Daily Archives: 19 September 2005

Japan Signs the Tripartite Pact, 1940

On September 27, 1940, Japanese representatives in Berlin signed the Tripartite Pact with the dictatorships of Germany and Italy. The affiliation of fascist Rumania and Hungary followed. By the terms of the pact, Japan recognized the leadership of Germany and Italy in “the new order in Europe” while they recognized Japan’s dominance in “Greater East Asia.” The three powers pledged “to assist one another with all political, economic, and military means” if “attacked by a power at present not involved in the European War or in the Sino-Japanese conflict.” This last article was intended to check Britain and keep the United States out of the war….

[O]n October 4, Prime Minister Konoe issued a belligerent statement at a press conference in Kyoto declaring that, “If the United States does not understand the positions of Japan, Germany, and Italy, and regards our pact as a provocative action directed against it, and if it constantly adopts a confrontational attitude, then the three countries will fight resolutely.” Few Japanese leaders at the time understood the tremendous ideological significance of the Tripartite Pact for the United States, or how the Roosevelt administration would now use it to deepen anti-Japanese feeling….

The following month the entire nation celebrated the 2,600th anniversary of the founding of the state by the mythical Emperor Jimmu. Preparations for this kigensetsu had been underway since 1935. One day before the start of the official commemorative events, on November 9, a government regulation established an “Office of Shinto Deities” within the Home Ministry to further the “spiritual mobilization” of the nation in preparation for total war. Started by the first Konoe cabinet at the beginning of the China war, the campaign sought the participation of youth about to be sent to war, exhorting them to “respect the Shinto deities,” “serve the state,” and rush forward to victory in the war against China….

Britain’s reponse to the Axis military alliance was to reopen the Burma Road, which earlier it had agreed to close, and to look for ways “to cause inconvenience to the Japanese without ceasing to be polite.” President Roosevelt’s response was to make another small loan to Chiang Kai-shek, and give assurances of further American support to keep China in the war. In November, Roosevelt assented to Adm. Harold Stark’s “Dog” plan for the recasting of America’s defense strategy on the premise that Germany was the main enemy. Henceforth the United States would follow a defeat-Germany-first strategy, focusing on the European front and aid to Britain. If war should come in the Pacific, the United States would initially wage a defensive campaign but not turn its full weight against Japan until after Germany’s downfall. In China, Chiang Kai-shek resolved to continue fighting Japan alone, without benefit of full-scale Anglo-American aid, but confident that war in the Pacific was only a matter of time.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 380, 383-385

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Attitudes Toward Separatism in China and Canada

The sample issue of Singapore University Press’s new China: An International Journal, now in Project Muse, has an interesting article by Wayne Bert about different attitudes toward separatism in China and Canada. Here’s the conclusion (minus footnotes).

The level of modernisation, commitment to democracy and particular historical and cultural experiences can explain the divergent Chinese and Canadian attitudes on separatist territories. Whereas Canada has acclimatised to living next to its superpower neighbour, absorbed the values of a virtual state and discarded the traditional expectations of the importance of territory, China is a rising power with an acute sense of grievance from the way it has been treated historically, or at least the way it perceives it has been treated. This strong inferiority complex has stimulated an intense desire to do something about what many Chinese believe is their misfortune, to occupy an international position that conforms to traditional power politics and emphasises the value of territory. Canada’s attitude is reinforced by its commitment to democracy and interdependence, and to the granting of the wishes of the people of Quebec, whatever they may be. The Chinese, on the contrary, lacking both a commitment to democracy and self-determination or the status of a developed state, view Taiwan not as an area containing a population that should have some say in how they are governed, but as a geopolitical object to be manipulated to maximise the glories of a greater China. The gulf between the norms and conventions regarding democracy and self-determination held respectively by the West and China show few signs of disappearing. The figurative combat over Taiwan will continue, since each side in the dispute “has reached its bottom line” and is not interested in serious negotiation. If the conflict can be kept rhetorical rather than military, it will be a major accomplishment. Meanwhile, the Canadians will eventually reconcile their differences, either in the short- or long-run, either raucously, or quietly, but almost certainly, peacefully.

The slavish Chinese commitment to the very Western concept of sovereignty fits well with a realist’s definition of the international system, albeit a system more closely aligned with the 19th century than with the 20th. The Chinese view of the world, however, is one that very slowly, but surely, is being replaced by a view more akin to the world of interdependence and industrialised democracies. While Canada may represent an extreme view on the question of secession, even in the West, it is one that is gaining ground as the culture and objectives of the virtual state become increasingly dominant. Other Western countries still have their minorities and groups demanding independence, but increasingly it is being realised in the developed world, that some kind of concessions must be made for either autonomy or secession in democracies. It is the developed world that is transforming the international system, which in turn puts pressure on other states and institutions to adopt more modern attitudes and structures. Even Indonesia, a relatively poor and fledgling democracy, has taken big strides in that direction since 1998 even in the face of nationalist counter-pressures. It has wisely granted independence to East Timor and offered greater autonomy to regions. In its pre-democratic period, it had long resisted compromise on East Timor.

So far there is little evidence, however, that the Chinese intend to follow suit. Their stance on Taiwan continues to be intractable, in the face of plenty of evidence that the majority of the Taiwanese have little interest in de facto, or even de jure, joining the Mainland. The main hope for resolution of the Taiwan problem is the fashioning of some kind of face-saving deal that will allow China to claim Taiwan while guaranteeing the people there that this will have no effect on their lives. The prospects of effecting such a feat will grow increasingly remote unless major changes take place in the PRC. Lacking such developments, the Strait of Taiwan will be volatile for years to come.

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