llyushin II-28

Countries of origin: Russia and China

Type: Tactical bomber

Powerplants: II-28 – Two 26.5kN (5950lb) Klimov VK-1A turbojets.

Performance: II-28 – Max speed at 14,765ft 900km/h (485kt), max speed at sea level 800km/h (432kt), typical cruising speed at altitude 875km/h (472kt). Max initial rate of climb 2950ft/min. Service ceiling 40,350ft. Range at 32,810ft 2400km (1295nm), range at 3280ft 1135km (612nm).

Weights: II-28 – Empty equipped 11,890kg (28,415lb), max takeoff 21,200kg (46,738lb).

Dimensions: II-28 – Wing span without tip tanks 21.45m (70ft 5in), fuselage length 17.65m (57ft 11 in), height 6.70m (22ft 0in). Wing area 60.8m2 (654.4sq ft). Accommodation: Crew of three – pilot under fighter style canopy, bombardier/navigator in nose and rear gunner/radio operator in tail.

Armament: Two NR-23 23mm cannon in lower forward fuselage, two NR-23 cannon in rear turret and up to 3000kg (6615lb) of bombs, or two torpedoes in internal weapons bay.

History: The Harbin H-5 is China’s unlicenced built copy of the llyushin II-28 ‘Beagle’ light tactical jet bomber. llyushin first began design work on the II-28 in December 1947 as a private venture. The first of three prototypes, powered by two RollsRoyce Nenes (at the time the most powerful turbojets in the world and donated to the USSR by the UK Government during the late 1940s as ‘technical aid’), flew for the first time on July 8 1948. After competitive evaluation against Tupolev’s larger but similarly powered Tu-73 the II-28 was selected for production to meet a Russian Air Force need for a medium sized jet bomber. Several thousand ll-28s were built for the Soviet Air Force and various Warsaw Pact nations, with deliveries beginning in 1950. Over 500 were exported to China in the 1950s, while other II-28 operators included Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, North Korea, North Vietnam, Syria and Yemen. Small numbers were also built in Czechoslovakia as the B-228. II-28 variants include the basic II-28 bomber, II-28T torpedo bomber, reconnaissance II-28R and the II-28U trainer with a second cockpit in the nose (forward of the standard cockpit). Several served through to the late 1980s as target tugs and ECM platforms. After Russia and China severed ties in the 1960s China began a program to build the II-28 unlicenced. The Harbin Aircraft Factory was responsible for reverse engineering the II-28 and consequently the first Chinese built ‘Beagle’, designated H-5, first flew on September 251966. H-5 production began the following year and continued into the 1980s (although late production was at a low rate primarily for attrition replacements). As many as 2000 H-5s may have been built (including HJ-5 two seaters and H-5R or HZ-5 reconnaissance platforms) for China’s Air Force and Navy. Several hundred still serve, despite their obsolescence. North Korea also operates Chinese ll-28s, with the export designation B-5.

Variants

Soviet Union variants
Note: Order of variants determined chronologically by production/development dates.
Il-28
Basic three-seat bomber version, powered by two VK-1 engines.
An Il-28U trainer of the Egyptian Air Force in 1981.
Il-28U
Unarmed training version fitted with new nose housing cockpit for instructor, while the trainee sat in the normal cockpit. First flown 18 March 1950.
Il-28R
Three-seat tactical photo reconnaissance version, with extra fuel in bomb bay and tip-tanks, and with one forward firing cannon removed. Fitted with revised undercarriage to deal with heavier weights. First flew 19 April 1950.
Il-28RTR
ELINT version of Il-28R.
Il-28REB
Electronic warfare, electronic jamming version, fitted with wingtip electronic pods, that were in the former wing tanks.
Il-28T
Torpedo bomber version for the Soviet Naval Aviation able to accommodate two small or one large torpedo (including RAT-52 rocket propelled torpedoes) in a lengthened weapons bay.
Il-28N
Nuclear bomber for the Soviet Air Force with modified bomb-bay and revised avionics. (N – Nositel – carrier, also known as Il-28A – Atomnyy – atomic).
Il-28P
Unarmed civil conversion for Aeroflot, used as jet conversion trainer and to carry high priority cargo (i.e. newspaper matrices to allow simultaneous printing of Pravda and Izvestia in Moscow, Sverdlovsk and Novosibirsk). Also designated Ilyushin Il-20.
Il-28S
Proposed swept-wing version with more powerful Klimov VK-5 engines. Unbuilt.
Il-28RM
Modified Il-28R with VK-5 engine. One prototype built plus two similarly converted bombers (which carried no special designation) but no production.
Il-28TM
Il-28T with VK-5. One converted, no production.
Il-28PL
High-speed anti-submarine conversion of Il-28 bomber or Il-28T torpedo bomber. Capable of carrying dropping sonobouys or acoustic homing torpedoes on direction of other anti-submarine assets.
Il-28Sh
Ground attack (Shturmovik) conversion of Il-28 with 12 underwing pylons for rocket pods. Small number converted which saw limited service.
Il-28ZA
Atmospheric sampling version.
Il-28M
Target drone conversion of Il-28. Also known as M-28.
Czechoslovakia variants
B-228
License-built standard Il-28s built by Avia in Czechoslovakia.
CB-228
License-built Il-28U trainers built by Avia in Czechoslovakia.
Chinese variants
H-5
(Hongzhaji – bomber) – Standard three-seat tactical bomber.
H-5A
Speculative designation of for nuclear capable H-5 variant.
HD-5
(Hongzhaji Dian – bomber/electronic reconnaissance) Chinese ECM jammer version.
HJ-5
(Hongzhaji Jiaolianji – bomber trainer) Chinese trainer version with similar layout to Il-28U.
HZ-5
(Hongzhaji Zhenchaji – bomber/reconnaissance) Tactical reconnaissnce aircraft. Fitted with underwing drop tanks instead of tip tanks of Il-28R.
B-5
Export designation of the H-5.
B-5R
Export version of HZ-5.
BT-5
Export version of the HJ-5.
H-5 Ying
(Ying – eagle) Avionics testbed for Xian JH-7 programme.
H-5B
Speculative designation for unflown H-5 testbed for WS-5 aft-fan engines.

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Chinese Nationalist Mosquitos

A Canadian-built FB.Mk. 26, believed to be ‘B-M008’. The Nationalist Chinese purchased nearly 180 FB.Mk. 26s and T.Mk.29s from surplus Canadian stocks in 1947.

The Nationalist Government of China had shown considerable interest in the later stages of Mosquito production in Canada, and inspecting Chinese Air Force officers were seen regularly at the Toronto plant. With the end of the war, many surplus Mosquitos were stored at Downsview. In late 1947 the Canadian Government, represented by Roy Peers, and Lieutenant-Colonel R. P. Mow on behalf of the Chinese, concluded negotiations for the sale to the Chinese Nationalist Government of around 180 aircraft at knock-down prices, which cleared out almost the entire stock of Mosquitos held in reserve by the RCAF. Due to the politics of the time, the Canadian Government went to great lengths to emphasize that this was a purely commercial arrangement and did not imply aid for Chiang Kai-Shek against the Communists. De Havilland Canada provided planning and technical support, much of which came from Fred Plumb who, since the days of working in Salisbury Hall on the prototypes, had moved from England to become DH Canada’s Works Manager. The Mosquitos were dismantled at Downsview during October 1947 and packed into crates that had previously been used to ship Vampires out from Hatfield to Canada before being transported by rail to a Canadian port and then by sea to Shanghai. From there they were transferred to Tazang Air Base for reassembly and were then test- flown under the direction of De Havilland personnel before being handed over to the Chinese.

