Japan and the Pacific Rim summary




Japan and the Pacific Rim summary


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Japan and the Pacific Rim summary

Chapter 37  Japan and the Pacific Rim

  1. Introduction

In the twentieth century, the states of the Pacific Rim developed powerful economies that challenged those of the West. The emergence of the Pacific Rim was led by Japan, an imperial power by the early twentieth century. After its loss in World War II, Japan reappeared as a leader in Pacific industrialization. Japan's rise challenged Western industrial powers, while it continued to draw raw materials from much of the world. After World War II, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan also industrialized. The Pacific Rim combines aspects of industrialized society with the traditions of Asia.

  1. Decades of Turmoil: The World Wars and (914-916) Their Consequences
    1. Introduction

During the early twentieth century, Japan experienced difficulties matching political stability to foreign expansion.

    1. Japan's Ongoing Development

In the early twentieth century, Japan's agricultural and industrial production improved. By the 1920s, great industrial combines, or zaibatsus, in combination with the government launched expansion in heavy industry. Japanese standards of living began to improve. By 1925, the state initiated compulsory primary-school education. Because of the limited nature of Japanese exports and continued reliance on importation of raw materials, Japan remained vulnerable to external economic conditions. Population growth restricted further advances in the standards of living and created social problems in the crowded cities. The Great Depression exacerbated problems, but the Japanese economy recovered rapidly on the basis of a new export boom and military expansion.

    1. Political Crisis and Growing Militarism

The Great Depression created crisis conditions in Japan that seemed to call for drastic measures, including military aggression. Japan actually suffered less than did Western nations, as the government increased spending to create jobs and restore buying power. By 1936, unemployment had been virtually eradicated. Even before the depression, the Japanese military had taken a major role in setting diplomatic policy. The military was separate from Japan's bureaucracy and reported directly to the emperor. The military viewed Japan's liberal political pattern of the 1920s as a threat both to traditional Japan and to the military's own position within the government. In 1931, the military seized Manchuria from China without government approval.
As the depression created greater political conservatism among some Japanese groups, older military officers urged a more authoritarian state and greater military expansion to protect Japanese markets. In 1932, some officers assassinated the prime minister, leading to a moderate military government. A second attempted military coup in 1936 was blocked by established officers, but the military gained further control over the government. After 1936, militaristic prime ministers presided over expansion in Asia and the creation of a regional empire. The military demanded even wider conquests and prompted Japan's entry into World War II.

    1. Change in Other Pacific Rim Areas

Japan's control over Korea halted industrial growth and broke traditional Korean ties with China. The Japanese abolished the Korean monarchy in 1909. The removal of the monarchy opened the way for political innovation after Japan's defeat in 1945. Economically, Japan's presence in Korea was entirely exploitative. Emphasis on rice production ruined Korean agriculture. The Japanese attempted to impose Japanese culture on the Korean population.
Singapore's development as part of British Malaya was dependent on the British attempt to build a naval base in the port. Like Korea, Singapore suffered from Japanese occupation during World War II. Japan's ability to dislodge European colonialists from Asia during World War II opened the way to new developments in the region.

  1. East Asia in the Postwar Settlements
    1. Introduction

After World War II, the Western negotiators had definite plans for Asia. They divided Korea into Russian and American zones, restored Taiwan to Nationalist China, pledged independence to the Philippines, and restored colonial regimes in Vietnam, Malay, and Indonesia. The United States occupied Japan as a means of imposing widespread reforms.

    1. New Divisions and the End of Empires

The postwar settlement did not work out exactly as the Western victors planned. The Philippines, Malaya, and Indonesia all gained their independence within a decade of the war's end. Taiwan continued to be ruled by a Nationalist government under Chiang Kai-shek, but mainland China was under a communist government. Korea continued to be divided following a bitter war. Only Japan was recreated in the pattern laid out by the United States.

