Yearbook Japan, 2019, vol. 48, pp. 228–249

DOI: 10.24411/0235-8182-2019-10010

Japan’s Continental Policy as seen from France: “Manchurian Incident” and “lawyers’ duel”

V.E. Molodiakov

Abstract. This article analyzes a response of various French jurists to a new phase of Japanese expansion into China — occupation of Manchuria in Autumn 1931 known as “Manchurian Incident” and establishment of puppet-state Manchoukuo there. The League of Nations as well as governments of almost all Great Powers condemned Japan’s action as “agression” and violation of international law, but French intellectuals hotly discussed these events using Chinese arguments as well as Japanese ones. European center of Carnegie Foundation in Paris invited Jean Escarra (1885–1955), Professor of the Paris University, Faculty of Law, to give six public lectures on “The League of Nations and Sino-Japanese Conflict” (January 12 to February 16, 1933). Legal advisor to several Chinese national governments in 1921–1929 and one of the principal authors of Chinese Civil Code of 1929 Escarra defended Chinese position in the conflict but stated that he was acting not as a representative of the Chinese side but personally as an independent scholar commenting and analyzing events from the point of view of international law and not of any part in the conflict. Doctor of Law Jean Ray (1884–1943) presented Japanese arguments in the case. Ray served as Professor of French law in the Tokyo Imperial University (1916–1919), as legal advisor to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (1918–1924, 1927–1929) and of Japanese embassy in Paris (1924–1927, 1929–1943). Ray also gave six public lectures on “Position, Activities and Policy of Japan in Manchuria” (March 9 to May 4, 1933). Both jurists used historical facts but their legal interpretations differed drastically because of taken part — for example, was Manchuria an integral part of “China proper” or only one of its possessions. Also this article presents a forgotten study of A.R. Tullie “Manchuria and Sino-Japanese Conflict Ahead of the League of Nations” (1935) who obtained for it Doctor of Law degree from the Toulouse University, Faculty of Law. Having meticulously analyzed the two sides’ arguments from the point of view of international law Tullie concluded that the case for Japan is much stronger. A study of French opinion and response to Japanese continental policy will not only enrich our knowledge about the history of this period but also will help us to understand better its political philosophy as well as working of the propaganda and image-making systems.

Keywords: Japan, France, Manchuria, China, League of Nations, expansion, international law.

Author: Molodiakov Vassili E., LL.D. (Political Science), Ph.D. (History), Russian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Oriental Studies, Leading Researcher, Takushoku University, Research Institute for Global Japanese Studies, Professor. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Contents of the issue: Yearbook Japan, 2019, Vol. 48.