First to arrive were several T. Mk.27 trainers, followed by considerable numbers of FB.26s and some T.29s. A fair number of aircraft sub- assemblies failed to survive the winter crossing of the Atlantic, through the Suez Canal and on to Shanghai, suffering severe salt corrosion and damage to electrical and metal parts. So bad was the damage that some aircraft could only be cannibalized for spares, and the remainder of the airframes scrapped.

Training accidents were common when the aircraft were flown by Chinese Air Force instructors and students, and many Mosquitos were written off. In an attempt to reduce these accidents, a fighter-bomber (KA252) was modified into a taxi-trainer, with the undercarriage locked down and bracing tubes bolted between each undercarriage leg, the fuselage and the outer wings. Although this machine could not be flown, the Chinese still managed to write this aircraft off when it was taxied into a hole.

It was in China that the Mosquito gained yet another nickname, ‘Lin Tai Yu’ after a legendary Empress who was ‘beautiful but wicked’. The Chinese attempted to use the aircraft against the Communists, with possibly four lost in combat, but in the end they were defeated by the Communist’s guerrilla tactics. The situation within the country had deteriorated, and by late 1948 the Canadians were advised to leave. Finally the Communists overran the country and the remaining airworthy Mosquitos were evacuated to Formosa by escaping Nationalist pilots. There they were used for a short while against shipping, but nothing further is known of their fate.

LINK

George E. Stewart DFC
George E. Stewart, a Canadian, flew 50 Ops on the Mosquito with No. 23 Squadron between July-November 1944 – all by the time he was 21. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for this work, which was mostly day/night intruder operations.
After the war George spent time in China training Chinese Nationalist Air Force pilots on the aircraft in an effort to reduce their frightening loss of pilots to accidents. Both his unsurpassable knowledge of flying the Mosquito and his unquenchable enthusiasm for it will be of the utmost value to The People’s Mosquito as we move forward. Already over the three years he has given invaluable advice to both the Kiwi and US pilots who have flown the recently restored FB.26 KA114, which they have all used to good effect.

Han Dynasty Walls

The Han were an ethnically Chinese dynasty founded by a soldier who had nothing to lose as he faced execution for late arrival on parade. It was safer to rebel and bring down what was left of the Qin. The Han first emperor Gaodi (206–195 BC) inherited an exhausted state, barely able to defend itself, let alone launch into giant public works. Gaodi was reported to have ordered the restoration of the great wall but it is difficult to believe that his plan was very effective, if anything happened at all.

The early Han tried several strategies to deal with the resurgent Xiongnu who had returned to the Ordos Desert, from which Qin Shi Huang’s general Meng Tian had expelled them. The Xiongnu then occupied the Gansu Corridor. In 200 BC Gaodi led an attack on them but was ambushed by the Xiongnu leader Maodun, and suffered a complete defeat at Pincheng. There was little then that Gaodi and the early Han emperors could do except pay tribute – sometimes in the form of sending over reluctant princesses – a policy called heqin. Heqin offended Confucian moralists who were disturbed by the improper organisation of the universe, where China should be ‘first under heaven’. But responsibility for the failure of heqin did not lie only with Chinese moralists; it also eventually proved ineffective because the Xiongnu leadership were unable to control all the members of their fissiparous confederation, and this state of affairs resulted in freelance raiding.

Anyway, the early Han had both the qualities of parsimoniousness and durability sufficient to survive sixty years, long enough to replenish the treasuries and turn the tables on the Xiongnu. The later Han sought the wondrous horses of the Ferghana Valley and extended Imperial China along the Gansu Corridor. Emperor Wu (141–87 BC) started to expand the Empire and sent envoys to Central Asia to find allies against the Xiongnu. He recovered the Ordos and conquered the Gansu Corridor.

There was then a renewed campaign of wall-building to secure land retaken from the Xiongnu and to protect the Gansu Corridor to the west. It was during the Han period that China’s walls reached their greatest extent. These walls had a number of functions which were not purely defensive. They protected land that had been retaken from the Xiongnu, so they were partly aggressive in that they supported expansion. They protected the transport route that linked China to Central Asia so the Han could strike at the Western Xiongnu’s power base far from China. They defended the major trade route to Central Asia. Also, much of the eastern part of the Gansu Corridor is loess and there are oases along the route. Thus, one clear function of the walls was also to protect valued irrigated land.

The Western Han collapsed in AD 24 in a civil war which saw the destruction of the capital Xuan. The Han survived from 25 to 220 at the new capital Luoyang and the dynasty become known as the Eastern Han. Defence of Luoyang against the Xiongnu required the further construction of walls in the east.

The key issue is what had fundamentally changed, so that the Han, who had lived without walls for over a century, suddenly went in for a near orgy of wall-building? Under their reign China saw the greatest length of walls constructed – over 10,000 kilometres – at any time in its history. The reason was not initially based on a defensive mentality: rather it was to consolidate expansion at the expense of the Xiongnu, and to guarantee trade routes that extended to Central Asia. Of course, it was important to have the money to fund aggression and growth – and one reason why there was little wall building in the first half of the dynasty’s life was that the Han were refilling their coffers. Furthermore, the heqin policy worked – even if it was deemed rather shameful to Chinese sensibilities.

The Xiongnu also played their part in creating the conditions for renewed wall building. As time passed their increasing claims for brides, bribes and hospitality became less acceptable to an Empire that was recovering the power to reject such claims. Also, the inevitably loose nature of the Confederation meant that, even if agreements held at the centre, it was impossible to control outer tribes who might indulge in some independent raiding. While the Han may have been much more outward looking than many other dynasties, accommodation with barbarian nomads was still seen as demeaning – especially in the face of increasingly arrogant demands and the growing capability to wall them out.

But the process of defeating one set of nomads created its own dialectic through the emergence of another. The effective elimination of the Rong and Di by the three northern states of Yan, Zhao and Qin had provoked the emergence of the Xiongnu. The Han defeat of the Xiongnu by AD 89 meant that the way was clear for another nomad Confederation, the Xianbei, to slip into the breach. Anyway, the Han, like most dynasties, ultimately lost vitality, and the Empire broke up into ethnically Chinese not nomad-ruled states. By the early third century the Ordos was abandoned and the Han collapsed.

Han Dynasty Frontier Armies

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One of the key transformations of Chinese society during the Han was the abolition of universal military service, an institution that had underpinned the Warring States and the Qin.22 With the Han’s defeat of the feudatory kingdoms in 154 B.C., the possibility of large-scale warfare in the interior of China vanished, leaving only the threat of the Xiongnu on the northern border. The inability of peasants serving one-year terms to master horsemanship and the crossbow left them ill-equipped for expeditionary forces. Their relatively short terms also made them unsuitable for long-term garrison duty. Emperor Wu allowed some peasants to pay a tax in lieu of military service and used this money to recruit professionals. Nomadic enemies of the Xiongnu and dissident elements of the Xiongnu themselves were also recruited to provide skilled cavalry. In some cases convicts were sent to the frontiers to man garrisons. Thus, during the last century B.C. the Chinese army began to shift away from peasant levies to an army based on professionals, nomads, and criminals.

