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The Power of Imagination: Whose Northeast and Whose Manchuria?

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image of Inner Asia

In the early twentieth century, Manchuria became what Owen Lattimore called a ‘Cradle of Conflict’ where Russia and Japan competed for supremacy in Northeast Asia. Russian and Japanese involvement in Mongolia and Manchuria, especially after the Russo-Japanese War, compelled Chinese authorities to certify that the Northeast (Dongbei), that is Manchuria, was an integral part of China. Japan, for its part, asserted the opposite and represented Manchuria as a territory separate from China in order to justify its presence there. In this paper I argue that Japanese and Chinese travellers’ accounts, their reconnaissance or memoir writings on Manchuria and its Manchu and Mongolian inhabitants, were part of larger geographical and historical constructions of power struggle, in terms of both the Japanese claim for Manchuria and the Chinese ‘response’ to the loss of Manchuria.


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