Week 10 Grenville notes

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Published on 31 Dec 2010
1. The mounting conflict in Eastern Asia, 1928 – 37
it is often said that WWII began in China in 1931 and that global rise of fascism blossomed into external aggression when Japan attacked
China; then war spread to Europe and Africa, to Abyssinia and Spain, until Hitler unleashed WWII by marching into Poland in 1939
seen through Japanese and Chinese eyes Western policies appeared to change with confusing rapidity in first 3 decades of 20th century
in Japan the orderly coherent structure of national government and decision-making began to fall apart in 1930—extremism and
lawlessness and a decentralisation of power occurred; disintegration was political and internal
from 1928 to 1937, while Chiang Kai-shek established his capital and government in Nanking, no unified Chinese Republic really
existed; his reforms had made an impact on urban life but did not reach millions of peasants
the contrast between the real condition of China and its international legal position, together with its image in the eyes of the public in the
Western world, was one critical factor in the eastern Asia crisis of the 1930s
the struggle between a central power claiming to speak for and to rule China and regional and provincial rulers was nothing new in
modern Chinese history; the contest between integration and disintegration had been going on for decades and continued until 1949
the Japanese in the 1920s appeared ready to limit their empire to what they already held with the acknowledgement of the Western
powers, and beyond this to work with the Western powers within an agreed framework of international treaties, military, and territorial
since the opening of the 20th century the US had tried to secure the consent of the other powers with interests in China to 2 propositions:
1) they should allow equal economic opportunity to all foreign nations wishing to trade in China (the Open Door), however, the
behaviour of the foreign nations showed that this “equal opportunity” was not extended to the Chinese themselves, who did not
exercise sovereign power over all Chinese territory
2) the US urged that China should not be further partitioned (respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity), but in practice the US
had acknowledged Japan’s special rights and spheres of influence; more of a moral hope than real politics
the worldwide depression hit Japan less seriously than the West—Japan had an industrious and well-organised people to further economic
progress; with the help of a large devaluation of its currency, it had pulled out of the slump by 1932, but now the need for capital,
especially from the US, and for raw materials (cotton, coal, iron ore and oil) from abroad became increasingly essential
one significant strand in Japanese thinking about the world was the belief that only by its own endeavours would Japan be accepted as an
equal of the “white” world powers, which did not treat it as an equal
the fulfilment of Japanese ambitions came to depend on the US
with the onset of the depression after 1927, Japan was beset by additional problems—though industry recovered more quickly than
elsewhere in the world, the farmers suffered severely; the domestic silk industry provided an important additional income for the
peasantry and the price of silk plunged in the US; the countryside became the breeding ground for militarism
a strident nationalism, a sort of super Japanese patriotism with a return to emperor-worship, marks the 1930s
despite the introduction of male suffrage, Japan was not about to turn into a parliamentary constitutional state in the 1920s
its uniqueness as society, blending emperor-worship and authority with elected institutions, was not changed by any democratic demands
there was a real difference between the policies pursued by the Japanese in the 1920s and those followed in the 1930s due to the change
of balance among the groups that exercised power in the state
Chiang Kai-shek had used the years from 1933 to 1937 to consolidate the powers of the Kuomintang in the rest of China with some
success, but the Western image of republican Chinese democracy was removed from reality
Chiang’s regime was totalitarian, with its own gangs and terror police and an army held together by fear and harsh discipline
supported by intellectuals as the only rallying point for anti-Japanese resistance, and by big business and the landlords as the bulwark
against communism, Chiang ruled the country through harshness and corruption
although Britain and US did not wish to fight Japan, in the last resort the issue of peace with the West would depend on whether Japan’s
aims in China were limited or whether ambition would drive it on to seek to destroy all Western influence in eastern and southern Asia
2. The China War and the origins of the Pacific War, 1937 – 41
Pacific War grew of Japan’s China War renewed in 1937—it was essentially future of China that 4 years later led Japan to war with US
the decision for war was taken in Tokyo in September 1941 because the US was seen as the enemy unalterably opposed to Japan’s
concept of its right to a dominant role in China and eastern Asia and the only chance for peace was a change in the course of American
policy as perceived by the Japanese, and this did not happen
the Japanese leaders believed that the choice before them was to fulfil the tasks of conquest or to acquiesce in Japan’s national decline
the roots of the conflict lie in the militaristic-spiritual values that Japanese education inculcated
during the 1930s these views were translated into politics by the small group of military, naval and political leaders who exercised power
while Western Realpolitik was certainly practised by Japanese policy makers, the ultimate factor deciding national policy was not rational
policy but chauvinism masquerading as spiritual values
Britain and US formally protested at Japanese aggression in China, but no thought in 1930s of resisting it by force so long as only China
was involved; Japan stressed anti-communist aspect of policy when concluding Anti-Comintern Pact with Germany in November 1936
the sinking of the US naval vessel, Panay, and damage to the British Ladybird in December 1937 directly involved them in the conflict
encouraged by moral and some material American support, Chiang Kai-shek refused all peace terms that would have subjugated China in
the manner of Japan’s Twenty-One Demands
in Tokyo the basic countdown to war was decided upon at the Imperial Conference which took place on 6 September 1941
the decision was reached to attack Britain, the Netherlands and the US simultaneously
the Japanese sent a formal declaration of war to Washington, intending it to be delivered 50 minutes before the carrier planes of Admiral
Yamamoto’s task force, which was at that moment secretly making for Pearl Harbour, attacked America’s principal naval base in Pacific
unfortunately, the Japanese Embassy was slow in deciphering the message and so the Japanese envoys appeared at the State Department
almost an hour after the start of the Pearl Harbour attack on the US fleet
that made 7 December 1941 an unintentional, even greater “day of infamy
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