The rebellion against Wang Mang turned this gradual and informal process into official policy. The rebellion had demonstrated that peasant conscripts could be turned against the state, especially during the autumn training session, when adult males of a commandery gathered for inspection. It also showed that peasants would follow locally powerful families to whom they were bound rather than officials. Training peasants to fight thus simply provided potential rebels with a superior quality of soldier. Furthermore, in the course of the rebellions, much of the population had been displaced, and loss of registered population meant a drastic decrease in tax income for the court. Motivated by the need to decrease expenditures and reduce internal threats, and by the uselessness of conscripts on the frontier, the newly established Eastern Han regime abolished both the annual training sessions and the local military officials. This did away with a formal peasant army, and left only a small, professional army stationed around the capital.

Following the split of the Xiongnu into southern and northern confederacies in 48 A.D., nomads were internally resettled on a large scale. To supervise these new inhabitants, the Eastern Han government set up standing army commands in camps at the frontier, one command for each major nomadic group resettled in China. These standing armies were manned by professional Han soldiers. The total number of troops in the camps is not recorded, but scattered citations indicate that they were in the tens of thousands. These camps remained a permanent feature of the Han army, and their troops took part in most of the major campaigns of the second century A.D.

Expeditionary armies were distinct from the standing armies, and drew their forces primarily from resettled barbarians. Most of the cavalry in the campaigns of the first century A.D. that destroyed the Xiongnu confederacy consisted of nomad soldiers. The Han founder had already employed tribal soldiers during the civil war. After the reign of Emperor Wu, these tribes were usually classified as “dependent states” and allowed to keep their own leaders and customs, under the supervision of a commandant. But the Eastern Han went beyond the policy of “using barbarians to control barbarians.” Non-Han soldiers also quelled internal rebellions, much as foreign mercenaries did for monarchs in early modern Europe. The histories record more than fifty cases of the participation of non-Han soldiers in Chinese armies. Twenty-seven of these list no Han troops in the forces involved, and six were under the command of tribal chieftains.

From this evidence it is clear that after the middle of the first century A.D. the primary source of mounted warriors was non-Han soldiers. State-controlled grasslands and stables for rearing military horses, which the Western Han had maintained since the reign of Emperor Jing in the second century B.C., were largely abandoned. The warlords of the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 A.D.) continued to rely on non-Han peoples to provide their cavalry.

In addition to using non-Han troops in their army, the Han also paid bounties for the heads of slain enemies. Xianbei chieftains, before submitting to the Han, received payments for the heads of Xiongnu. In 58 A.D. they again received payments for crushing a force of invading Wuhuan, and at that time they formally submitted. They received annual payments of 270,000,000 cash, and in return they controlled the Wuhuan and killed Xiongnu. Thus the most common military man in the Eastern Han was the nomad warrior serving the empire under the command of his tribal chieftain.

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In contrast with the Warring States period, when regional cultures constituted the primary divisions in the Chinese sphere, the imagining of a world divided between nomads and Chinese marked a major step. It posited the fundamental unity of a single Chinese civilization defined by what was not nomadic, and it reduced regional divisions to secondary status. China first emerged as a unity through the invention of a Chinese/ nomad dichotomy, and this bipolar concept remained central to Chinese civilization in later periods.

It is ironic, then, that the political partition of the world into two spheres lasted only a few decades. In spite of increasing payments, Xiongnu incursions did not cease. Each agreement lasted a few years, only to be broken by a new invasion, which was followed in turn by demands for a resumption of peaceful relations based on an increase in payments. The Chinese attributed this to barbarian perfidy, but it reflected the nature of the Xiongnu state. While the Chinese emperor was unchallenged as chief lawgiver, judge, and administrator, power within the Xiongnu state was constrained and divided by kin bonds, customary practice, and horizontal segmentation between clans or tribes. The chanyu maintained control over his subordinate chiefs only by constant negotiations in which he was first among equals rather than an absolute authority. Consensus on his power hinged on his success in battle and distribution of booty.

In such a system, the chanyu could not refrain from military action indefinitely. Nor could he stop his subordinates from attacking on their own, for the power and prestige of chiefs likewise depended on their success in battle and distribution of booty. Sometimes they invaded because of tensions with local Chinese officials, sometimes because of resentment of the chanyu. The he qin policy failed because it relied on a structure of authority that did not exist among the Xiongnu.19

As treaty after treaty was violated, debates at the Chinese court were increasingly dominated by calls for war. Decades of peace had given the Chinese time to develop a new style of army based on cavalry and crossbows that could successfully engage the Xiongnu in the field. In 134 B.C. Emperor Wu finally undertook to destroy the Xiongnu through military action. Although his attempted ambush of the chanyu failed, in the decades that followed, Chinese armies pushed deep into Central Asia and inflicted substantial losses of both men and flocks on the Xiongnu.

However, Han losses were also considerable, and repeated campaigns drained the treasury without achieving any decisive result. Difficulties in transporting supplies and harsh weather meant that no army could spend even as much as one hundred days in the field, so victories could not be translated into an enduring occupation. Emperor Wu’s successors consequently abandoned his policy of launching expeditions and instead retired behind a defensive line, while refusing to pay tribute. This policy was successful, for it deprived the chanyu of Han tribute and also reduced his role as defender against Han invasions. The position of the chanyu deteriorated, and in 120 B.C. a dissident Xiongnu king surrendered to the Han with 40,000 men. In subsequent decades other chiefs refused to attend the chanyu’s court.20 Between 115 and 60 B.C. the Han also secured control of the former Xiongnu sphere of influence in eastern Central Asia (modern Xinjiang).

A battle over succession split the Xiongnu empire in 57 B.C., with no fewer than five kings claiming the title of chanyu. After several years one king acknowledged Han suzerainty, visited the Han court, and resettled inside China. This proved to be highly advantageous, for in exchange for obeisance he received generous gifts from the Han. He repeated his visit to the court in 49 and 33 B.C. and sent a son there as a hostage, whose well-being depended on his father’s good conduct and who learned Han culture. The wealth that the vassal chieftain gained allowed him to build up his following and defeat his rivals. Eventually, he grew powerful enough to return to the north and resume the old pattern of demanding tribute, until a second succession struggle renewed the civil war in 48 A.D. This led to a permanent split between the southern Xiongnu, who dwelt in China and submitted to the emperor, and the northern Xiongnu, who resided beyond the boundaries of the Han empire.

The southern Xiongnu became dependent on Han assistance, as indicated in 88 A.D. in a memorial from the southern chanyu: “Your servant humbly thinks back on how since his ancestor submitted to the Han we have been blessed with your support, keeping a sharp watch on the passes and providing strong armies for more than forty years. Your subjects have been born and reared in Han territory and have depended entirely on the Han for food. Each year we received gifts counted in the hundreds of millions [of cash].”21 This policy of resettling nomads still grouped in their tribes inside the Chinese empire would have disastrous long-term consequences, as we will see, leading to a breakdown in civil order in the northwest and the southward flight of large numbers of Han Chinese.