    1. Japanese Recovery

Japan had been devastated by the war, but, with the assistance of the United States, was able to recover rapidly. The U.S. occupation government destroyed the Japanese military and introduced more democratic forms of government. Although the occupation government also attempted to break up the zaibatsus, they were rapidly reestablished.
The new constitution made the parliament the supreme governing body, while the emperor was reduced to a symbolic figurehead. Most of the new constitutional measures were accepted by the Japanese population. The military did not recover its prewar eminence in Japan, even after the withdrawal of the occupation government. Military defense remained in the hands of the United States. The most powerful political party to emerge after the war was the Liberal Democratic party, which monopolized Japanese government into the 1990s.
By 1955, Japan's industrial base had recovered to prewar levels. Shortly thereafter, a huge industrial spurt made Japan a competitor of Western industrialized nations. American occupation ended in 1952. Japanese relations with the Soviet Union remained tense, but did not result in major conflict.

    1. Korea: Intervention and War

As the cold war intensified after World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union were unable to agree on a plan for reunification of Korea. The U.S. backed the southern Republic of Korea, while the Soviet Union supported the People's Democratic Republic of Korea in the north.
In 1950, communist North Korea attacked the southern republic. The United States determined to halt Soviet advance in Asia and induced the United Nations to support its efforts. When it appeared that the North Korean forces would be defeated, communist China intervened on their behalf. The front stabilized in 1952, and an armistice was signed in 1953. Northern Korea continued as an authoritarian communist regime under Kim Il-Sung. Southern Korea also followed an authoritarian political pattern, but rapidly industrialized with the help of U.S. aid.

    1. Emerging Stability in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore

The Nationalist army withdrew to Taiwan in 1948. When it did so, it imposed a new government supported by a massive army of the indigenous population of the island. An authoritarian government under Chiang Kai-shek dominated the native Taiwanese and attempted to defend the island from communist China. Supported by the United States, the Nationalist regime on Taiwan survived. As in South Korea, U.S. aid created economic prosperity and industrialization. Hong Kong and Singapore, both British colonies, also participated in the postwar economic boom. Hong Kong is to be returned to China in 1997. Singapore withdrew from Malaya and established independence in 1959. With the exception of Vietnam, the smaller East Asian nations had achieved stability by 1960.

  1. Japan, Incorporated
    1. Introduction

Industrialization and economic success were the hallmarks of Japan after 1950.

    1. The Distinctive Political and Cultural Style

Between 1955 and 1993, the Liberal Democratic party provided political stability and introduced methods of government similar to those of Japan in the 1920s. Centralization of police forces in the 1950s produced dissent, but the government managed to avoid serious confrontations. Economic prosperity during the 1970s and 1980s reduced criticism of the government. Evidence of corruption within the government renewed some opposition in the late 1980s. Unlike the West, there was little separation between the state and the private sector in economic planning or use of public resources for capitalization. The government sought to protect Japanese businesses from reliance on raw material and petroleum imports, limited population growth, and successfully united Japan in a sense of common purpose. The government expanded the public education system and concentrated on technical subjects believed useful in the business environment.
Japanese culture preserved important traditions, such as group solidarity, art, poetry, and theater. These proved critical in establishing a sense of permanence in a rapidly changing society. Japanese culture also embraced contemporary developments in the West.

    1. The Economic Surge

After the 1950s, Japan emerged as one of the world's economic giants, although per capita income lagged behind the Western economic powers. Active participation of the government in economic growth was a factor in the remarkable expansion. There was little conflict between labor and capital in Japan, as workers were primarily organized in company unions. Paternalism and group loyalty helped prevent work stoppages that were common in the West. High savings rates produced capital for investment. Japanese management tended to also be loyal to their corporations.
Feminism did not develop as rapidly in response to industrialization in Japan as it did in the West. Although well educated, Japanese women often remained in the home. In child-rearing, the emphasis was on producing social conformity. The emphasis on group solidarity permeated almost all aspects of Japanese society.
After World War II, Japanese culture embraced some aspects of the West, such as baseball, Western eating utensils, and an emphasis on youth. Conservatives within Japan became concerned with the growing acceptance of Western cultural concepts. Japan's economic success created resentment and competition among its trade rivals. When attempts to force Japan to open its markets failed, competitors threatened tariff structures aimed at Japanese exports. Pollution became a growing problem in Japanese cities. By the 1990s, economic recession combined with government corruption raised questions about the continued success of Japan, Incorporated.

