Lifein Shanghai under Japanese Occupation
Lifein Shanghai under Japanese Occupation
Shanghaiis a Chinese town located in the east of China that was first a smallfishing village but later developed into China and Asia’s largestfinancial market. Its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and the EastChina Sea made it readily available from the outside world a factorthat further fueled its development faster than its mother countryChina. Shanghai’s development can be traced back to the Qingdynasty where it served China as its principal port. And during the90s Shanghai rose to become among Asia’s largest financial centers.In 1982, the British invaded Shanghai and forced the Chinese toimport the British opium from India. That’s when the first opiumwar was fought between 1839 and 1842 and finally ended when theTreaty of Nanjing was signed. Shanghai was opened for the Britishmerchants and consults, but finally, even American merchants andFrench traders started arriving in Shanghai. This paper will explorethe life in Shanghai under the Japanese occupation.
In1854, a group of the British merchants met and formed the ShanghaiMunicipal to overlook road repairs and collect taxes across the city.By 1880 the council had taken most of the city under its control.Thus it had the monopoly of controlling Shanghai since it had alreadybought most of its essential resources like electric supply, waterand also other infrastructures like roads. By the dawn of 1836Shanghai had grown to be among the world’s largest cities. It washome to people from both Europe, Russia and even the United States[ CITATION Nak13 l 2057 ].
Thecommunities started struggling for power and control of the city. Andin 28th January 1932, Japan bombed Shanghai with an aim to cool downstudents’ protests against Japanese occupation of Manchuria in 1937China lost to Japan army and Shanghai was taken by Japan. But until1942, japan had not occupied Shanghai full. “Until the eruption ofPacific War in December 1942, the city existed in a semi-occupiedcondition.” (Yeh, 1998)
AfterJapan had taken Shanghai, life changed drastically. The foreignconcessions remained intact for some time but later on the Japanesetook over their camps.
Tensionincreased within the city a factor that led to a wave of killing ofChinese officials who were working for the Japanese government. TheChinese resistance assassinated business people too. The Britishpeople slowly lost their power and privilege in Shanghai after theJapanese invasion.
Afterlooking at the brief history of Shanghai, we can now embark onanalyzing what life turned out to be like in Shanghai after theJapanese occupation. The effects of its takeover by the Japanese onthe Shanghai natives and the foreigners who had already taken root inShanghai as either business people or administrators
TheChinese people lost their social cohesion after the invasion by theJapanese. For instance, Shanghai was a city that had grown intoself-sufficiency and earned a lot of income to the centralgovernment. The facilities in Shanghai before the war gave everybodyin Shanghai a leaving. But after the war, most of the people whomanned the factories ran into exile maybe because of the harshJapanese rule. The young people mostly the students could not standit being under the Japanese as their rulers, and the older adultsalso couldn’t take their enemy. Thus most of the people run forrefuge in the neighboring countries. The factories, therefore,remained in ruins after the war. The Shanghai Russians are a goodexample of what happened in Shanghai after the Japanese invasion[CITATION Sug13 l 2057 ].
TheRussians played a major role in the development they industrializedShanghai. The also took the entertainment of the City almostsingle-handedly regardless of the discrimination they received fromthe other white communities who had already settled in Shanghai. ButAfter the Japanese invasion and peace were distracted in Shanghai,the Russian community could not still hold the positions they held inthe Shanghai economy. Most of them also fled to their mother countrysince by then Russia had stabilized and there was no more war.
TheJapanese soldiers continued their attacks in Shanghai and on 7th ofDecember 1941, the Pearl Harbor was attacked. The British warshipswere also subject to the attack by Japanese soldiers. By then theBritish and American military in Shanghai had been reduced to such alow level that they only had two gunboats. Even at full strength,they could not have been able to stand against the Japanese by then.The Japanese forces were holding a rich pool of weapons like theHIJMS Izumo. The British tried to fight back using their Paterel thatusually carried 55 crewmen and was armed with 3 AA guns and eightmachine guns, but they failed. Their crew was small even aftergetting a hand from the Chinese locals they could not manage even touse their weapons since most of them were radiomen and not gunners.
Peterelwas finally sunk by the Japanese and six of its crew died, but 12managed to survive and get to the Norwegian ship the SS Marizion. Theteam was held captives by the Japanese as POWs. They were subjectedto hostile conditions in the Japanese prisons and consequently someof them died from those harsh conditions[CITATION Sug13 l 2057 ].
