In June 1940, the news of France’s capitulation to Hitler’s Germany was received with great anxiety in Shanghai. This article outlines the prospect of the impending turnover of the French Concession to the Japanese military, who already occupied the surrounding territories of the city and environs. It also stresses the precarious position that Allied nationals, namely British and Americans, had in the city as they continued to operate a “free press” amidst the growing tensions and pressures of the Japanese military as well as the threat of terrorism. Many fine details grace this article, including the historical background to the French Club. The cartoons featuring anti-Nazi propaganda of the Americans and anti-foreign propaganda of the Wang Ching-wei regime are also fascinating. All in all, this is well worth a read for Shanghai history buffs out there!
COLLAPSE OF FRANCE PRECIPITATES CRITICAL SITUATION HERE
(China Weekly Review, Jun 29, 1940)
THE capitulation (or collapse) of France to Nazi aggression in Europe has precipitated a somewhat similar capitulation of French interests in the Far East to Japanese aggression.
French capitulation to the Japanese has been marked by developments of startling significance in Indo-China and at Shanghai. Details of the developments in lndo- China appear elsewhere in this issue, but the local newspapers have published comparatively nothing about recent startling developments in the Shanghai French Concession which are of direct interest to foreigners of other nationalities, particularly Americans, Britons and Russians, as well as large numbers of Chinese.
The complete story of the capitulation of France is yet to be told and it probably will not be a pretty story when it is told. Some hint of what was going on in France in the critical weeks and days, prior to the capitulation, have indicated that the country was on the verge of revolution—otherwise, what was the explanation for the whole sale arrests and executions of so-called leftists, even including members of the national legislature? The group in control of the Government, which negotiated the deal with Hitler was, in the opinion of informed American correspondents, the most reactionary and —possibly—corrupt that has functioned in France in many years. Some go to the extent of alleging that it was Hitler’s promise to protect certain types of major industries including the armament trust—that caused Marshal Henri Petain to accept a Nazi dictated peace, rather than face the consequences of domestic revolution.
The fact that France has been bottled-up so far as actual news is concerned, since the capitulation, has made it impossible for outsiders, particularly at this distance to obtain any definite information as to what is going on inside the country or what the masses of the French people think about the deal with Germany. The fact that developments looking toward the formation of a government outside France are rapidly taking place, indicates that there are Frenchmen who do not approve of the Nazi deal which looks more like an alliance than the relations of victor and vanquished.
One wonders whether similar developments are taking place in the local French Concession? For years it has been locally declared that “the French would be the last to give up their Concessions!” But the hollowness of such statements is now apparent. One wonders about actual conditions in the Concession; how it has been administered and by whom? Recent developments concerned with the operation of the slot-machine racket and the situation in the “Blood-Alley” section which preys on sailors visiting these shores are not calculated to create confidence in the actual administration of the Municipality.
On Tuesday of this week, the French forces suddenly were withdrawn from the extra-settlement roads extending from the Ziccawei district where the Catholic schools, orphanages, workshops, Church industrial institutions and the famous Observatory are located, to Rockhill Avenue where large numbers of American and other foreigners reside. This extensive area adjoining the French Concession has been patrolled by the French military and police since 1937 when the Japanese first invaded this section of China. The district was immediately occupied by Japanese-officered Chinese gendarmes similar to those which control the badlands area adjoining the western borders of the International Settlement.
Whether the taking-over of this area adjoining the French Concession by Japanese-controlled forces will be followed by an invasion of the district by the gambling, opium-smoking and heroin-dispensing joints which infest the badlands area, which also is controlled by the Special Service Section (SSS) of the Japanese Army, is not yet known.
It also was reported on Tuesday of this week that the local “appeasement” policy, so suddenly decided upon by the local French authorities following the capitulation in France, would also include surrender of the Second Special District Court, which functions in the French Concession. This court, which decides all cases concerning Chinese citizens in the French Concession, is theoretically under the Kiangsu provincial High Court, affiliated with the Chinese Government at Chungking. The local puppet officials and the Japanese authorities have long demanded control of the two Chinese courts which function in the foreign-administered areas. Aside from the control which these courts exercise over Chinese interests, the Japanese desire their transfer to the puppet administrations because of considerations of “face.”
