Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

China Reacts

Despite the Manchuria Aviation Company's seemingly secret overtures, the growing number of airports across Inner Mongolia did not escape the notice of the Republican government. The young journalist Fan Changjiang, later to become the editor-in-chief of the Xinhua News Agency, chronicled the tense relations between Japan and China over airspace, on his way to Yan’an to cover the political crisis erupting between the Nationalists and Communists in 1936.

Passing through Ejen-e, Fan found that the “Mongols harbored no hostility towards the Japanese. The people who fly in and out were worth as much a warm welcome as the people who came by caravan.” As Fan wrote about the Nationalist government:

Nanjing repeatedly sent a number of futile telegrams to investigators ordering Prince Tu [Töbsinbayar] to kick out the Japanese and stop all airplane activity.

The Mongols responded: "We do not have the means to expel them, so we would much prefer it if you could."

One time, the agents ordered the banner office to examine the papers of the Japanese arriving by airplane, but [the staff] replied: "How can we inspect the passports of people descending from the heavens?"

Fan cast the coming of the Japanese as a cosmic apotheosis to the simple-minded denizens of Ejen-e. Nevertheless he also reveals, perhaps inadvertently, how Mongols navigated the lines drawn over the skies to the best of their advantage (Fan 1937). Though within the boundaries of the Chinese Republic, Ejen-e did not answer to the Nationalists who held nominal control of the region two decades after the break up of the Qing empire. The Mongols pretended to defer to the Republican state knowing well that at the time it remained powerless to intervene in the economic and military investments made by the Japanese.

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