Factoriesgrew in Shanghai under the Japanese occupation with a primaryobjective of manufacturing and supplying war materials. This rapidindustrialization of the Japanese-occupied Shanghai was because thewar created a ready market for the goods manufactured by the Japanesefactories and the availability of a vast supply of cheap labor fromthe Shanghai natives and refugees who were thirsty to earn a living. “Therefugee-swollen city offered both cheap labor and great demand.”(Yeh, 1998).The plants were mostly owned by the wealthy Japanesemerchants who invested in Shanghai but gave the natives theopportunity to run the plants. But still, every factory had aJapanese supervisor whose work was to ensure that the plants wererunning as per the will of the Japanese[ CITATION Gao13 l 2057 ].
TheJapanese benefited highly from those industries as the environmentand political situations in China provided humble markets for theirgoods. Otherwise, their aim was to compensate the losses theysuffered while at war with China. By 1937, most of the industries inShanghai were Japanese owned, and this gave the Japanese people morepower in Shanghai as they were turning to replace the British as theowners and controllers of Shanghai.
Lifeof the Chinese people who worked in the factories was not the same.There are those who were loyal to the Japanese rule. Such group ofindividuals grew very rich and grew their wealth so fast. Those whocollaborated with the Japanese were offered good jobs bin thefactories and in the Japanese headquarters in Shanghai. Thus theywere able to grow very rich and in a very short time. Also after theJapanese have occupied most of China’s ports, it was very hard forthem to sell their products to the outside world. Therefore, theChinese Natives who were collaborating with the Japanese used that asan opportunity to ferry products from the Mainland China to Shanghaito sell to the starving population in Shanghai. The collaboratorsalso received favors from the Japanese government like being allowedto own shops and Native bars in Shanghai. For example, Zhang, whoowns the cinema industry in Shanghai under the Japanese occupationbenefits a lot due to the state of the economy in Shanghai.“Following the commercial success of DiaoChan, Zhang securedsupport from the city’s financial circles and started recurring allthe creative talents remaining in Shanghai. He was able to sign, forexample, superstars Yuan Meiyun and Chen Yanyan.”(Yeh, 1998)
Theother group that never subscribed to the Japanese rule continuedsuffering and living in harsh conditions. And even if they wereoffered a job in the factories, they were given odd jobs and werepaid very little salaries that could not merge the rising cost ofliving in Shanghai[ CITATION Zha15 l 2057 ].
Becauseof the hardships faced by the poor people in Shanghai, they resolvedto ask assistance from the foreigners. Therefore because of theletters addressed to the foreign powers, international organizationsstarted getting in to give the Shanghai people the help they needed. They provided the Shanghai refugees with Food and other necessaryneeds they wanted. By 1929, fourteen agencies were distributing ricebut only two kitchens[ CITATION Jan12 l 2057 ].
TheZhabei federation at least eight thousand people daily in Shanghaiwhile the Tongren Guyuan benevolent hall served at least threethousand people. These organizations were always overwhelmed by thelarge numbers of people who were in need of their assistance. It wasa challenge to set up a running kitchen that could hold such a largenumber of people. Getting enough cooks to work in those kitchens wasalso a problem since that could mean another cost to the charitygroups. Therefore with all those problems associated with setting upkitchens in Shanghai to give people cooked food led to the welfaregroups resolving to give them uncooked food[ CITATION XuX15 l 2057 ].
Womensuffered most during the Japanese rule in Shanghai. Women refugeescould be forced to be comfort women to the Japanese soldiers just tosurvive in Shanghai. Women refugees were compelled to be sex workerssince they could not secure a job in the Japanese-operated factoriesby then. Therefore, they had to resolve into prostitution so as toearn a living for themselves and their families. Educated women alsowere not guaranteed to get a good paying job. They were alsosubjected to the harsh cost of living in Shanghai. But that does notmean that all women resolved to voluntary sex jobs to survive inShanghai, there are others who secured a job with the Japanesegovernment. But those who did not have the opportunity of having oneran to the refugee camps to at least survive there with the charityfood and shelter while they continued looking for a job.
TheJews society that was residing in Shanghai was another case ofsuffering. The Japanese people discriminated them to an extentalienating them to the “Shanghai Ghetto.” Shanghai Ghetto was arestricted area that was for those refugees who never had a home inthe Hongkou district of the Japanese occupied Shanghai. The area heldabout 23000 people of the Jews decent plus the local community. Itwas the poorest and most crowded areas of the city.