  1. The Pacific Rim: New Japans?
    1. Introduction

Developments in the Pacific Rim nations mirrored Japan's success in the twentieth century.

    1. The Korean Miracle

Korea's government continued to be dominated by strongmen, often from the military. Political opposition was permitted in Korea, but often suppressed. As in Japan, the Korean government was dedicated to industrialization. In the case of Korea, Japanese colonialism had devastated the economy. The government assisted in capitalization and central planning. By the 1970s, economic growth was nearly equal to Japan's. Industrial groups, such as Hyundai, enjoyed much regional influence.
In some cases, corporations virtually governed regions of Korea and accepted responsibility for welfare programs, housing, and education. With industrialization, population growth increased dramatically, prompting many Koreans to emigrate despite economic prosperity. Per capita income, although on the rise, remained below that of Japan.

    1. Advances in Taiwan and the City-States

Economic growth in Taiwan nearly equaled that of Korea. Production in both agriculture and industry increased. The demise of the government's plans to invade the Chinese mainland left additional capital for investment. Centralized planning was a significant aspect of economic development, but there remained room for private initiative. The government also poured funds into public education. The dominance of communist China affected Taiwan's relations with the rest of the world, particularly the U.S. In 1978, the United States ended formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, although it retained informal liaisons. Japan became the most important trade partner of the island. Even after the death of Chiang Kai-shek in 1978, an authoritarian government continued under his son, Chiang Ching-kuo.
Authoritarianism was also the basis of the Singapore government under Lee Kuan Yew. Government control over everyday life was more rigorous in Singapore than elsewhere among the Pacific Rim nations. Political opposition to the dominant political authorities was not permitted. The economic success of the government made it acceptable. Manufacturing and banking supplemented shipping as major sectors of the economy. By the 1980s, the per capita income of Singapore's residents was the second highest in Asia. Hong Kong continued to serve as a major world port and banking center with a growing industrial sector. Hong Kong served as the connecting point between the rest of the world and communist China.

    1. Common Themes and New Problems

The Pacific Rim states all experienced rapid industrial growth. They also shared common traits: group loyalty in preference to individualism, an ethos of hard work, limited consumer demands, and the continued tradition of Confucian morality. Government central planning and authoritarianism were also common traits.

  1. Conclusion: The Pacific Rim as Exception (930) or Model

There were several reasons for the rise of the Pacific Rim nations: a common basis in Chinese culture and heritage, special contacts with the West (either Britain or the United States), and the experience of World War II that reshaped fundamental thinking. The growth of the Pacific Rim nations led to some economic rivalries and to the exportation of industrialization to new Asian regions, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. China and Vietnam have remained largely outside the process of development, but have critical relationships to the Pacific Rim that may result in change. Concern over loss of tradition and continued frustration over political authoritarianism have produced some strains. Under any circumstances, the entry of the Pacific Rim nations into the world trade system has been dramatic.


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Japan and the Pacific Rim summary


                                     Pages 752 – 771


  1. Decades of Turmoil: The World Wars and their Consequences


The first decades of the 20th century brought important changes to east Asia as China was consumed with internal problems and Japan surged ahead economically and militarily. Japan’s economic strength showed in its quick rebound from the Great Depression, but after some experiments with fuller democracy, its political system moved toward growing militarism.

