In part one, we gave a general overview of the 1919 or “Wilsonian moment,” a notion that extends before and after that calendar year, in part two, issues like the Asian Monroe Doctrine, how relations between China and Japan from the 1890s onward transformed the region from the hierarchy of time to the hierarchy of space, Leninist and Wilsonian Internationalism, western and Eastern Sovereignty, and the crucial March First and May Fourth movements, in part three the important Chinese factions beyond 1919 and the need for China to create a new Nation-State and how Japan, in turn, sought to expand into Asia through liberal imperialism and then sought to consolidate its empire through liberal internationalism. And in part four the various arrangements between the US and Japan including The Kellogg–Briand Pact or Pact in 1928 and The Treaty for the Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armament of 1930. Whereby next we will analyze the actual path to war starting with the American China policy the Manchurian Incident and why this led to an ideological clash with Japanese Asianism.
The standard “road to war” narratives explain that Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931 strained relations with the United States, a situation severely aggravated by the empire’s invasion of China proper in 1937, and then brought to a breaking point in 1941 by Japan’s advance into southern Indochina In response, the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt froze Japan’s assets in the United States and placed a full embargo on oil. Japan’s leaders, unable to find common ground with the United States, launched a surprise attack oil Pearl Harbor. But if Japanese expansion into southern Indochina and the subsequent oil ban provided the initial ‘’spark” of the Pacific War. then what was the “gunpowder’ that lay behind the belligerency? What explains the underlying growing hostility between Japan and America in the 1930s? The answer is crucial to understanding why the United States ultimately concluded it had no option but to resort to freezing assets and embargoing oil, and why Japan chose to abandon diplomacy and resort to war.
A prominent postwar thesis stresses Japan’s “search for economic security” in Asia and the construction of ail autarkic “yen bloc.” This “realist” perspective argues that Japan’s expansionism in the 1930s stemmed primarily from rational calculations aimed at enhancing national security, in particular, the demand to secure external markets and access to natural resources in an increasingly protectionist world. Indeed, there was much talk in Japan at the time about the nation’s alleged “have-not” status and unquestionable right to vital “lifelines.” Explaining the Asia-Pacific War as a result of Japan’s drive for autarky, and America’s efforts to contain it, is an important part of the story But it also tends to construct an image of a Japanese regime single-mindedly focused on cold calculations of economic security. Underappreciated is how these strategic pursuits were undergirded by an ideology profoundly at odds with America’s core convictions about world order.
At the heart of the conflict between the United States and Japan during the 1930s was the importance of two competing ideologies of world order, liberal internationalism and Pan-Asianist regionalism. From the Manchurian crisis of 1931 up through fruitless negotiations in the fall of 1941 discord consistently turned on basic principles about world governance, tied to rising geopolitical stakes. This also includes the American reception of the Japanese government’s efforts to shape American public opinion in the 1930s through a vigorous program of cultural diplomacy. By tapping the empire’s cultural riches or “soft power.” Japan’s leaders hoped to combat negative perceptions in the United States and legitimize their regionalist aspirations on the continent.
The American made China policy
The American mission to China in 1843-44, and the treaty of Wangxia that resulted from it was the reflection of a strong and autonomous China policy; a policy that found another voice in the Open Door notes a statement of principles initiated by the United States in 1899 and 1900 for the protection of equal privileges among countries trading with China and in support of Chinese territorial and administrative integrity. The statement was issued in the form of circular notes dispatched by U.S. Secretary of State John Hay to Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and Russia.
Underneath drawing depicting the proponents of the Open Door policy (the United States, Great Britain, and Japan) pitted against those opposed to it (Russia, Germany, and France), 1898:
The 1899 Open Door notes provided that each great power should maintain free access to a treaty port or to any other vested interest within its sphere, only the Chinese government should collect taxes on trade, and no great power having a sphere should be granted exemptions from paying harbor dues or railroad charges.
Historian Yamamuro Shin’ichi has drawn attention to the fact that it was under the influence of World War I that two other streams of debate became popular: one that ascribed to Japan a special role as mediator between the West (“Euro-America”) and the East (“Asia”) in order to “harmonize” or “blend” the two civilizations, and another that viewed a future clash between the East and West as inevitable and demanded that Japan lead Asia in this anti-Western enterprise. No matter which of the two streams one sided with, neither position questioned the relevance or validity of the geographically, culturally, and ethnically defined oppositional units, one of which was “Asia.” From the mid-1910s onwards, such affirmative views of “Asia” began to displace previously dominant attitudes among East Asians toward “Asia” as an insignificant or derogatory category.
