Japan won't end emperor system, Mao wrote in '45

Mao Zedong predicted in the closing days of World War II that Japan would not be quick to abolish its emperor system, according to a Hitotsubashi University professor researching Japanese Communist Party archives.

In a letter dated May 28, 1945, addressed to the late JCP honorary Chairman Sanzo Nosaka, Mao said, “I am assuming that Japanese people are unlikely to deem their emperor useless in the near future.”

Tetsuro Kato, a professor of politics at Hitotsubashi, discovered the letter, written in Chinese, among documents donated by former JCP officials to Itaru Yui, who works at a center in the village of Kawakami, Nagano Prefecture, that compiles documents on social movements.

It is the first revelation of Mao’s views from this period about the emperor system.

Mao’s letter included comments on and corrections of a draft of a speech by Nosaka, who was in the Chinese city of Yanan at the time of the correspondence. He was scheduled to give the speech during the Chinese Communist Party’s convention, which began in April 1945.

Also discovered among the documents was correspondence in 1944 between Nosaka and Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Kuomintang — the Chinese Nationalist political party, which fled to Taiwan in 1949 — relating to postwar Japan and China.

Nosaka, in a letter dated Jan. 1, 1944, indicated his agreement with Chiang’s idea that the Japanese people should choose their own form of government after Japan’s defeat in the war.

“I would like to continue to seek your guidance and active support” in toppling Japan’s military, wrote Nosaka, who died in 1993 at age 101, a year after he was expelled from the JCP over media revelations of his prewar betrayal of a party colleague.

Chiang replied in a telegram dated Feb. 26 the same year that the battle in China was meant not only to gain independence for the people of China, but also to liberate the people of Japan.

During this period, the Chinese Communist Party and Kuomintang saw their united front against Japan on the verge of collapse. Against this backdrop and a standoff with the Japanese forces, Chiang apparently felt uneasy.

The communication between Nosaka and Chiang, which on the surface could appear a matter of courtesy, may have a deeper meaning, given the situation at the time, one expert said.

Mitsuyoshi Himeda, a professor of modern Chinese history at Chuo University, noted the possibility that Mao may have used Nosaka to convey a message indirectly to Chiang, in the hope of restoring ties between the Nationalists and Communists, because it was “impossible for Mr. Nosaka to have sent a letter to Chiang without Mao’s permission.”

“It is wrong to assume Chairman Chiang’s telegram was simply a courtesy reply,” he said.