Although the northern Xiongnu continued to defy the Han, they were defeated on several occasions by allied armies of the Han and the southern Xiongnu. Moreover, other tribal peoples such as the Wuhuan and Xianbei broke away from the Xiongnu and received large bounties from the Han for killing Xiongnu. In 87 A.D. a Xianbei army defeated the Xiongnu, killed the northern chanyu, and flayed his body. More than 200,000 Xiongnu tribesmen surrendered after this defeat, and a great Han victory in 89 A.D. completed the destruction of the Xiongnu state.

Manchukuo Aviation I

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Ki-9. Manchukuo National Military Force Air Corps, 1938-39. This trainer is Orange overall, with Black cowling, forward fuselage, undercarriage legs and wheel spats. MNMFAC roundels are applied in four wing positions, in (from top) Red, Blue, White, Black and Yellow. The fuselage script, indicating the donor of the aircraft, is in Black.

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Until just five years ago, Manchurians were little more than backward bandits squabbling over pieces of torn fiefdoms. Today, we operate our own air force against all the enemies of a modernized Manchukuo.

-Nobuhiro Uta, 1st Lieutenant, Doi ManshuTeikoku Kugun’

In 1640, Ming Dynasty control over China was falling apart. Widespread crop failures, followed by starvation on a scale too massive for government redress, and peasant revolts broke out to badly shake the nearly 300-year-old order. Taking advantage of these upheavals, Manchu raiders from the north approached the capital on May 26, 1644. Beijing was defended by an unfed, unpaid army unwilling to oppose the invaders, who entered its gates just as the last Ming emperor hung himself on a tree in the imperial garden.

The Manchus replaced his dynasty with their own, the Qing (or “clear”), that ruled until the early 20th century. Demise of the Manchurian imperium in 1912 had been preceded by decades of corruption, military defeats, and foreign exploitation, leading inevitably toward revolution. Organized society dissolved, as private armies fought each other for control during the so-called Warlord Era.

Observing this calamitous decline from afar were the Japanese. They knew that someone would eventually emerge from the chaos to unify the country, thereby fulfilling Napoleon’s dire warning about China being a sleeping giant that, once awakened, would terrify the world. In 1931, Japanese forces invaded Manchuria to extirpate its contentious warlords, restore some semblance of social order, and, most importantly to themselves, create a buffer state, rich in natural resources, between Japan and the USSR.

On February 18, 1932, Manchukuo was established with assistance from former Qing Dynasty officials, including Pu-Yi, “the last emperor.” Unlike Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1987 film of that name, the new “State of Manchuria” was not entirely a Japanese “puppet;’ or colony, although it had elements of both. Like most Asian monarchs of his time, including Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, Pu-Yi was mostly a figurehead: the nation’s symbolic personification. Real power lay in the hands of state council cabinet ministers, who belonged to the Xiehehui Kyowakai. This “Concordia Association” embodied the principles of Minzoku Kyowa, the “concord of nationalities;’ a pan-Asian ideology aimed at making Manchukuo into a multi-ethnic nation that would gradually replace the Japanese military with civilian control.

By granting different ethnic groups their communal rights and limited self-determination under a centralized state structure, a balance was created between federal power and minority rights, thereby avoiding the same kind of separatism that had undermined the Hapsburg’s Austro-Hungarian monarchy or Russia’s Czarist empire. Accordingly, emigres were allowed their own independent groups, which included a wide spectrum of agendas, from White Russian Fascists and Romanov monarchists, to Jews involved in several Zionist movements. Together with these diverse populations, Mongols, Hui Muslims, and Koreans, as well as native Manchu, Japanese settlers, and the majority of Chinese found workable representation in the Concordia Association that dispensed with former animosities.

Because the rights, needs, and traditions of each group were officially respected, religious liberty was guaranteed by law. Mongol lamas, Manchu shamans, Muslim ahongs, Buddhist monks, Russian Orthodox priests, Jewish rabbis, and Confucian moralists were equally supported by the state. Corporatist, anticommunist and anticapitalist, Minzoku Kyowa aimed at class collaboration by organizing people through religious, occupational, and ethnic communities. Manchukuo was intended to be the ideal and standard by which the rest of China was to be reconstituted.

Other similar states set up by the Japanese were the Mangjiang government for Inner Mongolia, the Reformed Government of the Republic, and the Provisional Government of the Republic for the eastern and northern areas of China, respectively. These last two were combined by 1940 in the Nanjing National Government headed by Wang Jingwei, perhaps the most brilliant Chinese statesman of the 20th century. After Sun Yat-sen’s death in 1925, as described in Chapter 13, Jingwei became the leader of the Kuomintang, China’s Nationalist Party, but was subsequently ousted by backstage intrigue to put Chiang Kai-shek in control.

Jingwei believed with the Japanese that China only avoided being a military, economic, and ideological threat to the outside world and itself, while preserving its culture from foreign influences, by a decentralized system of cooperative independence for the various provinces, with emphasis on their ethnic individuality. In this, the Japanese envisioned themselves as the power center of Asia’s Co-Prosperity Sphere. Heavy Japanese investment helped Manchukuo to become an industrial powerhouse, eventually outdistancing Japan itself in steel production.

Manchuria operated its first airline, the most modern in Asia outside Japan. Flying with the Manchukuo Air Transport Company were Junkers Ju.86s and Fokker Super Universals. The German Junkers was powered by a pair of Jumo 207B-3/V, 1,000-hp diesel engines, able to carry its 10 passengers nearly 1,000 miles above 30,000 feet, making it an ideal transport for China’s mountainous terrain.

The Dutch-designed Fokker F.18 Super Universal was actually produced in the United States during the late 1920s, later manufactured under license by Canadian Vickers and Nakajima in Japan. Chosen for its ruggedness, especially the reliability of its 450-hp Pratt and Whitney Wasp B engine in very cold conditions, a Super Universal known as the Virginia served in Richard E. Byrd’s 1928 Antarctic expedition. He additionally valued the conventional, eight-place, high-wing, cantilever monoplane for its 138-mph performance at 19,340 feet over 680 miles.

Even before the Manchukuo Air Transport Company was renamed “Manchukuo National Airways;’ the city of Changchun had likewise undergone a change to Xinjing, the “New Capital” of Manchukuo. The former whistle-stop town was transformed almost overnight into a beautiful, modern, and large city, the most culturally brilliant in China at the time. Manchukuo was officially recognized by 23 foreign governments from all the Axis powers and the USSR to El Salvador and the Holy See. The League of Nations denied Manchukuo’s legitimacy, however, prompting Japan’s withdrawal from that body in 1934, while the United States opposed any change in the international status quo “by force of arms;’ as stated by America’s Stimson Doctrine.

Still, Manchukuo experienced rapid economic growth and progress in its social systems. Manchurian cities were modernized, and an efficient and extensive railway system was constructed. A modern public educational system developed, including 12,000 primary schools, 200 middle schools, 140 teacher preparatory schools, and 50 technical and professional colleges for its 600,000 pupils and 25,000 teachers. There were additionally 1,600 private schools; 150 missionary schools; and, in the city of Harbin, 25 Russian schools. By 1940, of Manchukuo’s 40,233,950 inhabitants, 837,000 were Japanese, and plans were already afoot to increase emigration by 5 million persons over the next 16 years, in the partial relief of Japan’s overpopulation crisis.

