The Vagaries of the Sino-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact Negotiations Following the Manchurian Incident: Discord over the “Recognition” of Manchukuo
049 , 2015-09
This article focuses on negotiations conducted between the Republic of China and the Soviet Union during 1931-33 aiming at a non-aggression pact in the midst of an increasing military threat from Japan, an effort that eventually proved unsuccessful.The research to date on why the negotiations failed has pointed to 1) misgivings on the part of the Chinese out of fear of a negative reaction from the Japanese and 2) China’s frustration over the USSR’s decision to sell the Chinese Eastern Railway to the Japanese puppet state of “Manchukuo.” The findings reported in this article are intended to contribute to this research by suggesting a different set of Soviet and Chinese attitudes towards “Manchukuo” from what has been argued to date.It is well-known that the Soviet Union adopted an attitude of appeasement toward Japan in the midst of the shockwaves it experienced in the wake of the Manchurian Incident of September 1931. What is particularly telling about such an attitude is the USSR’s deep concern over the provocative actions taken by the Chinese Consul stationed in the city of Blagoveshchensk towards Japan and “Manchukuo,” resulting in efforts to ease the situation by demanding that the consul be recalled to “Manchukuo” and recognizing the establishment of a “Manchukuo” Consulate in that same city. Such a decision is worthy of note from the viewpoint of international law, since the act of allowing a foreign country that has not been officially recognized to set up a consulate within one’s territory constitutes “de facto recognition” In the case of the Soviet Union, this decision was made by Joseph Stalin, indicating the USSR’s supreme leader considered his country’s response to “Manchukuo” to have been a top priority issue.It was in December 1932 that the Chinese and the Soviets announced the renewal of diplomatic relations, immediately followed by the opening of talks aimed at the conclusion of a non-aggression pact. Then in May 1933 China proposed in its draft of the agreement, “Any situation arising from acts of aggression will not be recognized as de jure or de facto.” In other words, China was demanding that “Manchukuo” not be recognized by the parties to the agreement.In response, the Soviet Union struck the article concerning recognition from its draft proposal altogether and called for neutrality in the case of aggression by a third country. The reason for such a position lay in the fact that the USSR had already recognized “Manchukuo,” meaning that accepting the Chinese proposal would be like daring to take a risk for the sake of the ROC.Although China was clearly aiming at strengthening its diplomatic position though the negotiations conducted with the Soviet Union at that time, such an objective was nullified by the attitude taken by the USSR. Consequently, in November 1933 the decision was made by the Chinese to bring the talks to an unsuccessful conclusion.