Effect of the interaction with the world on the Japanese empire between

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Effectof the interaction with the world on the Japanese empire between 1900and 1937

Theperiod between 1905 and 1937 provided Japan with an opportunity tointeract with the world and expand its empire. Japan rivaled withSoviet Russia and China for geopolitical powers, but Japan had moreopportunities and the military capacity to establish its authority inthe region as compared to its neighbors (Cohen304). Most of Japan’s neighbors (including Korea, Russia, andChina) experienced domestic unrest that reduced the capacity to fightwith Japan. In addition, the lack of willingness among theinternational community to contain Japan’s aggression against herneighbors gave Japan the motivation to continue expanding its empire.Therefore, it is evident that Japan’s interaction with the worldbetween 1905 and 1937 favored its territorial expansion and strengthin terms of geopolitics.

Effectof Russo-Japanese war on the Japanese empire

Theoutbreak of the Russo-Japanese war in the year 1904, gave Japan anopportunity to demonstrate its military capacity and expand itsterritory. The main cause of the war was the struggle for control ofKorea, and most importantly, the Manchuria region (Cohen306). Japan and Russia believed that Manchuria was strategicallylocated, which enhanced its economic significance for either of thecountry. Japanese won the battle on land and in the waters, whichgave it a full control of Korea and an easy access to Manchuria.During the war, Korea had made an agreement of alliance with Japan,which was discarded soon after Japan won (Course Pack 438). Thisvictory allowed Japan to expand its territory in terms ofgeographical coverage. The Japanese took control of about a half ofSakhalin Island and a dominant control of Manchuria (Cohen306).

Apartfrom geographical expansion, Japan managed to expand its economiccapacity and increase its popularity in the geo-politics of the Asiancontinent. Both Japan and Russia wanted to acquire ports that couldnot be affected by ice during winters, and Korean and Manchurianports were the immediate solutions. The capacity to gain control ofKorea would guarantee either of the two countries and year roundtrade since it could still take part in the international trade, evenduring the winter (Cohen304). The Japanese brought civilization to the newly acquired colonyby different types of infrastructure, such as railway roads CoursePack 812). The stability of any empire is only determined by thestrength of its military and its capacity to have a strong voice inthe geopolitics. This is a true case for Japan, since its victory inthe Russo-Japanese war sent a message to the neighboring countriesand potential enemies that the Japanese empire was strong enough todefend itself. This was confirmed in 1905 when it was reported thatJapan had the strongest army in Asia, indicating that it had become acompetitive empire in the region (Cohen303). Japan could now make treaties with the strongest powersglobally, including the Great Britain.

Establishmentof the state of Manchukuo

Japanesemilitary had gained a lot of morale after conquering Russia and didnot require the authorization of the Japanese leader to expand theempire. For example, the Shanghai attack of 1932 was organized by themilitary, but they did not have the authorization or the support ofthe Japanese government (Cohen339). This resulted in the inadequate supply of resources and theJapanese troops had to retreat from Shanghai and concentrate onManchuria. This was followed by the declaration of Manchuria as a newstate that could be headed by the Qing of China. From the incidenceof the declaration of Manchuria as a state, Japan did not necessaryexpand its empire geographically, but it enhances its perceivedauthority in geopolitics.

Factorsthat contributed towards Japan’s success in expanding its empirebetween 1905 and early 1930s

Thecontinued success of Japan in expanding its empire between 1905 andearly 1930s can be attributed to two major factors. First, theinternational community was quite reluctant and slow to act inprotecting the victims of the Japanese invasion. For example, theexplosion that occurred in Manchuria in 1931 was planned by theJapanese military in order to find an excuse to attach the residentsof Manchurian and reinforce the Japanese authority in the region(Cohen339). It was reported that the international community formed acommission under the League of Nations to investigation Japaneseactions in Manchuria, but the commission came late since the Japanesehad accomplished their mission (Cohen339). By delaying to take an immediate action, the League of Nationstrivialized its basic principle of addressing any matter that islikely to disturb the peace of other states (Course Pack 439). Thesluggishness of the international community created a room for Japanto continue expanding its empire beyond its borders.

Secondly,potential forces that had the capacity to oppose Japanese aggressionhad domestic issues to resolve. For example, the Great Britain wishedthat Asian upheavals could end without creating the need for itsintervention since it was facing serious economic challenges as aresult of the Great Depression (Cohen339). The government of Russian, on the other hand, faced seriousdomestic violence that could not allow it to concentrate on theinternational wars. China also had its fare share of domesticchallenges that could not allow it to oppose to Japanese invasion.The government of China faced the threat of dismemberment ofdifferent communities from the mainstream communist state (Cohen340). The United States was not satisfied, but Tokutomi, the leaderof Japan at that time felt that American was not happy with theachievements that Japan had made (Course Pack 806). Japan haddeveloped a perception that conquering other states was anachievement and had nothing to do with the rights of other states.

Theshortcomings in foreign countries that were in a better position toresolve Japanese aggressive attacks, created an opportunity for theJapanese military conquer Manchuria and Shanghai with ease. By 1935,Japan had taken advantage of the situation and established a bufferzone for Manchuria, which was accomplished by forcing the Chinesegovernment to allow the establishment of a semiautonomous governmentin charge of north China (Cohen340). The semiautonomous government in charge of north China couldserve the interests of Japan in change for protection from externalaggression. Taking control of north China allowed Japan to have aneasy access to oil supply for its growing manufacturing sector.

Declineof the Japanese empire

Japanexpanded its territory by attacking its neighbors (including Koreaand China), but it was increasing the number of enemies form everysuccessful invasion. The 1936 invasion of the province of Suiyuan inChina was the turning point for the Japanese (Cohen342). The Chinese had developed internal capacity and couldsuccessfully resist further invasion by Japan. By 1937, Russia haddemonstrated its intention and dedication to strengthen China inother to enhance its capacity to fight the Japanese troops and opposeJapanese imperialism (Course Pack, 415). Russia supplied warplanesand other sophisticated weapons to the Chinese troops, which was anindication that all former enemies that Japan had conquered whileexpanding its empire had joined hands to fight their common enemy.The Japanese empire had to start shrinking back as the internationalcommunity started to intervene, leading to the Second World War andthe Japan’s defeat.


Eventsthat happened in the period between 1905 and 1937 indicated thatJapan’s interaction with the world opened numerous opportunitiesfor Japan to expand its empire and control geopolitics. Japan’ssuccessful expansion of the empire can be attributed to severalfactors, including domestic unrest in the neighboring countries,Japan’s military capacity as compared to its neighbors, and theGreat Depression that reduces the capacity of the western nations tocounter Japan’s aggression. However, Japan’s expansion of itsempire took a new turn in 1936 when the international communitystarted expressing its concerns about Japan’s invasions and theformerly defeated neighbors joined hands to counter Japan.


Cohen,I. Fourthousand years of engagement with the world: East Asia at the center.New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1893. Print.

CoursePack (n.d.).