Song Zheyuan, the Nanjing government and the north china question in Sino-Japanese relations, 1935-1937
The focus of this study is the relationship between the Chinese central government and Song Zheyuan, the key provincial leader of North China, in the period immediately preceding the Second Sino-Japanese War, and the impact of tensions in that relationship on Japan policy. The most urgent task confronting the Chinese government in the late 1930s was to secure an equitable and formally-negotiated settlement of outstanding questions with the Tokyo government. The efforts of the Nanjing government are examined in terms of the divisions within the government and in the context of the public debate on Japan policy which was extended to cover fundamental questions of the regime's diplomatic maturity and the function of diplomacy in the new state. However, the Sino-Japanese question was not purely a diplomatic issue. Tensions between central and northern regional authorities and continuing provincial independence combined with persistent political and military interventions by the Japanese armies in North China to undermine the initiatives of the centre as the lack of an effective central Japan policy eroded regional confidence in the centre. By 1935 Nanjing's control in the North was breaking down and the initiative in contacts with Japan in the region passed to provincial leaders: Song Zheyuan emerged as a key figure in relations with Japan. In 1935-7 Song occupied all the significant political and military offices in Hebei and Chaha'er provinces. Nanjing was entirely dependent on Song for the defence of the North, yet Song remained ambivalent towards Nanjing and Japan, berating the central authorities for their 'abandonment' of the North while maintaining close contact with the Japanese military. While he had no formal role in foreign affairs, his informal function in the relations with Japan demands closer attention.