A major part of Japan"s history from the late Nineteenth Century up to 1914 was military aggression. During this period there were many economic, social and political pressures that facilitated military expansion. Japanese militarism manifested on the Asian mainland in wars, aggression and military presence on foreign soil. Japan"s foreign policy was influenced by it"s government, education, religion and social structure. Economic pressures facilitating military expansion up to 1914. Japan was a new consumer economy that had changed from feudal economy in a very short time period of forty years.
This caused many problems and in the 1890"s Japan was in a severe economic depression and Japan was importing far more than they were exporting. Japan found it difficult to break into established overseas markets where countries had been trading for much longer than Japan. And so Japan was under pressure to expand it"s borders for raw materials and new overseas markets to sell to. Japan also wanted recognition from the western powers as a valuable market. During this time period there was also social pressures for Japan to expand.
The traditional Bushido, the fighting spirit of Japan enabled the military to expand, as opposed to if Japan were a more peaceful, pacifist country. A change in social structure meant that anyone could become part of the army from the old class of the Samurai warriors. In 1873 conscription was introduced mainly from peasants to serve three years, with the motto, "Enrich the country, strengthen the army". Another social pressure to expand was increased urbanisation. By 1907, Tokyo and Osaka had waterworks and other public facilities, but before this and in many other cities they had no amenities like modern sewerage systems.
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There was also pollution, a problem encountered by every country during industrialisation especially prominent due to the cramped conditions of Japanese cities. Political pressures also helped Japan to expand up to 1914. There were many changes to the political system that moved it towards a more centralised and democratic system. This meant that there was national power, which led to nationalism within the people of Japan. Despite this nationalism there was widespread discontent within Japan with new land tax on the peasants and low wages for workers in the cities.
The government saw expansion as a way to distract them from their problems and focus on wars abroad. Again Japan wanted international recognition as a power, the government saw examples of other strong countries expanding like Britain in India and France in Indo-China. Japan needed this recognition for bargaining power with the Western Powers. Japanese Militarism manifested on the Asian mainland in the Sino-Japanese War(1894-95). This war was over China"s and Japan"s interest in Korea, where both countries wanted to influence the government and prevent Western influence.
China had claimed control over Korea for many years, but as it was in such close proximity and was rich in the raw materials of coal and iron, Japan was interested. Japan forced Korea to trade and declare itself independent of China, while China continued to financially assist conservative officials in connection with the royal family. After troubles in Korea both countries sent in troops, but war was avoided by the signing of the Li-Ito Convention(1885). But in 1894 both China and Japan sent forces into Korea on the request of the King due to a rebellion.
After this Japan refused to remove troops from Korea and so war was declared on 1st of August 1894. Western countries were amazed at how easily Japan defeated China. China had a large and fairly modern navy, but it"s army lacked trained men and so they lost badly. China did not have the modern warfare methods of Japan which soon had total control over Korea. China agreed to pay a large indemnity to Japan and to give all the trading privileges to Japan. Japanese victory marked the emergence of Japan as a major world power and demonstrated the weakness of the Chinese Empire.
Later though the victory was dampened by the Triple Intervention of France, Russia and Germany, which forced Japan to return the Liaotung Peninsula to China. In the Russo-Japanese War(1904-05) Japanese forces also manifested on the Asian mainland. War began on the 8th of February 1904 when Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on a Russian naval base in Port Aurthur. Russia had huge numbers of manpower but the war 8000km from Moscow, linked by only one railway and lacked support of the Russian people.
Meanwhile Japan was within easy distance of the battle and although they had few soldiers in comparison they were well led and supported. After a long battle at sea where both parties had suffered high casualties the war was ended by the American President, Roosevelt. Russia was forced to recognise Japan"s intense interests in Korea, transfer the lease of the Liaotung Peninsula to Japan and give Japan power over the railway between Port Arthur to Mukden. Japan was refused their request of indemnity from Russia but was not willing to fight another war for it.
The Russo-Japanese War forced Russia to abandon its expansionist policy in the Far East and it was the first time that an Asian power had defeated a European power. In 1910, Japan formally established a protectorate over Korea. The Japanese government assisted foreign policy and was influenced by it. The government was backed by the army, which was important as no government could continue without it. In return the government introduced conscription and provided monetary support. With a successful foreign policy, the government grew more confident in dealings with other countries.
The Anglo-Japanese Alliance(1902) was a definite confidence booster for the government. By it, Japan and Britain agreed that if two powers attacked either then the other must help. Education also assisted in and influenced by the success of Japan"s foreign policy. In Japan education became compulsory in 1872, and was centrally run. The Japanese education system glorified the Emperor, and the idea that the interests of the nation is more important than one"s own. Uniformity and nationalism were incorporated into the education system along with obedience to authority, all attributes associated with the armed forces.
In turn the education system grew more militaristic and praised Japan"s successes in foreign policy. Religion also helped foster a successful foreign policy. Shinto co-existed peacefully with other religions in Japan until the late 1870"s when the modernizing government suppressed other religions and adapted Shinto teachings for government propaganda in support of the military. The government stressed that Shinto was the best religion as it wasn"t a foreign religion, like Buddhism and Christianity and so was better for the Japanese. Shinto taught loyalty, respect and obedience to the Emperor.
And so the Emperor"s decisions in relation to foreign policy was not questioned. Religion was successfully influenced by Japan"s foreign policy as it became even more obedient to the Emperor and in the land that Japan acquired through their foreign policy, Shinto was spread. Japan"s social structure also assisted foreign policy. Japan"s social structure was organised in such a way that they were not to question authority, and so the armed forces did not have to look for approval of their foreign policy. In Japan it was considered a privilege, not a duty, to fight for one"s country.
The social structure was influenced in the way it looked up to the military and as Japan became a world power with annexes in Korea and Taiwan, it boosted confidence and nationalism within all classes of society. Japan was pressured in economic, social and political areas to expand it"s borders. Japan"s military manifested on the Asian mainland during the Sino-Japanese War(1894-95) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). Nationalism and Militarism filtrated into every aspect of Japanese life, including government, education, religion and social structure.
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