The Meiji Restoration of 1868 led to administrative modernization and subsequent rapid economic developments. But Japan did not possess enough natural resources to cope with the rising demand. She needed both overseas markets and sources of raw materials, fuelling a drive for imperial conquest which began with the Sino-Japanese War in 1894, followed by expansions in Korea and Manchuria. The internal and external circumstances at that time enabled Japan’s expansion in East Asia.
One internal factor that favoured Japan’s expansionst policy towards China and Korea was the growth of Japanese extreme nationalism and Shintoism. This was because in the 1880s and 1890s, political condition in Japan was unstable. In the 1880s, there was the People’s Rights Movement, which seized every opportunity to ridicule the ruling oligarchy. Many ex-samurai wanted a spirited foreign policy. It directed the focus of the Japanese upon expansion to Korea. With the calling of the inadequate constitution in 1889, criticisms to the ruling government became even more acute. To quiet down political unrest, the Meiji leaders resorted to nationalism. Whenever a political crisis emerged the government would divert the attention of the people to a foreign war. Japanese nationalism became extreme. Moreover, the western powers’ reluctance to abolish the unequal treaties in a peaceful way, for example, the Iwakura Mission in 1871, convinced Japanese that treaty revision could only be achieved after Japan raised her international status. Only by conquering her neighbouring states could Japan show her strength and prowess. As a result, local feeling broke down and nation-wide patriotism arose. Especially after 1890s, attention was more and more concentrated on Japan’s ability to fight and win a foreign offensive war and to acquire imperialist interests overseas. Nationalism was also strengthened by Shintoism. Shintoism was Japan’s national ideology. It regarded the Emperor as Japans’ God and...
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