The Mantetsu Employees' Association, founded in 1926 by a group of elite university-educated employees of the South Manchuria Railway Company, was an organization of unprecedented scope and vision which provided for the development of a limited form of self-government by the Japanese in the Kwantung Leasehold and Rail Zone during Japan's occupation of northeast China. Its founding principles resembled the ideological tenets of the metropole's movement of Taishō Democracy which had since the post-Russo-Japanese War energized supporters of widened popular access to the job of national governance. This paper traces how the Mantetsu Employees' Association reflected the political zeitgeist of post World War I metropolitan society whilst simultaneously developing in response to heightened Chinese nationalism in the northeast throughout the 1920s. It shows how the Association encompassed a wide range of employee ambitions—from increased involvement in imperial decision-making to labour advocacy on behalf of the Company's lowest-ranking Japanese workers to a critique of colonial policy as dictated by Tokyo's political parties. The paper introduces key Association players and their ideas as a means of questioning the nature of democracy in an imperial setting.
O’Dwyer, Emer. November 2013. “Mantetsu Democracy.” Modern Asian Studies 47(6): 1812-1844.
Cambridge University Press
Modern Asian Studies