Since a larger Asianist vision of the new world order was only realistic if China and Japan agreed to cooperate, naturally, a key component within this debate was the relations between China and Japan. But how could Japanese-Chinese cooperation or, preferably, even friendship be achieved, given the strained bilateral relations in the diplomatic arena, the fields of business and commerce, as well as the growing antagonisms in everyday interactions between ordinary Japanese and ordinary Chinese?
Ideology is an elusive and expansive term. On one hand, the word is often used to describe a particularly rigorous, comprehensive, and dogmatic set of integrated values, based on a systematic philosophy, which claims to provide coherent and unchallengeable answers to all the problems of mankind. Thomist Christianity, Marxism-Leninism, and Nazism, one could suggest, all fall under this cloistered meaning of ideology. Whereby in contrast to this one could also argue that ideology is a set of closely related beliefs or ideas, or even attitudes, characteristic of a group or community which comes closer to expressing a worldview or mentally especially when as is the case here one is concerned with core political beliefs and values related to a crucial normative question: how should the international system be structured and managed? In the 1930s, following a decade of general agreement. Japanese and American leaders held distinctly antagonistic positions on tins question of world order. Simply stated, the United States promoted a universalistic framework based on an ideology of liberal internationalism, while Japan pursued an exclusive regionalist arrangement with an emphasis on being the stabilizing force in Asia.
The Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars were important milestones in Japan’s quest for world power. With its victories over China and Russia, Japan proved itself as the most formidable power in Asia. This was credited as the success of the Meiji Westernization and reorientation of Japanese civilizational identity. Yet Japan could not obtain recognition of its status from the West as an equal power in the imperialist club. It became increasingly clear to the Japanese that race was the major factor for its failure to, obtain such recognition. Despite Japan’s claim of carrying the flag of Western civilization in Asia, its expansion over Asia caused a conflict of interests with Western colonialism.
As we have seen, the mission to China in 1843-44, and the treaty of Wangxia that resulted from it was the reflection of a strong and autonomous China policy; a policy that found another voice in the Open Door notes a statement of principles initiated by the United States in 1899 and 1900 for the protection of equal privileges among countries trading with China and in support of Chinese territorial and administrative integrity. The statement was issued in the form of circular notes dispatched by U.S. Secretary of State John Hay to Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and Russia.
Then in 1936, Amau Eiji of the Japanese Foreign Ministry issued the Amau Doctrine, proclaiming Japan as the “guardian of peace, and order in East Asia.” In this role, Japan claimed the right to oppose Western support to China and asserted that China did not have the right to “avail herself of the influence of any other country to resist Japan.”1
This was a direct challenge to the Open Door Policy declared by the U.S. Secretary of State John Hay in 1899. Basically, the goal was to prevent any single power, most particularly Japan, from gaining exclusive colonial control over China. According. to this doctrine, all nations would have equal trading rights in China and Western spheres of interest in China would not become colonial possessions. In 1922, the Nine-Power treaty signed at the Washington Naval Conference endorsed the open door policy and pledged mutual respect for Chinese territorial integrity and independence. Hay stated in 1900 that “the policy of the United States is to seek a solution which may bring about permanent safety and peace to China, preserve Chinese territorial integrity and administrative entity, protect all rights guaranteed to friendly powers by treaty and international law and safeguard trade with all parts of China.”2 However, as other parts of Asia were already colonized by the Western powers, Japan came to increasingly dislike the Open Door Policy as an exclusive denial of its colonial expansion. In this context, ideas of an anti-Western, Japan-centric Asian order gained currency among members of the Japanese political and intellectual elite. The civilizational discourse of the Meiji era was replaced by the racial discourse in the period of the war and became hegemonic by the 1930s. The idea of a ‘dobun doshu’ (“same Chinese characters, same race”) was the basis of this version of Asianism. Yet common culture and same race did not mean in the perception of Japanese Pan-Asianists perfect equality of Japan and China. For them, “Japanese must assume the dominant position in order to ‘educate’ and ‘lead’ the Chinese in the right direction.3 Tokutomi Soho, once a quintessential liberal who converted to the nationalist cause later, expressed these feelings: The countries of the white men are already extending into the forefront of Japan. They