During the 1920s and 1930s, the Japanese economy relied heavily on the export of silk and cotton textiles. Silk prices dropped dramatically because of the depression, which began in 1929. Meanwhile, the Chinese started to boycott Japanese cotton goods for political reasons. Many people in Japan argued for a new,...
During the 1920s and 1930s, the Japanese economy relied heavily on the export of silk and cotton textiles. Silk prices dropped dramatically because of the depression, which began in 1929. Meanwhile, the Chinese started to boycott Japanese cotton goods for political reasons. Many people in Japan argued for a new, aggressive foreign policy to acquire control of Manchuria, which was formally part of China and had a substantial Chinese population, and where the Japanese army had maintained a presence since the end of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905; in this way, Japan hoped to retain at least the Manchurian market and Manchuria’s resources. The Chiang Kai Shek nationalists reunified China in the late 1920s and wanted, on the contrary, to free China from Japanese military and economic influence as much as possible.
Young Japanese officers believed that the Japanese government, which had agreed to naval armaments restrictions in negotiations with European powers at the 1924 Washington conference, was undermining the military strength of Japan. In September, 1931, these young officers decided to use the Kwantung army, the separate branch of the Japanese military that was stationed in Machuria, to launch an all-out conquest of Manchuria, which they turned into the Japanese vassal state of Manchukuo. The Japanese government made only weak and unsuccessful attempts to reassert its authority over the popular, influential officers and to contain them as they continued to expand from their Manchurian power base into the neighboring Chinese provinces.
The Japanese militarists invested large sums of money into the development of industry (including steel) and mining in Manchuria. By this time, Japan was growing increasingly dependent on the resources of its other colonies, in particular Korea and Taiwan. This gave an additional boost to domestic imperialist propaganda.
The inevitable confrontation with Chiang Kai Shek forces in July 1937 quickly turned into a full-fledged war, which eventually became part of World War II. By this time, the militarists were shaping Japanese policies and controlling the government.