Japan and the Pacific
Thesis: Japan’s government and cultural make up since before the 20th century prepared its people for a military campaign that will last World War II. The participation in the war was conscious and anticipated. I. Background: Even before Japan invaded China on July 7, 1937 , Japan had started its expansionist movement even pier to the 20th century. Earlier invasions of China’s border provinces started in 1894 . To understand Japan’s motives, we need to look deeper into Japan’s cultural and socio – historical background [6 and 7].
In the late 1900’s, Japan’s population was exploding . Japan needed additional sources of raw materials to keep its economy growing to support its population. Hence, the government of Japan sought to move into neighboring china through its border provinces. That was the start of Japan’s encroachment into another nation’s territory and the lack of successful resistance emboldened Japan’s expansionist movement even further [6 and 7]. China and Japan’s lingering tension which lasted more than half a century started long before the second Sino-Japanese war of 1937 .
Historically, the dispute started with China’s tributary – Korea. About that time, Japan also became emboldened to look into its neighboring nations because of the success of the modernization changes brought about by the Meiji restoration. Japan used Korea as a stepping stone to move into China by forcing a war. With Japan encroaching into Korea, China was forced to sue for peace and sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki in April 17,1895 . China also had to cede Taiwan, Liaodong Peninsula, Pescadores and war indemnification of 200 million Taels and other trade concessions.
Since then, other colonial powers like France, Russia, Germany and Britain tried to subdivide China’s hemisphere and take advantage of the brewing rebellion in the mainland . Japan’s occupation of Liaodong Peninsula was short lived though. Japan was pressured by Russia, Germany and France to return the Peninsula to China – only to be occupied by Russia soon thereafter. This angered Japan and prepared its military for a showdown with Russia years later. Finally, in 1904, when Russia threatened to establish control over Korea, Japan declared war on Russia and won.
With Russia’s defeat, Japan established itself as a colonial power to reckon with in Asia . II. Preparations for World War 2. Fast forward to the 1930’s wherein Japan was ruled by a military clique of army and navy leaders and the code of “BUSHIDO” or Japanese warrior code was strictly embedded in every Japanese recruit for the war w/c proved to be effective and deadly against Japan’s enemies . 2. 1 Japan’s transition from 1912 to 1941: The Meiji reforms strengthened Japan not only as a sovereign nation but also as a colonial power.
The succeeding Taisho period from 1912 to 1945 changed Japan’s traditional values of feudal society to that of values highly influenced by Western values with emphasis on efficiency, independence, materialism and individualism. This cultural turn about also coincided with Japan’s economic prosperity and unprecedented growth much likened to the Roaring 20’s of the USA . Right after World War 1, Japan went into a deep economic depression . This weakened the existing government structure especially the Parliament. Japan’s military institutions took over and advanced the expansionist movement within the country.
Moreover, previous successes with China (1895)  and Russia (1904)  further emboldened Japan’s military leaders to wield more influence in Asia through military force. Another reason why Japan’s military leaders held more influence is the growing disappointment and frustration within Japan of the Western colonial power’s “bias” against Japan as a colonial power in Asia. Japan didn’t feel they got enough recognition for the military prowess that they have displayed so far. Japan felt alienated by this treatment and it sought to re-affirm its colonizing ability by moving further into Asia.