Re-thinking Japan, 1937-45

Irrational chauvinists or fearful protectionists? Gordon Daniels looks at the new research and arguments reshaping our view of Japan's rulers before and after Pearl Harbour.

At the height of the Second World War a young official in the United States Department of State analysed Japanese expansion with surprising detachment. In a paper designed to sketch the outlines of a more peaceful world Robert Fearey attributed Japan's attacks upon China, America, Britain and Holland to structural economic causes. Among these causes Fearey listed Western protectionism, which had obstructed Japan's commercial development, and Japan's lack of secure supplies of food and raw materials. Even more perceptive was Fearey's suggestion that Japan would soon face Asian competition and needed to develop more varied and sophisticated export products.

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