Dragon or Chrysanthemum? China, Japan, and the War Over WWII
It had emerged as Asia’s leading power following a burst of modernization abetted by Western technology. Political reform was squashed as conservative civilians joined forces with military generals to form a dictatorship that battened on nationalist fervor aimed at foreign adversaries. Militaristic army and navy officers drove an expansionist foreign policy that carved out an ever-larger sphere of influence for the rising power. Its industrial production and voracious appetite for natural resources created a new regional economy centered on the emerging giant, giving it political influence over its neighbors. In Western capitals, alarm bells rang as the nation seemed determined to dominate Asia. Its leaders preached a mantra of “Asia for the Asians” in a bid to intimidate Western powers into retreating.
This was a picture of Japan in the 1930s. It is also a picture of China today.
Imperial Japan was subjected to nuclear attack, defeated in war, disarmed, occupied, and transformed into the first nation in modern history without the right to defend itself under its own laws. The Japanese have spent more than 70 years atoning for the sins of their forefathers and embracing a culture of pacifism that neutered the power of the world’s third-largest economy. Japan threatens no country: Its weakness may be more provocative to hostile neighbors such as North Korea than its strength would be. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe advocates a world order based on “freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and human rights” — the antithesis of the values Japanese militarists once sought to impose on their neighbors.