Origin of World War II in the Asian-Pacific Region
Why did Japan ultimately decide to start World War II by invading China in 1937 and then worsen the conflict by attacking the British and Americans in 1941? Were these attacks the effects of a Japanese state with an extreme belief of nationalism, or of a particularly coercive social order, or of economic and social inequalities, or had Japan by the late 1930s entered a stage of late capitalist development that naturally evolved into fascism? Was there a direct connection between the West’s forced intrusion into Japan in the 1850s and subsequent Western pressure on Japan and its neighbors and the launching of Japan’s World War II in Asia in 1937? The truth is all of these factors were integral reasons for Japan starting World War II. First we must go all the way back to the 1850s when the western nations first made contact with Japan. When Americans and British alike arrived in Japan they did not seek to ask for trade, but demanded it. About 100 years before Perry’s arrival in Japan in 1853 the Americas and Britain went through world shattering revolution called the Industrial Revolution. So when the Americans and British returned to Japan they brought new steamships and improved weapons, but also a new attitude. An attitude that had them demand Japan open itself to trade. All of the western nations also worked together to force the “unequal treaties” on Japan. These treaties included treaty ports, restrictions on tariffs and the most-favored nation clause. Which said whatever Japan gave one nation they to give to the others. One group of nationalists cooperated with the West to learn how to make western weapons to ultimately defend themselves from the West. Another nationalist group chose to resist the interference of the West no matter the costs. These nationalists were forerunners of General Araki’s “bamboo spear” theory. The former group advocating cooperation with the West soon rose to power and...
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