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Beasley: Japanese Imperialism
Japanese Imperialism, 1894-1945

(W. G. Beasley)

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The logic behind the Pacific War

[Here are my notes from this excellent study by a British scholar. -- Dan Ford]

"Europeans and Americans have always been ready to believe that trade with China holds a potential for profit greater than the reality at any given time has justified...." (p.14) And Japanese too, I suspect!

"China's relations with its neighbours had traditionally been much less concerned with questions of line or space [i.e., physical borders] than those to which Europeans were accustomed, being based, not on the concept of national sovereignty, but on that of cultural unity." (p.41)

Sino-Japanese War 1894-95: "... what had begun as a war over Korea developed into the first stage of Japanese imperial expansion." Saw the projection of Japanese power not only into Korea, but also Taiwan, south Manchuria, and (economically) the treaty ports. (p.55)

Following the Russo-Japanese War, not satisfied with economic hegemony: "Japan had interests in Manchuria that were properly strategic.... [They] also controlling transportation and communications, ... keeping civil order, and protecting the Korean frontier.... In later years it was just as possible to apply them to the dangers arising from Chinese turbulence or communist insurgency.... Soldiers, they claimed, rightly had a share in decisions concerning [Manchuria], preferably a dominant one." (p.97)

Taiwan was Japan's first colony. Upper-class Taiwanese shared with Japanese a Confucian education and the Chinese script, hence were "already partly civilized". Still, they were "demonstrably uncivilized.... This made it difficult to trat them as being, like the Japanese, 'one people under one emperor'." Like Korea and Karafuto, they were to be ultimately integrated with Japan. (p.143)

Since these colonies had been acquired by war, and their governors commanded forces important to the national defense, the army demanded and got a voice in choosing them. (p.145)

The Manchurian coup, September 1931: Kwantung Army outnumbered, so surprise necessary. Planning carried out during the summer. Coordinated with War Ministry and General Staff in Japan. Good staff work or preparation for military action? (p.192)

Ishiwara Kanji: "Japan, acting through the army, was destined to save the world from Marxism and other corrupting ideologies. This would require a series of wars, first against Russia, then against Britain, finally against the United States, in which Japan would stand as the champion of Asia and the embodiment of Confucian righteousness." (p.182) (That's Beasley speaking, not Ishiwara.) "to Ishiwara Kanji and those who worked with him, Manchukuo was not merely thought of as a passive material resource. It was, if possible, to be an active partner, in the way that idealists had long hoped China would be." (p.196)

1936: "The navy, looking to its oil requirements, urged economic penetration of south-east asia [and] ... caution in north China and Inner Mongolia.... The army, preoccupied with the question of control, insisted on the need for 'building a new China', which it saw as 'the key to administering East Asia'." (p.201)

"To some Japanese it was the unselfish objectives of national policy--establishing a special relationship with China, in particularly, and thereby turning back the tide of Western imperialism--that were of first importance. To others it was the selfish ones: Japan's own security and economic survival, achieved at whatever cost to Asian values. Arguably, one could not exist without the other. Unless Japan were made strong, there was no way of saving Asia from the West; and making Japan strong involved economic exploitation of its neighbours." (p.210)

The only oilfield in northeast Asia was at Sakhalin. In 1932, 55% of oil by value came from the US, 20% from Indonesia. (p.212)

"the Kwantung Army [in Manchuria] set out to create an industrial base to support its operations in the event of an attack by Russia." Set up several companies, each to dominate a certain field: oil, coal, electric power, etc. (p.215)

April 1941 non-aggression pact with Russia. "Russian neutrality was an important condition of Japanese expansion into south-east Asia later in the year." (p.221)

"It is arguable that Anglo-Japanese rivalry, more than concern over China, accounts for the American government's growing hostility to Japan in these years. Certainly American economic interests in China do not seem to have been considerable enough to warrant full-scale confrontation. And it was only as Japanese moves toward south-east Asia were becoming a factor in Britain's ability to resist the Axis powers that the United States began reluctantly to intervene." (p.222)

Early 1940 Colonial Minister Kosio Kuniaki: not realistic "to expect a perfect autarky [self-sufficiency] ... among Japan, Manchukuo and China". Japan must "rely on the South Seas for the supply of needed material for the realization of the New Order in East Asia". (p.225)

"This brand of economic diplomacy began to take on a harsher note after Germany occupied Holland, Belgium, and much of France during the spring and early summer of 1941." (p.226)

30 July 1941: "Japan's living sphere" identified as French Indochina, Thailand, Malaya, Borneo, Netherlands East Indies, Burma, India, Australia, and New Zealand. Aug: Cabinet Planning Board formalizes this zone but focuses on "a zone running through Burma to the Dutch islands to the Philippines and Indo-China, [thus] excluding India, Australia, and New Zealand. Within this zone, ... 'Japan's military and raw material requirements' must take first place." (p.227-28)

Rice exports from Southeast Asia to Japan fell from 1.4 million metric tons in 1942 to 74 thousand tons two years later. Iron ore from the Philippines fell to 10 percent of pre-war. Petroleum imports from SE Asia 65 million barrels in 1940, down to 15 million in 1943, 4.9 million in 1944. "Thus south-east Asia contributed much less to Japan's wartime economy than it had been expected to.... [I]t is arguable that the failure of the Co-prosperity Sphere to fulfill the economic role assigned to it guaranteed Japan's defeat." (p.249)

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