Yaqin Li

Assistant Professor of History, Meredith College (NC)
Faculty Advisor: Susan Naquin
Title:  "Bandit Suppression" in Manchukuo (1932-1945)
Abstract:  Manchukuo was a state that was established by the Japanese military in Manchuria (Northeast China) in 1932 and collapsed in 1945 with the defeat of Japan. Immediately after its founding, the Japanese Kwantung Army, later joined by the Manchukuo Army, initiated a series of "bandit suppression" (tōbatsu; 討伐) campaigns to consolidate the new regime. This dissertation will focus on "bandit suppression" in Manchukuo as a means of illuminating the state's claims to legitimacy, its ability to mobilize at different levels, and the involvement of "bandit suppression" in other dimensions of state building. By examining how "bandit suppression" was perceived, represented, and practiced in the context of Manchukuo's state building, I will argue that the perception of the "bandit problem" and the practice of suppression campaigns in Manchukuo embodied the state's pursuit of legitimacy. Furthermore, the ideological, administrative, and legal construction of the state, as well the widespread mobilization of different groups of people in the "anti-bandit" campaigns also facilitated the state building process of Manchukuo. Through the lens of "bandit suppression," I will suggest that the crucial concern of the state was to obtain legitimacy as the foundation of governmental power. Confronted with domestic disorder and the influence of Chinese nationalism, for Manchukuo itself to gain recognition and legitimacy for its continued existence as a state, it had to create a consciousness of its right to govern and the recognition by the governed of that right. Besides, to obtain legitimacy and consolidate state authority also involved "the capacity of a political system to engender and maintain the belief that existing political institutions are the most appropriate and proper ones for the society." Therefore, the campaigns against "bandits" were often accompanied by the proclamation of the founding ideas of Manchukuo, including the principles of the “Kingly Way” (ōdō; 王道), "ethnic harmony," and bringing peace and order to the people. In this sense, "bandit suppression" embodied "a state historiographic discourse about order, ordering, justice, and freedom."