Japanese expansion in East Asia: Causes

Japanese expansion in East Asia: Causes

Causes of Japanese Expansion in East Asia

Economic Factors

  • Industrialisation in Japan led to demands for resources such as oil, coal, iron ore and rubber.
  • The Wall Street Crash of 1929 and subsequent Great Depression hugely affected Japanese export markets, leading them to seek self-sufficiency.
  • Expansion into Asia was seen as solution to economic problems, providing space for population expansion and alleviating unemployment.

Political Factors

  • Military dominance in the Japanese government saw a shift to aggressive foreign policy, promoting expansionism.
  • Rise of ultranationalist groups led to increased pressure for expansion to restore national pride.
  • Japan withdrew from the League of Nations in 1933 further isolating it internationally.

Ideological Factors

  • Promotion of the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” propagated the notion of a Japanese-led pan-Asian block, free of Western influence.
  • Belief in Japanese superiority and destiny to lead Asia and the Pacific region.
  • Many in the Japanese leadership believed in the need for pre-emptive strikes to ensure Japan’s survival, based on fears of American and Soviet threats.

International Factors

  • Western attitudes towards Japan: Western countries showed little willingness to oppose Japanese expansion - this encouraged further expansionist moves.
  • The increasingly aggressive expansionary policies of other world powers, particularly Germany and Italy, distracted world attention from Japan’s actions.
  • The fall of Chinese central authority and a civil war between Nationalists and Communists made China an easy target for Japanese expansion- when Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, the Chinese couldn’t offer effective resistance.