Thursday, February 18, 2010

Global trends before and affter the war

 apple407 wrote:
Your research and scholarship is impressive. But, I feel you remain too focussed on your (impressive) details that you fail to brush in the larger global picture for the cause of so-called Japanese war of aggression: African continent-colonized by Europe; India-colonized by Britain; China-about to be colonized; South-east Asian zone variously owned by european interests; not to omit Russian expansionist intentions in Mongolia and in China and in the middle east.

Didn’t these wider global trends instruct Japan in its own survival strategies?

You are talking about a world view from a corner of Asia sill remaining to be colonized at the beginning of 20th century.  You forgot to add the expansion of USA from the East.  It is symbolic that Japan's modernization began from the direct threat by US gunships in Tokyo Bay led by Commodore Perry.  Togo Heihachiro, the captain of battle ship Naniwa and the commander of the battle of Sea of Japan during Russo-Japanese war, was sent to pressure the coup of Hawaii, but the weak island nation was colonized in no time by US in front of the eyes of Japan.  US and Japan started to crash over the interests in Manchuria and Manchurian railways.

I agree with your premise that the global trends shaped the strategy of Japan at the time, but two things happened since then.  First, Japan lost concrete strategies as to what to build, some time between Manchuria incident (1931) and the second battle of Shanghai (1937).  Second, UK and US began to shape a new narrative of a world view with Atlantic charter and the foundation of UN.  The global trends changed.

The second battle of Shanghai (1937) was a deliberate aggression to international concession by Nationalist Party (KMT) with a help of Nazi Germany.  Japan should have abandoned the interests in Shanghai for long term security reasons.  Actually, Ishihara Kanji, the architect of Manchurian Empire, maintained that Japan should concentrate the efforts in building Manchuria, and defense, not offense.  Instead, Japan chose to send Army, which was followed by the fall of Nanjing, collapse of the KMT government there, and the endless and aimless war in China with numerous casualties.  After this wrong decision, I do not think the leaders knew what they were doing.

Second, UK and US formed a new political vision, which is still dominant to this day.  The Atlantic charter declares anti-colonialism, which showed the major colonial powers, UK and US, abandoned the future expansionist approach, at least publicly.  This is brilliant because this absolves any colonization or aggrandizement of their own in the past.

First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;
Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;
Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;
This undermined the validity of anti-colonialism of Japan. As a political counteraction, Japan promoted East Asian Prosperity Sphere, multi-ethnic regional community.  In a sense, official discourse in Japan was more multi-ethnic in prewar era than after the war.  For example, the war time slogan 一億火の玉 (one hundred million as a fireball) meant 80 million Japanese and 20 million Koreans.  "Japanese as a single race" or "insular mentality" was a postwar invention. 

Fourth, they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;

Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the objector securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;

Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;
The opposites of these three (freedom of trade (even to the vanquished), freedom of high seas and economic advancement) were the real cause of Japanese expansion to Manchuria.  The reaction to Great Depression and blockade of trade militarized major powers and nurtured totalitarian ideas.  Actually, in 1930s, totalitarian politics looked much rosier as it does now.  Soviets, Nazis and Roosevelt eternal regime all seemed recovering miraculously from the economic predicament, and they were building up their military in a incredible speed.

As history tells, since Japan lost the war, the Japanese version of the narrative did not prevail.  However, the Japanese invasion wiped out all colonial governments, in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Burma, Philippine, Burma in a very short period.   Even though Philippine was re-invaded by US, Malaysia and Hong Kong by UK, Viet Nam and Cambodia by France, Indonesia by Holland, all of them could not last long.  Free trade was established making it unnecessary to set up market colonies by force.  Abandoning Manchuria, Taiwan and Korea made the defense of Japan very simple.  Japan no longer had to carry the burden of defending Korea and now US did.  Japan did not have to face Soviet invasion into Inner Mongolia (e.g. Nomonhan incident). US paid a high price in defending South Korea, and had to face Soviets, whom US had been giving aid all along.  Ironically, Japan obtained two aims of the war, anti-colonialism and free trade, by losing the war.  Both of these two ideas were good for Japan from the beginning.

Back to the Korean issue.
The new political narrative has a ethic/judgmental component in it, something similar to guilt by association game: Nazi Germany - evil - ethnic cleansing - aggressor.  Korean version replaces "Nazi Germany" with "Japan." This new pattern of association is considered to be proven because Japan lost the war. 

However, there are some flaws in this logic.
First, if the defeat is the proof of righteousness, then making Korea a protectorate of Japan was also a righteous conclusion of Korea's defeat.  In this case, they were defeated even before the possibility of war.
Second, there is no "ethnic cleansing" counterpart in Japan.  Japan might have xenophobia but this is equal opportunity xenophobia, and not even remotely resembles antisemitism.  Japan did not oppress white Russian Jews in Manchuria.  There were many Polish Jews fled from Lithuania with transit visas to Japan. This is done by a Japanese diplomat of Kanaus, Sugihara Chiune.
Therefore, they have to make up the ethnic cleansing of Koreans during the Japanese administration of Korea, which are far from reality if you check the details one by one.  Unfortunately or fortunately, Japan did not have concentration camps in Korea, or total control districts, in which North Korea put 100,000 inmates to maintain their Chuch'e style police state. 

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