WHEN WE WERE FIRST IN PORT ARTHUR, CHENG HSIAO-HSU had negotiated with Honjo the conditions under which I would take office as Chief Executive and the provisions for his own status as Prime Minister. This understanding was not reported to me until the eve of Honjo’s departure from Manchukuo. On August 18, 1932, Cheng came to my office with a heap of documents. “This,” he explained, “is an agreement that your humble servant has made with General Honjo. I request Your Majesty to approve.” As soon as I saw what it was I was furious.
“Who asked you to negotiate this agreement?” I asked.
“These are all conditions that Itagaki stipulated in Port Arthur,” he replied with considerable formality. “Itagaki informed Your Majesty of them a long time ago.”
“Nonsense! I never heard him talk about them. And even if he had, you should have told me before you signed.”
“I did this on Itagaki’s instructions. He was afraid that since your other advisers did not really understand the true situation, it would only add to your troubles if they found out.”
“Just who is in charge here—you or me?”
“Your obedient servant would not dare to presume prerogatives. This agreement is actually just a temporary convenience. We can still negotiate other treaties stipulating a time limit, after which we may resume all privileges and powers.”
What Cheng said was in fact true. All the privileges demanded by Japan in the agreement were already in their hands. The major items of the agreement stipulated that Manchukuo’s national defense and security would be entrusted entirely to Japan, that Japan controlled Manchukuo’s railroads, harbors, water routes, air routes, and could carry out future constructions and additions; that supplies needed by the Japanese Army would be supplied by Manchukuo, that Japan had the authority to develop Manchukuo’s mines and natural resources and that Japanese nationals could be employed as Manchukuo government officials. Also Japanese had the right to immigrate to Manchukuo. Finally it was stipulated that the agreement would become a basis for a formal treaty between the two countries.
Since all the provisions were an accomplished fact, I signed the agreement and Cheng Hsiao-hsu took it away with him. A short time later Hu Sze-yuan entered. I told him about the agreement and Hu was furious. “Cheng Hsiao-hsu is really a disgrace,” he said. “Chen Pao-shen always claimed that Cheng is accustomed to be generous with others’ belongings and now he has dared to take it on himself to do this.”
“Well, now the wood had already been made into a boat,” I said despondently, “there is nothing we can do. At any event, let’s wait for the latest news from Tokyo and see. After all, there is really nothing else I can do.”
Several days previously we had learned that Honjo, as Commander in Chief of the Kwantung Army, was going to be replaced and that Japan was going to recognize Manchukuo officially. Hu Sze-yuan attached special importance to this development and felt that when Japan changed the commander of the Kwantung Army there might be a change in attitude and that we should take this opportunity to send people to Japan to support our point of view. He argued that we would have to give Japan some advantages such as mines, railroads, natural resources and even national defense, but the power of appointment and dismissal should be retained by me.
I adopted his proposal and sent the lawyer who had handled my divorce case and a Taiwanese recommended by Hu Sze-yuan to lobby for us in Tokyo. After a couple of days Hu reported good news from Tokyo. According to our negotiators, the elder statesmen and some people in the Army Ministry were quite sympathetic toward me and were not satisfied with the attitude taken by Honjo. I therefore decided that as soon as a new commander of the Kwantung Army arrived in Manchukuo I would personally take up my demands. Hu Sze-yuan urged me to insist on the removal of Cheng Hsiao-hsu as Prime Minister because of his disgraceful generosity to the Japanese.
Nobuyoshi Muto, the new commander of the Kwantung Army, arrived in Changchun in September and on the 15th he and Cheng Hsiao-hsu signed the Japan-Manchukuo Protocol, the official public treaty derived from the secret agreement.
After we had drunk champagne following the ceremony, I was impatient to have a personal discussion with Muto. I was confident about the outcome because I had the secret reports from my emissaries in Japan which indicated that Muto was sympathetic to my problems and was willing to consider restoring my imperial title. Muto had come to Manchukuo with an illustrious army carrer behind him. During World War I he had led the Japanese forces that had occupied Siberia. He was a full general with three concurrent official positions—Commander of the Kwantung Army, Chief Executive of the Kwantung Bureau, and Ambassador to Manchukuo. Soon after his arrival, he was promoted to the rank of Marshal. He was in fact the true emperor of Manchukuo. The Japanese press referred to him as the “guardian deity of Manchuria,” and in my eyes this whitehaired old man of sixty-five seemed to have the powers of a god. When he bowed to me for the first time, with the greatest politeness, I immediately had the feeling that I was especially favored by the heavens. After I finished my talk, he replied very politely: “Regarding Your Excellency’s opinions, I will refer them to Japan for a thorough analysis.” When he left he took with him a memorandum drawn up by Hu Sze-yuan.
But I never received any word about the analysis. According to the routine that was established, I had three meetings each month with the Commander of the Kwantung Army, and after ten days, at the second meeting, I asked him about the result of his studies.
“Studies,” he replied. “Studies . . . studies . . . research . . . research?”
Each time he met me he was always very polite, bowed deeply, smiled and addressed me as “Your Excellency.” But he never mentioned the memorandum. If I touched on the subject he would shift the conversation to something else. After two or three of these incidents, I no longer had the courage to ask him about my demands. Whenever I met him, up to the time of his death in July, 1933, I could only discuss Buddhism, Confucianism and “friendly relationships,” never anything substantive.