TheJapanese government did not give any assistance to the people whowere living in the Shanghai Ghetto. Therefore, the living conditionsat the Ghetto were characterized by congestion, starvation anddisastrous sanitation problems that led to the outbreak of diseases.Many people lost their life due to the harsh conditions in theGhetto. They sometimes could starve to death and the outbreak ofpandemics in the area due to poor sanitations also took many peopleto their graves[ CITATION Tob99 l 2057 ].The Baghdadis and later the Americans got in to help the Ghettopeople by providing shelter and food which was, of course, thebiggest challenge. But this groups faced another challenge whiletrying to give assistance to those people. Language barrier, extremepoverty, disease, and isolation. But with time the agencies weresuccessful in establishing a functioning community in the Ghetto.Schools and hospitals werebuilt, and the Jews community flourished in Shanghai. The press wasrestored in the Ghetto, and magazines were published. Theentertainment industry also developed as the stable conditions in theGhetto allowed for the development of theaters.
Butthat life did not thrive for long. The Japanese attack on the PearlHarbor, the wealth Baghdadis who were responsible for the flourishingof the Ghetto was interned. The Japanese forces ceased the charityfunds by the Americans to the Ghetto. Communication with the UnitedStates was terminated, a factor that fueled the rates of inflationand unemployment. The foreign assistance to the refugees was shut,and life became hard again[ CITATION Nak13 l 2057 ].
TheJDC liaison tried to get the Russians exempted from the restrictions.Laura Margolis got permission from the Japanese authorities to takeon his efforts of assisting the Russian Jews who were in Shanghaibefore 1937. As the World War 2 advanced, Germany pressed on Japan tofree the Shanghai Jews and in 1942 the Ghetto was given back to thestateless refugees. The refugees were allowed to carry businesswithin the Ghetto. Students were given passes to get out of theGhetto and a few people who worked outside the Ghetto. But still theeconomic conditions at the Ghetto worsened, and hunger was a bigproblem[ CITATION Huf15 l 2057 ].
Andfinally came the US air strikes on Shanghai that worsened thesituation in Shanghai. Refugees in the ghetto also joined in theresistance. They were responsible for underground networks thatcirculated information and some little assistance to those aircraftthat were shot off the sky by enemies. But none the less only a fewpeople managed to leave the ghetto until after Shanghai was liberatedin 1945
Anotherview of Shanghai’s life were the European settlers. The Europeancommunity in Shanghai was made of the Rich and able whites whocontrolled the economy before the Japanese and also the poor peoplewho were mostly of the Jews decent. The European Jews were mostlyrefugees from Europe. Due to the discrimination the received inEurope up to an extent they could not be given visa to travel toanother country made them relocate to Shanghai since no permit wasrequired there. At first, life was not that hard in Shanghai.Facilities such as schools were available for the immigrants. Theywere also provided with shelters and in case they had a job they werepaid relatively well[ CITATION Gao13 l 2057 ].The European Jews were far much well than the other Jews group thatwas living in the ghetto. They typically survived by selling theirbelongingsto the native chines people or the Japanese. But they were not goingto survive for long in this condition since with time they barely hadnothing to sell.
Theexpansion of the war brought more and more European Jews toShanghai[ CITATION Yeh98 l 2057 ].But most of them did not survive the hardships that wereassociated with the war like food shortages and the outbreak ofdiseases during the war was another challenge to the poor Jews whocould not afford to buy medication or rent a better house.
Anotherview of what Shanghai looked like under the Japanese rule was in thecommunication and trade. Shanghai city had for a long time been acenter for trade and communication. Shanghai started as a smallfishing village that attracted so many traders and investors to tourand invest there. Shanghai’s proximity to the Pacific Ocean and thenorth China see opened the city to the outside world. By the 1920sShanghai was among the largest cities in the world holding theworld’s biggest harbor, the Pearl Harbor. The British Council hadestablished a vast network of a telegram that improved communicationin the city and to the outside word[ CITATION Hoc13 l 2057 ].
Also,the Council had collected enough taxes from the town of Shanghai andbuilt and maintained roads and the railways that were built duringthe British error. Therefore, Shanghai was the only way of Chinascommunication to the outside world. Japan`s occupation of Shanghaidisrupted the whole organization of the city’s communicationnetworks. Japan also became in control of all the ports along thecoast thus limiting the movement of goods out of Shanghai and thewhole of China. This move by Japan placed Shanghai at the risk ofinflation and consequently an economic crash.