have already encroached on China, India, and Persia. Japan is not so far from Europe. Most of the countries in the east from Suez, excluding Japan, have been dominated by them. Coping with such a situation, can we have a hope of equal treatment between the white man and the yellow man? No … Although the Chinese, like us, also belong to the world of the yellow man, they always humble themselves before the white man and indulge themselves by leading a comfortable life. We, Japanese, should take care of the yellow man in general, Chinese in particular. We should claim that the mission of the Japanese Empire is to fully implement an Asian Monroe Doctrine. „Although we say that Asians should handle their own affairs by themselves, there are no other Asian people than the Japanese who are entitled to perform this mission. Therefore, an Asian Monroe Doctrine means in reality a Monroe Doctrine led by the Japanese…We should end the dominance of the white man in Asia.”4
Leading thinkers from a different political spectrum in China also showed concern about the new discourse on “Japanese-Chinese friendship.” Chen Duxiu (1879–1942), together with Li Dazhao (1889–1927), a co-founder of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), had studied in Japan in 1901 and was a leader of the revolutionary New Cultural Movement. Although both were highly critical of China’s traditionalism and, therefore, at least potentially, shared some views held by Japanese debaters critical of China, they rejected Japanese pressure on China to form an alliance in the spirit of “Japanese-Chinese friendship” on Japanese terms. In March 1919, Chen published a short essay in which he sharply rejected the demands from Japan to receive special concessions in Shandong as a reward for its participation in World War I on the victors’ side. “The countries that have fought together heroically against Germany in the European War [World War I],” Chen wrote, “do not demand Zambia or Poland as rewards. And yet, Japan, which frequently advances ‘Chinese-Japanese friendship’ demands concessions for mining and railways in Shandong province as a condition in exchange for the return of Qingdao.
Japan’s assistance to the Chinese revolutionary movement led by Sun Yat-sen (1866 – 1925 who became first president of the Republic of China and the first leader of the Kuomintang-Nationalist Party of China) to overthrow the Qing monarchy was a part of Japan’s Asianist strategy. In a speech at a girls’ school in Kobe on 28 November, he invoked the vision of Pan-Asianism first raised by the exiles in Japan twenty years earlier: the call for solidarity between peoples suffering the same sickness of imperial domination.
Historian Yamamuro Shin’ichi has drawn attention to the fact that it was also under the influence of World War I that two other streams of debate became popular: one that ascribed to Japan a special role as mediator between the West (“Euro-America”) and the East (“Asia”) in order to “harmonize” or “blend” the two civilizations, and another that viewed a future clash between the East and West as inevitable and demanded that Japan lead Asia in this anti-Western enterprise. No matter which of the two streams one sided with, neither position questioned the relevance or validity of the geographically, culturally, and ethnically defined oppositional units, one of which was “Asia.” From the mid-1910s onwards, such affirmative views of “Asia” began to displace previously dominant attitudes among East Asians toward “Asia” as an insignificant or derogatory category.
Since a larger Asianist vision of a new world order was only realistic if China and Japan agreed to cooperate, naturally, a key component within this debate was the relations between China and Japan. But how could Japanese-Chinese cooperation or, preferably, even friendship be achieved, given the strained bilateral relations in the diplomatic arena, the fields of business and commerce, as well as the growing antagonisms in everyday interactions between ordinary Japanese and ordinary Chinese? After Japan had issued the infamous Twenty-One Demands to China, followed by boycotts and anti-Japanese protest there, in 1915 and 1916 a first peak in Japanese proposals for friendship between Japan and China could be observed. It was mainly driven by Sinophile Japanese, such as Yoshino Sakuzō, Ukita Kazutami, and Terao Tōru, but it also involved Japanese critical of China and some Chinese who followed the debate closely. Against the background of the ever worsening tensions between the two countries in 1919, the “China problem” turned into a veritable “China crisis” following the disputes between the Japanese and Chinese delegations at the Paris Peace Conference over “Japanese special interests” in Shandong and the return of formerly German possessions there to China. Interestingly, this crisis, which again triggered massive anti-Japanese protests and boycotts in China, was also the origin of the revival of calls for “Japanese-Chinese friendship.” While all participants in this debate agreed on the importance of friendship between the two countries and peoples, the measures to be taken to achieve this end were contested and varied widely. Ultimately, the year 1919 represented a chance for friendship and peace between China and Japan that was missed.
