Unsuccessful Attempts of International Order in East-Asia

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Jessica Dirkson
Professor Hoey
HIS330
March 8, 2013
Unsuccessful Attempts of International Order in East-Asia
In the beginning of the Meiji Era (1868 - 1912), Western attempts to create a stable international order in East Asia increased tremendously. During this time period, Japan experienced fundamental changes in its view and interactions with the Western Powers. Previously, the Japanese did not have any interest in adopting the international order of the West, and continued on a path of isolationism. Soon, the Japanese realized that the only foreseeable way that they could rise to power and equality with the West while still maintaining some of their social and cultural heritage was to change their foreign and domestic policy to the “Western Way.” The Japanese devotion to this adaptation was remarkable. Within a few decades, the Japanese were soon recognized as an emerging World Power. The rapid rise to power had many effects on Japan’s growing international relationships. As time progressed and Japan’s strength continued to increase, Western Powers began to see their status and interests potentially threatened and decisively took action. The West’s desires to construct a stable international order with their advantage in East Asia resulted in the creation of multiple alliances and treaty systems. Shortly thereafter, Japan began to feel constrained by their subordinate role in the international order, and attempted to create a Japan-centric East Asian Order. With wars and breaking of treaties, the stability of an international order in East Asia implemented by Western powers became a vision of the past by the 1930s, only to re-emerge with the defeat of Japan in 1945 and the United States’ sequential occupation. Japan’s Re-emergence into International Order: The Anglo-Japanese Alliance The Anglo-Japanese alliance, created in 1902, was one of the most significant developments in constructing international order in East Asia during the twentieth century. Being the first alliance between a World Power and an East Asian country, it carried much weight with its implementation. The Anglo-Japanese alliance was a massive step for Japan because they had been battling unequal treaties since 1870. These unequal treaties gave the precedent for Japan to be wary of Western Powers when they expressed interest in East Asian order, as in the past the West’s interest was proven to be solely for their own economic gain. While the Anglo-Japanese alliance was created on the basis of equality between the two countries, one could only look at the underlying reasons with a critical eye. Designed to uphold both Japan and Britain’s interests in Asia, the Anglo-Japanese alliance proved to be strategic and beneficial for both countries. During this time, Russia was seen as a threat to Japan’s interest and desired influence in East Asia. The alliance with Britain resulted in Russia being less likely to seek war with Japan because of their connection to a Great Power. This stabilized order in East Asia because Russia was not able to exercise their influence any more than already allowed. However, only two short years after the alliance was made Japan declared war on Russia because of Russia’s reluctance to support Japan’s interests in Korea and their control over Manchuria. With Russia’s ally France declaring neutrality for fear of creating conflict with Japan because of their increased military prowess as a result of support from Britain, Russia’s defeat was inevitable. As a result of this, Russia acknowledged the requests Japan had made previously regarding East Asia. From this perspective, the alliance proved beneficial to Japan’s idea of expansionism, but not a stable international order. Britain’s main interest in aligning with Japan was to “uphold and maintain the Open-Door policy and territorial integrity of China.” In exchange for this, Britain would respect Japan’s interest in Korea. If Britain’s desires for China were achieved, China...
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