Although there has been no official statement from French sources, the headquarters of the local Japanese expeditionary forces have confirmed the “friendly under-standing” whereby the Japanese assumed control of the extra-settlement areas. According to the account in The China Press, the Japanese Embassy spokesman asserted (Monday) that the local French Commandant had made the suggestion for the transfer of authority “on his own initiative” last Sunday (June 23) and “as a result a friendly understanding was reached between the two parties and the transfer of the sector was effected Tuesday morning (June 25).” The Japanese Embassy spokesman asserted that the Japanese have no intention of assuming administrative authority over the French Concession, which, allegedly, was not affected by the transfer of the Ziccawei territory. The French authorities refused to issue a statement on the subject, but indignantly denied that they had “retreated” from the Ziccawei sector. One of the French officers said, “We took it over temporarily in the first place, and now we have decided to leave it.” He said that a small French outpost had been left to guard the Ziccawei French Monastery.
These developments have created considerable apprehension not only among foreigners of non-French nationalities, but also among thousands of Chinese who resides in the Concession and up to the present have considered themselves safe against persecution or worse at the hands of the Japanese or their puppets. The fact that considerable looting of Chinese residences jn the Ziccawei district took place immediately following the withdrawal of the French forces, was followed by an exodus from the extra-settlement district into the International Settlement. It also was reported that large numbers of Chinese residents of the French Concession were moving into the International Settlement this week.
While population figures regarding the French Concession were not available when these paragraphs were written, it is known that the non-French foreign population (even excluding Russian emigre colony) greatly outnumbers the local French population. Most of the 3,000 to 4,000 Americans in Shanghai reside in the French Concession, in the vicinity of the American School and Community Church on Avenue Petain, or in the large apartment buildings and hotels in the vicinity of the French Club, such as Cathay Mansions and Grosvenor House, owned by the Sassoon interests. The French Club—Cercle Sportif Francais—was built on land which was confiscated from the Germans in the first World War. It was previously known as Verdun Gardens and was used by the Germans for recreational purposes. Most of Shanghai’s Russian emigre population—numbering about 25,000—reside in the French Concession and immediately will be affected by any further extension of French “appeasement” policy. Recently the Japanese military authorities have been trying to exercise political control over the White Russians, through a new Russian Emigrants’ Committee which the Japanese militarists have set up in the Hongkew area. The Russian officials of the older emigrants’ organization had resisted Japanese efforts to oust them from control, but recent developments may have changed the situation affecting Russian residents of the Concession, due to the apparent policy of the local French authorities to submit to Japanese pressure.
There were rumors in circulation this week that non-French residents of the Concession, including Americans, Britons and possibly Russians and French residents opposed to the appeasement policy, might confer on protective measures to be adopted in the event a further extension of Japanese or puppet control inside the Concession takes place.
While there might not be profound opposition to a surrender of certain administrative functions of the Concession to a properly constituted and recognized Chinese Government; this would not apply in the present circumstances as the assumption of control in the Concession by the present Japanese-puppet set-up probably would be followed by the inauguration of gangster-rule similar to the situation in the badlands where actual political control is exercised by proprietors and hangers-on of gambling dens, opium-smoking joints and heroin-dispensing denizens of the underworld, all of whom profess allegiance to the Wang Ching-wei administration in Nanking.
That the status of the French Concession is over-shadowed by a large question mark is obvious. While the local French residents sent a telegram on Sunday to the Bordeaux Government “expressing their desire for a close union between the two Allied Empires for the continuation of the struggle, which they are ready to support with all their personal and material resources” it is not yet certain where their allegiances rest—with the France which apparently has accepted Nazi overlordship, or the French National Committee which is being organized in London and which is expected to embrace most of the overseas interests of the Empire. Should Hitler succeed in defeating Britain and dispersing the French National Committee, he naturally would dispose of French overseas interests, including the Concessions in China and colonial interests in Indo-China and elsewhere. But the situation is not so clear as that, because Japan already has intervened in Indo-China and is bringing pressure here. Recently, when a Japanese military officer was questioned regarding the concentration of unusually large forces in the Nantao area, adjacent to the French Concession, the officer replied, in laughing manner, “to prevent the Nazis from taking it over.” The Japanese spokesman, when asked whether Japanese military pressure in French Indo-China was being exercised in accordance with an understanding with Hitler, replied in the affirmative. It is realized, however, that regardless of what disposition of French colonial interests in Asia Hitler may have decided upon, it would have little weight as Japan has always regarded the elimination of European interests from Asia as fundamental Japanese policy.