There also was a Japanese proposal to deal with China and the conflict of interests in East Asia which can be loosely termed an Asian Monroe Doctrine which was a proposal by Ukita Kazutami, a Kumamoto-born and Western-trained liberal thinker and professor of history and politics at Waseda University. Ukita’s proposal had originally been published in September 1918 in the widely read Japanese journal Taiyō, of which he had been a chief editorial writer. In his essay, Ukita argued that Japan’s regional approach should be neither seclusion (such as during the Tokugawa period) nor exclusionist (as some anti-Western proposals for a Japan-controlled Asia by Tokutomi Sohō and others suggested), but inclusive and aiming for gradual change. In what was one of the most original contributions to the public debate on Japan’s Asia policy in the Taishō period, Ukita advanced a voluntaristic and nonracial conception of “Asians,” whom he defined as everyone who resided in Asia, regardless of nationality or race. Based on this assumption, he argued for a conservative interpretation of an Asian Monroe Doctrine that included the advice to preserve or moderately revise the current status quo, but not to radically change it. In other words, as opposed to Tokutomi Sohō’s “old Asianism” and other Japan-centered, imperialist conceptions of Asian Monroeism that aimed at a “Japan-controlled Asia,” Ukita rejected radical claims for a proactive Japanese regionalist engagement that demanded the expulsion of Western powers in order to “regain as Asians control of Asia.” Also in contrast to more Japan-centered conceptions, Ukita rejected a special role for Japan as Asia’s “leader” (meishu), but instead argued that Japan must be “the protector of the East” (Tōyō no hogosha). This difference in terminology was quite important to Ukita and went beyond the merely rhetorical level. Rather, it formed the basis for his criticism of Japan’s own approach toward Asia and in particular toward China. Ukita openly criticized “Japan’s aggressive tacticians,” who were stuck in nineteenth-century attitudes of only talking about “Japanese-Chinese friendship,” but who in reality kept on exploiting China for Japan’s sole benefit. In the twentieth century, however, Japan needed to revise its attitude toward China: “Rather than speaking ill of the incompetence or stupidity of the Chinese, the Japanese themselves must first reconsider their own psychological attitude towards China,” Ukita wrote, and he recommended that Japan aim at forming an alliance with China (Ni-Shi kyōdō). Ukita had held Sinophile convictions for some time and never forgot also to hold Japan responsible for the shaky state of Sino-Japanese relations. One year after the outbreak of World War I and half a year after Japan had issued the Twenty-One Demands to China, Ukita had already argued that the main responsibility for solving the problems between the two countries lay on the Japanese side, although he added that Japan “like an elder brother needed to guide China just as in the past Japan learnt from its elder brother China.”5
Japanese activists such as Miyazaki Toten assisted the efforts of helping Chinese revolutionaries in the name of fighting the common enemy of the West.7 In Japanese understanding of this new Asian order, there was no return to the China-centered old Asian order. Japan had to be the center of Asia. Hence, the Meiji perception of Asia in the Japanese imagination did not change in this new period; Asianism refused to recognize Asia as the equal of Japan. Japanese Asianists subscribed to a new Asian civilizational order in which Japan as the central power was waging a war of independence on behalf of all Asia. It should be noted, however, that Asianist ideology did not exist in sharp contrast to the liberal ideology, particularly to the degree of Japan’s centrality. Or why the discourse of Japanese imperialism has changed from the view that Japan had the right to expand into Asia as a member of the “civilized” world so that it was Japan’s obligation to liberate Asia from Western imperialism by means of invading it. There were times when the most Western-oriented and liberal philosophers expressed Asianist ideas, while the most Asianist thinkers expressed anti-Asian opinions. However, these two views did not stand in complete opposition of each other in the mentality of many Japanese. For instance, Fukuzawa Yukichi, the ideologue of Westernization who famously advocated Japan’s de Asianization, argued for Japanese leadership (meishu) in Asia in the 1880s. Regardless of their ideological orientation, Meiji intellectuals and policymakers always agreed that Japan was superior to other Asian nations. In this sense, the degree of Asianism was determined by the degree of identification with the West. Japan’s disillusionment with China as a result of China’s perceived inferiority against the West convinced Fukuzawa Yukichi and many others to completely give up any perception of civilizational common identification with