Japan defeated Russia in the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War, surprising the world as the first Asian country to beat a Western power.
After winning the war, Japan had a choice to make. It could remain dependent on trade with other countries for crucial resources, but it distrusted Western countries. Or it could behave like Western imperialists to acquire its resources. Japan chose the latter option and began to expand after 1905.
Prior to the Great Depression in 1929, Japan had already suffered a slowing economy and relied on strong markets for export to rebuild its economy. In 1931, the military seized Manchuria, which provided coal and iron needed for Japan’s growing military. Manchuria also provided space to house the expanding Japanese population.
War With China
Expansion into China was next. By 1937, Japan and China were at war, which drained Japan’s resources. When the Japanese moved into Indochina in 1941, the United States responded by embargoing exports of scrap steel and oil to Japan. The Japanese then felt they had no choice but to seize the Dutch East Indies for oil and British Malaysia for rubber.
Although the most important reason for Japanese expansion was the country’s need for goods and resources, there were other reasons for Japanese expansion after the Russo-Japanese War. One was Western racism against the Japanese and the rise of Japanese nationalism. The United States passed the Japanese Exclusion Act in 1924, which limited Japanese immigration to America.
Source: One Motive for the Japanese Expansion Between 1905 & 1941
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