Bordering as Manchukuo did the Russian frontier, the necessity for self-defense was apparent. In February 1937, an air force, the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun, was formed. To begin, 30 officers were selected from the Imperial Army for training with Japan’s Kwantung Army at Harbin. By late summer, their first unit was established at the Xinjing airfield under the command of 1st Lieutenant Nobuhiro Uta. His taskto make something of the fledgling service-was daunting, because he had only a single aircraft at his disposal, a World War I-era biplane.

The Nieuport-Delage Ni-D.29 had made its prototype debut in August 1918 and looked every bit its age with its open cockpit and fixed tail skid. Even then, the French-built pursuit aeroplane did not pass muster, because it could not achieve altitude requirements. The Ni-D.29 received a new lease on life when, stripped of its cumbersome military baggage and its Gnome 9N rotary engine replaced by a 300-hp HispanoSuiza 8Fb V-8, it won eight speed records, including the Coupe Deutsche and Gordon Bennet Trophies of 1919 and 1920, respectively.

Nieuport-Delage executives cashed in on the aircraft’s new prestige by making it a lucrative export to Belgium, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Argentina, Japan, and Thailand. Their swift model saw action in North Africa, dropping 20-pound antipersonnel bombs on native insurgents unhappy with French and Spanish colonialism. By 1937, the old double-decker’s top speed of 146 mph and 360-mile range made it something of a relic, but Lieutenant Uta made good use of its forgiving handling characteristics in the training of his novice aviators.

Appeals to Japan resulted in more modern aircraft for the nascent Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun. First to arrive were examples of a Kawasaki KDA-2 reconnaissance biplane. It had been designed specifically for the Imperial Japanese Army by Richard Vogt, an aero engineer from Germany’s renowned Dornier Flugzeugewerke. Following successful trials, the KDA-2 entered production with Kawasaki as “Type-88-1, in 1929. Its unequal span wings and slim, angular fuselage married to a 600-hp BMW VI engine provided a respectable range of 800 miles at 31,000 feet.

The aircraft’s remarkable stability and rugged construction lent itself well to the light-bomber role when fitted with 441 pounds of bombs. Lieutenant Uta’s men also received the Nakajima Type 91, until recently replaced by the Kawasaki Type 95, Japan’s leading fighter. The parasol monoplane’s Bristol Jupiter VII, 9-cylinder radial engine was rated at 520 hp, allowing a service ceiling of 29,500 feet and 186-mph maximum speed. Twin 7.7-mm machine-guns synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc were standard for the time.

In July 1938, Soviet troops violated the 78-year-old Treaty of Peking between Russia and China by establishing their common Manchurian border, a move that alarmed the Japanese, suspicious of Stalin’s plans for a Communist China. On the 15th, Japan’s attache in Moscow called for the withdrawal of newly arrived Red Army forces from a strategic area between the Shachaofeng and Changkufeng Hills west of Lake Khasan, near Vladivostok. His demand was rejected because, he was told, 1860’s Treaty of Peking was invalid, having been signed by “Czarist criminals”2 Soon after, he learned that the Soviets had relocated the original 19th century demarcation markers to make their territorial claims appear legitimate.

Japan answered this deception on the 29th by launching its 19th Division and several Manchukuo units at the Red Army’s 39th Rifle Corps, without success. Although the Nakajima fighter planes stayed behind for homeland defense, the Manchurians used their Kawasaki reconnaissance aircraft to scout Russian weak spots without being detected. Based on photographic information made available by the high-flying biplanes, the Japanese renewed their offensive on July 31, this time expelling the enemy from Changkufeng Hill in a nighttime attack. Beginning on the morning of August 2, General Vasily Blyukher, commanding the Far Eastern Front, ordered a massive, relentless, week-long artillery barrage that drove the Japanese and Manchurians back across the border. Hostilities ceased on August 11, when a peace brokered by the United States came into effect, and Soviet occupation of the compromised Manchurian border was affirmed.

Far from being honored as the victor of the short-lived campaign, General Blyukher was arrested by Stalin’s political police and executed for having suffered higher casualties than the enemy. Russian dead amounted to 792, plus 2,752 wounded, compared with 525 Japanese and Manchurians killed, 913 wounded.

Although the Changkufeng Incident, or Battle of Khasan, as it is still sometimes known, was a Japanese defeat, it afforded the young Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun its first operational experiences. More were to come in less than a year during another, far more serious frontier dispute with the USSR, when Manchukuoan horse soldiers drove off a cavalry unit of the Mongolian People’s Republic that had crossed into Manchuria across the Khalkha River, near the village of Nomohan on May 11, 1939.

Forty-eight hours later, they returned in numbers too great to be removed by the Manchurians alone. The next day, Lieutenant-Colonel Yaozo Azuma, leading a reconnaissance regiment of the 23rd Division, supported by the 64th Regiment of the same division, forced out the Mongols. They returned yet again later that month, but as the Japanese moved to expel them, Azuma’s forces were surrounded and decimated by overwhelming numbers of the Red Army on May 28; his men suffered 63 percent casualties.

One day short of a month later, Japan’s 2nd Air Brigade, in conjunction with the Manchurian Air Force, staged a massive raid on the Red Air Force base at Tamsak-Bulak in Mongolia. Numerous Soviet aircraft were caught on the ground before they could get airborne, and those that did were mostly shot down. Manchukuoan-flown Nakajimas came in low to strafe the airfields, setting fuel dumps ablaze and holing bombers parked out in the open, defying intense and accurate ground fire. Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun fighters suppressed enemy opposition for the arrival almost immediately thereafter of their comrades flying Kawasaki Ki-32s. Just previous to the attack on Mongolia, these more modern light-bombers replaced the Manchurians’ Kawasaki Army Type 88/KDA-2 biplanes. Code named “Mary” by the Americans, the Ki-32 carried 990 pounds of bombs used by DMTK airmen to virtually obliterate the Soviet air base. The Red Air Force defenders of Tamsak-Bulak suffered heavy damage, with more than twice as many Russian warplanes than Japanese-Manchurian lost.

Manchukuo Aviation II

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The effective strike had been ordered by Kwantung Army commanders without permission from Imperial Japanese Army headquarters in Tokyo, which grounded any further air raids. Henceforward, the battlefield situation went from bad to worse for the Japanese, who were decimated by waves of heavy armor attacks against which they had little defense, and forced to accept an armistice on August 31.

The very next day, Germany’s invasion of Poland precipitated World War II, an event that promised greater significance than the Nomohan Incident. Soviet forces halted at the Manchurian border, as Stalin concluded a neutrality agreement with Japan, then turned his attention to Europe. Fearing an inevitable resumption of hostilities in the uncertain future, the Japanese began seriously outfitting more Manchukuoan squadrons.

In July 1940, Japan’s Air Defense Headquarters worked in conjunction with the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun’s 1st Air Unit at Xinjing. At first, only Japanese pilots and ground crews served in Air Defense, but Manchus underwent specialized flight training soon after. A flight school was established on August 30, 1940, in Fengtien to teach both military and civilian pilots. The following January, some 100 cadets, unused to strict discipline and incited by Communist agent provocateurs, murdered their instructors, then fled Manchukuo.

