Tanaka Giichi was a Japanese soldier, politician, and prime minister of Japan from April 20, 1927, to July 2, 1929. He was born on June 22, 1863. Tanaka served in the Japanese military in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and quickly parlayed a successful combat campaign into a rapid ascent to positions of greater power. In 1915 Tanaka took the position of subchief of Central Major State and in 1920 the rank of general.
Prime Ministers Hara Takashi (1918–21) and Yamamoto Gonnohyoe (1923–24) appointed him war minister. During his tenure, Tanaka supported the Siberian Expedition, sending Japanese troops to Russia. He officially retired from military service in 1921 in order to work with and later lead the Seiyukai political party.
Tanaka, like many of his contemporaries, emerged as a significant military voice after Japan's decisive victory over Russia and when Japan dealt with the fallout of its own modernization program. Thus, Tanaka in many ways symbolized the new and modern Japanese military mind.
By 1927 Giichi successfully gained the position of prime minister and served concurrently as foreign affairs minister. His foreign policy was both aggressive and interventionist. Most notably, Giichi intervened militarily in Shandong (Shantung), China, in 1927 in order to prevent Chiang Kai-shek from uniting the country. Domestically, he worked to suppress opposition and has been accused of manipulating elections in order to extend his rule.
He is the reputed author of the "Tanaka Memorial"—the Imperial Conquest Plan for the taking of Manchuria, Mongolia, the whole of China, and then the Soviet Far East and Central Asia. Japan claimed the plan was a forgery. What cannot be denied, however, is that the so-called Tanaka plan reflected much of the foreign policy of Japan during the 1930s and 1940s and ultimately led to World War II.
His fall came from within his own administration. His supporter Kaku Mori, with ties to two secret Japanese societies, the zaibatsu and radical groups, was able to influence him and his policies as prime minister—the implementation of interventionist policies toward both Manchuria and Mongolia.
Thus, Japan backed in 1928 the successful assassination of Manchurian warlord Zhang Zolin (Chang Tso-lin) in an attempt to seize Manchuria. Due to quick Chinese response, the plotters failed to seize Manchuria until 1931 as a result of the Manchurian incident. Giichi's political career came to an end with his signing of the Kellogg-Briand Pact.
Opponents criticized him for exceeding his power and failing to take into account the sovereignty of the emperor. The failure in Manchuria and KelloggBriand led to his resignation and the succession of Hamaguchi Osachi as prime minister. He died on September 29, 1929.