Outline of Events

The Mukden Incident (commonly referred to as the Manchurian Incident) took place in Manchuria, a northeastern province of China. This province had long been a source of dispute amongst neighboring countries, Japan and Russia. Though the land belonged to China, Russia and Japan continuously fought for power there. In the Russo-Japanese (1904-1905), Japan took Russia's place as the dominant power in southern Manchuria. However, for many years to come, China struggled for unification, threatening Japan's position there. China's struggle led to high tensions between the two countries, and led to the zenith of the clash -- the Mukden Incident. In September 18, 1931, a bomb destroyed a part of railway owned by Japan. No one knows the source of the bomb, and it has been difficult for historians to pinpoint its origin due to the fact that both sides blame each other. Regardless of origin, the Japanese used this incident as leverage to occupy southern Manchuria, despite great protest from both the Japanese cabinet and the League of Nations. Upon doing so, Japan created the puppet state of Manchukuo. Due to the fact that Japan did so with promptness and precision, it is widely believed that the incident had been a premeditated plan.

Though the incident itself does not appear to be very grave, it was a spark in the conflict between the Chinese and Japanese. Much like the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, it would not have been consequential had it not been for the political context. Little did the Japanese know at the time, this spark would set off a war later called the Fifteen Year War, as well as sever the country from the League of Nations.

The Role of the League of Nations

As aforementioned, the Japanese actions in Manchuria were severely admonished by the League of Nations. 5 days after the incident, the United States Minister to China reported to the U.S. that the incident had been a premeditated, malicious act on Japan's part. Furthermore, the minister announced that the incident was a blatant violation of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, a treaty that renounced war as means of national policy. On October 5, Secretary of State Stimson informed the Secretary General of the League of Nations the the League ought not "relax its vigilance" regarding the situation in China and to have as much influence as possible in adjudicating the issue. On October 20, the U.S. sent identical telegraphs to both China and Japan informing them of their responsibilities to adhere to the Kellogg-Briand Pact, and expressing the hope that the issue could be resolved peacefully. While the Japanese government issued ostensible desires to maintain a friendly relationship with China, they refused to withdraw from the territory and continued to obliterate what remained of Chinese administration in Southern Manchuria. American efforts continued when in early 1932, the United States issued a proposal containing 5 points that would end the violence between China and Japan. However, the proposal accomplished nothing, as China readily agreed to it but Japan would not. Not only did America intervene, but so did the League of Nations. In March, 1932, the League of Nations issued a unanimously adopted resolution stating, "it is incumbent upon the members of the League of Nations not to recognize any situation, treaty or agreement which may be brought about by means contrary to the Covenant of the League of Nations or to the Pact of Paris." As time went on, and Japan continued to occupy China, the League became more aware than ever that the nation must be stopped. The League issued the Lytton Commission which condemned Japan's inconsideration for its international obligations. On that note, Japan withdrew from the League on March 27, 1933.


"JAPANESE CONQUEST OF MANCHURIA 1931-1932." Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts. Web. 18 Oct. 2010. <>.

Central Issue

On September 18th, 1931 Japan’s Kwantung Army blew up a part of the South Manchurian Railway Company located in Mukden, in South Manchuria, and blamed the blast on Chinese saboteurs. This allowed Japan to invade the town and take control (Rise). Only a couple of hours after the explosion, many key positions were seized by Japanese troops, making the incident seem preconceived. (The United States)

Primary Visual Source


This photo depicts Japanese troops who are entering Manchuria after the Mukden incident and originates from a photographer who represented the side of Japan. A limitation is that this point of view only shows the peaceful soldiers mobilizing, and makes it seem like the Manchurians were very calm about the invading troops. Another limitation is that the side of the Manchurians cannot be examined, and a people who have been framed, then forced to have soldiers reside in their town are bound to be less than happy. A purpose, therefore, may have been to comfort the Japanese people that their country made the right choice. A value is that from this source, a viewer can find that many Japanese citizens were worried about this invasion.

Primary Textual Source

Chiang Kai-shek was a Chinese Nationalist Party leader who was an influential figure in Chinese history, and in 2006, several parts of his diary were released. In one journal entry, on October 7th, 1931, he wrote “Our determination will even overcome fate. I’ll wipe out the disgrace.”, revealing his determination to fight Japan. This has great value, because with it, the stance taken by high level Nationalist Party officials in response to the Mukden Incident can be determined. An interesting detail that Chiang included was his belief that China would have to overcome fate, as if Japan had no control over the Mukden Incident, but fate did. One limitation, however, is that only the views of a Chinese Nationalist leader are revealed, not those of Japan.


"Entering Manchuria Japanese troops entering Manchuria in the wake of the so-called Mukden Incident during the Sino-Japanese War. After a bomb of unknown origin damaged the Japanese railway near Shenyang (Mukden), the Japanese Kwantung army guarding the railway used the incident as a pretext to occupy south Manchuria and eventually to set up a puppet government. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images) -- Image Date: 01/09/1931 -- Image Date: 01/09/1931." (1931): Image Collection. EBSCO. Web. 12 Oct. 2010.

"Excerpts from Chiang Kai-shek's diary made public." Yomiuri Shimbun (Toyko, Japan) (March 26, 2006) Global Issues In Context. Gale. TULSA COUNTY ISD 1. 12 Oct. 2010 < HYPERLINK "">.

"The United States and the Coming of WWI." Web. 8 Oct. 2010. < HYPERLINK "">.

"Rise of Militarism." Willamette University. Web. 8 Oct. 2010. < HYPERLINK "">.

-Peter Folkins