Asia for the Asians
China in the Lives of Five Meiji Japanese
Paula S. Harrell
2012, 420 pages
ISBN 978-1-937385-20-0 Paper $35.00
ISBN 978-1-937385-21-7 Cloth $65.00
"Dr. Paula Harrell's remarkable book is an account of a significant but almost totally untold story about late nineteenth and early twentieth century Sino-Japanese relations. Focusing on biographies of five Japanese who served as advisers or devoted themselves to China, she offers a vivid portrait of Japanese encounters with China, encounters that have reverberations up to the present day. her impeccable scholarship and her crystal-clear writing is inviting not only for scholars but also for the general educated reader. Dr. Harrell ought to be congratulated for this splendid achievement."
—Morris Rossabi, Distinguished Professor of History at the
City University of New York and
Adjunct Professor of Chinese and Mongol History at Columbia University
"This is a study of five prominent Japanese all of whom had a special connection with China in the period between the Sino-Japanese war (1894) and the death of the Emperor Meiji (1912). It was a time when some Japanese, conscious of their country's rapid progress and reacting against the west, conceived a vision of Asia in which partnership with China would hold the key. Konoe Atsumaro was the ideological leader in cultivating good relations with Beijing, while three of the others served as 'top quality' teachers in China and one became a legal adviser to the Republican government. They each made a contribution which attracted the goodwill of some Chinese and also benefited Japan's image.
"Between them they had a considerable impact on Chinese leaders and Chinese students, many of whom had gone to colleges in Japan for training. This was during the short-lived period when China, molested by European powers, especially Russia, was 'tilting towards Japan' as a possible protector.
"Using a wide range of Japanese and Chinese materials, Dr Harrell , already an expert in this phase of Sino-Japanese relations, has written an authoritative and thought-provoking study."
—Ian Nish, Emeritus Professor of International History,
London School of Economics and Political Science
"A fascinating work of outstanding scholarship, Asia for the Asians throws new light on China-Japan relations since the 1870s through its unique focus on the lives and experiences of five Japanese figures involved in China's various modernizing sectors. These very human stories make for absorbing reading. An absolutely ripping good tale!"
—Eiji Seki, Senior Diplomat, historian and writer,
Ambassador Seki's most recent book is Chiang Kai-shek and Japan
(2011, in Japanese)."
"Paula Harrell's new book takes us into the worlds of five Japanese from the latter half of the Meiji period whose lives were significantly influenced by their experiences in China and who in turn exerted a powerful influence on those sectors of Chinese society with which they interacted. It will be of equal importance to Chinese and Japanese historical studies. Inasmuch as these four men and one woman are scarcely known in the secondary literature, we owe Harrell a huge debt of gratitude for bringing their stories to life."
—Joshua A. Fogel, Canada Research Chair, York University
This book is a companion volume to the author's earlier study, Sowing the Seeds of Change: Chinese Students, Japanese Teachers, 1895-1905. The latter work focused on the idea and reality of Japan to the thousands of Chinese youths who studied there and the subsequent impact of their overseas experience on China's struggle to accommodate political change. Asia for the Asians shifts the focus from Chinese perspectives on Japan to Japanese perspectives on China.
Conventional scholarship reads the story of Japan's late-19th-early-20th century encounter with China backward through the lens of wartime, cherry picking evidence to develop a picture consistent with Japan's later acts of aggression. Using a wealth of resources, including diaries, newspaper accounts, and contemporary journals, Asia for the Asians dispenses with dominant narratives to explore the Meiji view of China, imagined, real and evolving, through the eyes of five people who actually lived and traveled in China and worked with the Chinese. The new picture that emerges, while highly complex, suggests that the potential for cooperation was stronger, the road to conflict less certain, and the responsibility for things gone wrong more difficult to assign than is usually assumed.
A Study of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University
Paula Harrell Georgetown University, is the author of Sowing the Seeds of Change: Chinese Students, Japanese Teachers, 1895-1905 (Stanford University Press, 1992).
"An important and thought-provoking contribution to our understanding of Sino-Japanese relations in the Meiji period, especially Japanese perceptions and thinking about the relationship. . . Harrell successfully makes the case for a greater appreciation of the diversity and sincerity of Japanese thinking on China, and this should not be obscured by the history of the
Second Sini-JapaneseWar . . . I was repeatedly impressed by just how fraught the Japanese engagement with China was . . . The narrative and the arguments are set in prose which should be accessible to a wide range of readers, including undergraduates.