By 1941, the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun’s 1st Air Unit at Xinjing had 5 Japanese and 6 Manchurian officers, 14 NCOs of similarly mixed backgrounds, and about 90 pilots. They were joined by a 2nd Air Unit at Fengtien, a 3rd Air Unit Ordnance Depot of 15 Japanese and 30 Chinese officers from the National Government of China Air Force at Harbin, the Aircraft Arsenal Air Unit (supply), and the Tongliao Independent Air Unit Flying School, which increased the following year to three squadrons. In September and October 1942, the school was issued more than 20 training aircraft. These included the Tachikawa Ki-9, a two-place biplane rigged for blind-flying with a folding hood over the rear cockpit for the student. Powered by a 350-hp Hitachi Ha-13a radial engine, the Spruce, as it was known to the Americans, topped 149 mph, making the Ki-9 a respectable intermediate trainer. Staff officer transport versions featured a glazed canopy.

Another Tachikawa was fitted was a 510-hp Hitachi Ha-13, a nine-cylinder, radial engine, that gave the advanced biplane an outstanding maximum speed of 216 mph. Air Ministry officials were so impressed with its performance, the Ki-55 was occasionally fitted with a single, fixed forward-firing 7.7mm machine-gun to serve as a fighter the Allies called Ida.

The Tongliao Independent Air Unit Flying School was also sent several examples of the Mansyu Ki-79 for advanced training. More immediately significant, the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun received its first modern warplanes. These were the Nakajima Ki-27 and Kawasaki Ki-32, known in the West, respectively, as Nate and Mary. The former, as some indication of Japanese regard for the Manchukuo Air Force, was Japan’s premiere fighter at the time, and had been selected for production primarily for its outstanding handling characteristics, by virtue of which it rapidly assumed ascendancy over all other pursuit aircraft in Chinese skies.

K-27s were superior to their Red Air Force opponents at 1938s Battle of Khasan but roughly handled one year later during the Nomohan Incident by Polikarpov 1-16 Ratas able to outrun them by 12 mph. A weaker airframe additionally prevented the Nakajima from holding up under stress during high-speed maneuvers, allowing the faster, sturdier, if more unwieldy Soviet monoplane to escape in a dive the Japanese warplane could not follow. Moreover, the Ki-27 lacked pilot armor protection or self-sealing fuel tanks, and the 7.7-mm rounds spat by its twin Type 89 machine-guns were weak. Fortunately for the Japanese, Nate was replaced as their leading fighter by Mitsubishi’s more famous and altogether superior A6M Zero in time for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Dai Manchu Teikoku Kugun received fewer numbers of Kawasaki’s Ki-32. Vulnerable to flak and a sitting duck for enemy interceptors, the sluggish, low-wing monoplane with its non-retractable, drag-inducing landing gear, would have been butchered in any confrontation with the Red Air Force. Instead, an 850-hp Kawasaki Ha-9-llb liquid-cooled, V-12 engine enabled the tough, reliable light-bomber to deliver its 990pound payload over a 1,220-mile range, rendering Mary ideally suited for the antipartisan role to which she was assigned. In the hands of Manchurian pilots, her interdiction of distant enemy truck convoys and supply concentrations often came as an unpleasant surprise for both Communist and Nationalist opponents.

When Manchukuo came within range of USAAF heavy bombers, the Japanese 2nd Air Army assumed direction of the Dai Manshu Teikoku, augmenting it with the 104th Sentai (“Group”), plus the 25th and 81st Dokuritsu Chutai (“Squadron”). These units were equipped with the Kawasaki Ki-45, known appropriately as the Toryu, or “Dragon Slayer;” for the many American Superfortresses it claimed since four night-fighter sentais were established to defend the home islands in autumn 1944. One sentai alone scored 8 “kills” during their first engagement with B-29s, going on to destroy another 150.

Reorganization comprised the new Fangfu Air Corps of Manchu pilots manning 120 fighters, mostly Nakajima Ki-27s. With their service ceiling of 32,940 feet, they could not even approach incoming waves of B-29s operating 660 feet higher. More powerful 710-hp Ha-lb, nine cylinder, radial engines were installed to carry the Nates just above the Superfortresses’ operational altitude and boosted maximum speed to nearly 300 mph, but that was still 65 mph slower than the strategic bombers. Even if the old fighters were able to maneuver into firing position, their twin, 7.7-mm machine-guns were outmatched by-per B-29-10,12.7-mm Browning machine-guns firing from remotely controlled turrets.

Yet, odds against the defenders were not as hopeless as they appeared. The Superforts were unable to open their bomb bay doors above cruising speed at 220 mph, giving the Nates a temporary nearly 80-mph speed advantage. But the huge silvery enemy’s real Achilles’ heel was his oxidized aluminum skin, which was prone to fire in the worst way, consuming the entire aircraft, fore and aft. Japanese and Manchu pilots found that hits of even their puny, 7.7-mm rounds just about anywhere along the frame of a B-29 could sometimes set it entirely alight. But getting close enough to do so was made extremely hazardous by combined defensive fire thrown up by the Superfortresses, and many would-be interceptors paid with their lives before they could get within range of their own guns.

B-29s first struck Manchuria three years to the day of Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor. Their anniversary raid was not coincidental but deliberately timed to encourage the more than 1,600 American prisoners of war incarcerated near Mukden. The mission’s tactical objective was destruction of the city’s aircraft factories.

Of the original 108 Superforts that set out with the XX Bomber Command, no less than 17 were forced to drop out, due to unforeseen problems caused by extremely low temperatures. Inside and outside surfaces of canopies iced over, and the big warplanes struggled, not always successfully, to gain altitude in the thin air. These worsening conditions forced another 10 B-29s to haphazardly jettison their payloads over a railroad yard long before reaching Mukden, utterly missing this secondary target, before banking away for home base. When the remaining 80 Superfortresses arrived over the city, flight crews found it entirely obscured by a heavy smokescreen. Undeterred, they unloosed their combined 800 tons of bombs, which fell mostly within residential districts, killing about 1,000 civilians, injuring several thousand more. The primary targeted aircraft factories escaped unscathed.

USAAF commanders had anticipated no enemy interdiction, regarding the Manchukuoan Air Force as nothing more than a propaganda joke, while all Japanese fighters were believed to have been recalled to defend the home islands. But the Americans were to be deceived as much about opposition over Manchuria, as they had been concerning its climate conditions.

As they approached Mukden, Sergeant Shinobu Ikeda of the 25th Dokuritsu Chutai attacked one of the monstrous bombers from behind with his Kawasaki interceptor. Before he could draw a bead on the B-29, a stream of .50-inch caliber rounds found and shattered his canopy and set his right engine alight. Wounded in a damaged airplane on fire and spinning toward the ground, Ikeda eventually regained control of the Dragon Slayer, climbed back on one engine after the same target, and deliberately collided with its tail section. The Superfortress nosed over into a steep dive from which only one gunner parachuted to safety. Like the other 10 men aboard the big bomber, Ikeda perished in the collision.

Another Japanese pilot died when the B-29 he rammed with his Nakajima was consumed in a terrific explosion that fortuitously ejected a pair of surviving crew members uninjured into space. Two more Superforts fell under conventional attacks, one each shot down by Japanese and Manchurian pilots. Three B-29s, trailing debris and smoke, escaped the combat zone, but were so badly damaged they had to be written off. For the Superfortresses’ first raid against Manchukuo, they missed all their targets, losing 7 aircraft and 44 crew members for 1 Japanese and 2 Manchurians killed in action.