In1938 the Japanese occupied Hankou and Canton that were connecteddirectly to Hong Kong. Therefore, the Japanese also got in control ofthe Hankou-Canton railway. This further affected the communicationand trade routes of Shanghai since it depended on the railway toconnect with the mainland China[ CITATION Huf15 l 2057 ].Up to this extent, the Japanese were in control of all the waterwaysand the railways that connected Shanghai to the outside world. Pricesof imports hiked due to the interruption of trade by the Japanese.
Japan’stakeover of Shanghai led to political regimes and monetarysegmentation. So many puppet currencies were circulating in theeconomy. This further heightened the rate of inflation in Shanghai’seconomy and the larger China. Other currencies that were circulatingcould not even be cashed in the international banks.
Shanghaiexperienced the highest level of inflation during the Japaneseoccupation of China. The industrial output of Shanghai was reduced tosuch a low level by the Japanese rule. The wealthy Baghdadis who wereholding the Shanghai economy before its occupation by Japan fled totheir countries when the environment in Shanghai could not favor themanymore. That move also crippled the economic base of Shanghai whichwas now owned by the wealthy Japanese investors[ CITATION Nak13 l 2057 ].
Asthe Japanese army occupied Shanghai and many other ports that heldthe most productive part of China, the government could not be ableto finance the war. It could not be able even to trade in theinternational markets since inflation was getting in too first. Withsuch high levels of inflation, even the decision makers were left indilemma of what mechanism should be employed. In September of 1939inflation rates had reached 13.23%. At this level not even theprinting press could contain the speed at which inflation wasincreasing. Prices of commodities were rising at a very high rate inShanghai and other parts of China that were under the Japanese rule.Many shops closed in Shanghai since they could not have enough moneyfor the operation[CITATION Sug13 l 2057 ].
Asthe war commenced, there was a slight decrease in the rate ofinflation in Shanghai. This might be due to Japan’s involvements inwars outside Shanghai and China at large. The government’s priceceiling policy could also have helped reduce the rate of inflation.But in the mid of 1943, prices of commodities increased again but nosingle event could be associated with that increase.
In1942, the Shanghai exchange market was transferred to Chongqing, andby 1943 the Japanese had the full control of the city. The foreignconcessions had been moved to the Chinese government that was basedin Nanjing.
Atthe dawn of 1941, inflectionally patterns in Shanghai were responsiveto the international news as it was more connected to the globalmarkets. The global war situation was the only factor people wereconcerned with in Shanghai[ CITATION XuX15 l 2057 ].
Someother factors that affected the day to day operation of Shanghaiwere the Germany inversion of Poland in September 1939, thesurrender of the Japanese and the Ichi-Go operation in 1944.people inShanghai feared for the loose of the value of the CRB note after thesurrender of Japan. Therefore, everybody was struggling to changethem before Japan could surrender to the allies.
Whilethe economic state was at risk all through the time Shanghai wasunder Japanese control, the Japanese went on with the entrenchment ofpeople’s rights in the city. Like the tags that every foreigner wasrequired to wear. B for British, A for American, etc. The aliens whohad already taken control of Shanghai by the time the Japaneseinvaded were ordered to work for the Japanese in running the citylike in the police department. But for the citizens who supported theallies, restrictive rules were passed against them. Their civilliberties were in flinched to such an extent that they could not beallowed to enter night clubs, dance halls and even theaters andcinemas[ CITATION Zha15 l 2057 ].
Inconclusion, the Japanese also ordered for all the radios, telescopes,binoculars and even cameras owned by the Shanghai population to besurrendered to the authorities. The disease pandemic was the biggestthreat in Shanghai. It was certain that if you get sick, theprobability of getting well was very low. Almost all the people withdiabetes died in those harsh conditions they were subjected to in theJapanese camps. And in the internment camps, there was no freedom ofdoing anything regardless of who you were. Even kids could not beallowed to move freely in the fields. If found moving or doinganything without permission, it could be a mistake worth for you tobe beaten to death. Until 1945, more than 250 Britons had died in thehands of the ruthless Japanese rule in internment camps of Shanghai.People lived in fear through all that time. Nobody knew when his orher last day was since death was everywhere. Starvation diseases dueto the poor sanitation after the Japanese takeover, or maybe youcould be a victim of the Japanese bullet. People could be picked upanytime, tortured and locked up in the Japanese cells until theystarve to death. The paper just gives us a glimpse of what transpiredin Shanghai the great Asian city during the Japanese invasion and itseffects on the social and economic base of Shanghai.
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