I began to have doubts about my prestige and dignity. Although, on the surface, I seemed to be busy from morning to night seeing the new ministers and counselors of cabinet rank, they never talked business with me. Whenever I asked them about “official business” their replies were either to the effect that the problems already had been handled by the Deputy Minister or “we shall have to ask the Deputy Minister about that.” The Deputy Minister was always Japanese and he did not come to see me.

Hu Sze-yuan was the first to complain of this situation officially. He agreed with Cheng Hsiao-hsu that all authority in each ministry should belong to the Minister and that important affairs should be decided by the Chief and then handed down through the ministry for administration. The Deputy Minister, he maintained, should not be allowed to have the final say. Cheng replied that since we were using the cabinet system, all political affairs should be decided by the Council of State and each week the Prime Minister could take all important documents and cases passed on by the Council to the Chief Executive for approval. He claimed that this was the procedure followed in Japan. He agreed however, that the Deputy Ministers should not be all powerful and said that he planned to discuss this matter with the Commander of the Kwantung Army.

Just how Cheng negotiated the matter I was not told, but Hu Sze-yuan subsequently described to me an actual meeting of the State Council so that I could understand the relationship between the Minister and Deputy Minister. At this particular meeting there was a discussion of the salaries of the Ministers and Deputy Ministers. As usual, all the resolutions to be acted upon had been prepared and printed and distributed by the General Administrative Bureau of the Kwantung Army. In the past, the ministers, usually without any discussion, had indicated their approval. But in this case the ministers themselves gave serious thought to the proposal and opinions were expressed, indicating their dissatisfaction. The crucial point was that in the draft resolution it was stipulated that the Japanese officials’ salary scale would be 40 percent higher than the Manchukuo officials. The Minister of Finance argued that “since this is a very complex racial state all the races should be treated equally. Why should the Japanese receive special treatment,” he asked, “and why should they receive higher salaries?” This led to an extensive discussion and various opinions were expressed by the Manchukuo officials. The Director of the General Affairs Bureau then called in the Section Chief for Personnel who had drafted the resolution.

The Chief of Personnel said: “If one wishes to talk about equality one must find out if ability is or is not equal. Since the Japanese have greater ability, naturally their salaries should be higher. Besides, the Japanese standard of living is higher. They were born to eat white rice; they cannot live on sorghum like the people of Manchukuo.”

Upon hearing this, all the Ministers indicated their dissatisfaction and the meeting adjourned. The following day, when it was reconvened, the Japanese Bureau Director explained that he had analyzed the matter, and, with the approval of the Kwantung Army, all the ministerial salaries would be raised to the same level as the Deputy Ministers. But, since the Japanese were away from their homes and had come abroad to establish a Kingly Way Paradise for the Manchurian people, the Manchurians should gratefully give them a special living allowance. This decision was final and there could be no further discussion.

When the Ministers heard this, they realized it would do them no good to continue the argument, especially since their own salaries had been increased. But after this affair, the truth of the cabinet system and the Council of State was evident to everyone. All resolutions at the Council of State were already decisions passed on by the Deputy Minister’s Conference which was held regularly each Tuesday. But real power was in the hands of the Director of the General Affairs Administration Bureau of the Kwantung Army. Cheng and I were Prime Minister and Chief Executive in name only; the Cabinet officers were Ministers in name only; and the Council of State was a Council in name only.

All this was no secret to anyone, and I should have been awakened from my dream. But the courtiers around me kept reminding me that I was the most important man in Manchukuo. This made it hard for me to forget the rationalizations, formed in Tientsin in the Chang Garden, that “Japan, without me as Emperor, would not be capable of running Manchuria and would achieve nothing.”

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