The political and cultural upheavals that beset China after the late nineteenth century called into question all assumptions on what it meant to be Chinese. Issues ranging from the cultural nature of 'Chineseness' to the national political framework, and from China's place in the world to the position of regions within the nation, were opened to discussion and debate. By the 1930s, Japanese encroachment in the north was perceived by Chinese nationalists as the greatest challenge yet seen to China's unity, independence and sense of nationhood. Official Japanese and Chinese narratives of the autonomy movement predictably differed in their explanations of the movement's origins and development, orthodox Chinese sources attributing the movement to Japanese intervention in North China, and Japanese sources treating pro-autonomy agitation as the product of Chinese domestic politics. A comparison of the accounts produced by Japanese and Chinese actors and sympathetic observers suggests a more complex relationship between Chinese and Japanese intentions and ambitions in the north.