the Chinese and Koreans. Japan represented the contemporary civilization and was thus entitled to bring it to Asians, if necessary by force. The model for this liberal imperialism was provided by the West, who justified colonial expansionism under the pretext of “civilizing mission.” On the other hand, Asianists thought that Asia could be united only under Japan’s leadership. Hence they supported Japan’s expansion into Asia in order to unite, Asians against Western aggression. They believed that Japanese aggression to achieve this goal did not mean the same as the Western aggression was imperialism, while Japan represented Asian civilization and it was its defender. It was in this context of the shift of imperialist discourse that Asianist philosophy became highly popular. While Fukuzawa was the architect of the transformation of the Meiji civilizational identity, Okakura became the prime ideologue of Asian unity and sought a civilizational authenticity in Japanese identity. The gist of Okakura’s indirectly political writings was the idea of a common Asian civilization. He believed that Asian civilization was one single unit of which Japan was an integral part. Although Okakura’s views did not immediately become popular when he published his books, they gained traction, as Japan and the Japanese psyche slowly drifted away from the West under the influence of many factors explained above. Okakura came from a highly surprising background to be the ideologue of Asianism. He grew up among English-speaking missionaries in Yokohama and had a far better command of English than Japanese. He maintained very strong links with the United States throughout his life, spending a significant portion of his life in the United States and accepted positions in elite institutions such as the Boston Museum of Art in 1904 and received an honorary MA degree from Harvard in 1911. Perhaps it is also true that this background saved him from a sense of inferiority against the West and allowed him to confront the West with a stronger sense of self-confidence.8
The Manchurian Incident and Ishiwara’s Pan-Asianism
Kanji Ishiwara (石原 莞爾, 1889 –1949) was the mastermind of the Manchurian also called Mukden Incident when around 10:20 p.m. on September 18, 1931, Japanese troops based in southern Manchuria dynamited a small section of a Japanese-owned railway outside of Shenyang (Mukden) and blamed it on Chinese saboteurs The railway was part of the 1,400-square-mile Kwantung Leased Territory, which Japan administered through the semi-governmental South Manchurian Railway Company, and which the Japanese troops, known as the Kwantung Army, were there to protect. Although a southbound train passed over the area without incident moments later, the alarm went out according to plan. The Kwantung Army subsequently used the manufactured incident as a pretext to launch attacks against Chinese troops with die intent to extend Japanese influence in Manchuria.
Starting from the Mukden Incident as a pretext Japan occupied Chinese territories and established puppet governments.
Ishiwara, Chief of the Operations Division of the Japanese Army (as pictured below), argued that Japan must avoid a war with China at all costs. Although he eventually yielded to the opinion of the majority and authorized mobilization for the battle near Beijing, Ishiwara continued to advocate a policy of cooperation with China, for, in his mind, the Soviet Union was a greater menace than the strident nationalism of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nanjing government. Furthermore, he regarded the development of Manchukuo and a cooperative relationship among Japan, Manchukuo, and China as a precondition for the successful prosecution of an eventual war with the United States, which he held was unavoidable.
It was with this vision of Pan-Asianism, a strategic alliance of Japan, Manchukuo, and China, that Ishiwara initiated the foundation of Manchukuo’s leading institution of higher education in the fall of 1936.
Ishiwara developed his Pan-Asianism in the early twentieth century. During this period, following Japan’s victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5), Pan-Asianism especially the idea that Japan must lead an Asian crusade against the West, gained popularity not only in Japan but also in Asia when the ‘New Asia’ had the imperial palace in Tokyo as its perpetual political and spiritual nucleus.
Pan-Asianism and Nichiren Buddhism
This articulation of Pan-Asianism arose from growing confidence in Japan as a model for indigenous modernization that had rapidly advanced since the Meiji Restoration. In contrast, Ishiwara’s perception of Pan-Asianism was rooted in a sober conviction that militarism was essential to the future of Japan. He developed this idea through his critical evaluation of Japan’s victory over Russia. In his judgment, Japan won the war out of luck; he believed that Russia would have prevailed if the war was protracted because Japan had no clear plan for a prolonged war.
