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Late 20th Century Japan, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 837

Essay

Introduction

The occupation of Japan by the Americans lasted from 1945 to 1952. Heading up the allied response was the Supreme Commander Allied Powers Pacific (SCAP). The American administration wanted to reshape Japan into a peaceful democracy, such that the country would not find the need for war again.  The approach was not one of bitter conquest but with sympathy and generosity. Owing to the deprivation that the people suffered during the war they were receptive to this and approached it with respect and generosity.

Hence the US planned to get rid of the militaristic elements and build Japan as an important democratic institution and ally in S.E. Asia.  This coming at a time when Russia was trying to expand its range of communist influence from the cold war.  The reform pressed deep into Japanese society and the economy. Japan had no choice but to comply with the reformation but there was an underlying resentment to some of the formulated policies, particular with the trade unions.

A short lived reformation

The urgency of the reformation period was relatively short lived.  The sweeping reform programs put forward by MacArthur proved unpopular with many of the senior influential groups in the country.  They pointed out that such aggressive reform measures would harm Japan in both social and economic terms over time.  This feedback worried those in Congress who wanted to ensure that Japan would become a close and stable ally. Equally, the Wall Street financiers were concerned that the cost of the reform measures would pose a serious long term financial drain on the US economy.

In 1947 MacArthur was involved in putting down a General Strike by militant Unions.  This really marked the end of the reformist agenda and the change in US policy towards Japan and became known as the reverse course. 

In this sense the concept of democracy was placed on the back burners in favour of ensuring long term stability in Japan and America’s stable partner in S.E. Asia.  After the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the pacifist feelings in Japan were deeply rooted.  Despite this after the Korean war broke out in 1950 the Japanese created a new National Police Force of 75,000 men that were well armed with American weapons.

The Occupation

The general image of MacArthur and his role in Japan was largely seen as a positive influence in the reformation process. It was felt the administration helped Japan to transform into a modern and peaceful democracy. Critics felt that the role was over stated and Japan was already moving towards reformation and political changes. In addition SCAP compromised its early objectives by probing too deeply into Japanese social and economic reform.  As such the occupation betrayed the trust of the Japanese people.  In addition the people felt that during the post war period the reformation should have tried the Emperor as a war criminal and that they reversed course on policy and anti-trust  matters.

Mac Arthur believed that it was not in the best interests of either the Japanese or the American people to have a show trial of the Emperor.  It was not the intention of America to deeply humiliate the Japanese and the motives were more directed at reformation and reconstruction in order to make Japan a powerful ally to the western democracies.

High growth period

Japan regained its sovereignty on September 8th 1951 when it signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the occupation came to an official end.  The agreement facilitated America to use Japan as a base and station troops on the Island.  This was seen as supporting the defence of the Island but others viewed it as maintaining internal stability.  In this sense Japan remained occupied by the US Military but being under the American Nuclear Umbrella was of tremendous economic value to the Japanese as they did not have to have large military spending budgets. These funds could be diverted to infrastructure and building the industrial might of Japan.

The Korean War heralded in a new area of prosperity for Japan and allowed them to quickly gain dominance in the manufacturing sector.  Further Japan built up a dynamic international trade helped by the sponsorship of the Americans.  Japan embarked on a ruthless economic expansion strategy and its ability to dominate on the world trade market.

Historical perspective

In the Meiji restoration the administration had little idea in terms of how to navigate the economic reforms in Japan. It was influenced by concepts from Europe but these resulted in a number of mistakes. The main changes were reflected in the creation of a business environment that was conducive to economic growth. The period witnessed the construction of a successful nation. This resulted in a nation state with a framework that powered industrialisation and promoted the trade of the merchants in the traditional commodities of Silk, Tea, Soy and Saki.

There existed some misinterpretation of the Tokugawa period as that of a ‘dark age’ of isolation and technological stagnation. It was the Meiji that restored the balance and created the changes that were required to promote improved socioeconomic conditions

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