When the Tokyo-Berlin Axis was originally announced it was reported that it involved a “division” of Japanese-German interests beginning in the Netherlands East Indies, under which Japan was to have control of all European (and American) colonial interests north
of Singapore, and was to have unrestricted access to the resources of the Netherlands’ island possessions.
A further element in the final disposition of the local French Concession, suggested this week, was that it might be taken over by the Italian military forces now in Shanghai, perhaps in accordance with an understanding between Mussolini and the Bordeaux Government. That the French authorities here, without the support of a home government, will not be able to maintain the integrity of the Concession appeared obvious, in view of dissension which is beginning to develop among the French leaders.
The Shanghai French Concession dates back to the Franco-Chinese treaty negotiated by Consul de Montigny in 1848. The French Consul alleged that the land embraced in the present French Concession “was greatly desired by the American and Belgian consuls,” hence he demanded that the Chinese official, Wu Taotai, make an immediate grant of the area to France. According to “Historic Shanghai,” by C. A, Montalto de Jesus, published in 1909, the Concession was granted by Lin Taotai on April, 6, 1849. The British Consul, Mr. Griswold, protested against the French Concession, but it had no effect. When the Americans were unable to interest Washington in recognizing an American Concession in the Hongkew district, they finally merged their interests with the British, thus laying the foundation for the curious international character of the present International Settlement. The French Consul insisted that maintenance of individual concessions were necessary in order “to avoid conflict in consular jurisdiction amidst international complications.” Representations were frequently made to the French that their Concession be merged with the International area, but they were always declined.
Present uncertainties concerning the security of the foreign-administered areas was responsible for the publication in the American-owned Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury (June 19) of a “plan for the development of Shanghai as a political and economic municipality under international protection and control.” The anonymous author of the plan added in parenthesis the afterthought that “international protection and control included Chinese participation.”
The “plan” which has been dragged out in various forms by certain foreign interests on occasions of local crises dating back as far as" the Taiping Rebellion, did not have any better luck this time as it aroused the immediate opposition of local adherents of Chungking, who
labeled it a Japanese invention. The Wang Ching-wei puppet administration at Nanking was equally vociferous in charging, by a process of elimination, that the plan for the internationalization of Shanghai, was an “American invention.” The Wang Ching-wei organ, Central China Daily News declared that since the plan had been published in the Shanghai Evening Post, described as the “American mouthpiece of the Chungking regime,” it must have originated with citizens of America “who have a record of being the first to extort from China, under false promises, exterritorial privileges; the Chinese Exclusion Act; the Satsuma invasion of Formosa; the Hughes Resolution justifying any armed intervention in China on the pretext of foreign rights being endangered; the Lincheng proposals demanding armed occupation of all Chinese railways, etc., etc.”
The puppet organ also charged that Americans recently were responsible for a plan to take over, “in cooperation with certain renegade Chungking diplomats,” the western district of Shanghai, and also were concerned with another plan “to take over the administration and police control of the French Concession.” The Wang Ching-wei organ concluded its tirade against America by charging that American policy “under a camouflage of liberal professions and the doctrine of the Open Door . . has all along been directed at fastening American control on China and hindering the rapprochement and economic cooperation between China and Japan.. ”
The local Japanese military organs, Shanghai Mainichi and Tairiku Shimpo put the finishing touches to the “internationalization” scheme by declaring that local Chinese organizations “were expected to hold meetings to denounce the proposed free city plan. . which would mean the transfer of Chinese sovereignty in administrative, judicial, policing and financial affairs to an international body.”
The editor of the Evening Post failed to disclose the originator of the internationalization plan for the protection of Shanghai, but stated in the introduction that “it was being studied by local consular officials and foreign authorities.”
Succeeding discussion clearly indicated that no plan for the internationalization of Shanghai or the conversion of the municipalities into a “free city” could succeed without international approval and the consent of China, neither of which could be obtained. In the present instance both groups of Chinese opposed the scheme and the Japanese, of course, objected because they hope to eat the plum themselves!