Fourteen days later, 40 of the survivors returned to inaccurately and ineffectually raid Mukden, veiled once more under its obscuring smokescreen. Eighty-eight tons of high explosive intended for the earlier targeted aircraft factory yet again fell wide of the mark. This time, a Manchurian Air Force pilot, 1st Lieutenant Sono-o Kasuga, crashed his Nakajima fighter into one of the Superfortresses, which exploded for the loss of its entire crew. Another B-29 was similarly destroyed by 2nd Lieutenant Tahei Matsumoto, a Japanese pilot serving with the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun.

To oppose both December raids on Mukden, the Japanese and Manchurians lost 7 pilots and planes against 12 American bombers destroyed with 121 men killed and captured. Instead of taking heart at the appearance of USAAF warplanes high overhead, Allied POWS had watched in horror, as one Superfortress after another tumbled out of the sky in flames. Pilots of the Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun, together with their Japanese comrades in the 104th Sentai and the 25th and 81st Dokuritsu Chutai, achieved a real defensive victory, when, following the December 21 raid, XX Bomber Command terminated all further operations against Mukden as too costly for the negligible results achieved.

Thereafter, the war shifted away from Manchuria and virtual peacetime conditions prevailed there throughout most of 1945. By late summer, however, a buildup of Soviet forces along the Mongolian border made invasion from that quarter evident, and Manchukuo Air Force personnel underwent intensive training for ground-attacking armored vehicles. Between the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force and Dai Manshu Teikoku Kugun, they were able to muster 1,800 aircraft, mostly trainers and obsolete types fit only for self-destruct missions.

Just 50 Nakajima fighters were on hand, without, however, enough fuel to operate them all against the 5,368 Red Air Force warplanes they faced. Manchukuo’s Defense Force comprised 40,000 troops in 8 divisions, insufficiently supplied and poorly equipped. Supporting them were more than 600,000 men in the Imperial Japanese Kwantung Army, but they, too, were threadbare. Their armor consisted of 1,215 light tanks and armored cars, together with 6,700 mostly light field pieces, opposed by 5,556 Red Army heavy tanks and 28,000 artillery.

On the morning of August 9, one-and-a-half-million Russian and Mongolian troops inundated the Manchurian border. Impossibly outnumbered, both the Manchukuo Defense Force and Kwantung Army melted away. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, a revisionist historian at the University of California (Santa Barbara), has shown that this Red Army offensive, not the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, prompted Japan’s capitulation.’ Japanese leaders knew that the Red Army juggernaut would not stop with the easy conquest of Manchukuo, but roll on into Japan itself.

Indeed, Stalin was ready to implement the invasion of Hokkaido long before U.S. commanders intended to put their forces ashore at Kyushu. Despite Emperor Hirohito’s broadcast surrender on August 15, the Soviets refused to halt their offensive, sweeping across northeastern China into Korea, coming to a halt at the 38th Parallel, where they met their American allies. It was also the place where the next war would erupt just five years later, in Korea.

Meanwhile, occupied Manchukuo was handed over to Mao Zedong, who, after a bloody purge of the country’s intellectual and propertyowning classes, used Manchuria as a headquarters for his ultimately victorious revolution.

Machines to Make Machines

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The Foochow Arsenal, also known as the Fuzhou or Mawei Arsenal, was one of several shipyards in Qing China as part of the Self-Strengthening Movement.

Ding Gongzhen had complained in 1843 that he couldn’t make a full-sized steamship because he lacked “machines for making machines”. In the summer of 1863, Zeng Guofan addressed this deficit. He summoned to an audience China’s first graduate of an American university, Yung Wing (1828–1912). At first, Yung reacted with fear. At that point, the Taiping wars were still raging, and he’d recently offered to help the Taiping modernize their military and banking systems. What if Zeng knew and wanted to behead him for treason? Yung’s friends said Zeng just wanted help, so Yung went to the great official’s headquarters. In their first meeting, Zeng sat in silence for a few minutes, staring at Yung with a slight smile, and then asked a series of personal questions. When Zeng sipped his tea, Yung knew the audience was over. At a second meeting, Zeng asked Yung what China most needed at present. Yung, having been coached by his friends, replied that China needed “a mother machine shop, capable of reproducing other machine shops.”

Zeng liked this answer and liked Yung Wing. He gave him 68,000 taels of silver (about 2,500 kilograms) and full autonomy to buy a modern factory and transport it back to China, a task he could carry out wherever and however he saw fit. Yung went to America, arranged to purchase a machine shop, attended his tenth class reunion at Yale, volunteered to fight for the Union in the Civil War (his service was declined), and, finally, in 1865, returned to China on a Nantucket bark of dubious seaworthiness (the captain’s six-year-old son swore like a sailor). He was rewarded with an official rank in the Qing bureaucracy, and the factory he purchased became the heart of the famous Jiangnan Arsenal.

The Jiangnan Arsenal is often considered a failure, but in fact the strides made there were impressive. It produced steamers from scratch—every part, from the engines to the hulls to the screw propeller mechanisms. It produced guns of advanced designs, copying or reverse engineering Western models. Testing and experimentation were an important part of the production process, and high officials were closely involved.

It wasn’t the only modern factory in China. There were many such experiments. The most significant was started by Zeng’s contemporary, the great general Zuo Zongtang (famous in the United States for the chicken dish named after him). Working with the Frenchman Prosper Giquel (commander of the Sino-French Ever-Triumphant Army), General Zuo established an institution that historians usually call the Fuzhou Shipyard, although the term is too modest. It was a huge complex, occupying 118 acres of land, with forty-five buildings, including factories, workshops, a foundry, offices, and dormitories. It even had its own tramway system. Dozens of Europeans worked there as technicians, teachers, and foremen, as did scores of Chinese administrators and thousands of Chinese workers.

The Fuzhou complex also had schools. Most of China’s new arsenals did, too, but the Fuzhou Shipyard’s were particularly ambitious, and they focused on precisely the skills that had prevented Ding Gongchen and other would-be modernizers of the 1840s from achieving success: technical drawing, mathematics, and engineering. The French advisor Prosper Giquel explained, in a report on the first five years of the Fuzhou Shipyard, the rationale for such schooling:

In order to calculate the dimensions of a piece of machinery or of a hull, it is necessary to know arithmetic and geometry; in order to reproduce that object on a plan it is necessary to understand the science of perspective, which is descriptive geometry; in order to explain the pressure exerted on engines and ships as well as on still bodies, by gravity, heat, and other phenomena of nature, it is necessary to understand the laws of physics. Next in order come the increments a body undergoes under the impulse of the forces to which it is subjected; the resistances which it will need to overcome, the strain which it is able or ought to bear, which is the science of statics and of mechanics; and for these the calculations of ordinary arithmetic and geometry no longer suffice; it is necessary also to possess the knowledge of trigonometry, of analytical geometry, of the infinitesimal calculus, so as not to be any longer bound down to reason as to objects of determinate form and size, but be able to arrive at general formulae applicable to all the details of construction.