  1. East Asia and the Postwar Settlements


Adjustments at the end of World War II defined the Pacific Rim into the 1950s, as a zone of reasonably stable noncommunist states developed. Linked to the West, these states maintained a neo-Confucian emphasis on the importance of conservative politics and a strong state.

Japan, Incorporated


The keynotes of Japanese history from the 1950s onward were a fierce concentration on economic growth and distinctive political and cultural forms as the nation proved that industrial success did not depend on a strict Western pattern.

The Pacific Rim: New Japans?


Economic and some political developments in several other nations and city-states on Asia’s Pacific coast mirrored elements in Japan’s 20th century history, although at a later date. The states of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore are called The Four Dragons.  Political authoritarianism was characteristic, though usually with bows to parliamentary forms and with recurrent protests from dissidents. Government functions extended to careful economic planning and rapid expansion of the educational system, which emphasized technical training. Group loyalties promoted diligent labor and a willingness to work hard for low wages. Economic growth burgeoned, although problems appeared in the 1990s.

Conclusion: The Pacific Rim as Exception or Model


The rise of the Pacific Rim nations was based on a combination of several factors. The nations shared aspects of Confucian cultural and political heritage. The nations shared some specific contacts with the West through unusually intense interactions with the British and Americans. And these nations were rocked by 20th century events, which forced rethinking and massive innovation.


Describe Japanese development between 1920 and 1940.


What factors led to the growth of militarism in Japan prior to World War II?

How did World War II affect the Pacific Rim?


How was Korea at the center of the Cold War?

Why did the Four Dragons emerge as leaders in the region?


What political, economic, and cultural styles developed in post-war Japan?

How did Japanese society differ from traditional Western societies?


To what extent did the Four Dragons economically, politically, and socially conform or depart from Japanese or Western counterparts?

What has been the American role in the Pacific Rim?


VISUALIZING THE PAST: Pacific Rim Growth: Identifying the Dragons (Page 767)


Growth Rates

Which nations had the largest growth rates in 1965? 1996?

Which nations had the smallest growth rates in 1965? 1996?


Why might Filipino and Japanese growth rate be lower than China?

Why are the GNP growth rates of these nations difficult statistics to use to make analyses?


If you compare growth rates with all pre-existing industrialized countries, the U.S., and India, what conclusions can you reach?

Social and Economic Data

Which nations’ labor force is largely agricultural? Least agricultural?


Which nations would have the largest industrial and service sectors?

Which nations are largely urbanized? Rural?


Why should historians group Japan, Korea, and Malaysia together but exclude Thailand and China?

PHOTO ESSAY: The Pacific and the World (752, 756, 757, 759, 761, 763, 765, 769)

What is the military, economic or commercial, and cultural relationship between the Pacific Rim nations and the wider, especially Western world?


DOCUMENT ANALYSIS: Japan and World War II (Pages 758)

Document Analysis

Who wrote it? (Attribution includes biographical references)


What was the author’s point of view?


How reliable is the document? Why?

What was the intent or purpose behind the document?


Who was the intended audience?


What is the document’s tone?


Why did the author accept defeat? Why did he ignore the military?


What attitudes and values of the author will help post-war reconstruction?

How did Japan and American ways of dealing with issues differ?


How do you think the author will view American suggestions and ways?



All of these nations are economic powerhouses of the Pacific Rim EXCEPT:



Hong Kong.

South Korea.



One economic weakness of the Pacific Rim nations is a(n)

vulnerability to economic conditions abroad especially trade fluctuations.

large, uneducated force of workers.

lack of ports or infrastructure to facilitate trade.

inability to compete against Western industries.

declining population.

During the 1930s in Japan the

nation resisted the rising trend towards militarism and nationalism.

nation worked closely with the League of Nations to avoid war.

government granted Korea and Taiwan its independence.

military ignored the elected political authorities and intervened in civilian government.

government recognized the Communist states in Russia and China.