Indicative of political propaganda trends, resulting from developments in Europe, were several notable incidents in the Far East in recent days. In Tokyo, an Italian Embassy Secretary, Count Macchi de Cellere, challenged Wilfred Fleisher, managing editor of The Japan Advertiser, American paper, to a duel with short swords, “because the paper published editorials criticising Italy’s entrance into the European War.” The editorials, published in double-column measure on June 12, & 20 quoted President Roosevelt’s statement and the declaration of Alfred Duff Copper, British Minister of Information on the occasion of Italy’s declaration of war and charged that economic considerations were the propelling motive. According to Mr. Fleisher, the Italian diplomat first visited his home and attempted to engage him in a fist fight ending up by challenging the editor to a duel with short swords unless he apologized within 24 hours. Mr. Fleisher reported the incident to the U. S. Embassy which immediately filed a protest at the Japanese Foreign Office. Since the Japanese Government enjoys unusually close relations with Italy, officials of the foreign office were perplexed what to do. The Advertiser made no news mention of the incident, but printed a brief comment on the editorial page expressing regret that the editorial “gave offence to some members of the Italian community.” This apparently assuaged the wounded feelings of the Italian diplomat and the incident was closed.
Indicative of the cooperative spirit which controls Shanghai’s international community wherein are stationed the armed forces of warring European Powers, is the edifying nightly spectacle of the “international patrol” on Nanking Road, consisting of squads of American Marines, British soldiers and Italians Marines. The Americans always march between the British and Italian contingents!
A few days ago the Japanese Embassy spokesman at the regular press conference, held in the late afternoon in Broadway Mansions, issued a veiled threat, carefully worded, charging that a local broadcasting station had on its staff “a member who used in his broadcasts words derogatory to several nations and nationalities.” The Japanese spokesman declared that the Japanese authorities “cannot but get the impression that the broadcasting of such speeches is prejudicial to the maintenance of peace and order in Shanghai.” The spokesman then alleged that his view was shared by the authorities of the nation to which the owners of the station belonged. He said that no steps had been taken by the Japanese to date, “but should future developments be such as to require action on their part, there will be no hesitation.”
It was generally assumed that the Japanese spokesman referred to Carrol Alcott, Shanghai’s most popular broadcaster, and it also was assumed that the Japanese spokesman was acting on behalf of the German Nazis who have constantly criticised (in their daily broadcasts) the statements on the European War situation which have appeared in Mr. Alcott’s broadcasts. Mr. Alcott told his listeners (the same evening) of the Japanese Spokesman’s declaration and concluded by reading the address delivered by Secretary of State Cordell Hull —published in full in this issue of The Review.
Most serious development affecting freedom of press in Shanghai was the discovery on Sunday evening by Chinese employees of the printing department of the Shanghai Evening Post, of a number of home-made bombs placed in position where they would have wrecked the paper’s main press had they exploded. One of the bombs was composed of an inflammatory material which had been ignited, apparently with the object of causing the other bombs to explode. Luckily the blaze was observed before it had gained much headway and was put out by a chemical extinguisher. While searching the room for clues, the French Concession police discovered a second set of five bombs hidden directly under the press, one containing a fuse designed, apparently, to ignite the second set, following the explosion of the first set of bombs.
The incident aroused widespread attention because it was immediately connected with a threat made by a publicity official of the puppet Wang Ching-wei administration in Nanking that the American paper, which espouses the cause of the recognized Chinese Government at Chungking, “would not be permitted to continue in publication for more than two months after the establishment of the Nanking regime.” The period, which has elapsed since the establishment of the Nanking regime, exceeds two months, but every newspaperman in Shanghai thought of the threat of the Nanking publicity man when the bombs were discovered in the Evening Post press room.
The Central China Daily News, which belongs to Wang Ching-wei, head of the Japanese-supported Nanking Government, has published frequent editorials demanding that the troops of European belligerent governments, be withdrawn from Shanghai, the attack being directed chiefly at the British and Italians. This week The Review received anonymously three circulars which, apparently, are being distributed in Chinese circles. The circulars deal with the same theme emphasized in the editorials in the Wang Ching-wei paper, as indicated in the summarized translations of the Chinese texts. The reproductions shown herewith have been reduced to about one- fourth the size of the originals, which were printed on pink and yellow tissue paper, usually used in distributing circulars from airplanes. Whether they were distributed in this manner is not known.