High Chinese officials were becoming cognizant of the close link between science and military production. As Governor-General Ding Richang (1823–1882) wrote, “The Westerners … have been expending their intelligence, energy, and wealth on things that were completely vague and intangible for hundreds of years; the effects are now suddenly apparent.’” Shen Baozhen (1820–1879), the director of the Fuzhou Shipyard, wrote in 1870, “The ships and guns of the West are making such extraordinary improvement that they almost defy imagination; this is the result of a capacity for computation that reaches smaller and smaller decimals; if the calculation is finer by the slightest degree, the performance of the machinery will be ten times more adroit.” He later recommended that Chinese students be sent to Europe so that they could continue mastering Western learning, and “peep into [its] subtle secrets.”

Fuzhou Shipyard students got a good opportunity to peep in 1877, when the first cohort was sent to France. Others followed, and the education programs were enormously important. As Hsien-chun Wang has recently written, “We cannot overemphasize the significance of the [Fuzhou Shipyard’s] School of Naval Construction. It was China’s first engineering school that systematically imported from the West a technology from its scientific principles to the engineering application.… Compared to other new educational institutions in China that introduced Western knowledge in the period between the 1860s and 1880s, the schools of the Fuzhou shipyard were much more technical.” Students learned about every part of steamship design, and graduates had careers lasting well into the twentieth century.

The Fuzhou Shipyard produced guns, ammunition, and steamships. At first the steamships were basic models: a 150-horsepower transport, an 80-horsepower gunboat. But the quality was high. A British merchant noted that the vessels were “admirably fastened and particularly well finished outside and inside. They could not be better finished in London or New York.” The third vessel to launch—an 80-horsepower gunboat—was even better, fast and solid, perhaps even a little too solid, according to the merchant: “somewhat unnecessarily strong for the tonnage and weight, but the faults are good and unusual.” Other early vessels were also considered effective. By 1873, the British observer noted, Fuzhou-produced gunboats were better than contemporary British vessels of the same type. “No navy,” he wrote, “has better vessels.” Other Western observers corroborated these judgments.

Yet steamer technology was changing rapidly. In 1853, the Scottish shipwright John Elder (remembered today as a master draftsman, among other things) had patented a design for a compound engine for marine use. Instead of a single condenser, Elder’s engine had two. The steam first entered a high-heat, high-pressure condenser. Then it was shunted to a lower-pressure, lower-heat condenser. At each stage it drove pistons. The result was a significant increase in efficiency, and by 1858 Elder patented a triple-compound version, even more efficient. By the 1870s, iron-hulled vessels driven by compound engines were being widely adopted throughout Europe.

The Fuzhou Shipyard followed. By 1877 it was producing iron-hulled vessels with compound engines. Its first success, a sloop launched in May 1877, was impressive: at 1,200 tons, it was driven by a composite 750-horsepower engine. By December 1880, the shipyard had built four such sloops. In 1883, it launched a powerful cruiser: 2,200 tons, with a 2400-horsepower triple-compound engine and a cruising speed of fifteen knots. General Zuo Zongtang ordered two more. In May 1888, a ship called the Longwei was completed, and it was the most technologically sophisticated vessel yet: 2,100 tons with twenty-centimeter-thick steel armor, and a turret whose armor was even thicker. It was driven by two 1,200-horsepower triple expansion engines, which enabled a cruising speed of fourteen knots. It featured electric lighting, a searchlight, and a telephonic communication system.

Yet still the pace of change accelerated. By the 1880s, European cruisers could reach nine thousand tons and cruise at twenty-two knots. Triple expansion engines of eight thousand horsepower were by then common, and hulls were made of steel. Never before had technology moved so swiftly. In 1903, a historian of the British navy wrote, “It may be said with little or no fear of exaggeration that the best ship existing in 1867 would have been more than a match for the entire British fleet existing in 1857, and, again, that the best ship existing in 1877 would have been almost, if not quite, equal to fighting and beating the entire fleet of only ten years earlier. By 1890, the ships of 1877 had become well-nigh obsolete; and by 1900 the best ships, even of 1890, were hardly worthy of a place in the crack fleets of the country.”

So when we assess the performance of the Fuzhou Shipyard and the Jiangnan Arsenal, we must keep in mind that China was not just closing a gap. It was embarking on a new phase of continuous revolutionary improvement, and that phase was not new to Asia alone: it was new in world history. To appreciate the rapid development of mechanical technologies, one can chart the number of specialized engineering societies that were founded in the course of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There is certainly a lag between East Asians and Europeans, but what is surprising is how new Great Britain’s were as well.

China and Japan were modernizing swiftly, but so were all their Western rivals, and it is the trajectory that is important. Within its first two decades of existence, the Fuzhou Shipyard had vaulted forward in technological capacity, able to follow the continual technological revolution. In fact, the Fuzhou Shipyard compares favorably to Japan’s famous Yokosuka Shipyard well into the 1880s. The Yokosuka Shipyard was smaller than that of Fuzhou, and its budget was lower, just a third of that of Fuzhou in 1871. It produced far fewer vessels—just thirteen between 1876 and 1894, whereas the Fuzhou Shipyard produced thirty-three vessels before 1895. The Yokosuka Shipyard also trailed the Fuzhou Shipyard in terms of technology, building its first iron-hulled vessel after Fuzhou. Experts now believe that the relative maritime performance of Japan and China was much closer than historians had tended to assume up through the 1880s. Moreover, China and Japan seem to have been unusual: with the possible exception of the Ottoman Empire, no other non-Western states mastered steamship technology so well.

Unfortunately, by the late 1880s the Fuzhou Shipyard ran into problems. The issue was not conservatism or lack of know-how or a supposed Chinese indifference to engineering and preference for Confucianism, as scholars have suggested. It was a lack of dedicated funding. Yokosuka Shipyard received clear and consistent allocations, having been placed under Japan’s Naval Department in 1872. The Fuzhou Shipyard didn’t. When Zuo Zongtang had set it up, he’d arranged for funding to be shared by several provinces, of which the most important was Fujian, where the shipyard was located. Other provinces were supposed to contribute, but their allocations weren’t automatic. Moreover, Zuo Zongtang hadn’t taken into account steam vessels’ high maintenance costs, which consumed an increasing portion of the budget. Each year, funding had to be cobbled together from multiple sources. The shipyard’s directors spent as much time wrangling funding and lobbying officials as directing operations.

For a time, powerful officials kept the shipyard flourishing. The great Shen Baozhen, for example, had supported it as viceroy of Liangjiang. But he died in 1879. Zuo Zongtang, the shipyard’s founder and greatest patron, died in 1885. Afterward, it became harder and harder for directors to cobble together the funding. Morale suffered, as evidenced by high turnover for the position of shipyard director: between 1875 and 1890, three resigned and four moved to other posts. By the late 1880s, the shipyard was faltering.

Japan’s Yokosuka Shipyard was on the opposite trajectory. Although its early years had been rough, by the late 1880s it had dedicated funding that allowed it to invest in multiyear projects and make continued capital investments, vital in this time of constant technological change. It increased its commitment to innovation, hiring Western experts to build the latest designs, although its advanced cruisers were less effective than once believed.

Indeed, on the eve of the war between China and Japan, many experts believed with good reason that China’s fleet had advantages over that of Japan and that China would win the war.