chapter  8
23 Pages

THE TANAKA PERIOD, 1927-31

General Tanaka Giichi came to power as the head of a Seiyukai ministry on 20 April 1927. He became his own foreign minister and also took on the newlycreated office of colonial minister. His ministry only lasted two years and was to end in disaster. Because of the personal humiliation which he suffered, he was to die prematurely in September 1929. Yet Tanaka1s followers had established themselves so successfully in the army and government that his shadow fell across the Mukden incident and the catastrophic events that followed it. This chapter will deal with the China policy which Tanaka inherited from Shidehara, with Tanaka1s own China policy and with Shidehara1s policies after his return to power (1929-31) and will end with an assessment of the two •rivals1. (1)

Born in the heartland of the Choshu clan in 1863, Tanaka entered the army. After service in the China war, he went as attach^ to Russia for four years. Returning to join the general staff, he played a large part in military mobilization for the Russo-Japanese war and the political machinations which pushed the genro into declaring war. From this point onwards his career was that of an ambitious political soldier. For a while he acted as a conscientious brigade commander but by the time the crisis developed over increasing the size of the army in 1912 he was back in the general staff as a hard-liner. In 1915 he became a lieutenant-general and three years later he joined Hara's Cabinet as war minister, resigning in June 1921. He was already recognized as a top leader and, when Yamagata died in 1922, he had a strong claim to be regarded as the heir of the 1Choshu clan1. On 13 May 1925 Tanaka, who had

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hitherto looked askance at the activities of politicians, was chosen as chairman of the deeply divided Seiyu party and vowed his opposition to every Kenseikai policy, especially those of Shidehara. (2)

Tanaka was something of a conundrum. Though he had kept close to party politicians, he had little respect for them and the military did not respect him for such links. Yet he was every inch a political soldier; and his policies were in most cases army policies, such as the Siberian intervention. His position as foreign minister was even more anomalous. He had been influenced by his sojourn in Russia but largely in the sense that his Japanese nationalism had been accentuated by his experiences there. His other associations were his army ones with Germany. Tanaka had travelled abroad. He could hardly be regarded as an internationalist but he was not totally lacking in experience of America. In his attitudes, he was essentially a homespun Japanese cloth with a distinctive Japanese way of doing things and using men. Tanakafs premiership is reminiscent of that of General Terauchi (1916-18); he was to be a forerunner of the political generals of the thirties such as Hayashi and Tojo. He was essentially a successful military bureaucrat who differed from the others only in owing his support to his party affiliation.