The Japanese Empire – Japanese Militarism
East had been an important trading area for the European powers for centuries
and a developing resentment against what were regarded as unjust treaties had
grown up in Japan, and other countries.
particular, Britain through its enormously large and powerful Empire, the
Netherlands with their extensive interests in the Dutch East Indies, and the US
exerted enormous influence over many South East Asian countries.
mid 1800s, like other Asian nations, Japan was comparatively backward until a
major reform and modernisation programme commenced after the Meiji restoration
in 1868. With this development, there was a growth in nationalistic sentiment.
Japan set up its first European style constitution in 1889, and established the
parliament, or Diet, with the emperor retaining sovereignty but power held by
the ruling faction. Political parties exercised little power at that time.
Emperor Mutsuhito (1852-1912)
1894-5 Sino-Japanese War broke out after conflicts of
interest with China over Korea. Although Japan won, and retained Taiwan, it was
required by Russia, France, Germany – The Triple Intervention – to return other
territories. The Japanese army and navy stepped up their rearmament.
1904-5 Russo-Japanese War
resulted from conflicts with Russia
over interests in Korea and Manchuria. Japan won, gaining new territory so that
it was able to annex Korea in 1910.
the death of Emperor Meiji in 1912 and the passing of the ruling faction, a weak
Emperor, Taisho, took over and power moved to parliament and political parties.
Although Japan participated, to a minor degree, in World War I, in support of
the Allies, relations with Western nations continued to deteriorate. Japan
believed itself to be the object of discrimination and racist policies which
were to figure significantly in the lead up to the Pacific War in 1941.
economic situation worsened during the 1930’s, aggravated by the after effects
of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the Great Depression.
military were well positioned to take over effective control of government and
any real opposition was eliminated.
Japan’s influence had been growing in
Manchuria since 1905, and when its interest began to be challenged by China in
1931, Japanese armed forces in Manchuria “The Kwantung Army” occupied Manchuria.
“Manchukuo”, as it was renamed, was declared an independent state in 1932.
Shanghai was bombed in support of Japanese citizens living there.
Japan was heavily criticised, worldwide,
for these actions and withdrew from the League of Nations in 1933.
1937 Second Sino-Japanese War
broke out. A small incident turned into major conflict with Japanese forces
occupying most of the Chinese coastline. During these actions, Japanese forces
carried out extraordinary atrocities on the Chinese population. It is believed
that more than 200,000 people were massacred in the Sack of Nanking.
concept of a “New Order” in East Asia was central to Japanese military thinking,
leading to the declaration of The Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere presaging
the growth of the Japanese Empire in SE Asia.
agreement the French Vichy Government, occupied French Indo China and in
September 27th 1940 signed a tripartite pact with
Germany and Italy in Berlin. This 10 year agreement provided mutual aid in the
event of one of the parties being attacked by a country not yet involved in the
war. Although this was constructed as a warning to the US, subsequent events at
Pearl Harbour would not prevent the immediate declaration of war by the US.
and Britain responded with an oil boycott on Japan. The oil shortages that
resulted and failure to solve the issues diplomatically led Japan to resolve to
take the oilfields in The Dutch East Indies and British interests in Malaya.
This would be a
valuable source of raw materials for the Japanese economy (Malaya supplied half
of the world’s tin and one third of its rubber). These would be later
supplemented by the oilfields of Burma.
Imperial Designs of Japan required the acquisition of natural resources that it,
as a nation, did not possess.
Quest for Empire 1931-1945 by Susan Townsend
Introduction to Japanese History