Both Ishiwara’s 1919 discovery of Nichiren Buddhism and his observations of China were of seminal importance for his thinking: he saw the disorder, warlordism, and crime in China, causing him, like many other Army officers to doubt China’s capacity to modernize on its own. But he was also critical of the arrogant attitude of many fellow Japanese toward the Chinese people. At a time when he also realized that Japan’s influence in China was opposed by the United States, he also learned of Nichiren’s prediction of an ultimate war followed by world peace. Soon he would put the two pieces together, predicting that this ultimate war would be one between Japan and the United States and that it would happen soon. In 1922, Ishiwara met the religious philosopher and Nichirenist Satomi Kishio (1897–1974), and after learning of the latter’s intention to visit Europe in order to spread Nichiren Buddhism, Ishiwara decided to take up earlier offers from the Army to go and study in Germany. Ishiwara stayed in Germany from 1923 to 1925. He visited the battlefields and destroyed towns of Northern France, and was shocked to see the morally devastated state of Germany.
Ishiwara did not simply use Nichiren’s words as an example to confirm his theories of warfare. His belief in Nichiren and the outcome of a new world Buddhist civilization and world peace was sincere and anteceded his theory of war. The dynamic of world conflict followed by world unity and peace followed the same pattern as the experience of World War I followed by the creation of the League of Nations and a new ideal of pacifism. Satō Kōjirō, it should be recalled, predicted a similar trajectory of war followed by world peace.
Ishiwara’s next concern thus was the rising US power in Asia, which he thought would eventually clash with Japan. This apprehension led him to develop a theory of Final War. According to this theory, the Japan-US confrontation was to be the final world war that would divide the globe into two: the East led by Japan and the West led by the United States. Ishiwara’s study of the Russo-Japanese War taught him that Japan must prepare for this coming conflict, which he predicted would be a prolonged war. How should Japan prepare? For Ishiwara, Pan-Asian unity was the answer. He argued that Japan must expand its control over Manchuria and China proper to strengthen its position geopolitically and to power its economic expansion.
By the time of the Manchurian Incident, thus, a more chauvinistic brand of Pan-Asianism permeated Japan’s ruling class, one that combined resentment against the West with condescension toward the East. Leading Japanese intellectuals, officials, and opinion leaders self-consciously cultivated the “self-evident truth” that Japan’s emperor-based polity was miparalleled, that Japan was an exceptional nation, destined to lead and oversee Asia. In some ways, this paternalistic strain of Pan-Asianism revived the underlying rationale of imperialism’s “civilizing mission,” in which an ”enlightened” power had a moral duty to elevate allegedly benighted peoples. Ideologically loaded stock phrases subsequently carried the decade, in particular, that Japan was “the stabilizing force” or “influence” in Asia. As historian Eri Hotta has made clear, this ethnocentric strand of Asianism was not a mere “‘assertion.’ ‘opinion.’ or even ‘belief,’” but rather a “potent” and “pervasive” force among Japan’s leaders By the 1930s the fundamental premises of radical Pan-Asianism had come to be accepted by the mainstream of Japanese society.
As competing ideologies of world order in the 1930s. the differences between liberal internationalism and Japan’s more radical iteration of Asianism were critical, and ultimately, irreconcilable. Although some scholarship has pointed to areas of convergence between the two worldviews, for instance, shared ideals of self-determination and autonomy, such congruency is compelling mainly in comparisons between liberalism and the nondominating strand of Asianism. The latter, however, was most prominent among Japanese political elites around the turn of the century, not the 1930s.8 What stands out are the fundamental differences. Again, central to the premises of liberal internationalism was a reliance on so-called orderly processes, with states pledging to abide by self-denying strictures, the most hallowed of which was the repudiation of force in the pursuit of national interest. In the event of conflict, nations were to settle their differences within a cooperative framework, through frank discussion and arbitration, either through the League of Nations or with signatories to multilateral treaties.
When the US-Japanese war started
The Manchurian Incident turned into an ideological crisis and a turning point in world affairs and US-Japan relations. As the first real test ease for liberal internationalism, the Manchurian crisis became the focal point of a tempestuous ideological drama, in which Japan, the United States, and the League of Nations debated the meaning and merits of the new diplomacy. Toward this end, we discuss the Japanese government’s guiding rationale for its seizure of Manchuria, which includes the evolving premises of a more radical Pan-Asianism.
Japan’s initial endeavor hereby was to avoid isolation and win recognition of a new regionalist framework justified by historical rights, strategic interests, and. increasingly, an ideology of Pan-Asianism. Strategies by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs included both official demarches as well as seemingly “unofficial” diplomacy. including goodwill trips by eminent Japanese and an emergent soft power campaign involving cultural propaganda. Despite a somewhat scattershot approach, evidence suggests the Japanese government’s “charm offensive” further propagated a “dualism” in American perceptions of Japan among the press and Ambassador Grew’, one that created an unrealistic turnaround in Japan’s foreign policies.