Between 1910 and 1945 Korea

Allied with the United States to resist Japanese aggression.

was invaded and occupied by China.

remained neutral and isolated from outside influences.

experienced an economic boom.

was ruled by Japan, which suppressed indigenous institutions and culture.


The chief stimulus for the collapse of Western colonial rule and influence in the Pacific Rim was due to the

communist victory in the Chinese civil war in 1945.

British grant of independence to India in 1947.

initial Japanese defeat of the Western colonial powers.

American insistence during World War II that Europe grant its colonies independence.

Russian invasion of Asian colonial territories in World War II.

Before 1950, the American role in Asia and the Pacific Rim is BEST described as

largely colonial – the U.S. had obtained a large colonial empire.

isolationist – the U.S. retreated to its prewar boundaries.

interventionist – U.S. troops landed in China to support the Nationalists.

militarily critical for Japan, the Philippines, and the Pacific islands with a temporarily waning influence on the Asian mainland.

tolerant of colonialism and revival of the Japanese Empire.


Japan’s postwar government is BEST characterized as a

communist people’s democracy.

traditional monarchy with a hereditary emperor and little popular sovereignty.

democracy dominated by a political and economic oligarchy.

democratic republic with an unstable party system.

militaristic state.

The chief tension within postwar Japan has been

the lack of social mobility.

a large non-Japanese ethnic minority deprived of any rights.

limited rights for women and minorities.

severe demographic dislocation due to rapid industrialization.

a conflict between indigenous traditions or values, and Western influences.

Postwar Korean development has been largely determined by the

occupation of the country by China and the Soviet Union.

division of the peninsula between pro-Soviet and pro-capitalist states.

long and autocratic rule by the Korean king.

extreme hunger and poverty of the Korean peoples.

devastation caused by World War II.


Following its defeat on mainland China, the Kuomintang or Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-shek


fled to Korea.

fled to the island of Formosa and established a government.

sought support from the U.S.S.R. for a prolonged fight against Mao’s communists.

joined with the Chinese Communist Party to form the People’s Republic of China.

As a modern culture, the Japanese people most value




Western-style institutions.

social equality.


The relationship between business and government in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan in the later half of the 20th century is BEST described as

a communist style command economy.

a socialist-capitalist mix of private property and public welfare.

separated by American style constitutions.

cooperative – the government encourages and protects businesses in an almost mercantilist manner.

antagonistic towards each other.

In contemporary Japan and Taiwan,

Christianity replaced the older Shinto and Confucian belief systems.

both have military alliances with the United States.

individualism and competitiveness are valued.

populations are increasingly abandoning traditional ways and values.

group consensus and collective decision making are most highly valued.


The second largely Christian country in the Pacific Rim (after the Philippines) is


South Korea.



Hong Kong.

The Pacific Rim nation that has recently emerged as an economic giant and whose industries and products have challenged Japan, the United States, and Western Europe is

North Korea.


Hong Kong.

South Korea.


The chief concern and worry of contemporary Taiwan is

its relationship to the communist regime in China, which claims to rule the island.

its military alliance with the United States.

its declining industrial base.

widespread pollution caused by industry.

the lack of democracy.


All of these problems are shared by the contemporary Pacific Rim nations EXCEPT:

falling growth rates.

a rise in unemployment.

antagonisms between the United States and China, which threaten war.

declining power of their national currencies.

popular pressures for change in traditional political practices.



Compare and contrast modern Japanese and Korean society with Western consumer culture.


How has Japan changed from 1800 to 2000?

How has Confucianism changed from the 5th century BCE to the contemporary age?


Compare and contrast the Pacific Rim’s relationship to the U.S. today with the tributary relationship to China in the past.

Compare and contrast Pacific Rim politics and structures or economics and commercial structures with their Western-style counterparts.


Compare and contrast the American role in Pacific Asia with the American role in Latin America.

Compare and contrast the Japanese reaction to the Great Depression with the American or German reaction.


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