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Japan and the world between 1931 and 1945

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The end of the First World War saw the emergence of Japan on the international scene as a major actor of international relations and on an economic plan as well as diplomatic and military plans. The militarization of the mode, the lack of resources and raw materials vis-a-vis the increasing economic expansion, the economic crisis of 1929, tend to make Japan increasingly quarrelsome and to poke its claims on East Asia and South-east - that it regards as its zone of influence - in the name of the ?Panasiatisme'.

The Japanese invaded Mandchourie on September 18th, 1931, starting a continuous series of wars in the Pacific until the Nipponese capitulation on September 2nd, 1945, signing there the end of the Second World War. It is actually this period of a little less than fourteen years which the Japanese call ?The Fifteen Years of War'.

The period of Japanese economic, political and military growth started with the Meiji period(1868-1912), countered by the Western powers, which based their actions on a strategy aimed at territorial expansion in East Asia. This territorial expansion is supposed to guarantee the country the new resources of raw materials essential to its development and to alleviate the import-dependency of countries on the United States. A domestic military industry grew, the country lacked resources and opportunities in its main islands.

In order to support an industry growing daily and winning market share, Japan needed colonies rich in raw materials, in order to compete with European powers. Therefore the nation started eyeing Formosa (Taiwan) in 1895 and Korea in 1910 for their agricultural potential, Manchuria in 1931 for iron and coal, Indochina in 1940 for rubber, and of course the rest of China, a place of vast resources for all sectors of the industry.

Until the late 1920s, Japanese leaders generally supported the ideal, if not the practice of economic liberalism. Their attempts to integrate the Japanese economy in the liberal world, however, were thwarted when the Western economies, under the lash of the crisis of 1929, placed tariff barriers to protect their own domestic markets, leading to an impasse for internationalism in Japan. Many Japanese began to think that the structure of international peace set up between the two world wars, the League of Nations, promoted Western countries, which controlled the economic resources of the world through their colonial empires. In addition, the West was acting hypocritically by blocking the Japanese emigration through anti-Asian immigration laws in the 1920s (United States).

The idea of a federation of East Asia began to take hold, with the old ideology of universal ideals of Pan-Asian brotherhood (Hakko ichiu - the eight corners of the world under one roof), and the "liberationist" rhetoric, ant the slogan "Asia for Asians ".

On September 18, 1931, a section of railroad in Manchuria was destroyed by a bomb near the city of Mukden. The Japanese (suspected of having ordered the attack themselves to create a pretext) took the opportunity to invade Manchuria, accusing the Chinese of sabotage.

Tags: ?Panasiatisme', "Asia for Asians ", Pan-Asian brotherhood

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