After hostilities erupted in North China in July 1937, Japan’s leaders issued strongly worded Pan-Asianist statements and set out to realize an autarkic order on the continent. The Kokusai Bunka Shinkokai, meanwhile, persisted in extolling the empire through cultural activities, including the establishment of a cultural institute in New York. In Washington. President Roosevelt, facing an isolationist Congress committed to neutrality, sought to awaken Americans to the perceived threat of global war.
By 1939, Japan’s leadership focused on consolidating power on mainland China while contemplating a closer relationship with Germany. In the United States. President Roosevelt became vigilant in what became a kind of personal mission to alert Americans to the perceived ideological convergence among revisionist powers and the grave strategic threat they posed to the liberal democracies. Confident of public backing, the administration notified Japan in July 1939 that it intended to terminate the US-Japan commercial treaty of 1911.
This then led to the slippery slope to transpacific war. As would be the case through the attack on Pearl Harbor, Germany’s stunning victories emboldened Japanese expansionism, which, in turn, stiffened American resistance. In September 1940. Japanese leaders signed the Tripartite Pact, which foresaw “new orders” in Europe and Asia. Tire pact’s stated intention of carving the world into hegemonic blocs only confirmed the Roosevelt administration’s global assumptions about the existential threat resulting from the interconnectedness between ideology and geopolitical ambitious among the Axis powers, hi 1941. protracted negotiations between Japan and the United States revealed a yawning ideological gulf. Although a number of Japanese leaders began to harbor doubts about going to war against the United States, it was not because these men had abandoned their dreams of a Japanese-guided regional order; rather, they believed that war would undermine such aspirations. Regrettably, eleventh-hour negotiations could do little to erase the fundamental ideological divide that separated the two nations on the eve of Japan’s surprise attack or alter the historical context of the previous ten years.
After World War II, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers called upon Ishiwara as a witness for the defense in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. No charges were ever brought against Ishiwara himself, possibly due to his public opposition to Tōjō, the war in China, and the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Concentrating on the years of the Pacific War (1941-45), John W. Dower (1986) investigated the role of race in Japan’s wartime policy. In his thesis on the prominent role played by race in igniting and intensifying war hatred on both sides, Japan and the Anglo-American allies, one finds the author’s discussion of Japan’s race-based Pan-Asianism. In analyzing the wartime reports written by governmental bureaucrats, Dower identified the concept of the “proper place” as the key to the Japanese racial view of the world. Based on the idea of the racial purity of the Japanese, whose emperor supposedly descended from the Sun Goddess, the Japanese official ideology held that the Japanese were destined to dominate other peoples in Asia who belonged to lower places within a new Pan-Asianist order. Gerald Horne (2004) similarly highlighted the vital role that race-based Pan-Asianism played in Japan’s initial military success in the war against the allies. He has shown how Japanese propaganda efforts utilized the local reality, Southeast Asian people’s strong resentment at white supremacist racism under Western colonial rule, to construct a Pan-Asianist message that Japan was a liberator of Asians. This strategy proved effective, as Japanese troops were able to gain support from the nationalists of each country. Such race-based collaborations against white colonial regimes occurred throughout Southeast Asia, in Indochina (under French rule), Singapore, Malaya, and Burma (under British rule), Indonesia (under Dutch rule), New Guinea (under Australian rule), and the Philippines (under American rule). Thus, Horne demonstrated how Japanese policymakers were keenly aware of Western racism and used racialized Pan-Asianist propaganda to tap into the anti-Western nationalist sentiments of peoples in the region.
American policy toward Japan until shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack was not the product of a rational, value-maximizing decisional process. Rather, it constituted the cumulative, aggregate outcome of several bargaining games which would enable them to carry out their preferred Pacific strategy.
Thus earlier we have seen how Roosevelt’s idea of a financial siege of Japan in fact backfired by exacerbating rather than defusing Japan’s aggression. And for sure the attack on Pearl Harbor was not the result of a deliberate Roosevelt strategy but a Roosevelt miscalculation. Where by our taks in the following part will be about a potential attack of China to take Taiwan in order to expand its influence in the Pacific which China calls the South China Sea.
Continued in part six of; Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided?
