In early 1937, China was in an incredibly unstable situation, amidst the ongoing Chinese Civil War (1927-1949), with the Kuomintang government fighting off Mao’s Communist rebels. At the same time, Japan, which had already more-or-less taken over Manchuria in 1932 (by creating the puppet state of Manchukuo), was preparing to move into the rest of the country, while both Tokyo and Beijing feared the possibility of direct Soviet involvement in China proper (in support of their Chinese Communist brethren). In the summer of 1937, Japan would launch a full-scale invasion of China, known as the Second Sino-Japanese War (July 7, 1937 to September 2, 1945), which dovetailed into World War II.
This is where the present map comes into play. The map, which extends from New Delhi to Vladivostok, is a pageant of pictographic action, and shows the Far East divided into zones of control, with the territories being colour-coded, with Japanese lands shaded in yellow (with Manchukuo in light yellow); Soviet Union (red), with Mongolia, occupied by the Soviet coloured in pink; China (purple), with the Five Provinces of Northern China being shaded in light purple (as Japan considered them to be a ‘buffer zone’); and British India in orange. The flags of the various nations depicted adorn their territories. Throughout the map are pictographic representations of resources (farm goods, petroleum, mining, etc.).
As for the military-political aspects, the map shows images of Japanese, Kuomintang, Chinese Communists and Soviet troops at their action stations. Of note, one gains an image of the spectre of the ‘red menace’ of the Communists threatening Japanese territories, so perhaps justifying a possible Japanese advance into China proper to counteract the fall of the Far East into the hands of the Bolsheviks (something that the average Japanese very much dreaded). Additionally, the positions of forts, bunkers and ships are noted, while broad arrows hail the arrival of Soviet reinforcements to the Chinese Communists, further inflaming the situation.
Interestingly, the tank-shaped text block, in the upper left, lists the size of the non-Japanese and Chinese forces in the region, including, on the Soviet side 300,000 troops, 1,000 aircraft, 1,000 tanks, 70 heavy bombers and 40 submarines; while the Chinese Kuomintang had 2.2 million troops; and the Chinese Communists had 200,000 men.
The map was issued by the leading Japanese daily, the Ōsaka Mainichi Shinbun, and carried a double purpose. As a propaganda piece, it was meant to encourage the Japanese people to support more aggressive action from their country in China, to defend Japanese security and interests from the ‘Red Scare’ (so seeking to justify Japan’s instigation of the Second Sino-Japanese War). On the commercial side, the map would have very much helped to sell newspapers, stoking public interest in the ongoing conflict.
While the map is not all that rare, it is often found in poor condition; the present example is in very good condition.
References: Library of Congress: G7801.F5 1937 .O8; David Rumsey Map Collection: 11108.000; OCLC: 127724862, 47544666.