Part 1: Overview of the discussions following the 1919 or “Wilsonian moment,” a notion that extends before and after that calendar year: Part One Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided?
Part 2: Issues like the Asian Monroe Doctrine, how relations between China and Japan from the 1890s onward transformed the region from the hierarchy of time to the hierarchy of space, Leninist and Wilsonian Internationalism, western and Eastern Sovereignty, and the crucial March First and May Fourth movements were covered in: Part Two Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided?
Part 3: The important Chinese factions beyond 1919 and the need for China to create a new Nation-State and how Japan, in turn, sought to expand into Asia through liberal imperialism and then sought to consolidate its empire through liberal internationalism were covered in: Part Three Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided?
Part 4: The various arrangements between the US and Japan, including The Kellogg–Briand Pact or Pact in 1928 and The Treaty for the Limitation and Reduction of Naval Armament of 1930. Including that American policy toward Japan until shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack was not the product of a rational, value-maximizing decisional process. Rather, it constituted the cumulative, aggregate outcome of several bargaining games which would enable them to carry out their preferred Pacific strategy was covered in: Part Four Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided?
Part 6:The war itself quickly unfolded in favor of Japan’s regionalist ambitions, a subject we carried through to the post-world war situation. Whereby we also discussed when Japan saw itself in a special role as mediator between the West (“Euro-America”) and the East (“Asia”) to “harmonize” or “blend” the two civilizations and demanded that Japan lead Asia in this anti-Western enterprise there are parallels with what Asim Doğan in his extensive new book describes how the ambiguous and assertive Belt and Road Initiative is a matter of special concern in this aspect. The Tributary System, which provides concrete evidence of how Chinese dynasties handled with foreign relations, is a useful reference point in understanding its twenty-first-century developments. This is particularly true because, after the turbulence of the “Century of Humiliation” and the Maoist Era, China seems to be explicitly re-embracing its history and its pre-revolutionary identity in: Part Six Can a potential future Pacific War be avoided?
Part 8: While initially both the nationalist Chiang Kai-shek (anti-Mao Guomindang/KMT), including Mao’s Communist Party (CCP), had long supported independence for Taiwan rather than reincorporation into China, this started to change following the publication of the New Atlas of China’s Construction created by cartographer Bai Meichu in 1936. A turning point for Bai and others who saw China’s need to create a new Nation-State was the Versailles peace conference’s outcome in 1919 mentioned in part one. Yet that from today’s point of view, the fall of Taiwan to China would be seen around Asia as the end of American predominance and even as “America’s Suez,” hence demolishing the myth that Taiwan has no hope is critical. And that while the United States has managed to deter Beijing from taking destructive military action against Taiwan over the last four decades because the latter has been relatively weak, the risks of this approach inches dangerously close to outweighing its benefits. Conclusion and outlook.
1. Dorothy J. Perkins, Japan Goes to War: A Chronology of Japanese Military Expansion from the Meiji Era to The Attack on Pearl Harbor (1868-1941) (Darby: Diane Publishing,1997), 117.
2. Robyn Lim, The Geopolitics of East Asia: The Search for Equilibrium (London: Routledge, 2003), 34.
3. Kazuki Sato, “‘Same Language, Same Race’: The Dilemma of Kanbun in Modem Japan,” in The Construction of Racial Identities in China and Japan: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Frank Dikotter (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997), 131.
4. Susumu Takahashi, “The Global Meaning of Japan: The State’s Persistently Precarious Position in the World Order,” in The Political Economy of Japanese Globalization, ed. Glenn D. Hook and Harukiyo Hasegawa (London: Routledge, 2001), 24 On Tokutomi, see John D. Pierson, Tokutomi SoM, 1863-1957, a Journalist for Modern Japan ‘ (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980)
5. Toten Miyazaki, My Thirty-Three Years’ Dream: The Autobiography of Miyazaki Toten (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982);
6. On this see Dick Stegewerns, Adjusting to the New World: Japanese Opinion Leaders of the Taisho Generation and the Outside World, 1918-1932, 2007.
7. See Notehelfer, “On Idealism and Realism in the Thought of Okakura Tenshin.”
8. Hallet Abend “Japanese Admit Ann to Hold Manchuria” New York Times, January 1 1932, 19, Ki Tnukai. World’s 1932 Hopes Voiced by Leaders/ New York Times, January 3, 1932. 2 On emperor’s reaction, see Bix. Hirohito, 246.